David strapped his sword over the tunic and tried to walk, but he was not used to all this armor. "I cannot walk in these," David said to Saul. "I am not used to them." So David took them off.
1 Samuel 17:38-54. (EPHES-DAMMIM.)
1. David was specially prepared for the conflict by the whole of his previous life, and especially by his successful attack upon the lion and the bear, and his victory over himself.
2. He was providentially led into the conflict. "Jesse little thought of sending his son to the army just in the critical juncture; but the wise God orders the time and all the circumstances of actions and affairs so as to serve his designs of securing the interest of Israel and advance the man after his own heart" (M. Henry).
3. He was inwardly impelled to the conflict by the Spirit of the Lord that had come upon him (1 Samuel 16:13), and had formerly inspired Saul with fiery zeal against the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:6). If he had gone into it in any other manner he would doubtless have failed.
4. He rendered invaluable service to Israel by the conflict, not only thereby repelling the invasion of the Philistines, but also teaching them the spirit they should cherish, and the kind of king they needed. "It is not too much to assert that this event was a turning point in the history of the theocracy, and marked David as the true king of Israel, ready to take up the Philistine challenge of God and his people, and kindling in Israel a new spirit, and in the might of the living God bringing the contest to victory" (Edersheim).
5. He became an appropriate type of Christ by the conflict. "It is a rehearsal of Christ's temptation and victory a thousand years afterwards" (Wordsworth's 'Com.').
6. He was also an eminent pattern for Christians in the conflict; exhibiting the spirit which they should possess in their warfare with "the world, the flesh, and the devil." "David's contest with Goliath will only be apprehended in its true light if the latter be regarded as a representative of the world, and David the representative of the Church" (Hengstenberg). Notice -
I. THE WEAPONS which he chose (vers. 38-40).
1. He neglected not the use of weapons altogether. To have done so would have been rash and presumptuous; for it is God's method to grant success to those who employ the legitimate aids which he has provided for the purpose. Although David did not trust in weapons of war, he did not throw them away, but used them wisely. We must do the same in the spiritual conflict.
2. He rejected the armour, defensive and offensive, which seemed to others indispensable. "I cannot go in these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him" (ver. 39). Some weapons may appear to others, and even to ourselves, at first, to be the best, and yet not be really such. Some weapons may be suitable to others, but not to us. We must learn by experience. We must be simple, genuine, and true to ourselves. And above all, we must look for Divine guidance in the matter. "The weapons of our. warfare are not carnal," etc. (2 Corinthians 10:4).
3. He selected the weapons which were most effective. "And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones," etc. (ver. 40) - selected them carefully, knowing well which were the best for his purpose; and he was not satisfied with one or two merely, but provided a reserve. His weapons were insignificant only in the view of the inconsiderate. They were the most suitable that can be conceived, and gave greatest promise of success; and his genius was shown in their selection. Intelligence was opposed to brute force. "It was just because the sling and the stone were not the weapons of Goliath that they were best fitted to David's purpose. They could be used at a distance from the enemy; they made his superior resources of no avail; they virtually reduced him to the dimensions and condition of an ordinary man; they did more, they rendered his extraordinary size a disadvantage; the larger he was, the better for the mark. David, moreover, had been accustomed in his shepherd life to the sling; it had been the amusement of his solitary hours, and had served for his own protection and that of his flock; so that he brought to his encounter with Goliath an accuracy of aim and a strength and steadiness of arm that rendered him a most formidable opponent" (A.J. Morris). The lesson here taught is not that anything will do to fight with, but that there must be in spiritual, as well as in secular, conflicts a proper adaptation of means to ends.
II. THE SPIRIT which he displayed (vers. 41-48).
1. Humility. His heart was not haughty and proud (Psalm 131:1), as Eliab said it was, but humble and lowly. He was conscious of unworthiness before God, of utter weakness and insufficiency in himself, and ready to do and bear whatever might be the will of the Lord concerning him. Humility (from humus, the ground) lies in the dust, and is the root out of which true excellence grows. It is the first, the second, and the third thing in religion (Augustine). "Before honour is humility" (Proverbs 15:32). "He giveth grace to the humble." "Be clothed with humility."
