Soon After David’s Anointing (I Samuel 16:13-23)
Let’s turn in our Bibles to I Samuel 16. We’re going to pick up with the story of David that we began last lesson. If you were with us then, you remember how the first king of Israel, king Saul, proved himself to be unfit to lead God’s people. So God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint, from the sons of Jesse, a man better than Saul, a man after God’s own heart, to be the next king. Out of all eight sons of Jesse it was the least expected one that Samuel anointed. He anointed David the youngest, the runt, a teenager at the time. God explained to Samuel why he chose David saying, “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart”. It was David’s heart that made him stand out to God. And the anointing with oil symbolized something and the text says it indeed happened. In I Samuel 16:13 it says “the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward”. The Spirit of God began to work in mighty ways in and through and for David. It’s fascinating to me that the NT says that the same sort of thing happens to everyone who truly becomes a disciple of Jesus. I John 2:20 says to Christians, “You have an anointing from the Holy One…”. Titus 3:5-6 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior“. Just like the Spirit of God came mightily upon David from that day forward, the Spirit of God is poured out richly upon us who have believed and obeyed the gospel.
Well, what happens next in David’s story, after he’s anointed to be the next king? Does a delegation from the palace come to him saying, “Long live King David! Come up to the palace and let us instate you as king. Saul is glad to step down and give you the throne.”. No. Though he’s been anointed to be king, it will still be a while until he is installed as king. It’s the same with us. Though we’ve been anointed with God’s Spirit, it will be a while until we take the throne with Christ. But you know that’s where we’re going right? We are going to reign with Christ. We’re royalty. But first God is going to work on us here for a while.
And what did David do after he was anointed to be the next king? Did he go to the nearest department store and start trying on crowns? And say, “I think I need a new robe, this sheep coat is not going do anymore?”. Did he get a credit card and run up the bill because he knows he’s going to have the money coming in soon? Did he start giving orders to his older brothers? No. What he did, I think, demonstrates something about his good heart that caught God’s attention. David went right back to taking care of his father’s sheep (I Samuel 16:19; 17:15). He didn’t start promoting or exalting himself. He just continued to serve and help his family and submit to his father and waited on God to exalt him when God saw fit to do so. That’s exactly how we’re to live, waiting on God to exalt us, not promoting ourselves or trying to grab all the prestige and power and possessions we can before God sees fit to give us all that, but just go on humbly serving and doing things God’s way and letting God mold us and shape us, waiting on God to exalt us when the time is right.
Well, I Samuel 16:14-23 explains how David came to be employed in the royal court of Saul. We’re not sure how much time transpired between being anointed and this occasion. It may have been months or years. It was enough time for David to gain some popularity and a reputation as verse 18 says as a skillful musican (maybe writing some of the Psalms by then), a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man. It was evident to people that the Lord was with Him. So there must have been a period of time that we’re not told about where a lot stuff happened in David’s life and the Spirit of God was working in him and his life powerfully to give him this skill and strength and wisdom and gain him this reputation.
Well by this point, Saul has so grieved the Spirit of God through disobedience and impenitence that it says the Spirit of the Lord departed from him. God quit helping him. And not only that but God permitted an evil spirit, a demon I guess, to come and terrorize him. The attacks were not constant, but periodic. And when the evil spirit came and did whatever it did to Saul, it would send Saul into panic and rage. His servants recommended music to calm and sooth him when that would happen. He said, “Okay, find me a skillful musician”. David, who had a reputation by this time was recommended. Saul said “Go get him”. Saul knew nothing about David being anointed to be his replacement. They brought David to the king, the interview went great. He got the job as the king’s personal musical therapist. When Saul was terrorized by the evil spirit, David would play for him and it would calm him and the spirit would leave. And as David ministered to Saul, Saul came to so love him that he also made him his armor bearer.
Then we come to I Samuel 17 where we come to a familiar story.
The story of David and Goliath (17:1-58)
There are a couple problems with well-known stories and passages of Scripture.
One problem is that we think we know them, we think we’ve already heard it all and understand it all, when in reality there may be some elements that we’ve missed or we may have some ideas that we’ve added into it that aren’t actually in the text, or we have misunderstood parts of it.
A second problem with familiar stories is we tend not to be as moved or affected by them as we should be. The more you know a story (usually) the less moved you are by the story. It’s why I don’t really like to watch movies that I’ve already seen. It was great and moving the first time, but now I already know what’s going to happen so I’m not so affected by it. We can become that way about the greatest of true stories. We’ve heard that Jesus died for us so much it may not move us and stir our hearts to gratitude and humility and zeal for our Creator like it should. We can say at church “Jesus died for me” and then at lunch say that chicken was fried for me with the same level of excitement and emotion. The more you know a story (usually) the less affected you are by the story. So I want to encourage you to listen carefully to this story, see if you’ve missed things or mistaken some things. Try to see the glory and the awesomeness of these great things that it tells about our God and the kind of man or woman we can be.
