1 Samuel 17:39
And David girded his sword on his armor, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these…
The words recall to you at once the whole vivid story of the combat between the stripling David and the Philistine giant Goliath. It is a simple tale from the memories of border warfare in an early and somewhat rude time. There are two ways in which David might have forfeited his victory.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.