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1 Samuel 17
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 17". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ 1-samuel-17.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 17". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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1 Samuel 17:1-27
Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle.
The battle of Elah
While the Philistines were posted on the stony hills covered with brushwood which bounded the valley on the south, Saul and his army were posted on a similar stony ridge on its northern side. The valley, one of the most fertile in Palestine, was, at the scene of the conflict, about half a mile broad, with a torrent bed in the centre, which had been scooped out by the winter floods. This is apparently the gal or valley referred be in verse third. It is about ten feet deep, and twenty to thirty feet wide, and abounds in water-rounded pebbles. Major Conder declares it to be impassable, except at certain places, thus explaining why the two armies faced one another for forty days without coming into actual conflict. Either party was afraid to cross the defile, thereby exposing itself to serious disadvantage; and so they confined themselves to warlike demonstrations. The abject terror of Saul and his mighty men excites within us little or no surprise; but it is otherwise with regard to the brave and lionhearted Jonathan. To encounter Goliath in single combat, was not a more dangerous or formidable undertaking than that which he had once before successfully attempted at Michmash, when he and his armour bearer boldly stormed the garrison of the Philistines, which was but the outpost of an immense army. Why did he not come to the front on this occasion? It might be said that his father would not allow him. And if Jonathan had offered himself as the champion of Israel there can be little doubt that Saul would have been most unwilling to accept him; but there is nothing in the narrative to suggest that Jonathan made such a proposal. The impression made by the narrative is that abject terror reigned throughout the entire army. Neither was it due to any decline in Jonathan’s piety and faith. It is gratuitous to suppose that he had become contaminated and lowered in moral tone, by the unbelieving and disobedient spirit of his father. I am inclined to think, from the noble spirit subsequently displayed by Jonathan, that as an individual he was now fitter in every respect, physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually, for fighting the battles of the Lord, than he was when he wrought his great exploit at Michmash. He still believed, probably with a stronger faith than ever, that the Lord was able to save by many or by few; but he lacked the assurance, which he then had, viz., that the Lord was willing to save through him. Without that conviction he never would have attempted What he did at Michmash. It was only after God had fulfilled the proposed sign that Jonathan said to his armour bearer: “Come up after me, for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.” But he had not that assurance now. The dark cloud of the Divine rejection, which had fallen upon his father at Gilgal, had encompassed him also, and darkened his spirit with its baleful shadow. It deprived him not, only of the heirship to the kingdom, but also of the golden opportunity of fighting in the name of the Lord of hosts, with the proud giant of Gath. The period during which Goliath was permitted to defy the hosts of Israel was forty days. The frequency with which this period occurs in connection with special incidents in sacred history is remarkable and suggestive. It rained, e.g., forty days at the deluge (Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:12). Moses on two occasions was forty days with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28). The intercession of Moses on behalf of the people to avert from them the Divine wrath, on account of their sin in worshipping the golden calf, lasted forty days (Deuteronomy 9:25). The twelve spies were absent forty days during their inspection of the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:25); and because of the rebellion, caused by their evil report, the children of Israel were doomed to wander in the wilderness forty years, corresponding to the forty days spent in the work of inspection (Numbers 14:34). Elijah went, in the strength of the food which he received from the angel in the wilderness of Beersheba, forty days unto Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 19:8). The period of respite which was assigned to Nineveh was forty days, as Jonah was commissioned to preach in its streets: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” (John 3:4). The temptation of our Lord in the wilderness lasted forty days (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). And the fact that Saul and his army were subjected to the challenge of Goliath for forty days, seems to show that there was a Divine purpose in permitting it to last so long. The forty days seem to suggest the thoroughness or completeness of the trial. The impotence of Saul and his army without God was thereby clearly and conclusively demonstrated. It was only after this humiliating demonstration that the Lord brought into the field His own champion. “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” (T. Kirk.)
The Philistines, indeed, were the hereditary enemies of Israel. They represented brute force and insolent pride and heathen worship, as opposed to higher thoughts of duty and justice, and the presence and power of God with His people. The name “Philistine” has been used in modern times, accordingly, to represent stupidity and opposition to light and knowledge and advancement and “sweet reasonableness.” (W. J. Knox Little, M. A.)
1 Samuel 17:7
One bearing a shield went before him.
The shield bearer of Goliath
I. That it is a grievous mistake for men to arm themselves as in triple mail against good influences. Goliath had a “helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, etc., and one bearing a shield went, before him.” How many in spiritual matters surround their minds as it were wish a covering of obstinacy and indifference, so as to keep out from their understandings the knowledge of the truth, and case their hearts in an impregnable corselet of selfishness, so as to prevent the entrance of faith. In a different manner from this ought the humble believer, not inflated with ideas of his own righteousness, much less with any notion of bidding defiance of the armies of the living God, arm him for the battle of life.
II. That it is as futile as it is sinful to attempt to oppose the will of God. The shield of the shield bearer would not stop the stone sent from the sling of David. It is, assuredly, a presumption beyond description for the finite to imagine that he can understand, much less oppose, the Infinite. As well might the fly upon the wheel attempt to correct or to oppose the action of the machinery. If a counsel or a work be of God, “ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
III. That worldly friendship, based on a companionship in sin, is weak in the hour of trial. When Goliath comes forth to tread vaingloriously before the armies of Israel, we read that this man bearing a shield went before him. He had attended the gigantic champion in the hour of triumph, does he remain faithful to him in the hour of misfortune? Does he attempt to strike a blow on behalf of his fallen master? Does he strive to prevent David from dishonouring that master’s body, by cutting off the giant’s head with the giant’s own sword? We read of nothing of the kind; no effort to aid or to protect his master is recorded of him. Doubtless he fled, as the other Philistines fled, when the great champion fell. So, the friendship of the world is not only enmity against God, but is not lasting to be relied on. It is a mistake to state that there is honour amongst thieves; it is a delusion to think that there is loyalty to each other amongst sinners. The pursuit of unlawful pleasures is essentially a selfish pursuit; and the so-called friendships that are formed in it are evanescent and ephemeral. When such intimacies are found by any of the contracting parties to be no longer pleasant or profitable, the bond of self-interest that was their only connecting link is speedily broken, and the so-called friendship dissolved or ignored. Well is it, indeed, if it can be ended without bitterness and tears and blood. False friendship is like the gaudy but scentless sunflower, that will bloom only in the sunshine of prosperity. (R. Young, M. A.)
1 Samuel 17:11
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
The insulting attitude of worldliness towards religion
The insult was a symbol of the insulting attitude of worldliness towards religion. Brute force and power paraded themselves as contemptuous of the power of the Spirit. Religion cannot hold its own against the powers of the world except by spiritual forces and trust in God. When the guardians of religion, or those who should witness its inward power, fail in this trust, and in using the right weapons, then the world has its way. The symbol in this case is singularly vivid and complete. (W. J. Knox Little, M. A.)
1 Samuel 17:28
Eliab’s anger was kindled against David.
A series of victories
Hitherto David has had little suffering. Life is made up of trials: the Christian’s course is never free from them: this we are to see here, for this seventeenth tells us, besides the contest with the lion and the bear, of three great trials which at this time befell the “man after God’s own heart.” I dare say that when you have read this chapter you have thought of David’s wonderful faith and courage as seen in his conflict with the giant; and yet it tells us of three trials and three victories; and I believe that either of the other two was much more painful, and required more faith than was necessary to nerve him for the single combat.
1. Observe, then, in the first place, that after David was anointed he went back to his duties as before; for “Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.” For one moment he had been exalted, and then all went on as before. Then a brilliant career seemed opening before him: he was most unexpectedly sent for to the court. But as soon as the benefit was received it was forgotten; for ingratitude is the commonest of faults: David is not wanted now; the king’s head is full of war matters; he stands in need of men, and not of boys; he wants swords and slicers, not harps and music. Oh! never be carried away with the love of popularity; it is not worth striving after; there is nothing that may be more quickly lost. Only let some unkind report be raised about you, or some great man sneer at you, and the people will be ready, to a man, to turn against you. And so David goes quietly back, resumes the shepherd’s dress, takes the place of the youngest son, and feeds his father’s sheep. I declare that seems to me to have been the greatest of the three trials; he must indeed have had strong faith, and he must have been endued with the grace of humility. And was it not so with our blessed Lord Himself? At the age of twelve years He is found “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions: and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them;” (Luke 2:49; Luke 2:51), and for eighteen years He remained in obscurity. Such was David’s first trial here. Flattered one moment, and thrown aside the next; at one time likely to be famous in the court, and very shortly afterwards sent to feed the sheep near his father’s homestead. Would it be very trying to be laid aside by illness, to sink into obscurity?
2. And now we come to a trial of a different kind, but equally painful, perhaps, or at all events one that shows the depth of his piety. We can quite understand how anxious Jesse was for the safety of his boys: his three eldest sons are gone to the battle; Eliab is there, the pride of his heart: so David is sent with a little present from home, and doubtless many kind messages, as Joseph was sent by Jacob to visit his brethren at Shechem. And when he comes, then his elder brother takes him to task, and utters the most cruel and vindictive insinuations. And here, too, Jesus can sympathise with His people. When He entered upon His public ministry, the first place at which He preached was His own city Nazareth. As He loved His mother, so He evidently had special affection for His own city, His neighbours, and near kindred: it was this love which made Him preach in the synagogue at Nazareth; but they would not receive Him; for “a prophet has no honour in his own country.” There are some people who can bear a long trial, who may yet be thrown off their guard by a sudden temptation; and so perhaps it was quite as difficult to give Eliab back a gentle answer, as it was to go quietly home from the palace to the sheepfold. Gentle natures are often sensitive, and sensitive people are almost always irritable. Oh! temper! temper! what a trial it is to those that are afflicted with it! and terrible is the guilt of those who provoke an irritable person. But David gained the victory, and must have made Eliab sensible of the wrong he had done him. This was a far greater victory, though little noticed, little thought of at the time, and not so much observed even now by those who read this chapter, as the contest with the giant shortly afterwards.
3. And now a word upon the third trial and the third victory. David fells the giant. There is no battle, but flight on the one hand, and eager pursuit on the other; in a few minutes the hills are completely deserted, and we can only hear the shouts of the pursuers gradually dying away in the direction of Ekron. There lies the headless body in the valley of Elah: come and let us stand by it, and learn one or two lessons. Behold in David the type of David’s Son. When the great Captain of our salvation was tempted of the devil, He did not contend with him as God, but only as one of ourselves. He just took the “smooth stones out of the brook;” He met and defeated him as any Christian may, with the words of Scripture; as any Jew might then, with quotations from the Book of Deuteronomy. The Philistine, you see, but for David’s faith, would have been stronger than the Israelites. The giant did not fall by sword and spear, but David’s faith in God brought victory to his countrymen. It was because David was in the camp that Israel conquered. Would we be loyal Churchmen, would we do good service to our Church, let us be men of God; let us so behave, that the Lord Jesus shall still be in the midst of us; let us make use of the stones from the brook, of prayer, and Holy Scripture; and the Lord will yet save us from ruin, though He may see fit to humiliate us. How did David know that he was equal to this emergency? What made him sure that he should conquer the giant? He had had experience of God’s help before. So indeed had the Israelites; they had gained a great victory under Samuel, and had reared their “Ebenezer;” but this was forgotten now, and therefore their faith failed them. But not so David. And then David knew nothing about the use of armour, though no doubt Saul provided him with the best; but he was expert in the use of the sling. Ah! those “stones from the brook,” how are they dispised! Any other means of grace is more valued than Scripture. No doubt David was regarded as a hero from Dan to Beersheba; the slaughter of the giant made him famous, and his praise was in everyone’s mouth. Yet I think I have shown you that the killing of the giant was a very little matter; that what is really to be admired is David’s faith; and that either of the other two trials was in reality more severe. (C. Bosanquet, M. A.)
In early life Edmund Burke was not happy at home, as no one there sympathised with his dreams and aspirations. “It is, after all, a man’s own relations who generally look with the least confidence on his long wrestle with adversity, and are most astonished when the tide turns and a great victory succeeds to what had seemed to them mere hopeless toil.”
The two victories in one day
If there had been a conspiracy to frustrate the Divine purpose in relation to David, his relatives could scarcely have kept him out of sight more persistently, or brought him forward more sluggishly and reluctantly. Men were slow to see the seeds of future greatness and godliness which the Lord beheld, and they looked not for succour in the direction whence He had ordained it to come. Praise belongs to Him for carrying out His own purpose despite the want of discernment and sympathy on the part of His people. If His thoughts had not prevailed over men’s thoughts, the Jewish nation would have lost one of its greatest kings, and the Bible one of its most instructive histories. The Divine wisdom in the choice of David was soon proved when the time of trial came, and he had an opportunity of showing the regal spirit the grace of God had given to him. The second triumph is by far the more famous, but we must not suffer its splendour to hide from us the true glory of the first. The man who kills a giant will always be more talked of than the man who, against the force of strong temptations, controls his own temper; but it is none the less true that--“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city,”
I. David’s victory over himself. It is not difficult to conjecture the cause of Eliab’s ill-will and unjust upbraidings. He had not forgiven David for the distinction that God had granted, and the cruel spirit of envy had turned him from a brother into a foe. This fiendish passion of envy, so common in human nature, can not only destroy the joy of a brother in a brother’s welfare, but would also, if it could get into a mother’s heart, be hellish enough to make her miserable at the thought of the prosperity of her own first-born boy. What a foul thing that must be which finds the elements of its own perdition in a sight of the paradise God gives to others, and which would be wretched and woebegone in heaven itself if it met with anyone having stronger wings or a higher place than its own! When, in the last judgment, Envy is placed at the bar of God, what an indictment will be laid against the Evil Spirit! The insulting anger of Eliab--the cruelty of Joseph’s brethren--the murderous wrath of Cain--and the greatest share in the greatest crime in the world, the crucifying of the Lord of glory--will be charged upon him. The taunts and insinuations of Eliab must have cut David to the quick. If the undeserved rebuke had been administered in private, it would have been hard to bear; but Eliab was base enough to be a public slanderer, and sought, by his foul aspersions, to do irreparable damage to David’s reputation amongst those who saw him that day for the first time, and would be too ready to think that there must be good grounds for these charges of pride and arrogance, seeing they were made by the young man’s own brother. The temptation must have been strong to answer it with words of burning indignation, and only a man of much meekness and of great self-control could have replied to it as David did. Who likes to be accused of vile motives which he knows have no place in his heart, and to hear his very virtues denounced as being nothing but hideous vices which he tries to conceal by means of pious airs and canting pretensions? It was a cross of this kind David had to carry, and he bore it as if there had been given to him some prophetic foresight of the perfect example of Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, and who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. The restraint which David put upon his temper under this great provocation was the most godly thing he could have done, and therefore it was the wisest and most profitable. Having regard to the great work before him, it was very important that David should keep his temper. Could the second victory have been achieved if he had failed in the first conflict? That which was right amidst the temptations of one hour was the best preparation for the arduous labours of the next hour. All of her things being equal, he who is most triumphant over temptation and most faithful to duty today will be the strongest for work and warfare tomorrow.