Now, this is a long story, 58 verses. So we’re not going to take the time to read it. I’m going to try to tell you the story in my own words and explain some of the meaning of the text and it will be up to you to read it to make sure that I’m not making stuff up.
I Samuel 17:1-11, here’s the setting.
We’re in the valley of Elah. This was not a narrow ravine. The ancient site was probably a mile wide between the slopes on either side.
The Israelite army is stationed on one slope and the Philistine army on the other. Out from the ranks of the Philistines comes their champion, Goliath, a man almost the height of a standard sized basketball goal. He’d be able to touch the top of the backboard without jumping.
This champion is not only scary because of his great height, but also because of his equipment. He’s decked out in bronze armor, a helmet, flexible scale body armor, and leggings. His body armor weighs about as much as an average man. In front of him walks a shield bearer. There are 2 words in Hebrew for shield and this is the “big body covering” shield. This shield bearer would give him protection while allowing his arms to be free for offensive action. And he’s not only well equipped with defensive equipment, but weapons as well, three of them. He had a javelin, a sword, and a spear. The head of his spear is iron and weighs around 18 or 19 lbs. So if he threw it at you it would not only knock you down, but it would pierce through any armor you had.
This seemingly unbeatable opponent approaches the Israelites and proposes a representative battle, He will represent the Philistines, and they can send whomever they choose to represent them. The two of them will battle man to man and whoever wins, his army wins and the army of the loser, loses and surrenders and becomes the slaves of the others. From what I understand it was not an unusual thing in the ancient near eastern world for armies to try and settle their conflict with a representative battle like this. It would be a way of settling things with much less cost in life and resources. And it was the philosophy of the ancient near east that the gods were really in control of battles. And so whichever champion won in the representative battle just demonstrated which side would win if both armies were totally engaged in battle. And yet, from what we have in the ancient inscriptions, I guess very rarely did a representative battle ever actually succeed in preventing an all-out war. The losing side rarely just surrendered. They’d usually have a war anyways.
Well, who’s the biggest man in Israel? Well, that’d be king Saul, remember him? Saul stood head and shoulders above everybody else, and he being their leader seems like he’d be the best match Israel has for Goliath. But he is terrified of this guy and so is everybody else.
For 40 days says verse 16, (hmm, seems like I’ve heard 40 days a lot in the bible) as the two armies are stationed on either side of the valley of Elah, every morning and evening Goliath marches toward the Israelites and dares them to send someone out to fight him (17:16), and taunts and mocks them (17:26).
In verse 12 we have a change of scene. Suddenly we go back to David. At this time he’s trying to hold down two jobs, both ministering to king Saul and also helping his dad with the sheep and he’s been traveling back and forth between the two. But while Saul has been away at war, David’s been helping dad with the sheep. David has spent these 40 days out in the wilderness with the sheep. David’s three oldest brothers are in Saul’s army in the valley Elah. And dad sends David to go check of them, see how they’re doing, and bring them some roasted grain and bread, and bring some cheeses to their commanding officer.
David got off to any early start that morning, left the sheep in someone else’s care. It was just another day as far as he knew. He was just running an errand for dad. He had never heard of Goliath. He had no idea it was going to be the biggest day of his life so far. As he arrives and leaves his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, it looks like there’s finally about to be some fighting. The army is going out in battle array shouting the war cry. The Philistines are also organized and ready. David finds out where his brothers are and he enters the ranks and greets them and they’re talking for a bit. And then as things quiet down, he hears this booming voice coming from the valley. He hears of Goliath’s shouting of challenge and threats and taunting. Soldiers around him begin to move back. Some are running back toward camp; they’re fleeing from the range of his javelin. As the soldiers have now gotten a better look at him they’re saying, “Have you seen this man coming up? He is so amazingly scary!”. Presumably David gets a look at him. And David hears from the soldiers about the reward king Saul has promised to anyone who kills him. The reward is riches, marriage into the royal household, and freedom from taxes.
And David’s response is very different from everyone else. While everybody else is saying, “Have you seen this man? He’s so scary.”. David says, “Who does he think is, taunting the armies of the living God? Are you serious? That’s the reward and nobody is fighting him? He’s been shouting like this for over a month and nobody has shut him up?”. And David knows that if you put that man alongside God, he’s just a little bug.