2. Faith. "I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts" (ver. 45; see 1 Samuel 1:3). He looked beyond man to God, and relied upon his help. "He did not compare himself with Goliath, but he compared Goliath with Jehovah," who was the Leader and "God of the ranks of Israel." He believed, and therefore he spoke, and fought, and prevailed (2 Corinthians 4:13). "Although unarmed in the estimation of men, he was armed with the Godhead" (St. Ambrose).
3. Zeal. He was little concerned about his own honour and renown, but he was "very jealous for the Lord God of hosts" (1 Kings 19:14). He heard the gods of the heathen extolled (ver. 43), and the name of Jehovah blasphemed, and he was desirous above all things that he should be glorified. "All the earth shall know," etc. (ver. 46). "All this assembly shall know," etc. (ver. 47). When we fight for God we may confidently expect that he will fight for us. "The battle is the Lord's."
4. Courage, which stood in contrast to the fear with which Israel was smitten, and was the fruit of his humility, faith, and zeal. It was shown in his calm and dauntless attitude in going forth against his opponent, in the presence of the two armies, in breathless suspense; in his bold and confident answer to the contemptuous challenge of the foe; and in his eagerness and energy in the actual conflict. "David hasted, and ran," etc. (vers. 48, 49, 51). "So David prevailed."
III. THE VICTORY which he achieved. Not only was the boastful Philistine overthrown, speedily, signally, and completely, but also -
1. The enemy fled in terror (ver. 51), and their power was broken (ver. 52).
2. Israel was imbued with a new and better spirit (vers. 52, 53).
3. He himself was honoured - by God in giving him the victory and opening before him a wider sphere of activity, by the king (vers. 55-58; 1 Samuel 18:2), and by all the people. Even the Philistines long afterwards held his name in dread (1 Samuel 21:11). "This first heroic deed of David was of the greatest importance to him and all Israel, for it was his first step on the way to the throne to which Jehovah had resolved to raise him" (Keil). "Raised by the nation, he raised and glorified it in return; and, standing at the crowning point of the history of the nation, he concentrates in himself all its brilliance, and becomes the one man of greatest renown in the whole course of its existence" (Ewald). - D.
I cannot go with these. I have not proved them.
I. First HE MIGHT HAVE FORFEITED IT BY A CARELESS NEGLECT OF THE SIMPLE OPPORTUNITIES OF A BOY. He had only to keep the sheep. It would have been boy-like to have gone after play or after comrades and leave the flock. It would have been the different but equally fatal mistake of a gifted nature to dream away the hours with his back on the turf and his face to the sky, building air castles of future exploits, the while the beasts preyed on the straying sheep. David avoided the one mistake and the other. He had his play, indeed; that skill which sends the stone like bullet to the Philistine's brow will not have come to such perfection without many a shot at passing quarry or jutting rock; but it was play which made him fitter for work, training him in the free use of the favourite weapon of his tribe; making his arm suppler and stronger, and his eye more keen. And he had his battle, too, in his own way; he was watchful to detect and bold to face the prowling and preying beast. And though these may seem simple things, yet to the doer of them there was a strong sense and clear knowledge that there was a power with him in them, and if his conflict with the lion and the bear prepared him to face Goliath by steadying his nerve and strengthening his self-reliance it did so much more by giving him proof of the supporting and protecting presence of his God. Is it not the fact that one of the most frequent, causes of waste and loss here is to be found in what I may call the adjournment of responsibility? I am not thinking of the man who wants to taste the pleasures of sin for a time; nor of the man who shirks all his work and fails in his examinations. I am thinking of men who take things as they come and do not look beyond; who interpret the phrase "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" as a charter for postponing troublesome thoughts of future responsibility; who think that it will be time enough to attend to those things when they come.
