Sometimes we draw the wrong lessons from Old Testament historical accounts, like David and Goliath for instance. Who hasn’t heard a sermon or a song about killing your giants? But is it really true that if you 1) obey your parents (1 Sam. 17:15), 2) see that there is a cause (1 Sam. 17:29), 3) learn from past victories (1 Sam. 17:37), 4) refuse to trust in human methods (1 Sam. 17:39), 5) pick up five smooth stones (1 Sam. 17:40), 6) declare the victory for the glory of God (1 Sam. 17:46), and 7) run into the battle without second-guessing yourself (1 Sam. 17:48) that you will defeat the giants in your life? Always?
The purpose for retelling this account is not to provide a fool-proof guide for how “us little Christians” can “conquer gigantic circumstances” in life (like mean bosses, bad health, secular humanism). Instead, David tells us the purpose in his own words: “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam. 17:46). You see, Israel badly wanted a king, but God said no. They stubbornly insisted, so he permitted them to choose King Saul. Saul refused to follow God’s commands, so God rejected him and chose David instead.
The purpose for retelling this account is not to provide a fool-proof guide for how “us little Christians” can “conquer gigantic circumstances” in life.
If you have read the book of Judges and the beginning of 1 Samuel, you recognize this as a simple summary. And you might have thought that God was abandoning Israel. After all, the nation was pushing him away. But even a rebellious nation, cowardly king, pansy army, and hideous giant could not prevent God from choosing his man as king, thereby continuing his faithful, merciful reign over Israel, providing the world with a Messiah.
But is this the only lesson to learn from this account? Certainly not. Nevertheless, you must be careful not to draw the wrong lessons. If David here provides you with an example for how to defeat your own giants today, then what qualifies as a giant? And what are the conditions for defeating that giant? I’ve already listed seven possible conditions, and depending upon how you read this passage, you might find more! Now, each of these “conditions” are instructive. They encourage appropriate, biblical behavior in our lives. David obeyed his parents, and so should you.
It is not always the will of God for his children to defeat their giants in the immediate present.
But there are many people in history who have met these “conditions” and died in battle. Did they fail due to hidden flaws? David certainly had his own foibles. Or did they fail because they somehow exercised faith more weak than David’s? Ultimately, I think these are the wrong questions to ask. You see, it is not always the will of God for his children to defeat their giants in the immediate present. Do you agree? Daniel’s three friends recognized this plain reality (Dan. 3:18). And the annals of faith reveal the same. Notice the critical juncture of others in the middle of Hebrews 11:32-40:
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. OTHERS were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
Some of us face the enemy sword and escape, while others are slain. But in both cases it is “through faith.” The true story of David and Goliath teaches you some very important lessons about God’s work in the world, leading us to some important responses of faith. But one thing the story does not do is teach you how to always defeat all of the giants you face in life today and always win in the present. But whether you kill the giant or the giant kills you, you can go forward in confidence in obedience to God’s command knowing that you will triumph in the end, even if it means on the other side of death or suffering. Nothing can stop the advance of God’s kingdom.