And David took his staff in his hand, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag. And with his sling in hand, he approached the Philistine.
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.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook.
1. Now though David was yet but a stripling, he was evidently acting on the principle which he afterwards expressed in one of his Psalms. "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will! rejoice." He was already using past, mercies as a pledge or promise of future; and encouraging himself by what God had done, in expecting Him to do yet more in his behalf. There is something singularly emphatic in those words of St. Paul to Timothy, "I know whom I have believed." They are the words of a man who was his own storehouse of evidence, who had gathered into himself so much of testimony to the origin of Christianity and the faithfulness, of God, that he had no need in any moment of difficulty or trial, to have recourse to books or external witness in order to be assured that he trod a safe path. "I know whom I have believed;" there may have been a time when I required the evidence of miracle and prophecy in order to be convinced that I followed "no cunningly devised fable" — when I had to turn to the registered histories of the saints of other days to satisfy myself that I served a God who would never fall His people; but now my own experience has come into the place of external testimony and Christian biography; I have but to descend into myself, end there do I find graven on the tablets of memory such records of fulfilled promises and gracious interpositions as leave me nothing to seek from the archives of creation, or the volumes of history. And there can be given no reason why this should have been the ease with St. Paul or David rather than with any amongst ourselves. We would, therefore, call on you all, to turn your own experience to account, and to go on, adding page after page to the volume whose want is not to be supplied by whole libraries of the narratives of others: for there is a warrant in the recorded account, of favours shown to ourselves which is incomparably beyond that of much greater favours shown to another. And will you tell me that nothing has happened to yourselves, of which you might make the use which David made of a former great deliverance? Aye, if this be your assertion it can only be because you receive mercies only to forget them. And we speak now to those who profess some attention to religion. Can you deny that God takes care of you in the midst of your sorrows — either wholly delivering you from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, or administering such supports as enable you to feel the tribulation to be good? We are persuaded that this has been your experience, though you may have given but little heed to the storing the mind with mementoes of Divine love. You should keep the past before you if you would look the future calmly in the face. Every obstacle surmounted, every sorrow soothed, every want supplied, every fear dissipated, every tear dried, should be in reserve, ready to give evidence, on any new trial, as to the goodness and watchfulness of your Father in heaven. Shame on you if you cannot say, "I know whom I have believed." It is likely that the older you grow, the sterner will be the forms of trouble which you will have to encounter, and you will encounter them confidently in proportion as you bear well in mind how the milder forms were vanquished.
2. We have shown you how strong was the faith of David. It is true. that finally he went with no weapons but a stone and a sling: he went, that is, with none of those appliances which seem required, whether for his own defence or for the defeat of Goliath. But, then it is just as true, that he did not determine to go thus unequipped to the field until he had done his best to ascertain that it was not God's will that he should wear a warrior's arms. There seems no reason to suppose that David tried on Saul's armour merely out of compliance with Saul's wish: on the contrary, it appears to have been his intention to have used his armour, and the intention was only given up because, on trial, the armour proved an encumbrance. If ever man might have ventured to say means might be neglected, the result is ordained, and will be brought round without any of the common instrumentality, David might have been warranted in refusing the armour without trying it on. But this is just what David did not do: he proceeded on the principle that no expectation of a miracle should make us slack in the employment of means; but that so long as means are within reach, we are bound to employ them, though it may not be through their use that God will finally work, And can you fail to see how David thus became a great example to ourselves? I know not in what precise way God may design to effect the conversion of anyone in this assembly, or to give anyone victory over some great spiritual adversary; but I know thoroughly what is the business of every one of you, if you look to be converted, or hope to be made victor. There are appointed means through which God is ordinarily pleased to bring round such results: and the readiest mode of frustrating the results is, to take for granted, that means may be neglected. These means are prayer, the study of the Bible, and the ordinances of public worship. That you can show me that the Goliath is often finally slain by stones taken out of the brook, and not by any of the more massive weapons is nothing against our argument; for our argument is, that, though slain at last by the pebble, the slayer has commonly first put on the armour; in short, that no man has a right to have recourse to the stone and the sling until he have first made trial of the coat of mail and the sword. We are quite prepared, we say, for occasionally finding, that a casual remark in conversation, a text quoted, or a passing observation while engaged in his ordinary occupation, will effect what the public ministrations have failed to effect, — penetrate the heart, and overthrow the strongholds of pride and unbelief: and here Goliath falls before the pebble, and not before the armour of the thoroughly equipped warrior. But, nevertheless, the man of whom we speak, had recourse to the armoury before he had recourse to the brook; and, probably, had he refused to appeal to the armoury, that penetrating stone would never have been drawn from the brook; at all events, no man can have a right to be looking for miracle who is not diligent in the employment of means: man is to be trying on the armour, though God may at last use the pebble. And there is one particular case to which we would apply these more general remarks. I know not a more difficult or delicate undertaking, than that of defending the cause of God and of truth against some champion of infidelity and error. It is probably better to keep silence than to throw one's self into discussion, and have the worst of the argument. And you are not to feel sure, that because you have undoubted truth on your side, you will conquer in the struggle: the proof by which truth may be substantiated is quite different from the truth itself; just as is the guilt of a prisoner from the evidence which will make a jury determine on his conviction. Goliath is not always to be slain with a pebble, though he defy the armies of the living God to which his opponent belongs. And the question is, whether the man who has really nothing but the sling and the pebble should be forward in every company where a Philistine may be, in accepting his challenge. There are cases indeed in which the unlettered believer is distinctly called on to engage with the giant, and whenever such case arises, we have no fear but that God will strengthen him for the fight. If called like David, like David he will be protected. But the evil generally is, that our youthful champions, eager, however unprepared, to throw themselves into argument, fancy themselves imitating David, because he went forth with nothing but a sling and a stone; but they forget that he first tried to put on the armour of Saul. We want them to imitate David in each successive particular. To complete the destruction of Goliath, David ran and seized the giant's sword, and with that sword he cut off his head. And how was Satan finally vanquished, and, as it were, decapitated by Christ, if not with his own sword? Was not, death emphatically the sword of the devil, seeing that he is expressly said to have had "the power of death," and that it was through death that he had laid waste successive generations, and swept them into his own place of torment? And, remember ye not how it is declared that Christ died "that through death he might destroy him that had the power over death, that is, the devil?" It was by dying that he slew the devil; he vanquished him by taking death for his weapon: And what was this but David using Goliath's sword to cut off Goliath's head? It may therefore well be called a parable of redemption, which is written in the incidents of the chapter before us. These incidents may have furnished a significative lesson to David, just as did those of the offering up of Isaac to Abraham. And thus do we draw from our subject a lesson for the nation. But let us not overlook that which belongs to the individual. The paw of the lion, the paw of the bear, the uncircumcised Philistine, in every case, needs strength God alone can give the strength — God alone can give victory in every struggle with corruption, and in the final struggle with death. But if you will fight as followers of Christ, regarding him as the Captain of your salvation, and depending simply on the aids of His Spirit, you shall be made more than conquerors; the giants one after the other shall fall before you, and the last enemy shall do the work of a friend in consigning you to glory and honour and immortality.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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