II. David’s victory over Goliath. History records many instances in which cruelty, and tyranny, and persecution haw thoroughly outwitted themselves and frustrated their own purposes. Charity must not rejoice in iniquity, but it may exult in the defeat of iniquity, and especially when iniquity plays the part of a scorpion and stings itself, and when, like Haman, it unwittingly prepares a gallows for its own execution. The defeat of the Philistines in the downfall of their great champion is a most striking illustration of this kind of self-destruction. “Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears” (1 Samuel 13:19). This cruel policy was so successful that on one occasion there were only two swords or spears possessed by the entire Jewish army. Saul and Jonathan had them; but all the rest of the people had to use such cumbrous and clumsy weapons as unskilled hands could make without fire or hammer. Necessity has always been the mother of invention, and we may be certain that, when iron weapons were denied to the Hebrews, their skill was largely developed in other directions. The youth of the land could not practise sword exercise, or learn to poise the spear, and therefore they would be driven to make themselves master of other methods of defence and assault. Before this period the Benjamites had become famous for their skill in slinging, for “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed; everyone could sling stones at an hair-breadth, and not miss” (Judges 20:16). When all edged weapons were taken from them, the people would be sure to turn again to those in whose use their fathers had been so renowned, and practice would again make perfect. Thus the issue proved that the Philistines laid the foundation of their own defeat when they took all swords and spears from the Israelites, and compelled them to try other means of accomplishing their deliverance. The foes of God’s people meant it for evil, but God overruled it for good. David’s skill with the sling would have failed to gain the victory if it had been divorced from faith in God. It was his trust in the Lord which gave such calmness to his soul, as surely as it was the calmness of his soul which helped to make his arm so steady and his aim so sure. His faith, however, was not a fanatical faith, which violates reason and neglects the most appropriate means. When he refused to wear Saul’s armour, he proved his common sense as much as he displays his confidence in God. The faith of David was also associated with experience as well as with reason. He remembered past mercies, and thereby encouraged his heart to rest in Him who is ever the same. The most effectual way of chasing away despair and regaining confidence is to adopt the Psalmist’s resolve--“I will remember the works of the Lord: Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings.” (C. Vince.)
Preparations for conflict
How much like a chapter of accidents this looks! Superficially narrated, we should say “It happened.” There are no accidents with God, and none with those who commit their way unto Him. We shall see all these things were preparations for conflict.
I. Jesse’s anxiety concerning his soldier sons. We meet David once more on the road from Bethlehem. Not on his way to the palace of the king, for yet is he the drudge of the family, and is sent laden with presents to the chief of the division in which his brothers serve (verses 17, 18), to see how they fare. How akin to Joseph, who also was sent by his father to his brethren, and met with no kindly reception! While talking with one and another the boastful challenge of the giant Goliath arrests his attention. Once no such challenge would have come to Saul unanswered, but all valour flees when the Spirit of the Lord leaves a man. David avows his readiness to meet him. Was it a chance that David was sent--that he was sent that morning--that his brethren were to the front when he arrived at camp, or a list of curious combinations?
II. The DISCOURAGEMENT with which David meets. David is jealous for the Lord of Hosts. He was instantly discouraged, first by:--
1. His own brethren (Matthew 10:36, with verse 28). That fine soldierly looking brother who captivated Samuel’s judgment is terribly at fault Listen! he twits his brother with neglect of duty (verse 28). True he does not know; he is only supposing the sheep must have been left uncared for, as David is there. To an angry, jealous nature, truth is of little matter. The probable, or even the possible, is quite near enough.
2. The king discourages him (verse 33). Doubtless appearances were against David. They have often been against bravo men, and Saul was only the echo of that prudence which is popular today. God’s men, who endure as seeing Him who is invisible, cannot be measured by the rule of this world’s wisdom. We advance now to another link.
3. Thirdly, in all this David was being fitted for the conflict as the result of the Divine anointing. Discipline is often inward through the outward, and sometimes the outward is proof of the inward. David’s offers of service were refused. That the affairs of service are often refused is apparent in the records of the Holy Scriptures. Dr. Ker unfolds this in a sermon from the refusal of the Israelites’ offers of service by Joshua. He draws attention to Gideon’s band, that not all were chosen who offered; and to Christ’s searching answer to the man who would “first go bury his dead.” Today, as of old, many offers of service are refused--and why? Thus our sincerity is tested. Only so do we know ourselves; but every “Christian” comes out of the Slough of Despond “on the far side.” One result of these discouragements in David’s case was, he was thrown on God’s promise. His past opens (verse 34). His own mind is finding wonderful illumination as he tells the king of what he had done. This is the right use of past experience. “I slew him;” surely the God of my strength can give me power over this Philistine lion also. Do you not observe his sense of Goliath’s sin increases in proportion as his faith in God expands? There is a rising emphasis of scorn surely. “This uncircumcised Philistine; This Philistine.” How terrible is this contempt, coming from God’s chosen! Thus early we mark the habit of referring everything to the will and providence of God, which is the key to David’s character. Thus there is outward victory. David has gained permission--has won his way; and is not this the window through which we see the inward victory? All through he maintains his humility, yet who could imagine any test more trying than this double refusal of service? And how conspicuous this humility is in his answer to Saul after the victory (verse 58), and that untrue and supercilious speech of Abner’s (verse 55). He maintains his patience. What restraint he must have put upon that impetuous spirit of his to take the sneer so quietly! (verse 29). “He that hath rule over his own spirit is better than the mighty.” (H. E. Stone.)
David and Goliath
This is a revolution wrought by one brave soul. And this is but a single incident in the life of one who walked by faith, and who learned his faith in communion with God. It was this which gave to David the qualities which this history reveals--a sound judgment, a fearless tongue, a sweet temper, and a lion’s heart.
I. A sound judgment. David came to Elah a youth amidst an army of veterans. Yet his judgment was sounder than Saul’s, than Abner’s, or that of any of the bronzed warriors around him. Why? Because he came to Elah from Bethlehem, from the quiet hills where he had communed with God, and strengthened his faith in Him. The men of Israel had natural courage enough, but this was a combat which, on all natural principles, seemed hopeless. David, however, looked at the matter through eyes that were “full of religious light.” David saw God upon the scene. He was the only one who saw Him; and that sight made the shepherd the true tactician. Faith in God gave him at once the true point of view. Mere secular computations had half blinded Israel’s eyes. The impressions and the services of the young are sometimes better than those of the old, because the elder may have lost simplicity of faith and have learned to look at life from a worldly point of view. Inexpert in the details of a matter, still the prayerful woman, the believing youth, may have a higher, clearer view of some Divine principle, some promise of Jehovah, which should be His people’s guide. So the mother of Mills, a quarter of a century before the leaders of the Church had moved, declared that missions to the heathen world ought to be begun, and dedicated her own son in his infancy to the work. So Mills himself and his young associates, praying by the haystack in the fields of Williamstown, saw what Israel ought to do, saw that was possible which others called chimerical, and planned a bold campaign for Christ while yet the eyes of the fathers were sealed. They were mere striplings who offered themselves first to meet the giant forces of the pagan world. Wisdom dwells not in the noisy camp with the timid multitudes, but on the solitary hills of prayer.
II. An independent tongue. “Swift to hear, slow to speak,” is a good rule for youth, but not when it is clearly seen that others have forgotten God’s commandments, or have fallen to questioning his promises. Be modest, but be not so cautious a Christian that you shall cease to be a Christian. Whatever you have clearly seen in your study of God’s work, be not afraid to speak it out nor to let it be known that you differ from others. You have good examples for it. “His word was in mine heart, as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9).
III. And the frankness of David’s temper was equalled by its sweetness. It was not easy in the presence of all the soldiers to listen quietly to a brother’s taunts and sneers, to be accosted as an idle runaway, to be contemptuously ordered back by that surly Eliab, jaundiced and spiteful with his jealousy. What an admirable self-control does David show! Have a soft answer for your detractors, and even stay with them if you may, like David, to fight their battles and cover their disgrace.
IV. It hardly need be said that his courage was simply confidence in God. And it was a reasonable confidence. He did not fail to measure the strength of his giant enemy, but he heard him defy the living God, and when he heard that he knew his enemy was doomed. He knew that Jehovah would “make bare his holy arm,” and “make all the earth to know that there is a God in Israel.” Woe unto him that striveth against his Maker! The most powerful of men, the most gigantic combination which diplomacy or society or capital can frame, are doomed when they set themselves against God’s holy law. David had not only heard the word of Jehovah’s promise; he had had experience of His faithfulness. This was not the first danger he had met with quick, uplifted prayer. And David’s confidence in God was reasonable from another point of view. The hazards he was taking were not encountered needlessly, from a mere exuberance of daring or delight in danger. He might well ask, “Is there not a cause?” The interest of Israel, the honour of Jehovah, were at stake: it was reasonable, therefore, to believe that he would not be left to fight alone. Still less did he seek this public championship of Israel, or welcome it to win for himself a name. But David’s confidence in God was attended by no carelessness. Because “the battle was the Lord’s,” David did not think there was little for him to do. What do we see? He carefully selects the most appropriate means, and then he plies them with intense energy. (Arthur Mitchell, D. D.)
The conflict between good and evil
We may look at David and Goliath as they appear in contest, as illustrating the forms, spirits, weapons, and destiny of the great moral antagonists of our world--good and evil.
1. These two men give us a picture of the forms of good and evil. Evil in our world is like Goliath--of gigantic stature, immense energy, and imposing aspect. It is a colossus. Good in our world is like David in its appearance--small, weak, and insignificant; possessing nothing to which the world attaches the idea of strength or glory. So it appeared in Christ. “He was a root out of a dry ground.”
2. These two men give us a picture of the spirit of good and evil. The spirit of evil, like that of Goliath, is proud, contemptuous, malignant. The spirit of good, like that of David, is that of humble trust and dependence upon God.
3. These two men give us a picture of the weapons of good and evil. Evil, like Goliath, has many and powerful weapons to fight its battles. Like Goliath, it is full-armed. Armies and navies are on its side. The weapons of good are of the simplest kind; the sling and stone of David would symbolise them. “The weapons of our warfare,” etc.
4. These two men give us a picture of the ultimate destinies of good and evil. Goliath, notwithstanding his great strength, proud vanities and mighty weapons, was slain, and his body given to the fowls of heaven, and the beasts of the earth. So it will be with evil. Like the imago in the monarch’s vision, the little stone of truth shall shiver it into atoms. The end of truth will be like that of David--triumphant and progressive in honour and influence in the empire of God. (D. Thomas.)
1 Samuel 17:29
Is there not a cause.
The giant sin of England
Surely there was a cause. David’s was not intemperate zeal, nor his anger causeless or unprovoked. It was time even for the holy shepherd to play the warrior, when God was thus openly dishonoured and His cause despised. What is the state of this Christian land now? Is there not a sin, an ancient enemy of God’s church, a bold and bitter opposer of His Gospel, which has poured in upon our land like a flood, and dares us to the teeth, and almost courts opposition? Is there not a giant champion of the devil’s host, that stalks forth before its fellows, and seems to challenge the soldiers of the cross and defy God’s Christian Israel? Has not drunkenness invaded this our land, spread itself throughout the length and breadth of it, and “set up its banners for tokens?” “Is there not then a cause” why professing Christians should bestir themselves to save and purify their land from this foul and destroying army?
I. The spread of drunkenness. This fearful sin is widely spread through our land.
II. Let us consider its effects.
1. What are its effects upon the soul? It is a dark cloud about the soul, that hides God from it--that shuts out the light of His Holy Spirit, that would shine into the darkness. It hardens the heart, that it cannot feel. It sears the conscience as with a hot iron (Hosea 4:11). Even natural kindness is extinguished.
2. Now mark its effects upon the mind.
3. Now mark its effects upon the body.
4. Mark next its effects on the estate.
III. And what can be done the gospel of the grace of God can change it, and that alone. (W. W. Champneys, M. A.)
1 Samuel 17:32
Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
I. Spiritual heroism is sometimes unexpectedly developed. Little dreamt David, when he left his home at Bethlehem that morning, for the simple purpose of visiting his brethren in the camp, what wonders his single arm would achieve. His heroism was the development almost of a moment. Before he well knew to what he had committed himself, he found himself pledged to a deadly conflict with Goliath. And thus unexpectedly is spiritual heroism sometimes developed. I say developed, not created. The quality must exist before it can be brought out; but, this bringing out is often unexpected. A youth has grown up in the privacy of some country home--quietly, and without attracting any special notice. None have marked him out for “a burning and a shining light.” So has youth passed away, in steady pursuit of personal piety, in unpretending labours, in earnest endeavour to be faithful in the little; and manhood has dawned, when, unexpectedly, as to Gideon threshing wheat by the wine press, as to Elisha following the plough, there comes a call to prepare for some great undertaking. Instances will readily occur, illustrative of these observations, and confirmatory of their truth. You will recall names, such as those of Luther, and Hooker, and Baxter, and Carey, and Livingstone, which, though now emblazoned in the church’s annals, are names of men whose opening life afforded; even to those who knew them best, but few indications of after distinction and usefulness.
II. Spiritual heroism not unfrequently meets with discouragement from those who should be the foremost to sustain it. What noble plans, and comprehensive enterprises, have been nipped in the bud by the unkindness, and suspicion, and jealousy of Christians! What shackles and fetters have been thrown round the free limbs of many a man, anxious to do great things for God, and to leave the world better than he found it; and this by brethren too--elder brethren--Eliabs!
III. Spiritual heroism unsubdued by discouragement does, in due time, find opportunity for its exercise and display. Though David obtained little sympathy from his brethren, if indeed any, he had but to bide his time, and God would open up his way. He quietly waited for providential intimations, and they did not tarry. Without seeking to obtrude himself upon public notice, or to run before he was sent he was soon sought out. There is often more real bravery in waiting than in action; more fortitude in occupying the lonely watchtower on the hilltop, that the moment for onward march may be known as soon as indicated, than there is in facing the foe when the rage of battle is aroused. It is no mark of Christian soldiership to be impatient of the Lord’s will, and to want to be moving when He has commanded us to be still.
IV. Spiritual heroism is distinguished by a lofty and firm reliance upon God.
V. Spiritual heroism, though ardent and impulsive in its nature, is not less wise in the mode of its warfare. There was a simple weapon he had learned to use with skill. Mailed warriors might smile when they saw it, and augur that the conflict about to ensue would be only child’s play; but the sling and stone in David’s hand had done their work erewhile, and he could trust them now. At least, failure with these was only possible, with the other certain; and if he did succeed with such simple means of attack, how much greater glory would redound to God, and in its degree be reflected on him! So with his sling and stone he advanced to meet the vaunting giant of Philistia. Now, there is nothing, respecting which Christians need to be more earnestly counselled than the cultivation of the spirit of wisdom in their endeavours to be good. Zeal is not enough; boldness is not enough; utterance is not, enough; all these may exist in the highest degree, and yet, unless there be combined with them tact, sagacity, address, the amount of possible good which the individual believer may accomplish will be greatly curtailed.
VI. Spiritual heroism is generally honoured of God in the achievement of its aims. David slew the giant, and every courageous and heroic Christian slays his giants. (C. M. Merry.)