Now, I’m going to slow down here a little bit at verse 28 where we read of this conflict between David and his oldest brother, because I think it’s pretty significant and we don’t pay much attention to it because it’s overshadowed by the bigger, greater conflict with Goliath. But I think it deserves our attention. Verse 28 says, “Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.‘”. Every word of that is wrong, hateful, and insulting. David left the sheep in good care, that’s the kind of man he was. David’s heart was the one with the least amount insolence and wickedness. That’s why God told Samuel “I’ve not chosen Eliab because I see his heart. I’ve chosen David”. Have you ever tried to do an act of kindness for someone with pure motives and been attacked for it? How do you respond? The average person here in David’s shoes would roll up their sleeves up and perhaps knock his lights out, saying, “Okay, Eliab you’re just jealous because Samuel passed over you for me. And seems to me you doing an awful lot of just watching recently, you big sissy”. But verse 29 says “David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?”. Look at the first few words of verse 30, “Then he turned away from him…”. Eliab is so wrong. Eliab deserves to be put in his place. But David just turned away. David wasn’t afraid to fight, but David knew that his brother was not his fight. He had another fight to focus on and God did not want him distracted from that by fighting with his brother.
We’ll speed back up here. News comes to Saul that David might be interested in taking on Goliath. So he sends for him. David speaks first, “Saul, let no one be afraid anymore. I’ll deal with him”. Saul says, “What are you talking about? You’re too young and inexperienced. Goliath is not only huge, he’s got lots of military experience.”. And to this, David explains some of his own experience when a bear and lion came to take a lamb from the flock he was watching. It’s a little unusual. Now, I think it’s one thing to take dedication to your job such that you might try to scare off a lion if it came. Maybe wave your hands and shout and say “Go away lion” or whatever you’re supposed to do when a lion comes. But if it takes the lamb, it takes the lamb and at least you tried to scare it off. But when a lion took the lamb, David chased the lion. Who chases a lion? I don’t know any story in history where someone, unless he’s got a big gun, actually chased a lion. And he didn’t just chase the lion, he attacked it, presumably clocked it upside the head with his staff. Why would he do that? He had to have known, you clock a lion upside the head, yes the lion’s probably going to drop lamby, but then the lion’s mouth is nice and open and ready to fight. Isn’t that a huge risk just in order to rescue a lamb? As a shepherd, shouldn’t he think about the needs of all of the flock rather than just one particular lamb? If he gets killed, that’s not good for all the rest of the sheep. I have three possible explanations. One, maybe it was just David’s favorite sheep, but I doubt that’s it. Two, maybe the Spirit of God filled him with courage and boldness to do that. Or third, maybe some of both, David had total confidence in God’s word. You may say, “what do you mean?”. Well, God’s message through the prophet Samuel was that he would be the next king. And so David knew, that until he becomes king, he’s pretty much indestructible. God’s not going to let him fall to a lion, because God said he’s going to be king. David so trusted God’s word that he bet his life on it. So David hit the lion, the lion dropped lamby, and of course the lion turned on David. So then what’d David do? He seized the lion by the beard or the mane and struck him and killed him. So there’s what you do if you ever get attacked by a lion? Just take him by the beard and strike him dead. And he did the same kind of thing with a bear. Did he work out a lot? Did he have some professional combat training? No, it’s an illustration of I Samuel 16:13, the Spirit of God was upon David and working in mighty ways (cf. Judges 14:5-6). In talking about it to Saul, David doesn’t attribute superhero strength to himself. He says God delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear. And he says, “This Philistine will be no different. I know God will prefer me in the fight over this arrogant man who blasphemes and taunts the armies of the living God”.
Then we come to the famous instance where David tries on Saul’s armor. In the Sunday school versions, Saul’s armor is a little bit too big for David and that’s why he doesn’t go ahead with it. But the text actually says he doesn’t go ahead with it because he hadn’t tried it out yet. What’s interesting to me about this is the fact that he is trying on Saul’s armor which shows that he hasn’t worked out yet how he’s going to defeat the Philistine. Likewise, the fact that he takes five stones and his stick (which he’s not going to use) shows he hasn’t worked out exactly how he’s going to do this. But he’s confident that God is on his side, so he’ll do his best and God will make that enough to get the job done.
So then he goes to encounter the Philistine. Goliath does not respect him for having the courage, Goliath despises him, and he is insulted. He says, “Am I a dog that you come against me with sticks?” (Goliath, it’s not the stick you should be worried about.). He curses David by his gods and says “I’m going to feed your body to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field”. To which David retorts, “You may come against me with weapons but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts” (Hosts, as in the angels of heaven). “I have all the forces of the living God on my side. I’m going strike you down and cut off your head and give not just you but the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. Then everybody will know there is a true and living God in Israel.”
