The purpose of this lesson: to focus on the importance to David of honoring (respecting) God.
When David was probably a teenager, the army of Israel and the army of the Philistines (old enemies!) were again confronting each other. In the book of Judges and the early part of the book of 1 Samuel, Israel spent more time as a conquered, subjugated people than as a free people. The early chapters of 1 Samuel tell how the Philistines took a position of dominance over the people of Israel and kept it for a long time.
Note this was a distressed time in Israel's history. Though they lived in their homes and on their land, they were a captive people who served the Philistines. To gain a sense of the frustrations at that moment, read 1 Samuel 4-7.
Israel finally defeated one of their archenemies, the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:11). After that victory, Saul was finally accepted by the people as Israel's first king (1 Samuel 11:14,15). This was the beginning of the renewal of the kingdom of Israel. The Israelites, because of their wickedness, had been a devastated, subjugated people for years.
Saul's appointment as Israel's king occurred in three stages: the anointing (1 Samuel 10:1); the selection/presentation (1 Samuel 10:24); and the acceptance/approval of the people (1 Samuel 11:14,15). When Saul became king, Israel was just beginning to emerge as a kingdom again. These enslaved people had no standing army to defend the 12 tribes.
In the incident under consideration today, Saul and Israel's standing army was in a confrontational situation with the Philistine army. Israel was beginning to reemerge as a kingdom, but the Philistines were unwilling to abandon their domination of Israel. This battle will not end Israel's difficulties with the Philistines, but it is a critical battle.
Until this moment in Saul's leadership, the Philistines had repressed Israel as a people. The last thing the Philistines wanted was for Israel to emerge again as a local power.
The Philistine army has a champion named Goliath. For that time, he was a huge warrior. While we, because of diet and nutrition, have become accustomed to huge people existing, a person the size of Goliath was rare in their exposure. Not only was he huge by their standards, but he was impressively fitted with armor and weapons.
Goliath regarded himself as unbeatable in a fight with any Israelite. He was physically intimidating to almost all Israelite opponents. His solution to the immediate crisis: "Let's settle this confrontation with a conflict between two men instead of two armies." The result of the fight between the two men would be "winner take all."
Rarely were there battles fought at night then. The rules of war were quite different. Daily Goliath would come out on the battle field of the valley of Elah and challenge the army of Israel with a proposal. Paraphrased, he said, "There is no need for a lot of people to die! I will represent the Philistines. Your choose a warrior to represent Israel. The two of us will fight until one of us is the victor. Then the people of the looser will serve the people of the winner." Goliath taunted the army of Israel with this challenge for forty days! The challenge went unaccepted because everyone in Israel's army was terrified of Goliath.
Goliath was not only defying Israel. His action also defied the God of Israel.
David's three older brothers were serving in Israel's army. Jesse, his father, was concerned about his older sons. He sent David with some food for his sons and for the officer over them and to bring him news from his sons (Jesse was an old man).
Basically, Jesse wanted what any parent wants--news about his sons in the army.
David left his family's flock under a keeper's oversight, and he took the gifts to the valley of Elah. He arrived as both armies prepared for battle, and he heard Goliath's challenge. David was amazed that Goliath could taunt Israel's army, the army of the living God, and no Israelite accept Goliath's challenge.
David could not understand how Israel allowed an uncircumcised gentile to defy God! It was much more than a lack of courage. It was a lack of dependence on God.
He heard the Israelite soldiers discuss what King Saul would give the warrior who fought Goliath and won, and confirmed what he heard. When David's oldest brother, Eliab, heard David's inquiry, he was angry at David. "Why are you here? Why are you not with the sheep in the wilderness? You are here for all the wrong reasons! You just want to see the battle!" Eliab's accusatory questions confused David.
David was intrigued by King Saul's rewards as well as Goliath's insults against the living God. His oldest brother's response is quite understandable. (1) There is the matter of sibling rivalry. (2) There is also the matter of Eliab refusing Goliath's challenge.
David's inquiry led to information being given to King Saul, to an interview with King Saul, to King Saul proposing David use his armor, to David rejecting the use of the king's armor. David declared the same God who protected him when he defended his sheep would protect him against the Philistine. The end result: a young shepherd with the simple tools of a shepherd faced a trained, hardened, huge warrior. He did not merely face Goliath--he ran toward him to engage him! This man may have made the army of Israel tremble, but not the young David.
The fact that King Saul would turn to the young David might indicate just how desperate Saul was. David's faith in God must have been most impressive!
The Philistine was insulted that Israel sent him a boy to do "a man's work." He cursed David by Goliath's gods and promised to feed David's flesh to the vultures and the wild beasts. David's reply in 1 Samuel l7:45 is insightful:
Goliath did not consider David a worthy opponent.
"You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted."
David's confidence was not in himself but in God.
David's courage and motive did not arise from some arrogant assessment of his personal ability. Both came from his commitment to God. Goliath had not insulted Israel; he had insulted God. David said it would be the dead bodies of Philistine warriors that would feed the vultures and wild beasts.
David was not intimidated by Goliath's contempt.
One well placed stone knocked Goliath out. David used Goliath's own sword to complete the death of the unconscious man by decapitating him. When it became visibly obvious that their champion was dead, a terrified Philistine army fled. A now bold Israelite army pursued the fleeing Philistine army back to one of their fortified cities inflicting heavy casualties. The Israelite warriors returned to plunder the Philistine camp.
The stone assured Goliath's death. Goliath's own sword ended Goliath's life.
The young man's feat amazed King Saul. Evidently, David took Goliath's head as a trophy. Instead of arrogantly declaring his personal greatness, David declared allegiance to Saul. Though David was responsible for a great victory, he clearly understood that Saul was king.
Evidently King Saul was not certain that David would beat Goliath. Do not let it escape the class's attention that the victorious David had the spirit of servant allegiance rather than the spirit of arrogance.
For Thought and Discussion:
They were a conquered people who lived in subjugation to the Philistines.
They had failed to obey God.
He was extremely tall, physically intimidating, and experienced as a warrior. His armor was as impressive as he was--large, made of bronze, and quite impressive.
"There is no need for a lot of warriors to die. Choose someone to fight me to the death. Then the people of the loser will serve the people of the winner."
He, at his father's request, was taking food to his three older brothers and their military leader.
Read 1 Samuel 17:31-39. At first Saul discouraged David. He felt David was too inexperience to be a match for Goliath.
He was insulted! He regarded David as an unworthy opponent.
"You come to me with weapons. I come to you in God's name. Today I will kill you, behead you, and the vultures and wild animals will feed on Philistine copses."
David's courage did not lie in his ability, but in God. David was not distressed by taunts against him, but by taunts against God.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 2
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