David and Goliath
I don’t know whether I am correctly interpreting the picture, but I suspect that everybody in the camp said that somebody else ought to go out and kill this giant. I suppose you must have noticed how all the disagreeable duties of life are somebody else’s business. There was the married man--well, of course, he didn’t go because he had a wife and children who were dependent upon him. There was the old man in the camp who would have gone if he had been a younger man, and there was the young man who would have gone of only he had had the experience of the older men. I don’t suppose there wore many people there who had not dreamed of doing it. I can quite believe that in imagination again and again they had dodged that awful club of Goliath and driven their spear home to his heart. It is astonishing how brave men are in their dreams; how extraordinarily the world would get on if only it were governed by our imaginations rather than by our doings. There they were, some of them no doubt explaining to the others how easily the thing could be done, how they would do it themselves if only they had the time. An ancient picture? No--a picture of today. It doesn’t matter what you call your giant. It may be the giant slavery; it may be the giant cruelty, or it may be the great twin giant of your day and of mine--the grant drink and the giant lust. There they are, and how many in the Christian churches imitating the Israelites in the camp? How many of the young men doing it, dreaming of giving their lives to great crusades? God’s Kingdom is not going to be helped by your dreams, or by talking of how you would do it if you were somebody else, or had some lesser duties and responsibilities. Better to fight and fail; better to lose life and limb and all things than suffer this daily dishonour, this endless humiliation, and advertisement to all the world that there is not a single soul of faith with enough pluck left to challenge this unequal encounter. What do you think the world thinks when it sees the Church in the position of the camp of Israel? When David talks about the armies of the living God it sounds like irony. Ah! yes, and it sounds like irony today, when you refer to the people in the Churches as being the army of the living God and then think how thousands upon thousands of us are hiding our diminished heads simply because we are in the presence of these gigantic evils and wrongs of the modern world, waiting for God to send somebody else to do something. “Somebody ought to do something!” Yes, and we are in the happy position here of knowing who ought, to do it. Where was King Saul all the time? Why, it was for this very thing he had been anointed, if he knew it. What is the use of your elect man? The Churches are always talking about the doctrine of election--well, here is his chance, God’s elect man. Where is King Saul? Let the biggest man in the host of Israel fight the biggest man in the host of Philistia. Oh! you have seen men like it, and not individuals alone, but battalions like it, men who if you counted beads, Churches who if you counted heads, would make a brave show, God knows; but if you begin to weigh souls it is a very different business. You could not weigh Saul’s soul: there was nothing to weigh. Why, if you have got to bribe men into being heroes, and if you have got to buy courage in the open market, it is a poor thing for the King and for the kingdom. But there was another man in the camp who ought to have been doing this work. Samuel very nearly anointed Eliab to be King over Israel simply on account of Eliab’s presence, his athletic form his powerful frame. He seemed just the sort of man for King, and ever since I have no doubt whatever he had been saying to himself, “What the land has missed in lot having me for King!” Well, now is his chance; everything comes to him who knows how to wait. If he lives to be as old as Methuselah he will never have such a chance again. He had it, and he missed it. He preferred be sit at a safe distance from the Philistine and sing, “Let me like a hero fall,” or whatever happened to correspond to that flamboyant melody in the history of his own time. He had his chance; he missed it; but I think we ought to do him the justice of saying that if he failed as a hero, he was a tremendous success as a cynical critic. I sometimes think that criticism is the greatest natural gift that we possess, and I have yet to find the man who hides that talent in the earth. Eliab was a critic to the manner born. He could not do deeds, but he always criticised the men who did. Oh, how easy it is in this world to sneer. I wonder if you have ever done it; if you have ever sneered at enthusiasm, if you have ever sneered at simplicity, if you ever sneered at whole-souled faith in God. God pity you if you have. If David had failed I would rather be David the enthusiast than Eliab one critic. And David had not come there to bandy arguments with Eliab or with any of his compatriots, for his young soul was all aflame. Love of his country, love of his faith, love of his God met in the young man’s soul, and he passed through the camp with a sweet serene look upon his face, and at test they took him earnestly, seriously, and they led him to Saul and get “them face to face--the real King in the young man with the soul of flame, and the false King, dismayed and sore afraid. “Let no man’s heart fail him, I will go.” Oh, Saul, Saul, hadst thou no shame in thy heart to let this stripling go instead of thee? “Go and the Lord be with thee”--seeing in this young man one with whom the Lord would verily be, but knowing that the Lord would never be with him again. And you know one of the saddest things in my ministry is occasionally to come across fathers and mothers who are quite willing to give their children to the Christian Church and to the service of Jesus Christ, and who say to the lad or to the lassie, “Go, and the Lord be with thee”--but there is always a sort of catch in the voice, because they know they cannot go, they will never go; know they have grown old and hard in sin, and they have sinned their God out of their life. Oh, if there are any here who are practically saying to their young men and their maidens, “Go where I ought to go but can’t; go on the holy service on which I ought to go but can’t; go, and the Lord be with thee,” I want to turn to them and say, you are giving up too soon. God has His place for you, and the mystic presence may come back to you again, thank God, if only you, like these younger ones, will place yourself at His disposal and surrender yourself in faith to do His will. But, see, Saul has nothing to give to this young man of faith, he has nothing to give him of courage, and all that he can think to give him at the moment is the harness teat he used to wear. It is no use to Saul now. What use is a helmet, or a sword, or a spear, if there is not a soul behind them? None! He cannot wield that sword in God’s war. But David has not proved them. He is going to retain all the simplicities of his youth, all the simple arts and crafts of which he has the skill, and he is going out to serve God with the weapons that he knows how to use. Everything now depends on one fact, that David believes in God. “The Lord is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Oh! I tell you we have not yet exhausted or begun to exhaust the power that there is for the man who simply makes that a real faith, and not a mere written creed! But there is more in this subject of Saul’s armour than appears upon the surface, and I want to say a word or two to those who are older There are some people who are so anxious, as it seems to me, to clothe their young people with ideas that are too old for them--to send them forth with religious experiences that are not their own. I want to plead with you--leave us the simplicities of our faith, for those are the things that tell and count. Leave them the sincerities and realities of their faith, will you? Leave them their slings and their stones for a little while; they will do much more with them than with all the armoury that you may give them out of the sixteenth or out of the seventeenth centuries. There are some parents that have been known to me who, in the presence of the great modern giant of doubt, have most earnestly desired to clothe their children with the old-fashioned weapons, and give them, I won’t say Paul’s armour, but Saul’s armour, and let them talk somebody else’s second-hand theology. We do not want old heads on young shoulders. We want the young Christian who has got his own experience of God. I know perfectly well, of course, that they talk things which you grave philosophers in the pews cannot agree with. But it doesn’t matter. They hit the mark with the stone from their sling. Oh! don’t you know the world today is simply dying for lack of reality--the man who will dare to be real, dare to be absolutely sincere and simple in his Christian faith. You remember that incident in Carlyle’s history of Frederick the Great where, when Frederick is growing to be a young man, a very learned university professor is get to instruct him in the theological creed that he ought to bold. The professor dosed the budding Nero with creeds and catechism until at last the poor young fellow’s mind was so confused that he knew practically nothing, whereupon Carlyle says this to the professor, “Teach the young man either nothing at all, or else something that he will know to be beyond a doubt when he comes to think of it.” Now, it is the things that are beyond a doubt that you cannot prove perhaps in your logical fashion, but they are established beyond a doubt, that we want our young people especially to hold by. I don’t mind how simple your faith in Jesus is, but I want it sincere, real, earnest, and when you go out to do battle that will be the stone from your sling which will bring your antagonist to the dust. I have stopped at the most exciting moment, the critical moment when David is advancing on the Philistine with a slave and a shepherd’s bag, and five smooth stones. And oh! how the giant girded at him, nay, he cursed him by his gods. If, when you get home tonight, you will read the Book of Judges, you will find there this fact stated, that there were seven hundred men of the tribe of Benjamin who could sling a stone left-handed to a hair’s breadth, It was not for nothing that David belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, and he was there to prove that there was one man of the tribe who had not forgotten the ancient tribal craft. At any rate, he ran to meet him. There was the whirl of a shepherd’s sling, the low, hurtling note of the moving stone; neither his eye nor his hand had failed him. Where are now thy boasts, oh Philistine, and where are now thy fears, oh Israel! So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. “And,” say some of you here tonight, “and that was the end.” Oh, no, no; that was the beginning. Listen. “Then the men of Israel and Judah rose up and shouted and pursued the Philistine.” I seem to have heard that shout all the world overse All the people who ought to have done the thing and didn’t, all begin to shout at once and to pursue the Philistine. Eliab found that, his pressing business engagements would keep Saul began to betray his spirit and betray a furious eagerness for the fray The elder men said that perhaps after all they were young enough; the younger men said they would risk their lack of experience; the married men said well, perhaps their wives and children would be kept, and everybody who had been playing the coward was now resolved to play the man. You remember that it was the habit of Falstaff always to lie down on the battlefield when the battle was on, and when it was over he would carry back to the camp a body who had been slain, and boast his prowess. There are lots of Falstaffs in the world, people who are always fighting the causes that have been won already by somebody else. There are triumphant supporters today of causes in England which nobody challenges, which are as secure as secure can be, but they have no heart for any fight that is not already, won. Ah, yes, I know very well that it lends itself to a little gentle irony, but I am here tonight to plead for men of soul, and men of faith. I do not believe much in the pluck of any man who has not got David’s faith. That is the secret, and it is to you young men especially that I am appealing. Here we are, you and I, in this London, and you know that God wants men. There is a Son of David, who I think is in this building tonight, nay. I know he is, and he is saying to you all, “Be of good cheer I have overcome the world The giant sin lies stricken. Come up, come up against him, for you are well able to overcome.” What are you going to do--still stay, craven, panic-stricken, in the safety of the camp, or are you coming out to the holy warp (Silvester Horne, M. A.)
David and Goliath
David had been living in communion with God--David had been storing up spiritual strength and imbibing spiritual principle from God, which he was now to exhibit under circumstances which appalled the heart of other men. And thus if is when God has need of His servants, and when circumstances require their help; then they do show that they have principles which are able to honour Him, while other men fall back, and then do they show which is the man that really does most good in his generation; then is it seen whether Eliab and men of his stamp are able so effectually to serve their generation as David, who comes forth in the power of God to do deeds at which other men tremble. And we see another lesson. When these two respective candidates--the man armed with the power of God and the man standing merely in his own strength and wisdom, are brought into circumstances of perplexity and danger, then it is seen which has real courage, the man that can rely calmly upon God or the man that stands only in his own strength.
I. First of all, the mistakes and weaknesses of the world in circumstances of difficulty. Whence was it that Israel’s fear arose? They “judged after the sight of their eyes”--they looked only on the outward appearance--they made just the mistake that Jesse did. The reason Israel feared was that they looked upon the outward appearance; they were guilty of the same want of faith that the ten spies were who were sent up to spy out the promised land. They saw the Anakims great and tall; and what did they do? They measured the Anakims by themselves, and they said, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers;” and they were afraid. So it was with Israel: they saw the power, as they conceived it, of the Philistine’s host; they saw the number of the men arrayed against them; they saw Goliath of Gath, and their hearts failed. We see that in this case Israel looked only at their own human resources; they measured their own power, by comparing it with the overwhelming power apparently of the host of the Philistines, and they felt that they themselves were as nothing to the Philistines. David had felt a union between himself and God; David was able to identify himself with God; he felt that the cause of the armies of Israel was the cause of the living God, and that the Philistines were arrayed therefore against the power of God. But observe how this language of faith is instantly mistaken, and excites anger. If we look at the remark of Eliab to David we shall see this. You know the truth of this; the moment the world sees a power greater than its own, it calls it pride. It was so of old; it was so in the case of Joseph’s brethren; they could revile the “dreamer,” as they called him, yet Joseph only spake words of soberness and truth, when he related what God had shown to him; but his brethren, who were not of a like spirit to himself, could not bear it, when he stated what God had told him. So it was with Eliab, and therefore he rebuked David; but the truth is this--David was speaking a language which Eliab knew nothing about--the language of faith. The simple language of faith is to take God at His word, and to build securely upon it; and although the world may call this pride, yet there is nothing so like humility amongst all the graces that we find in the Word of God as that which entirely puts self on one side, and simply depends upon what God says. This is the spirit of a little child; if there be anything for which children are remarkable, it is the implicit confidence that they put in what is told them We often smile at their credulity; but we might learn a lesson from it by which to serve God more faithfully. I say, therefore, that this is real humility--for there is no humility so real as that which ceases from self-confidence and leans on Christ. David lost sight of himself entirely--he lost sight of everything that was human, and he saw only God, and he had learned, by seeing the power of God, that “no flesh should glory in His presence.”
II. But now let us look at the other principle--the strength and wisdom of the power of faith, Observe what David said in the twenty-ninth verse, when Eliab rebuked him David said--“What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” There was deep cause; David saw the army of Israel as the army of God. It was not Israel that had been defied, in his estimation, by the Philistine, but God, and there was cause to act and there was cause to speak, when God’s honour was outraged. And so there is now. Your object in daily life should be identical with David’s, as David’s was identical with our Lord’s. When our Lord stood before Pilate he said--“For this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” And what was David doing? He was bearing witness unto the truth. David drew from a source which in untouched by circumstances His need was the same, and therefore his resource was the same, and therefore his confidence was the same. It was the Lord; and it was all one to Him to deliver from the bear and from the giant. It was the same principle that animated Caleb and Joshua. When they saw those Anakims, they did not adopt the language of the unbelieving ten, but they said, “Ye are meat, for us” Why? “The Lord is with us.” That was the secret of their confidence.
III. And this leads us to consider the victory of David. It is not the nature of the weapons, but the arm that wields them; and the smooth pebble from the brook, when winged by the power of God, is able to slaughter the great giant of Gath. So with the preaching of the Word of God. The world despises preaching as an instrument of God; but it is God’s weapon. The giant despised David; but still David was God’s instrument to overthrow him. David, in his humility, put, himself out of the question; there was no desire to magnify himself, but he was desirous to hide himself, that God’s glory might appear. What are we, any of us? What is the strongest believer here? He is before God as nothing But what is God to that man? God is all, and God is everything to him, in all his circumstances. (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)
David and Goliath
I. And I think the first thing we are to learn is, that there are always giants to fight. Some of these giants are in our hearts--wicked thoughts, wicked desires, wicked feelings Here is a boy with a bad temper; and what an ugly thing that is to control! How many boys have that Goliath to fight! Here is a girl who is vain, always thinking that she is better-dressed and better-looking, with a nicer house and richer father, than some of her little friends. She has giant Pride to fight and conquer before she can be and do as God wishes. Almost everybody has some particular giant to contend with, who is taller and stronger than all the rest. It may be bad temper, or envy, or carelessness, or disobedience, or laziness, or something else. “I want” and “I wish” are giants that we meet almost every day. Children are interested in stories of a time, hundreds of years ago, when men went about armed and on horseback, fighting robbers and relieving the oppressed; and they wish sometimes that they could have lived in those days of chivalry, as they are called. No need of wishing that: if any boy or girl really means to serve God, they will find that there is plenty of fighting to be done nowadays. To learn to say “no,” and to say it quickly when they are tempted to do wrong; to overcome all the persuasions to sin of which the world is full, and so to live good, pure Christian lives--that is the hardest kind of battle, to slay these giants we meet every day--this is the noblest victory of all.
