1Sa_17:45-46. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand.
THAT God acts in a sovereign way in the distribution of his favours is a truth to which proud man is very averse: yet does it meet us in every part of the Holy Scriptures. We have seen it in the elevation of Saul to the regal office: it appears also in the selection of David, whom Samuel was ordered to anoint as successor to the throne [Note: 1Sa_16:1-13.]. We behold it now again in raising up David, whilst yet a youth untrained to war, to slay Goliath, from whom all the army of Israel fled. It might rather have been expected that Jonathan, who had already shewn a most extraordinary valour, should stand forth as a champion on this occasion; or at least that some valiant man should have been found in the camp to espouse his country’s cause: but God had ordained that David should possess the throne of Saul; and by this means he began to educate, as it were, the youth for his destined office.
In the words before us we have David’s address to his antagonist just on the commencement of his engagement with him: and from them we shall be led to notice,
The character of the combatants—
In Goliath we behold a proud, self-confident blasphemer—
[He was of gigantic stature, (above eleven feet in height, or, at the lowest possible computation, ten,) and possessed strength in proportion to his size. His armour was such as would have almost borne down a man of moderate strength [Note: ver. 4–7.]: and, clad in this, he deemed himself invulnerable and irresistible. Hence, whilst he stalked in proud defiance between the two hostile armies, he, in mind and spirit, presumed to defy even God himself.
Characters of this description are by no means uncommon in the world: for, though we behold not in these days men of such extraordinary bulk, we behold the same pride of heart in multitudes around us, who, glorying in their own bodily or intellectual powers, use them only as instruments of aggrandizing themselves, and of insulting God [Note: Psa_12:3-4; Psa_73:6-9.].]
David, on the contrary, was humbly dependent on God alone—
[Being sent by his father to visit his brethren, he came to them in the ranks just at the time that this proud blasphemer was challenging the hosts of Israel. Filled with indignation at his impiety, and desirous to vindicate the honour of his God, he manifested a wish to accept the challenge: and, when reproved by his eldest brother, he meekly but firmly persisted in his purpose, saying, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause [Note: ver. 29.]?”
On being brought to Saul, and warned of his incompetency to contend with such a mighty and experienced warrior, he shewed at once what his true motives were, and in whom his confidence was placed. He had before experienced the protection of Heaven, in two conflicts with a lion and a bear, which he had slain, when they rose up against him; and he doubted not but that God would crown him with similar success in his conflict with this uncircumcised Philistine [Note: ver. 33–36.].
Saul would have lent him his own armour for the combat: but David found it only an encumbrance; and therefore went forth unarmed, except with a sling, and five stones in his shepherd’s bag, confiding, not in any human means, but in the strength of the living God. Hence when Goliath scorned his youthful appearance, and derided his preparations for the conflict, David replied in the words of our text, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.”
How striking was this contrast! how exemplary the conduct of David! and how illustrative of the spirit in which the true Christian goes forth against his spiritual enemies, and prepares to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil!]
The close of our text leads us to notice,
The issue of the conflict—
According to all human expectations it must be decided in favour of Goliath—
[There was, as it should appear, no room for competition between the combatants; the one a youth, a shepherd, unused to war, and destitute, as we may say, either of defensive or offensive armour; and the other, a man of immense strength, trained to war from his very youth, and armed with all that the ingenuity of man could furnish: his armour altogether impenetrable to the stones, with which alone the youth was prepared to oppose him.]
But his strength was weakness, when opposed to the God of Israel—
[The first stone which David cast at him, was directed by an unerring arm, and an almighty power: it pierced the forehead of Goliath, and in a moment realized the youth’s prediction. Thus was the proud boaster “delivered into David’s hand;” and David, unprovided with any sword of his own, took the sword of his adversary, and with it cut off his head. And no sooner did the Philistines behold their champion dead, than they fled from Israel with terror, and yielded themselves an easy prey to their pursuers.]
We forbear to suggest the various reflections naturally arising in the mind from this event, because God himself has told us,
The design of the dispensation—
It was intended,
For the instruction of the world—
[Men in general think but little of God; and because they do not see him, they are ready to suppose that he does not interfere in the affairs of men. They imagine that they may set at nought his authority, and pour contempt on his people, with impunity: and, if left, like Goliath, to prosper for a season, their presumption is proportionally increased [Note: Ecc_8:11.]. But God is no unconcerned spectator of his creatures’ conduct: he marks down every thing in the book of his remembrance; and will vindicate his own honour at the appointed season; perhaps in that moment, when his adversary conceives himself most secure.
Think of this, ye who abuse your strength to the purposes of criminal indulgence, and who vaunt of your excesses in wine or debauchery of any kind. Think of this also, ye who oppose and deride religion. Remember whom it is that you are insulting. Goliath thought that he was defying Israel; but his defiance was in reality hurled against Jehovah himself. So you, though probably unconscious of it, are in reality fighting against God himself. And “will you continue to provoke HIM to jealousy? Are you stronger than he?” “Will you be strong in the day that he shall deal with you? or will you thunder with a voice like his?” Ah, cease from this mad warfare, and cast down the weapons of your rebellion, and humble yourselves, while yet the sword of vengeance is unsheathed. Behold Goliath prostrate on the ground, a monument of human folly, and human weakness! Behold him placed for a monument to all succeeding ages, that “God resisteth the proud;” and that “him who walks in pride, He is able to abase!” God delivered him into David’s hand on purpose that “all the earth might know that there is a God in Israel [Note: ver. 46.].”]
For the consolation of God’s Israel—
[Great and mighty are the enemies of God’s people; and most unequal is the contest in which they are engaged. They may well say, “We have no power or might against this great company that cometh against us.” But in this dispensation God has especially provided for their encouragement: he gave success to David, that “all the assembly of his people might know, that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s [Note: ver. 47.].” In HIM must be our trust: in his strength must we go forth against our enemies: we must “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” We must arm ourselves with the weapons which he has provided; and though they appear to the eye of sense to be as useless as a sling and stone, yet shall they be made effectual through his power. Let us “take hope as our helmet, righteousness as our breast-plate, truth for our girdle, the Gospel of peace for our greaves, faith for our shield, and the word of God for our sword,” and we need not fear either men or devils; for “He that is in us, is greater than he that is in the world,” and “we shall be made more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Gird yourselves then to the battle, expecting “God to perfect his own strength in your weakness.” Whoever, whether of friends or enemies, may attempt to divert you from your purpose, go forward: and remember, that as the eyes of both the hostile armies were fixed on David and Goliath, so is there “a cloud of witnesses” anxiously observing you [Note: Heb_12:1.]. O, “quit yourselves like men,” and soon you shall have cause to say, “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”]