David moves quickly into danger. One strike from the spear and he’s done for. But he quickly loads a stone and slings it and hits that one crucial unprotected point, knocking Goliath out. He falls forward on his face. David takes Goliath’s own sword out of its sheath and cuts off his head. The Philistine army, in shock and terror, run in disarray. The Israelites pursue them and their bodies do indeed fall.
You know why Goliath was so surprised when David defeated him with a stone?… Because nothing like it had ever entered his head before!
The chapter closes with Saul inquiring about whose son David is. You’d think he’d know, David being his personal musician and all. But apparently he didn’t know or forgot. It would be important because that would be the family that was free of taxes and that’s the house that he was going to intermarry with.
Well, how are we to apply this familiar story of David and Goliath?
I would like to make the application that is often made from this story, that God beat David’s giant and if you trust God like David, He will take down your giant too. So if your giant is joblessness. Just trust God and God will get you a job. If your giant is loneliness, trust God and He’ll get you a friend. If your giant is cancer, trust God and He will defeat it for you. I’d like to tell you that. But that’s not promised in this passage or anywhere else I know of in Scripture; that if you trust God He will bring down all the big difficulties and threatening things you face in life. I mean ultimately He will, but not necessarily real soon, not necessarily in this life. You know David had other enemies in his life that God didn’t bring down so quickly. For years, David ran for his life from Saul. And then later he had to run for his life from one of his own sons.
The story here is not about God beating David’s giant. It’s about David, with God’s help, beating God’s giant. And there’s a big difference between the two. David knew that God wanted this big force of evil and threat to His people brought down, that God intends him to be king of Israel, not a slave of the Philistines.
So probably a better application is that if you’re up against anything that you have good indication from God that He wants it defeated, then you can take it on with His strength and win. Are you up against anything that you have good reason to believe God wants it put to death? Maybe an addiction, a certain habit, a certain attitude you tend to have, a way of talking and treating your spouse, a way of dealing with your customers, a way of responding to people who annoy you that is out of harmony with the nature of Christ. And it may look unbeatable; we can’t win it over, we aren’t enough. But anointed with God’s Spirit as a follower of Christ, if we do our best, God will make it enough. Anything we know God wants ended, if we do our best, it will be enough.
Do you trust in God’s word enough to take courage and bet your life on it? Do you trust Him enough to risk your job, your relationships, or whatever to obey Him? These are the people God will exalt.
But there are many other lessons to take from this. We see again that the size of the man is determined by the heart.
David serves as an example for us here in a few different ways. One, he reminds us of what Jesus taught us when insulted by a brother or sister: turn away. You know David’s brother insulted him on purpose out of hatred and jealousy, yet still he turned away. And we struggle to turn away even when they don’t mean to offend or annoy us. Turn away; our brethren are not our fight. Colossians 3:13, “bear with one another“. This means when your brother or sister dumps stuff on you, an insult, annoyance, offensive, complaints, criticism, etc., we bear it, carry it, and we don’t throw it back on them. Turn away. We’ve got a much greater fight to focus on.
David also gives us an example in his zeal for God’s glory. Why did he want to bring Goliath down? So that everyone would know that there is a God in Israel. That is loving God, being passionate about people knowing Him, seeing His greatness, trusting Him, respecting Him, doing His will, and it’s doing what we can to make Him known to people. I Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light“.
And then, like David, let’s be looking not at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen. The whole reason David wasn’t quaking in his boots like the rest of the men of Israel was that he was seeing some things that nobody else could see. I’m going to leave that for you to think about and discuss this afternoon. What was David seeing that nobody else was seeing? And what should we be seeing that the world around us doesn’t see that should keep us from being afraid?
Then I’ll end with this. There’s also something to be noticed here about the way God works.
Here we find a humble servant and an unexpected one is anointed with God’s Spirit. After 40 days and nights in the wilderness he encounters this giant enemy, dressed in scale armor like a snake. He defeats him and leads his people in victory over their enemies. The gospel is so in keeping with the character of that God from David’s story:
In the gospel we hear that this humble servant, Jesus of Nazareth, had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. An unexpected one was anointed with God’s Spirit as he rose from the water when He was baptized by John. Then after 40 days and nights in the wilderness He encountered our giant enemy Satan. That giant came at Him with all he had, but the humble anointed servant defeated Him. And then he began to lead way for His people in victory over their enemies, over Satan and sin and death. Jesus has dealt the vital blow to our real enemies. He’s made victory possible. If we will follow Him He’ll lead us to victory over our sin and our death.