II. A second lesson to be learned is, that Davids are always wanted in the world. What a happy thing it was for the Israelites that the shepherd boy came down to the camp that morning. The right sort of young people is just what is wanted. If they are brave and conscientious and in earnest to do good, how much they can accomplish. But remember one thing: David did his work in his own way. The world wants young Davids who are willing and glad to do what they know how to do. General Saul with all his army of grown-up men did not succeed in doing as much as David with his sling. There is a song we sometimes sing, called “Dare to be a Daniel.” It is a very good title, but we ought to have another, called “Be sure and be a David.” The right kind of little people in the right place--what would this great world do without them?
III. And then we are to learn one other lesson from this story: that the best help comes from God. David found it so. What an idea he had of God’s willingness and power to assist him. It seemed to the people as if David killed the giant, but really it was because God helped David that Goliath was conquered. And this is the only way in which anybody gets along well in this world. When we are in any sort of difficulty, the way out of it is to ask God to help us. (Monday Club Sermons.)
David and Goliath; Christ and Satan
I. The combatants. An example of the duel of battle; the destiny of two opposing hosts committed to their representatives. The one was flushed with pass victories, insolent, rancorous towards people of God. The other unskilled in war. As we see Christ and Satan drawing near to the conflict, we feel that there is more than meets the eye. Hell and heaven, light and darkness, are represented there. Life or death eternal for thousands and tens of thousands hang upon the issue. In the temptation for us, and in our stead, Christ met the foe of God and man. He takes up man’s cause, and espouses God’s quarrel, and enters the lists against our dreadful and exultant enemy.
1. Mark Satan’s audacity! We do not marvel at his assailing man; but to confront the Son of God! Shall we think lightly of such an adversary?
2. Bear in mind the admonition of the king. David went not into the battle until he had received a heavenly and qualifying unction. So Christ went forth in might of the Holy Ghost (Luke 4:1-2). “Lead us not into temptation” is the teaching of One who did not rush into it unbidden.
II. The combat.
1. The time. Forty days did the champion of Gath draw near; forty days was Christ tempted of the devil. At the close of that period came the decisive encounter. Goliath triply armed with sword, spear, shield; Satan with the same threefold temptation by which he had overcome man in Paradise. Compare 1 John 2:16 with Genesis 3:6, and trace the same elements in threefold temptation of Christ.
2. The armour. David would not go in the armour of Saul; had not “proved them.” The armour of Christ not of human fashioning; “armour of righteousness on the right hand and the left” (John 14:30). No flaw in that heavenly panoply.
3. The weapons. David had no quiver but his scrip; no arrows save pebbles from the brook, and with these he conquered. Christ vanquished Satan by sentences of Holy Writ, well directed from the sling of truth: “It is written;” again and again, “It is written.”
4. The lesson. What a guide for us in our conflicts and temptations! Lay aside all earthly confidences; discard our own strength. The victory of David was a victory for all Israel. The vauntings of the Philistines silenced by the son of Jesse. The victory of Christ is a victory for His people. (W. P. Welsh, D. D.)
The contest between David and Goliath
Eliab did not like to see the young stripling exciting the interest and admiration of the soldiers, and showing the cowardice of older men like himself. He had probably regarded his brother with a jealous eye, ever since he himself had been passed over by Samuel, and David had been anointed with the holy oil. David calmly replied, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” Three different interpretations have been given of these words. One is to understand David as excusing his conduct on the ground that his speech was mere talk. As if he had said, “What have I now done? Is it not a word?” As David, however, clearly showed that his words were more than talk, end meant action, this view seems quite inadmissible. Another is, to understand David as excusing his conduct on the ground that the proud challenge of Goliath fully justified his burning indignation and patriotic zeal. But the natural and most satisfactory view seems to be, to regard David’s words as a direct reply to Eliab’s charge. Eliab implied that he had left his sheep out of mare curiosity to sea the battle. But David answers, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause? Have I not come, as I already told thee, in obedience to my father’s command?” This calm reply shows that Eliab’s fierce and insulting words had not ruffled the quiet self-possession of David. It was a noble victory over himself. His calm patience was allied to indomitable perseverance. Instead of being cowed by the blustering rags of Eliab, David went on his course with the same glowing enthusiasm as before. The heroic courage, which rested on past exploits, and the unbounded confidence that the Lord would be with him in the conflict with Goliath as He had been with him in other conflicts not less formidable, overcame the hesitation of the King. Enthusiastic, courageous faith has a magnetic assimilating power. After Saul had accepted David as the champion of Israel, he sought to make him as efficient as he could. Had David worn them, and won with them the victory, Saul would have ascribed it in part to the armour, and claimed some share of the glory. But as David, when he assayed to go, found the armour all too cumbersome, he said, “I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them.” His determination to fight only with the weapons with which he was familiar, was a stroke of military genius. The thought that was uppermost in the majority of the onlookers, was in all likelihood that the young man was going forth to certain death; but in all there was an earnest desire, and from many an ardent prayer to God, for his success. Goliath’s boastful style of speech was common amongst ancient warriors. Homer represents Hector saying to Ajax in the Trojan war--
“And thou imperious! if thy madness wait
The lance of Hector, thou shalt meet thy fate,
That giant corse, extended on the shore,
Shall largely feed the fowls with fat and gore.”
It was probably not till David had thus confidently replied to the challenge of Goliath, that the champion of the Philistines deigned to rise, and proceeded with his shield bearer before him, be fight with one whom he regarded as an insignificant and presumptuous opponent. Skill in slinging was common in those days; and some had attained to extraordinary precision in the art. It is said of an early period of the Judges, that in the tribe of Benjamin there were 700 chosen men left-handed: everyone could sling stones at an heir’s breadth and not miss (Judges 20:16). But when we think of the intense excitement and the great risk of such a duel, the ever-shifting movements of Goliath, and the small part of his forehead left uncovered by the helmet of brass, David’s feat in hitting the one vulnerable part of his body, was one of the most extraordinary kind. Augustine thus beautifully, though fancifully, improves the incident: “So our Divine David, the good Shepherd of Bethlehem, when he went forth at the temptation to meet Satan--our ghostly Goliath--chose five stones out of the brook. He took the five books of Moses out of the flowing stream of Judaism. He took what was solid out of what was fluid. He took what was permanent out of what was transitory. He took what was moral and perpetual out of what was ceremonial and temporary. He took stones out of a brook, and with one of them he overthrew Satan. All Christ’s answers to the Tempter are moral precepts, taken from one Book of the Law (Deuteronomy), and He prefaced his replies with the same words, ‘It is written,’ and with this sling and shone of Scripture, He laid our Goliath low, and He has taught us by His example how we may also vanquish the Tempter.” (T. Kirk.)
David and Goliath
An occurrence in the life of Joshua, the remembrance of which may have often refreshed the mind of David, may well introduce us to the subject of this day’s meditation. It is recorded in Joshua (verses 13-15). Before him lies the strong, impregnable fortress of the enemy at Jericho; A war, pregnant with important issues, must now be waged. It is night. The history tells us that “Joshua lifted up his eyes”--we know to what place he raised them. He held communion with God. What befell him then? Suddenly Joshua saw at a little distance a lofty figure, clothed in warlike armour, standing before him. Now Joshua knew at lent that he had to do with the representative of the Most High, who alone determines what shall be the issues of battle. He is courageous in being able to stay himself on this Ally. From that time forward he walked before God in genuine humility; realised God’s presence with him wherever he went; confidently expected it; trusted in the Lord; at all times asked first what was His will, and turned away from whatever might be displeasing to Him. And the Lord crowned him with victory after victory, with blessing after blessing. David walked in the footsteps of Joshua, and the word was verified in him, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye will remove mountains.” Let us, in contemplating this incident, direct our attention.
(1) To Israel’s danger; and then
(2) To the deliverance wrought for them by God by means of David.
I. Israel’s danger. The history shows us the Philistines already at Shochoh, three German miles southwest from Jerusalem, encamped on high, level ground. Opposite to them the host of Israel is encamped also on a chain of hills. The Philistines, for the increase of their glory, sought to show to the world that their warlike strength consisted not only in the multitude of their host, but in the personal warlike dexterity and skill in battle of every separate warrior. They challenged, therefore, the enemy to a duel--a practice common in war among the ancients, as Homer testifies. On the issue of this combat he places the fortune and the future condition of the whole kingdom. Contempt, such as that expressed in his challenge to the people of Jehovah, could not be more scornful. The cause which gave rise to this war which had newly broken out, was closely connected with the interests of religion, as was, indeed, the case with most of the wars of ancient times, The heathen fought for the honour of their god Dagon. They wished him to appear to all the world as the true God. Jehovah, on the other hand, must appear to be but a phantom, a shadow without substance, and only worthy of being despised. In these circumstances the children of Israel had reason to trust with joyful confidence in the arm of the Almighty, and, certain of victory, to accept the challenge to battle made by the heathen. But what happened? Israel is afraid because their king is faint-hearted. They ventured not, with child-like faith, to appropriate the promises of Jehovah. The wings of faith, which would bane borne them up to the Lord of Hosts in confident trust, are broken. What will be the result?
II. Deliverance wrought by means of David. David, as a faithful, obedient son, accustomed without hesitation to do as his father commanded, even when the commands did not correspond with his own inclinations, rose up early in the morning, and came near to the encampment at the very moment when the armies stood in battle array over against each other. With the greatest astonishment David perceives what is now going on. “How,” he asks himself. “is the last spark of faith extinguished in Israel? or is His arm shortened, who once buried in the waves of the Red Sea Pharaoh with his horsemen and his horses; who, at the prayer of Moses, destroyed the power of Amalek, and guided Gideon so that with his three hundred men he was able to sweep from the field the thousands of Midian.” He was not able altogether to conceal from those that stood near him the feelings that were in his mind; and the impetuosity with which he added the question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” fully revealed his inmost thoughts. Eliab sufficiently knew the brave boy to believe that wherever the honour of God was concerned he would courageously undertake the most perilous enterprise. “But what,” thinks Eliab, “will be the result of such an undertaking? Not only the death of the boy, but also, at the same time, the overthrow of Israel; and, worse than even this, the defeat of Israel’s God in the eyes of the heathen!” Thus with Eliab also thought his two brothers. We see that even with them faith and courage had disappeared. David replied to the reproachful words of Eliab by quietly asking him. “What have I now done? Has it not been commanded me?” But the subsequent conduct of the king showed in him a total misapprehension of the position which David occupied when he announced his heroic resolution. He commanded that David should be armed with his armour, his helmet, and the coat of mail, together with his sword. David did not offer any opposition, seeing that such was the will of his master; yet he doubted not but that the king himself would soon be convinced that such an equipment was not suitable for him. History has presented many and diverse examples in the sphere of the spiritual life similar to this heroic march of the youthful David. I now call to your remembrance only a Luther, who, despite the doubts of timid learned men, threw aside the heavy armour of scholastic wisdom, and, stepping forward in freedom, vanquished the giant of Rome with the five heads, of his Catechism. And might we not here also make mention of such witnesses and combatants in the region of the Church, as with holy courage have broken through the restraints of homiletic or liturgic forms, and, in the free effusions and creations of their divinely-anointed spirits, have given the tone to a new and more animating style of preaching, and thereby have opened the way to a new quickening and elevating of the life of the Church into greater fruitfulness? But what says Saul now, in this unexpected state of affairs? Saul said, “Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.” But when, soon afterwards, David appeared in person before the king, with the bead of the Philistine in his hands, be addressed to him the same question, “Whose son art thou, thou young man?” David simply replied, with the expression of genuine modesty, “I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite,” and then stood quietly waiting the further commands of his royal master. This incident in the narrative, it must, be admitted, has in it something strange. Saul did not recognise in David the youthful singer, who had formerly, with the melody of his harp, banished from him the evil spirit, and who on that account had gained his love, and had been received into the number of his pages and armourers. Many interpreters, misled by this surprising circumstance, have been induced to regard the chapter from which our text is taken as a historical supplement to that immediately preceding, and to place the battle with the Philistine before the time of the first appearance of David at the royal court. But this is a mere arbitrary proceeding. How can we explain, then, the enigma of Saul’s ignorance of David? In the first place, Saul, to heighten the splendour of his throne, had surrounded himself not only with a bodyguard a thousand strong, and a choir of musicians, but also, as already noticed, with a company of pages and young armour bearers; and it was not to be expected that amid the continual storms which marked his reign, he could know and remember the names and descent of each one of all these bands. Further, David, by his return to take charge again of his father’s flocks at Bethlehem, had, as it seems, for a considerable time been out of the sight of Saul, who had perhaps now only some dim recollections of the comfortless condition in which he was at the time of the first visit of the shepherd boy, but retained no longer any clear remembrance of his person. Lastly, it might possibly be that it was only of the descent and the birthplace of the boy that Saul had now no longer any recollection; for he put the question to Abner merely as to whose son the youth was. Thus Israel saw themselves honoured with another remarkable evidence that the God of their fathers was still truly with them, and that faith in the promises of their God, when it knows how, with simplicity, to take fast hold of them, can accomplish all things. In the third Psalm, David sings: “Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about.” (F. W. Krummacher, D. D.)