II. But David had a second danger to avoid: IT WAS THE DANGER OF UNPROVEN ARMOUR. We can feel that a twofold instinct guided him right; the royal armour was grand, but he knew that he would be uneasy in it; and meanwhile his fingers twitched on the sling strings with the half-conscious sense of how they could hurl against that blustering front. What is the danger of unproven armour for any of us? It is not difficult to see; and it may seem to be the very opposite of that which we have considered. It is the danger of those who look forward, not too little, but too confidently, and who do so because they believe themselves amply ready to face life. They feet full armed with well-appointed mail and weapons; it may be with all the adaptable resources of high academical and social culture; it may be with the keen thoughts, and bright ideals, social and philanthropic, which they deem to characterise their generation. Or, most probably of all, it may be with confidence in the strength of Divine truth and a Divine system, which they have themselves embraced, and in the strength of which it would be faithless to doubt that they will succeed with others. Far be it to speak disparagingly of such as these, they have much in them of the mettle of the future warrior: the day was to come when David too would do valiantly with sword and spear. But they have much to learn. The shield and sword, the spear and armour of God and of His Church are not for the first comer to wield with mastery. Doctrine the most true, arguments the most convincing, ideas the most lovely, will somehow be found not to strike home; and it will be well for the user if hampered and perhaps wounded he is not tempted in reaction of disheartenment or cynicism to cast them all aside and turn his back upon the battle. We have, then, here another danger, and opposite though it seems, it may really be combined, and often is combined with the other. The man who adjourns responsibility will think that he can put on the whole armour at pleasure in the future, and that in the strength and completeness of a professional outfit he could be a match for any enemy. There are giants in these days, and "surely to defy Israel are they come up:" evils which are monstrous in their proportions and which have the peculiar note of scornful and cruel defiance towards God and man. There is the giant of sensuality in all its forms. There is the giant of worldliness: the domineering power of prevailing fashion, or of so-called public opinion, or of stolid indifference to every higher call. And third brother to these there is the giant of unbelief. These are giants, and now as then we want men to meet them. And not seldom it is to the stripling that the task should fall. He is not dazed and weary with the daily bellowing of the giant's challenges. He comes with a fresh eye, with an unbroken nerve, with a quick fire of zeal. Place for the young man against the giant! But at that moment all will depend upon what he is and what he brings. They must be well proved, he must be master of them, and they may have in them an unsuspected force of swift and piercing strength. What, to drop the figures, will this mean? It will mean first that a man who is to do good service against public evils must have first fought his own fights. He will have known, perhaps, in very plain reality, what it is to have the beasts come up against him. To meet the lion and the bear is specially the young man's task. It is from the wilderness of temptation that David and David's Lord go forth to the help of the Lord and His people against the mighty. And then next, the men who are to be champions must bring with them genuine, first-hand, realised truth. We want men who have put things to the proof and can speak of that they do know: who can not only repeat, but testify, who can wield the great appeal "experto crede." It is not much truth of which to a young man at the outset of experience this can be true: it may be only as the few smooth stones out of the brook: but, believe me, these may be enough. But what I mean is this: that while a man may fairly start by taking on trust many parts of that which he believes, there must be some part in it, some aspect of it, which he has proved for himself. It has been truly said that it is unchristian to assert that to rightly understand the faith one must have passed through doubt. But it is Christian in modesty and truthfulness to say that in a real and adequate sense a man can hardly be a champion who has not felt the stress and strain upon his faith of the mysteries and difficulties round about us, whose imagination they have never awed, whose reason they have never puzzled, whose sympathies they have never wrung. But there is one thing which must yet be said, for it underlies the whole. The victory of David was won not only by the sling and stone, but by the proved and trusted presence of God. Theirs is the strength which speaks in words which we have not yet learnt to separate from David. "The Lord is my strength in whom I will trust. By Thee I have run through a troop and by my God I have leaped over a wall. It is God that girdeth me with strength."
(E. S. Talbot, D. D.)
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
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