David’s conflict with Goliath
This valley has generally been identified with that which now bears the name of Wady-es-Sumt--a valley running down from the plateau of Judah to the Philistine plain, not more than perhaps eight or ten miles from Bethlehem. The Philistine champion appears to have been a man of physical strength corresponding to the massiveness of his body. Remembering the extraordinary feats of Samson, the Philistines might well fancy that it was now their turn to boast of a Hercules. And morning and evening for nearly six weeks, had his proud challenge been given, but never once accepted. Even Jonathan, who bad faith enough and courage enough and skill enough for so much, seems to have felt himself helpless in this great dilemma. The explanation that has sometimes been given of his abstention, that it was not etiquette for a king’s son to engage in fight with a commoner, can hardly hold water. Jonathan showed no such squeamishness at Michmash; and besides, in cases of, desperation etiquette has to be thrown to the winds. Of the host of Israel, we read simply that they were dismayed. The coming of David upon the scene corresponded in its accidental character to the coming of Saul into contact with Samuel, to be designated for the throne. Everything seemed to be casual, yet those things which seemed most casual were really links in a providential chain leading to the gravest issues. One cannot but wonder whether, in offering his prayers that morning, David had any presentiment of the trial that awaited him, anything to impel him to unwonted fervour in asking God that day to establish the works of his hand upon him. There is no reason to think that he had. His prayers that morning were in all likelihood his usual prayers. And if he were sincere in the expression of his own sense of weakness, and in the supplication that God would strengthen him for all the day’s dunes, it was enough. Oh! how little we know what may be before us, on some morning that dawns on us just as other days, but which is to form a great crisis in our life. How little the boy that is to tell his first lie that day thinks of the serpent that is lying in wait for him! How little the party that are to be upset in the pleasure boat and consigned to a watery grave think how the day is to end! Should we not pray more really, more earnestly if we did realise these possibilities? True, indeed, the future is hid from us, and we do not usually experience the impulse to earnestness which it would impart. But is it not a good habit, as you kneel each morning, to think, “For aught I know, this may be the most important day of my life. The opportunity may be given me of doing a great service in the cause of truth and righteousness; or the temptation may assail me to deny my Lord and ruin my soul. O God, be not far from me this day; prepare me for all that Thou preparest for me!” The distance from Bethlehem being but a few hours’ walk, David starting in the morning would arrive early in the day at the quarters of the army. It is evident that the consideration that moved David himself was that the Philistine had defied the armies of the living God. Could there bare been a nobler exercise of faith, a finer instance of a human spirit taking hold of the Invisible; fortifying itself against material perils by realising the help of an unseen God; resting on His sure word as on solid rock; flinging itself fearlessly on a very sea of dangers; confident of protection and victory from Him? There are two ways in which faith may assert its supremacy. One, afterwards very familiar to David, is, when it has first to struggle bard with distrust and fear; when it has to come to close quarters with the suggestions of the carnal mind, grapple with these in mortal conflict, strangle them, and rise up victorious over them. For most men, most believing men, it is only thus that faith rises to her throne. The other way is to spring to her throne in a moment; to assert her authority, free and independent, utterly regardless of all that would hamper her, as free from doubt and misgiving as a little child in his father’s arms, conscious that whatever is needed that father will provide. It was this simple, child-like, but most triumphant exercise of faith that David showed in undertaking this conflict Happy they who are privileged with such an attainment! In beautiful contrast with the scornful self-confidence of Goliath was the simplicity of spirit and the meek, humble reliance on God, apparent in David’s answer. What a reality God was to David! He advanced “as seeing Him who is invisible.” Guided by the wisdom of God, he chose his method of attack, with all the simplicity and certainty of genius. Conscious that God was with him, he fearlessly met the enemy. A man of less faith might have been too nervous to take the proper aim. Undisturbed by any fear of missing, David hurls the stone from his sling, hits the giant on the unprotected part of his forehead, and in a moment has him reeling on the ground. It is not possible to read this chapter without some thought of the typical character of David, and indeed the typical aspect of the conflict in which he was now engaged. We find an emblematic picture of the conquest of the Messiah and His Church. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
1 Samuel 17:36-37
Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear.
The lion and the bear
David’s first battles were with a lion and a bear. His next with the Philistine Goliath, and after that with many enemies, with the Amalekites, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Syrians, the Edomites, and others. It seems to me that you have two enemies to contend with in your youth--violence and bearishness. Until you have conquered these you will not have proved yourselves worthy to go against greater foes.
1. Violence of temper is the lion with which you have to fight. Angry passions are the first passions that assail you. Anger is natural; and in itself is not wrong. But it is sinful when it masters you. When a lion is in a cage, and allowed no opportunity of tearing and killing, you do not fear him, but when he breaks out of the cage, then everyone takes to flight. Anger is not wrong when the cause is just, the feeling moderate, and the desire of punishment proportioned to the offence.
2. The other enemy you have to contend with is Bearishness. The greatest charm in a boy is politeness, or civility; and this is not so often met with as one could wish. Boys and girls are now allowed so much liberty, that they behave as if they owed no consideration, respect, or deference, to their elders and betters. It used to be said that bears never allowed their cubs to be seen out of the cave in which they were born until they had licked them into shape, for infant bear cubs were misformed hideous little beasts, but the mother by pains and constant licking got them into something like shape. I am afraid that too many little human bear cubs are allowed out before they are licked into shape. Now what is the cause of bearishness? of cubbishness? It is thought of self. The boy or girl whose mind is fixed on self is sure not to have thought of the wants and wishes of others, and to be without the respect due to others. In the upper classes of society it would be thought so disgraceful for ladies and gentlemen to turn out bear cubs into the world, that they are obliged to lick them into shape, and make them learn “manners.” They put on manners as they put on their clothes. But it would be much better if the Bear were killed, instead of being hidden in a cupboard. It too often happens with those who have been taught to be polite and courteous, without being taught also to conquer the evil principle which lies at the root of cubbishness, that on occasions the bad beast breaks out, bursts through all restraints, and then we see that gentle manner was put on, and is not real. The bear is in the cupboard and hidden, but it is alive and impatient of restraint, and takes the first opportunity to show itself selfishness is the mother of bearishness. If the lion is feared the bear is loathed And the bearish child is a most offensive child, and grows up into a most offensive man or woman. Bearishness is exactly the reverse of what should be the character of a Christian. The Christian religion softens, and refines, it teaches all to be kindly to one another, to love as brethren, to be pitiful and courteous. (S. Baring Gould, M. A.)
The lion and the bear: trophies hung up
We shall see what made David so calm and self-possessed as to venture where nobody else would venture, and take up the gauntlet and dare to be the champion of the living God.
I. The confidence of David.
1. The confidence of David was grounded upon his own personal experience.
2. You will notice that in his confidence there is a blending of the human with the Divine. Observe: “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them”:--That is the human. “David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out, of the paw of the hear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine”:--That is the Divine side of it. Work for God with all your might, as if you did it all; but then always remember that “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” How is that Philistine to be killed? “By God,” says one. True; but not without David. “By David,” says another. Yes, but not without God. Put the Lord on the march with David, and you put the Philistines into untimely graves.
3. I want you to notice in David’s confidence that he had go practically observed the service of the human side that he speaks of it first. If you did work valiantly by the help of the Spirit of God, you did do it, and should not refuse to say so. How are you to glorify God by denying the fruit of His Spirit? It is the glory of God that He led you to holy labour, and helped you in it.
4. Although David thus speaks of the human first, yet be speaks of the Divine most.
5. Now I want to go a little further, and show that David’s confidence rested mainly in the immutability of God, the Divine Worker.
6. This leads me to observe that David’s confidence also proceeded upon his firm conviction that, the immutable God being with him, he himself would be sufficient for the present emergency.
II. David is a very fit and wonderful type of the great son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The lion-slayer-The giant-killer
What was the pith of David’s argument? What were the five smooth stones which he threw at the head of carnal reasoning?
I. Recollections. Now, what did David recollect, for I want you to remember the same?
1. He recollected, first, that, whatever his present trial might be, he had been tried before, tried when he was but a young man, peacefully employed in keeping his flocks.
2. He remembered, too, that he had been tried frequently. He had been not only attacked by a lion, but also by a bear.
3. David recollected that he had risked all in the prosecution of his duty.
4. He remembered that he had on that occasion gone alone to the fray.
5. David also recollected that on that occasion when he smote the lion and the bear he had nothing visible to rely upon, but simply trusted his God.
6. David recollected also that the tactics which he adopted on that occasion were natural, artless, and vigorous.
7. David remembered that by confidence in God his energetic fighting gained the victory.
II. Now for reasonings. David used an argument in which no flaw can be found. He said “The case of this Philistine is a parallel one to that of the lion. If I act in the same manner by faith in God with this giant as I did with the lion, God is the same, and therefore the result will be the same.” That seems to me to be very clear reasoning, and I bid you adopt it. Let us now consider the case, and we shall see that it really was parallel. There was the flock, defenceless; here was Israel, God’s flock, defenceless, too, with no one to take up its cause. He was alone that day when he smote the lion, and so he was this day when he was to confront his enormous foe. As for that, Philistine, he felt that in him he had an antagonist of the old sort. It was brute force before, it was brute force now: it might take the shape of a lion or a bear or a Philistine, but David considered that it was only so much flesh and bone and muscle, so much brag or roar, tooth or spear The whole argument is this, in the one case by such tactics we have been successful, trusting in God, and therefore in a similar case we have only to do the same, and we shall realise the same victory, I know a man who today says, “Yes, what we did in years gone by we did in our heroic age, but we are not, so enthusiastic now.” And why not? We are so apt to magnify our former selves, and think of our early deeds as of something to be wondered at, but not to be attempted now. Fools that we are! They were little enough in all conscience, and ought to be outdone. This resting on our oars will not do, we are drifting down with the tide. David did not say, “I slew a lion and a bear, I have had my turn at such bouts, let somebody else go and fight that Philistine:” yet we have heard people say, “When I was a young man I taught in the Sunday school, I used to go out preaching in the villages, and so on.” Oh, and why not do it now? Methinks you ought to be doing more instead of less.
III. The last thing is results. The results were:
1. David felt he would, as he did before, rely upon God alone.
2. David resolved again to run all risks once more, as he had done before.
3. David’s next step was to put himself into the same condition as on former occasions, by divesting himself of everything that hampered him. The ultimate result was that the young champion came back with Goliath’s head in his hand, and equally sure triumphs await every one of you if you rely on the Lord, and act in simple earnestness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
How may the well-discharge of our present duty give us assurance of help from God for the well-discharge of all future duties
This question hath two parts in it, and cannot be so well grounded upon a single text; therefore I shall name three or four, namely, 1 Samuel 17:34-37; Psalms 27:14; Proverbs 10:29; 2 Chronicles 15:2. I name these several scriptures as so many proofs of the truth of the point, that it is a case very agreeable to the Scriptures and to the analogy of faith.
I. What is our present duty?
1. What “duty” is, in the general nature and notion of it. It is an act of obedience to the will of our superiors. Duty is that which is due from man to God: it is “justice toward God.”
2. Something is our present duty. God hath filled up all our time with duty: not one moment left at our own disposal.
3. Nothing that is sinful and in itself unlawful can be our duty at any time; and therefore, to be sure, not our present duty.
4. Every thing that is in itself lawful is not therefore our duty. “All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.” (1 Corinthians 6:12.)
5. Everything that is commanded, and is in its time and place our duty, may not be our present duty. Affirmatives bind “always;” that is, we can never be discharged from that obligation that lies upon us to worship God: but we are not bound “at all times” to the outward acts of worship; for then we should do nothing else.
6. That which God now requires of you, and in doing of which you may most glorify God and edify your neighbour--that is undoubtedly your present duty. “How shall we know this?” Always look within your calling for your present, duty; for there it lies. General: As we are Christians, so all saints are of the same calling: “Called to be saints.” (Romans 1:7.) Particular: So we differ in our callings. Some are called to the magistracy, some to the ministry; some are masters, some servants; some called to this, some to that, trade or occupation. Much of the duties of our Christian calling do follow us into our particular callings. As duties of worship must be performed in our families every day, let our particular calling be what it will; so the same graces must be exercised in our particular callings, which were required in our general callings: the same graces do follow us into our particular callings and into all the works of our hands. You see, your present duty lies in your present work, in the daily business of your particular callings. Herein lies the nature of all practical holiness--to do everything after a godly sort. The directions I give you relate only to the religious manner of doing what you do; though it is God that “instructs you to discretion” in all worldly business. (Isaiah 28:26.) Whatever your skill and insight is in your calling, prayer may make you wiser: you may obtain a more excellent spirit in your way than you now have, if you seek it of God. (Exodus 35:31-33.) Though you are left to the use of your reason as men, yet faith must go along with it as you are Christians. Therefore I shall show you how to put forth an act of reason in faith How may we know when reason and faith go together? 1 When, at our entrance upon any business, we seek wisdom and understanding from God, stirring up our reason by our faith, looking up to Him from whom “cometh every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) that He would “instruct us unto discretion.”
2. When, in answer to faith and prayer, thoughts do come in that clear up our way to us, and do put us into a right method, pointing out such probable means, inclining to such apposite counsel, as in a rational way tend to the expediting of that business which we are about.
3. When, under the greatest assurances of our own reason, we yet live in a humble dependence upon God for success. He puts forth an act of reason in faith, who trusts to God, and not to his own reason. It is our duty to make use of it as men, though as Christians we ought not to trust in it.
(1) Consider present Providences.
(2) Consult thy conscience.
(3) Consider what present temptation thou art under.
(4) Consult with the word of God.
(5) Devote thyself in sincerity to the fear of God, through the whole course of thy life.
But what if, after all this, it should so fall out that two duties should press upon my conscience for present performance, and! cannot either by reason or Scripture, determine which to do first, but do hang in suspense, “am in a strait betwixt two?” (Philippians 1:23.) This is hardly to be supposed: but, admit it to be thy case, according to thy present judgment; then
1. Sit down once more, and consider.
2. If of two duties you cannot resolve which is most your duty at present, then resolve upon both, and begin where you will. God will not be extreme in that case. Do one, and leave not the other undone, but be sure to find time for that also.
3. Beg of God to resolve thee. “O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!” (Psalms 119:5.) “Shall I go up to Hebron? or shall I not?” (2 Samuel 2:1.) God will “teach” thee what to do. (Psalms 25:12) “He shall direct thy paths,” (Proverbs 3:5-6.)
1. All the sins of your lives break in upon you, through the omission of your present duty.
2. Whatever you do in the room of a present duty is not acceptable to God.
3. If you do not now perform your present duty, you can never perform it.
4. You can have as trial of your spirit, nor of the truth of your state: it is impossible that you should ever prove your sincerity, but by a conscientious discharge of your present duty.
5. You cannot walk evenly with God, if you do not your present duty. Some men walk very unevenly: there are so many gaps in their obedience; they move from duty to duty, quite “leaping” over some, and lightly touching upon others, as if they had no great mind to any: they act grace so abruptly that it gives no continued sense; we know not where to find them. There are so many vacant spaces, so many blanks of omission, so many blots and blurs of commission: they drop a duty here, and another half-mile off; so that you cannot say, “A man of God went this way.” (1 Kings 13:12.)
6. You must begin somewhere, at some present duty: why not at this? It will be as difficult, nay, more difficult, to come to Christ tomorrow than it is today: therefore “today hear His voice, and harden not your heart.” (Psalms 95:7-8.) Break the ice now, and by faith venture upon thy present duty, wherever it lies: do what you are now called to.
II. How the well-discharge of our present duty may encourage us to hope in God for His help and assistance in all future duties.
1. It is promised. (2 Chronicles 15:2.)
2. Present grace is a pledge of future grace. To him that hath, more shall be given. (Luke 19:17; Luke 19:26).
3. The experience of the saints confirms this. See Psalms 18:26; Psalms 18:30-32.
4. The saints made this an argument in prayer. (Psalms 38:20-22; Psalms 119:30-31; Psalms 119:94; Psalms 119:121; Psalms 119:173; Psalms 25:21.)
5. A conscientious discharge of our present duty fits and disposes our minds to the next duty.
6. By the well-discharge of our present duty we may attain assurance of salvation. (Colossians 3:23-24.) (Thomas Cole, A. M.)
1 Samuel 17:37
Go, and the Lord be with thee.
The conscious presence of God with us in our personal life
The Philistines originally formed part of the great Shemitic family. They wandered from Palestine to Crete, and afterwards, returning to their former homes, reestablished themselves, and built their five great cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Askalon, Gath, and Ekron. This representation respecting their early history is in harmony with their name, Philistine, “a wanderer.” It accounts for the fact that the Philistines and the Israelites used a common language. It accords with the evidence given by the classic writers of Greece as to the wide diffusion of the Shemitic race over the islands of the Mediterranean Sea; and it agrees with the practice referred to by them as having prevailed so extensively in warfare, of the enemy challenging the foe to a duel as the test of the power of either side arrayed for conflict. These Philistines had become very influential in Palestine. Occupying the coast, they were in possession of the trade carried on with Europe and Asia. In this chapter the Israelites are represented as engaged in hostilities with the Philistines, and as furnishing in this time of national difficulty a striking illustration of the extinction of faith. God has wrought wondrous deliverances on their behalf. We should have thought that, from the army of Israel encamped upon that chain of hills, there would have risen the voice of praise, and that, adapting “the song of Moses” to their present circumstances, they would have chanted right heartily, “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is His name. Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power: Thy right hand, O Lord, will dash in pieces the enemy; and in the greatness of Thine excellency Thou wilt overthrow them that rise up against Thee.” But instead of this, the very opposite was the case. They were filled with terror and alarm. “They were dismayed and greatly afraid.” Nor let us be too ready to censure them, for we are very prone to act in the same way. Whatever may have been the emergencies through which God may have brought us in the past, we are too ready to overlook these deliverances when new difficulties arise in our path. It is said that when old Rome was in all her glory, and the Caesars were exercising their mighty sway, one who was in trouble was communicating his sorrow to a certain philosopher, who, knowing that the mourner before him was a favourite with the Emperor, said to him, “Why mourn thus? Caesar is your friend!” The thought of the friendship of the greatest earthly potentate, the philosopher considered, should assuage the mourner’s grief, and inspire confidence and hope. And, even so, if we enjoy the friendship of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, what need have we to feel dismayed and fearful? What a contrast is presented between these hosts of Israel on the one hand, and David, the stripling the shepherd-youth, on the other! How beautiful he appears, clothed with true humility! “Clothe yourselves,” said Tertullian, “with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, and with the purple of modesty and humility; so shall you have God Himself to be your suitor.” “Saul,” without much heart and hope, and almost despairing of his cause, said, “Go, and the Lord be with thee.” I would adopt his words, and, not in his spirit, but would say to each of you, with reference to the year so soon to commence, “Go, and the Lord be with thee.” “Go,” and in all the duties which will devolve upon you in the new year, “the Lord be with thee,” strengthening thee for their efficient and faithful discharge. “Go,” and in all the perplexities which will arise, “the Lord be with thee” to guide and to direct thy way. “Go,” and amidst the increasing responsibilities of thy life, “the Lord be with thee,” giving thee increasing wisdom, and imparting to thee “more grace,” and fulfilling to thee His ancient promise, “And as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” “Go,” and in all the darker experiences of life through which thou mayest have to pass, “the Lord be with thee,” to comfort and to cheer thine heart, and to render thee victorious over the tribulations of the world! “The Lord be with thee.” No, God’s care for us is a care for us individually. He says, “I know thee by name.” Our name distinguishes us from all others; it stands out for our separate individuality as apart from all others. And even so, as distinctly we are regarded by God. He does not merely look broadly over the race, but He sets each member of it apart; each single life stands out, distinct and clear, in the light of His presence. Then, “Go, and the Lord be with thee!” “With thee,” lad or lassie, entering, with the new year, upon a new situation, going into fresh surroundings, and having to lay the foundations of that calling which is to be your occupation through life. “With thee,” young man or maiden, just leaving the harbour of home. “With thee,” man of business, who must, in the future, as in the past, be oft overborne with anxious care. “With thee,” suffering one, with weakened and shattered frame. “With thee,” aged pilgrim, leaning on thy staff, and gradually descending the hill of life--“the Lord be with thee.” (S. D. Hillman.)
1 Samuel 17:39
I cannot go with these.
I have not proved them.
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.)
The armour was good armour. Sword, and helmet, and coat of mail, each was faultless--true metal, excellent temper, perfect workmanship. And it was a great honour to wear it: it was the king’s own, the king lent it, and the king put it on. What was wanting? At first there is compliance. To refuse such honour seems ungracious or seems impossible. “Saul armed David with his armour--put a helmet of brass upon his head--armed him with a coat of mail: David girded the sword upon the armour, and assayed to go”--assayed, but went not. Why? “He had not proved it.” “David said to Saul, I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them--and he put them off him.” Anything better than the unproved. Better no armour than the awkward encumbrance of the unwonted and the untried. There is a warfare between all and each of us. It has two chief departments--but we need not stay to separate them very carefully--the faith, and the life. For each of these there is an equipment--call it preparation, call it education, or what you will: only remember that it is not all preliminary--it is lifelong, it is daily, it is new every morning. Most young men have someone who offers them his armour. In these days the schoolmaster is abroad even for the poorest. In all days the parent, for better or worse, is present in the homo. The Church is, or ought to be, at hand everywhere, with its instructing and educating influences. All these may be described as offering to arm the young mind and the young soul for the battle of that life which has death in front of it. It is scarcely a reflexion upon this offer to say that it largely resembles Saul’s offer to David. We hardly see how it could be otherwise. Parents and teachers must educate out of their own stores of experience. They cannot and they ought not to ask the child or the pupil what he has, and advise him to make the best of it. To a large extent he must be “clothed upon” with faiths and principles to be taken at first on trust. Any attempt to lay down rules of conduct in circumstances necessarily future, or to warn against evils not yet developed, whether because the age for them is not yet, or because the opportunity is not yet, must more or less partake of the character of arming David with Saul’s coat of mall: the person addressed cannot yet have proved it, and yet the instructor durst not take the responsibility of deferring into an indefinite future the counsel or the warning which may at any moment become vital to the hearer when the voice which now speaks will be silent. Yet all the time he knows that he is uttering that which can scarcely be impressive, because it necessarily lacks the personal proving. What pains ought to be taken to enable the receiver to prove everything--so to bring down and bring home the instruction as that it may be, at least in its germ, fruitful at once, operative, on the smallest scale, in the young life! But what shall we say when we pass from matters of conduct into matters of faith? Must there not here at least, be an offer of helmet and sword which cannot by the nature of the case have been yet proved by the receiver? Great indeed is the responsibility of arming others, young or old, in our armour. Well were it if those who have the charge of minds would think more of it. Have they proved their own armour? Can they give a reason, to themselves and to God, for the faith with which they thus preoccupy another? “Am I my brother’s keeper?”--always a solemn question--has no graver or more momentous application than to this matter of the transmission of religion. Yet not to transmit it is to be worse than an infidel. There must be an arming of one by another with the Christian panoply if Christianity itself is not to die out of the earth which it has re-made. We must prove, but we must assert when we have proved, the mighty verity, without which good were it not to have been born, that “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” We pass to a later thought, and one more practical still. The helmet and the sword and the coat of mail of the Christian faith were first put upon us by others. We thank and we bless God for it. Never could we have forged them, never could we have found them, never could we have put them on, for ourselves. The armour put on must be proved afterwards. The faith of the childhood must be proved by the man. Risk not the battle of life--risk not the discharge from it--in unproved armour. “Prove all things,” St. Paul said. “Prove the spirits,” St. John wrote--meaning the professed inspirations of men who came saying, I have a message unto thee, O man, from God. “Prove your own selves,” St. Paul said again--always the same word, though with seven various renderings in the English Bible. If I were on a platform, arguing with atheists, I should adopt one course. There I should be speaking to men not yet pledged, or pledged the other way. And upon them I should urge one argument, not always pressed as it ought to be--All questions must be argued in their appropriate region. I do not take the telescope to a leaf, nor the microscope to a star: I do not listen to a face, nor look at a voice: I do not taste a colour, nor smell a book. In the same way, if I am asked to believe that Christ died for me, or that God forgives me, or that prayer is heard, or that death is the gate of life, I do not consult Euclid or algebra about it; I know quite well that, true or false, that could not help the decision: no, I remind myself that I am a whole made up of many parts--conscience, feeling, affection, quite as really constituents of my whole being as memory, or intellect, or the critical faculty, cold and bald and naked; and that, if God has spoken, He is sure to have spoken not to one element but to the whole of me; and that therefore I must bring myself, the whole of me, to listen whether He has spoken; and if heart and soul find themselves powerfully affected by a professed revelation--if it seem to exercise an elevating and softening and sweetening influence upon the temper, and the conduct, and the intercourse with others, of those who believe and live it--if, in proportion as a man tries to live the Gospel, the life, the spirit, the man, is evidently ennobled and beautified--if he really finds the day, the separate day, made this or that, happy and bright and useful, or else heavy and slovenly and miserable, according as it is begun, continued and ended in communion with God through Christ, or the contrary--I see there a proof, real, if not by itself conclusive, that that revelation is from Him who made me. But now, speaking from a pulpit, and in a congregation of persons worshipping on the faith of Christ, the application of the call to prove all things takes a slightly different form. It bids us to bring to the proof the armour of Christian profession--which has been put upon us by education or tradition, by common consent or social propriety, or whatever else--by seeing whether it will or will not do for us what we have just now supposed it to do for those whose experience we have spoken of as evidence; whether it can make our lives pure and humble and noble; whether it will bear the strain put upon it by the particular trials which beset us in the course of daily life. O, if one half of the trouble were taken in proving ourselves that is bestowed upon challenging the legality of a dress or a posture, or making some preacher or writer an offender for a word, we should grow apace in that real Christianity which is first humility, and then patience, and then charity. The only, only question then is, Has the armour been proved? has it borne the brunt of trial? has it been kept buckled and kept burnished by a living heart-deep communion with the Author and the Finisher, with the Lord and Giver of Life? (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
God’s fighters not to take the weapons of the world
God’s fighters have often been its germ, fruitful at once, operative, on the smallest scale, in the young life! But what shall we say when we pass from matters of conduct into matters of faith? Must there not here at least, be an offer of helmet and sword which cannot by the nature of the case have been yet proved by the receiver? Great indeed is the responsibility of arming others, young or old, in our armour. Well were it if those who have the charge of minds would think more of it. Have they proved their own armour? Can they give a reason, to themselves and to God, for the faith with which they thus preoccupy another? “Am I my brother’s keeper?”--always a solemn question--has no graver or more momentous application than to this matter of the transmission of religion. Yet not to transmit it is to be worse than an infidel. There must be an arming of one by another with the Christian panoply if Christianity itself is not to die out of the earth which it has re-made. We must prove, but we must assert when we have proved, the mighty verity, without which good were it not to have been born, that “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” We pass to a later thought, and one more practical still. The helmet and the sword and the coat of mail of the Christian faith were first put upon us by others. We thank and we bless God for it. Never could we have forged them, never could we have found them, never could we have put them on, for ourselves. The armour put on must be proved afterwards. The faith of the childhood must be proved by the man. Risk not the battle of life--risk not the discharge from it--in unproved armour. “Prove all things,” St. Paul said. “Prove the spirits,” St. John wrote--meaning the professed inspirations of men who came saying, I have a message unto thee, O man, from God. “Prove your own selves,” St. Paul said again--always the same word, though with seven various renderings in the English Bible. If I were on a platform, arguing with atheists, I should adopt one course. There I should be speaking to men not yet pledged, or pledged the other way. And upon them I should urge one argument, not always pressed as it ought to be--All questions must be argued in their appropriate region. I do not take the telescope to a leaf, nor the microscope to a star: I do not listen to a face, nor look at a voice: I do not taste a colour, nor smell a book. In the same way, if I am asked to believe that Christ died for me, or that God forgives me, or that prayer is heard, or that death is the gate of life, I do not consult Euclid or algebra about it; I know quite well that, true or false, that could not help the decision: no, I remind myself that I am a whole made up of many parts--conscience, feeling, affection, quite as really constituents of my whole being as memory, or intellect, or the critical faculty, cold and bald and naked; and that, if God has spoken, He is sure to have spoken not to one element but to the whole of me; and that therefore I must bring myself, the whole of me, to listen whether He has spoken; and if heart and soul find themselves powerfully affected by a professed revelation--if it seem to exercise an elevating and softening and sweetening influence upon the temper, and the conduct, and the intercourse with others, of those who believe and live it--if, in proportion as a man tries to live the Gospel, the life, the spirit, the man, is evidently ennobled and beautified--if he really finds the day, the separate day, made this or that, happy and bright and useful, or else heavy and slovenly and miserable, according as it is begun, continued and ended in communion with God through Christ, or the contrary--I see there a proof, real, if not by itself conclusive, that that revelation is from Him who made me. But now, speaking from a pulpit, and in a congregation of persons worshipping on the faith of Christ, the application of the call to prove all things takes a slightly different form. It bids us to bring to the proof the armour of Christian profession--which has been put upon us by education or tradition, by common consent or social propriety, or whatever else--by seeing whether it will or will not do for us what we have just now supposed it to do for those whose experience we have spoken of as evidence; whether it can make our lives pure and humble and noble; whether it will bear the strain put upon it by the particular trials which beset us in the course of daily life. O, if one half of the trouble were taken in proving ourselves that is bestowed upon challenging the legality of a dress or a posture, or making some preacher or writer an offender for a word, we should grow apace in that real Christianity which is first humility, and then patience, and then charity. The only, only question then is, Has the armour been proved? has it borne the brunt of trial? has it been kept buckled and kept burnished by a living heart-deep communion with the Author and the Finisher, with the Lord and Giver of Life? (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
God’s fighters not to take the weapons of the world
God’s fighters have often been tempted to don Saul’s armour, and it has always hampered them. It may have shielded them from some assaults, but it has robbed them of elasticity, and half stifled them. They are stronger far without than with it. As surely as the Church yields to the falsehood that it must be clothed with worldly power and wealth in order to fight worldly power, it surrenders its freedom and capacity to attack, though it may obtain a sort of defence. And it is not only in churches which are called “established” that the temptation of fighting the world with worldly weapons has been yielded to. Wherever Christian individuals or communities rely upon anything but the power of the indwelling Christ to make their work successful, and seek to eke out the one weapon which God gives into their hand, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” with others borrowed from the armoury of the world, they trammel themselves and invite defeat The world laughs, just as Goliath no doubt chuckled to see the stripling walking ungainly and stiff, in Saul’s armour. It likes nothing better than to reduce Christians to impotence by getting them to arm themselves out of its stores, and to fight with weapons of the pattern of its own. Goliath had long practice in using sword and javelin; David had none. It is folly to fling aside the weapons that we are used to, and to take up with new ones, on the eve of a fight. Jesus taught us how His soldiers are to be attired if they are to conquer, when He said, “Tarry ye . . . till ye be clothed with power from on high.” (A. Maclaren, D. D)
1 Samuel 17:40
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook.
The example of David in the use of means
There is much in these particulars to furnish matter for profitable meditation. Let us take them as our subject of discourse. In the first place we will consider how David reasoned from past mercies, and grounded upon them the expectation of future aid from above. We will then consider his readiness to make use of means notwithstanding his full confidence in the succour and protection of God. He tried the armour which Saul proposed, though he felt the assurance expressed in the words--“The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”
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.)
1 Samuel 17:41
And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David.
Combat and consequences
The inward preparation through outward trial may have been hidden from David. We are not permitted to know the why of many an hour of discipline; God lets when wait on why! David urges his suit; he wishes to go. Every warrior called of God has weapons for use that no Saul can give. Dependence alone upon God gives wonderful independence of men. Behind the outer world record, there is always the inner and spiritual. From the outward view, Abraham leaving country and kindred was only in consonance with the restlessness of a nomadic life. From the inward we know it was the call of God. David was being trained for triumph, trained for his future as king. This panel is the closing one in the story of his shepherd days. The old peaceful, songful, careless days end. They end with a conflict and a victory. Do not the epochs of our lives close with combat? We close the days of our boyhood really when we enter our first contest, when we close with some temptation that never came as a temptation in the old days. The doors are open, the steps are hidden he who would enter must climb.
I. The apparent inequality of the combatants. To the eye of sense the conflict between the Church of God and that armed Goliath of the world appears as if it could only end in the Church’s defeat! It does really sound like presumption and folly to sing of victory when we present only ruddy and unarmoured Davids. There is a quantity the world’s eye never sees!--chariots whose wheels, horses whose hoofs move noiselessly, such as Elisha’s servant once saw. There is a quality the world knows not and has no more power to recognise than had Herod to recognise the kingliness of purity, when Christ stood before him.
II. The real inequality of the combatants. “Things ere not what they seem.” There is more than eye can see. David tells him of dependence upon Divine power (1 Samuel 17:46). How calm one can be when dependent wholly and alone on the Lord! How strangely at variance with appearances a man’s words may then be! “This day.” So Elijah could stand before Ahab, or the priests of Baal or Carmel, or Bunyan before the judges at Bedford. Do not mistake presumption for dependence; they differ eternally. Dependence upon God never opposes commonsense, but sanctifies it, David’s heart is resting in his God, his head and hand fulfilling the Divine command. How often at fault is the judgment of sense! Yet this old-world scene occurs every day. We may still see aggregations of mere material strength--“walking mountains of brass,” to quote Matthew Henry. It is no dream, no fancy, to remind you that before the enthusiasm of faith, and by Divine direction, these shall fall. The Church has yet to learn the deep meaning of the words, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual.” Who can successfully cope with evil licensed by Government, the fearful monopolies of vice, prostitution under British rule in India, gambling beneath the very eye of the legislative assembly? This victory was fraught with momentous consequences for David. From that moment he became acquainted with life in quite another aspect than that of his Bethlehem home. As Dr. MacLaren beautifully says, “He began to learn its hate and effort, hollow fame, whispering calumnies, and political intrigues.” Until then he had not heard the hollow tone of courtiers nor the frenzied laugh of disappointment. The door of victory was for David, as it is for all God’s warriors, the door of trial. It was needful for David to know sorrow, to become acquainted with grief. He must learn the meaning of hate and deceit; not to practise, but avoid; must come into touch with natures he will afterwards have to rule. He must gain a mastery over himself. The metal must be annealed. (H. E. Stone.)
David and Goliath
Saul’s simple blessing, “Go, and the Lord shall be with thee,” ought to have been allowed to stand as the veteran’s farewell charge to the new recruit. It would have been as sufficient as the mother’s parting kiss add “God bless you” when her boy leaves his home of poverty to make his way in the great city with all his goods tied up in a handkerchief and his Bible in his pocket. When we have done a good thing, especially a spiritual one, it is difficult to be persuaded to leave the single impression without some private brand of our own. Hunters use in the pursuit of wild game an expanding bullet, which enlarges as it enters the side of its victim. When one has uttered a gracious truth it can often be left to itself to work its way to the heart. Saul could not quite keep his hands off the new enterprise. The latent jealousy of the old commander would rise at any scheme conducted entirely by an underling. The veteran could not be content to see the stripling champion of the Lord’s cause without some of the traditional military costume. We remark as in contrast to this:--
I. The wisdom of following the Spirit’s suggestions as to the method of a work of faith. “And Saul clad David with his apparel, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head, and he clad him with a coat of mail.” For the moment Saul was allowed to array David in the heavy war suit of the day. A sense of the ridiculous may have come first to the relief of the lad. He was not so large a man as the king, and the clanking plates of metal would impede the free movement of the volunteer. There are times when an appreciation of the humorous elements of a situation will prevent serious folly. If good people who overwork prophecy on every possible occasion had only a slight intuition of the appearance of their performances, they would be aware that something must be wrong in their outfit. Scripture does not lend itself to grotesque interpretations without exacting penalties from its manipulators. There are fads of false science which are so silly that they cannot be meant to be incorporated into the great body of the world’s dignified truth. The boy in his grandfather’s coat is not counted a serious actor on the stage of life. But beyond this feeling of unfitness there was this reason, “I have not proved them.” The youth felt the seriousness of the crisis, notwithstanding his bravery. He knew the long practice required to get an unerring aim with the sling. Beyond all these motives which influenced David would be the assurance that God, who gave him a work to do, would show the method of it. The Lord who called to the bold undertaking would give the plan.
II. The range of gifts which the spirit can use and bless in an enterprise of faith. “And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even his scrip; and his sling was in his hand.” This was not the first experience of the Lord’s consecration of the youth’s gifts. “Thy servant smote both the lion and the bear.” The Lord often makes use of men’s gifts to get them to a position of vantage from which they can do more efficient service. Sir Hope Grant when a youth was selected because of his skill in playing the flute for the staff of Lord Saltoun, who was going out to take command of the British forces in China. The long voyage of months around the Cape of Good Hope to their destination was thus to be made more tolerable for the officers. Grant soon became the foremost Christian in the English army in the East and one of its most successful generals. David’s reputation for music got him a place at the court of Saul, and perhaps the story of his rugged valour among the shepherds secured him a hearing as a champion of Israel. Guizot’s gifts as a diplomat made him necessary to his Catholic sovereigns and gave him a position from which he could exert a beneficent influence for an oppressed church in France. John Wycliffe’s parliamentary skill and zeal for liberty mede him an important ally of the House of Lancaster and gained him the protection which he needed to spread the doctrines of the Gospel. Many accomplishments of the Christian may be of service in gaining an entrance to doors and hearts closed to direct religious appeal. Dr. Asa Gray, the botanist, records of his long and singularly successful career as a Christian and a man of science that when he was ready for any forward movement he almost always found that things were prepared for him. Let one have himself in training for a useful life and he will find a place and opportunity awaiting the employment of his gifts.
III. A consecrated youth early begins to bear his country’s burdens as a work of faith. “But I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, which thou hast defied.” David belongs to a legion of those out of every nation who have consecrated their youth to their country’s freedom and to God. They are a nobler band than Sons of the Revolution. They have been the sires of States. “The war song that has made all Germans merge their local differences in one great purpose--the common fatherland--that united Bavarians, Prussians, Saxons, end Wurtembergers in 1870, and the Imperial Crown to the House of Hohenzollern--that song is ‘Die Wacht am Rheim.’ “It was written at the age of twenty-one by a poor German roused against the French aggressions upon his native land. Not all such heroic souls have been permitted to take up arms. Their stanzas, their speeches, their deeds of mercy have made them members of this patriotic and Christian fraternity. Every nation has contributed its quota for this ancient peerage to which David belonged. It is older than all orders, chapters, and lodges. The people who are to be preserved in their inheritance and liberties must still be able to call forth the devotion of these volunteer champions of law, institutions, faith, and native land. (W. R. Campbell.)
1 Samuel 17:45
I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts.
The Conflict and the conquest of faith
God is not unmindful of any of His anointed ones: He has a work for all His people to do. It was a great work to which David was called; there were before him greet conflicts, and great triumphs, and therefore he required great faith. But God does not send any of His people to a warfare at their own charges.
I. The conflict of faith. Before David proceeded to the conquest he had to encounter many obstacles from without; while, there is not the least doubt he was exercised by many trials within.
1. In the first place he was tried by the gigantic stature and martial appearance of his adversary, whilst he was a stripling, and a stripling unarmed. It is in vain to suppose that David was divested of human feeling: however strong in faith a men may be, still he is but man, end has about him all the weaknesses and infirmities of human nature.
2. He was exercised, also, by the rebukes of his brethren.
3. And after this, he was discouraged by Saul himself. There seems to have been here some misgiving of mind on the part of David; at all events he seems to enter into the views of Saul, and thinks it would be better to be armed to meet an armed champion And, in the midst of all this, the devil would be no unconcerned spectator of the transaction: there is not a question but that David would be inwardly exercised, and agitated, perhaps by the very same thoughts which he has often put into the hearts of God’s people, and had, before this, put into the heart of Saul: and he might have argued, “Is it not presumption in me, a stripling, to meet a giant? Is it not rashness?” And might he not consider the taunt of his brother, and the remonstrance of Saul, to be to him the voice of God? Which things are an allegory; for herein we see the camp of the living God, the Church of Christ assailed by Apollyon the destroyer. I am now, then, to call your attention to his mode of attack. You will find it is, in the first place, by open assault, and, secondly, by sudden and hidden device.
(1) It is, in the first place, by open assault. It is the method which is adopted by the great deceiver and accuser of the brethren. He tries and harasses the people of God in the early stages of their experience by open assault, by bringing against them open railing accusations, and thereby attacks their faith.
(2) But if faith holds out then he will raise the siege for a season; he will appear to retire, and he will assail your faith in another direction; and that wilt be by subtle, wily, hidden device. Transforming himself into an angel of light he will try you as he did David, by your friends--by false friends, and by true friends.
(3) The people of God are further tried through the instrumentality of those who are true brethren. Satan, you will remember, dared to try the great Head of the Church by one of His Apostles. Peter said unto Him, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.” Our Lord saw the spirit of Satan working in the mind of His Apostle, and said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan.”
(4) But if faith remains inflexibly firm against this attack, then the devil tries the children of God by ungodly people. If may be by those of their own household--by father, or mother, or those who are in power and authority. Thus it is that the serpent winds his wily folds round the heart of the people of God, even unto hesitation. Here is the struggle. They say, “May I not make this little surrender? May I not give up this little thing but for once? Will not the peculiar delicacy, or the peculiar difficulty, of my case extenuate the concession? Then put on the armour and go forth.” Yea, Satan brings the people of God to this pass; and they have put the armour on, end they have gone forth in it. But it would not fit the gracious soul; he cannot fight in this armour, he has never been accustomed to such weapons as these. And then faith revives. What! shall I give up my leaning on the everlasting arm of the Most High, to lean on an arm of flesh? What! shall I lose all my peace, and my comfort, and the happiness of my soul in God, for the smiles of men and the favour of the world?
II. The conquest of faith in the hour of temptation. There are two things that are notable in the exploits of David: the one was the strength of his confidence--the other, the weapons of his warfare. The one, you know, was God: “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, whom thou hast defied:” his weapons were the sling and the stone. Not that David was without armour: every soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ has armour on: and so had David; but it was not Saul’s armour, not man’s armour. God equips all His believing people for their warfare, as soon as He inclines them into His service: He leads them into His armoury. Thus harnessed, David went forth to meet the uncircumcised Philistine. Alas, for the apathy of the day in which we live! Where is the man that will even dare to risk his name, or his reputation, or his interest? Scarcely one will be found willing to hazard his ease or his credit to vindicate the honour of the God who has bought him with His blood. Not so David. He, full of faith, went out, because he heard the name of his God dishonoured, and his Israel reproached. “What! against, a giant, and a champion, in arms!” “No matter; he has blasphemed the name of my God, and in the strength of that God will I go out and meet him, yea, unarmed as I am.” Thus went David forth. So it is when the Christian champion, the soldier of Jesus Christ is tried, and he goes forth to fight; he takes up his sling. By faith he takes a well-directed aim, and by prayer and supplication he slings the fatal bolt, and wounds his enemy in the head. (T. J. Holloway, D. D.)
Faith and force
The duel of David and Goliath is but one chapter in the history of faith and force in conflict. Brute force here appears with sword and shield, helmet and spear; faith comes with the simple sling and stone, but, with God’s strength and in His name. Force looks down contemptuously on faith, and holds itself proud and arrogant. Faith is submissive and humble, but full of hope and courage. It, matters not what form force takes--that of numbers, of wealth, of social prestige, of intellect, of educational or of political superiority; if it arrays itself against simple faith in God, the duel of David and Goliath is again repeated. Let us notice certain central facts.
1. This is a faith that is in action. Nothing is said of prayer, though David may have spent the whole night in prayer before the fight. His is a faith that acts, rather than begs. There are times when even prayer is out of place. God once said to Moses, “Why criest thou unto Me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward.” It was a time for marching. The spirit of prayer may be continued, though the form be suspended. Faith here stands alone in the person of David. A grain of mustard seed rather than a can of dynamite is the chosen type of Divine working. A single soul like Luther is filled with God’s thought and power, while the community is not in sympathy with that thought. Vox populi is by no means Vox Dei. The voice of the people killed Jesus Christ, it killed Socrates, it killed the martyrs. It is the minority, often, that more truly represents the right and the truth.
2. Faith controls forces or forces will control faith. There was a young man who once was sent out by our missionary board reluctantly, for they doubted his efficiency; but in a single year he led ten thousand to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. John Clough was a surveyor, and he preached to companies of men under him on one verse, “God so loved the world,” etc., till 15,000 were reached and two-thirds of them accepted Christianity. This was in connection with a mission field so apparently unfruitful that it was thought hardly worth continuing. He dedicated his surveying talent to Christ Where is your confidence--in faith or forces? Which? Michael Angelo worked so long on ceilings and on things overhead that it is said he had formed the habit of looking upward as he walked the street or field The true believer is “looking unto Jesus” He brings all he has to Him. “My faith locks up to Thee,” in his language.
3. Faith is simple and unchanging It can overcome one difficulty or form of opposition as easily as it can another. Not so in the play of material forces David subdued the bear in a different way from that employed with the lion, and Goliath was met with still different methods of physical action; but the training in faith which the son of Jesse had received enabled him to meet and overcome all things through God’s power. But petty, pestering trials are sometimes harder to meet than great ones. A Turkish army once forced their way into a German city, but were driven back by swarms of bees, whose sting was harder to meet than the blows of a battering ram. It may require less faith to meet some great Goliath of difficulty than to preserve one’s Christian equanimity during a single night’s siege of mosquitoes in a New Jersey hotel. The housekeeper loses her temper at home amid dust and din, and the merchant amid the buzzing annoyances of the store. For great ills and small ones alike, faith in God’s promised presence and strength will alone avail.
4. Faith is protected, though its power seem vain; and force alone is vain, though it may seem protected. Bystanders at this duel doubtless said: “Goliath is safe and David is in danger.” But the giant died and the boy returned in triumph. The three Hebrew youths in the fiery furnace were in the safest place in all Persia. Jerome of Prague was unharmed trusting in God. After he confided in the sovereign a promised protection he was betrayed and burned at the stake. Finally, temporary defeat is to the believer the highest victory. He may be “killed all the day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter,” but none of these things need to move him. None of them can separate him from the love of Christ. (A. C. Dixon, D. D.)
The conquest of faith
The prosperity of David after his first elevation from private life was but of brief continuance, probably extending only to a few months. In that little space, however, what an immensity of evil was he called to witness, and witness, we must suppose, with disgust; an infatuated king, abandoned to evil and the malice of demons, because of his unfaithfulness; men of studied deceitfulness and falsehood; luxury, flattery, levity, and sordid worldliness; all forming the members and elements of the life into which he was so suddenly introduced. All that David witnessed of the world while with Saul, and felt from his ingratitude, must, in due course, have undeceived him as to the human character, were he predisposed to view it with any mistaken esteem or confidence; and his sudden removal from court must have sent him with fresh alacrity to his peaceful occupation as a shepherd, in the which he might renew communion with God, pour out his soul at large, and receive additional strength for future emergencies. You perceive how wisely this retirement was ordained for David. He is to play the champion of Israel against terrific odds; his spiritual courage, his holy daring, then, must be nourished for the contest, not in the effeminacy and corrupt atmosphere of a court, but with God in sacred communion.
I. David’s preparatory discipline. During his retirement, David was receiving that nurture or Divine preparation which should fit him for great achievements, especially for the overthrow of the adversaries of Israel. Sick of the world, he had to live entirely with God, and left of every solace but His presence, he had, in his lonely condition, to learn the way of Providence, and the supernatural power which can be communicated through faith.
II. David’s preparatory discipline is concluded and he is now called to the field as the Lord’s champion. David is a stranger to the science of war, knows nothing of the dexterity which long experience alone can give in the use of martial implements, and come to the field ignorant of all that belongs to the deadly encounter. Was not this hardihood mare madness? Madness undoubtedly, were it not for certain considerations, which prove his valour to have been most rational. Look, now, upon his preparation for the conflict. There was settled within his soul a deep and holy confidence in the existence and absolute rule of the Divine Being. Further, he had been before in perils, perils in which there were as fearful odds against his life as in the approaching encounter. Lastly, he was assured of God’s interposition. His cause was a most righteous one generally; he was a citizen of a holy state, his adversary was an idolater, and the champion of idolators; sad, in particular, having insulted the God of truth, David felt assured that God would vindicate His own cause, and give the victory into his hands against the blasphemer. And so it came to pass, the adversary of Israel fell. There is no discharge in this war; you must fall or conquer, and the struggle is for eternity itself. Go out, then, boldly, in the name of the Lord of Hosts, in the name, and faith, and experienced aid of Jesus Christ; and while it is said by one victor, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” and by another, “Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” he himself who triumphed over all the powers of hell upon the cross, will renew in you his victory. Go out in faith, and conquer. We know that the Reformation was a blessed deliverance, and that the encounter which won for us this deliverance, lay between one man, a solitary monk, who had found the truth in sacred Scriptures, and the whole host of superstition. You remember the weakness and timidity of the man at first, ere his views of truth were perfected; his consent to lay down opposition to the Pope, provided that some adequate reform in the Roman Church should be effected. You remember how he replied to the discouraging taunt. “Luther, the whole world is against you”--“Then Luther is against the world!” how he prospered, on principle, on truth, and with the truth, of justification by faith only, inflicted defeat on superstition, and won for us the liberty of the Gospel. (C. M. Fleury, A. M.)
An overcoming faith
It is impossible to read the above chapter without being more or less impressed by the simple trust of the shepherd youth in his God. It was intensely real: to him God was “a very present help in the time of trouble;” and it is difficult to say which was the stronger, his jealousy for the honour of the God of Israel, or his confidence in His ability to save. Let us notice a few of the features that characterised the faith of this young son of Jesse.
I. It was a faith in the living God. We find these words, “the living God,” many times in the Old Testament Scriptures. Joshua, referring to the sure destruction of his enemies, speaks thus: “Hereby ye shall know that the living God is amongst you” (Joshua 3:10). Jeremiah writes: “The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and an everlasting King” (Jeremiah 10:10). “We trust in the living God,” were Paul’s words of encouragement to Timothy; whilst David sang with gladness: “The Lord liveth: blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted.” Surely this shepherd lad had gripped the truth when, in the midst of the trembling army of Israel, he cried out of a full heart, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
II. It was a faith that was tried. “Eliab’s anger was kindled against David.” The people, too, seemed to have caught the spirit of Eliab, for they answered him “after the former manner.” If we would work the works of God, we shall surely have to encounter our Eliabs. May we meet them in the quiet, firm spirit, of this son of Jesse.
III. It was a faith strengthened by past experience.
IV. It was a faith that worked by means.
V. It was a faith that never wavered.
VI. It was a faith that triumphed gloriously. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” (Alfred Lambert.)
The faith of God’s elect
Three figures stand out sharply defined on that memorable day. First, the Philistine champion. Second, Saul. Third, David. He was but a youth, and ruddy, and withal of a fair countenance. No sword was in his hand; he carried a staff, probably his shepherd’s crook. But he was in possession of a mystic spiritual power, which the mere spectator might have guessed, but which he might have found it difficult to define. The living God was a reality to him. At least he had no doubt that the Lord would vindicate His glorious name, and deliver into his hands this uncircumcised Philistine. Let us study the origin and temper of this heroic faith.
I. It had been born in secret and nursed in solitude. This is the unfailing secret. There is no short cut to the life of faith, which is the all-vital condition of a holy and victorious life. We must have periods of lonely meditation and fellowship with God.
II. It had been exercised in lonely conflict. What we are in solitude we shall be in public. Do not for a moment suppose, O self-indulgent disciple, that the stimulus of a great occasion will dower thee with a heroism of which thou betrayest no trace in secret hours. The Griefs will only reveal the true quality and temper of the soul.
III. It stood the test of daily life. There are some who appear to think that the loftiest attainments of the spiritual life are incompatible with the grind of daily toil and the friction of the home. “Emancipate us from these,” they cry, “give us nothing to do, except to nurse our souls to noble deeds; deliver us from the obligations of family ties, and we will fight for those poor souls who are engrossed with the cares and ties of the ordinary and commonplace.” We must not forsake the training ground till we have learnt all the lessons God has designed it to teach, and have heard His summons.
IV. It bore meekly misconstruction and rebuke. Eliab had no patience with the words and bearing of his young brother. A marvellous exhibition was given that day in the valley of Elah that those who are gentlest under provocation are strongest in the fight, and that meekness is really an attribute of might.
V. It withstood the reasonings of the flesh. Saul was very eager for David to adopt his armour, though he dared not don it himself. He was taken with the boy’s ingenuous earnestness, but advised him to adopt the means. “Don’t be rash; don’t expect a miracle to be wrought. By all means trust God, and go; but be wise. We ought to adopt ordinary precautions.” It was a critical hour. But an unseen hand withdrew David from the meshes of temptation. It was not now Saul’s armour and the Lord, but the Lord alone; and he was able, without hesitation, to accost the giant with the words, “The Lord sayeth not with sword and spear.” His faith had been put to the severest tests and was approved. Bring more precious than silver or gold, it had been exposed to the most searching ordeal; but the furnace of trial had shown it to be of heavenly temper. Now let Goliath do his worst; he shall know that there is a God in Israel. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The victory of unarmed faith
The story is, for all time, the example of the victory of unarmed faith over the world’s utmost might. It is in little the history of the church and the type of all battles for God. It is a pattern for the young especially. The youthful athlete leaps into the arena, and overcomes, not because of his own strength, but because he trusts in God.
I. Note the glowing youthful enthusiasm which dares the conflict. He who trusts in God should be as a pillar of fire, burning bright in the darkness of terror, and making a rallying point for weaker hearts. When panic has seized others, the Christian soul has the more reason for courage. David conquered the temptation to share in the general cowardice before he conquered Goliath, and perhaps the former fight was the worse of the two. While David is the embodiment of the courage of faith, Saul is that of worldly wisdom and calculating prudence. David’s eager story of his fights with wild beasts is meant, both to answer Saul’s objection on his own ground, by showing him that, youth as the speaker was, he had proved his power, and still more to supply the lacking element in the calculation. As Thomas Fuller says, “He made an experimental syllogism, and from most practical premises (major a lion, minor a bear) inferred the direct conclusion that God would give him victory over Goliath.” Faith has the right thus to argue from the past to the future, because it draws from God, whose resources and patience are equally inexhaustible.
II. The equipment of faith. Saul meant to honour as well as to secure David by dressing him in his own royal attire, and by encumbering him by the help of sword and helmet. And David was willing to be so fitted out, for it is no part of the courage of faith to disdain any outward helps. But he soon found that he could not, move freely in the unaccustomed armour, and flings it off, like a wise man. His motive was partly common sense, which told him not to choose weapons that his antagonist could handle better than he; and partly reliance on God, which told him that he was safer with nothing on but his long shepherd’s dress and his sling in his hand. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty. Faith unarmed is armed with more than triple steel, and a sling in its hand is more fatal than a sword. Sometimes in kindness and sometimes in malice the world tempts us to fight evil with its own weapons, and to take the unfamiliar armour. The church as a whole and individual Christians have often been hampered, and all but smothered, in Saul’s grand clothes. The more simply we keep ourselves to the simple methods which the word of God enjoins and to the simple weapons which ought to be the easiest for a Christian, the more likely shall we be to conquer.
III. Note faith’s anticipation of victory. The dialogue before the battle has many parallels in classical times and among savage peoples. Goliath’s bluster is meant by him for contempt of David and truculent self-confidence. Its coarseness is characteristic--he will make his boyish antagonist food for vultures and jackals. It is exactly what a bully would say. David’s answer throbs with buoyant confidence, and stands as a stimulating example of the temper in which God’s soldiers should go out to every fight, no matter against what odds. The great name on which David’s faith rested, “the Lord of hosts,” appears to have sprung into use in this epoch, and to have been one precious fruit of its frequent wars. Conflict is blessed if it teaches the knowledge of the unseen Commander who marshals not only men, but all the forces of the universe and the armies of heaven, for the defence of his servants and the victory of His own cause. The fulness of the Divine name is learned by degrees, as our needs impress the various aspects of his character; and the revelation contained in this appellation is the gift of that fierce and stormy time, a possession foreverse He who defies the armies of Israel has to reckon with the Lord of these armies.
IV. Observe the contrast in verse 48 between the slow movements of the heavy-armed Philistine and the quick run of the Shepherd, whose “feet were as hind’s feet” (Psalms 18:33.) Agility and confident alacrity were both expressed. His feet were shod with the preparedness of faith. The vulnerable heel of Achilles and the unarmed forehead of Goliath illustrate the truth, ever forgotten and needing to be repeated, that, after all precautions, some spot is bare, and that “there is no armour against fate.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Victory through the Name
I. The talisman of victory. “The name of the Lord of Hosts.” Throughout the Scriptures, a name is not simply, as with us, a label; it is a revelation of character. The names which Adam gave the animals that were brought to him were founded on characteristics which struck his notice. And the names which the Second Adam gave to the apostles either expressed qualities which lay deep within them, and which He intended to evolve, or unfolded some great purpose for which they were being fitted. Thus the Name of God, as used so frequently by the heroes and saints of sacred history, stands for those Divine attributes and qualities which combine to make Him what He is. In the history of the early Church the Name was a kind of summary of all that Jesus had revealed of the nature and the heart of God. “For the sake of the Name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.” The special quality that David extracted from the bundle of qualities represented by the Divine Name of God is indicated in the words, “the Lord of Hosts.” That does not mean only that God was Captain of the embattled hosts of Israel; that idea was expressed in the words that followed, “The God of the armies of Israel.” But there was probably something of this sort in David’s thought. To come in the Name of the Lord of Hosts did not simply mean that David understood Jehovah to be all this; but implied his own identification by faith with all that was comprehended in this sacred Name. An Englishman in a foreign land occupies a very different tone, according to whether he assumes a private capacity as an ordinary traveller, or acts as representative and ambassador of his country. In the former case he speaks in his own name, and receives what respect and obedience it can obtain; in the latter he is conscious of being identified with all that is associated with the term Great Britain. For a man to speak in the name of England means that England speaks through his lips; that the might of England is ready to enforce his demands; and that every sort of power which England wields is pledged to avenge any affront or indignity to which he may be exposed. Thus, when Jesus bids us ask what we will in His Name, He means not that we should simply use that Name as an incantation or formula, but that we should be so one with Him in His interests, purposes, and aims, that it should be as though He were Himself approaching the Father with the petitions we bear. There is much for us to learn concerning this close identification with God before we shall be able to say with David, “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts.”
II. The conditions on which we are warranted in using the name.
1. When we are pure in our motives. There was no doubt as to the motive which prompted David to this conflict. His one ambition was to take away the reproach from Israel, and to let all the earth know that there was a God in Israel. We must be wary here. It is so easy to confuse issues which are wide asunder as the poles, and to suppose that we are contending for the glory of God, when we are really combating for our church, our cause, our prejudices, or opinions. To fall into this sin, though unconsciously, is to forfeit the right to use His sacred Name.
2. When we are willing to allow God to occupy His right place. David said repeatedly that the whole matter was God’s. His skill must direct us; His might empower us; His uplifted hands bring us victory.
3. When we take no counsel with the flesh. It must have been a hard thing for a youth to oppose his opinion to Saul’s, especially when the king was so solicitous for his welfare. He could not have served two masters so utterly antagonistic. To have yielded to Saul would have put him beyond the fire ring of the Divine environment. How perpetually does Satan breathe into our ears the soft words that Peter whispered to his Master, when He began to speak about the cross. “Spare Thyself: that shall not come unto Thee.” There is so much talk about the legitimacy of means, that no room is left on which the Almighty can act.
III. The bearing of those who use the Name.
1. They are willing to stand alone. The lad asked no comradeship in the fight. There was no running to and fro to secure a second.
2. They are deliberate. He was free from the nervous trepidation which so often unfits us to play our part in some great scene. Our heart will throb so quickly, our movements become so fitful and unsteady. He did not go by haste or flight, because the Lord went before him and the Holy One of Israel was his reward.
3. They are fearless. When the moment came for the conflict, David did not hesitate.
4. They are more than conquerors, The weakest man who knows God is strong to do exploits. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
A true spirit, the pledge of victory in the battle of life
These two men give us a picture of the forms of good and evil. Evil in our world is like Goliath: of gigantic stature, immense energy, and imposing aspect. It is a Colossus. Good in our world is like David in appearance: small, weak, and insignificant; possessing nothing to which the world attaches the idea of strength or glory. So it appeared in Christ: “He was as a root out of a dry ground.”
2. These two men give us a picture of the spirit of good and evil. The spirit of evil, like that of Goliath, is proud, contemptuous, malignant. The spirit of good, like that of David, is that st! humble trust and dependence upon God.
3. These two men give us a picture of the weapons of good and evil. Evil, like Goliath, has many and powerful weapons to fight its battles. Like Goliath, it is full-armoured. Armies and navies are on its side. The weapons of good are of the simplest kind: the sling and stone of David would symbolise them. “The weapons of our warfare,” etc.
4. These two men give us a picture of the ultimate destinies of good and evil. But the subject on which at present we would fasten attention is, A true spirit the pledge of victory in the battle of life. Life is a battle. Physical life is a battle against danger and disease; intellectual life is a battle against ignorance and error; moral life is a battle against selfishness and wrong, he who has not felt life to be a battle, has not woke up as yet to the reality of existence. Now, a true spirit alone will make us victorious in this battle.
I. That a true spirit is superior to the greatest material strength of our foes. What was the cause of the victory? It was to be found in the spirit that animated the breast of David--the spirit of dependence upon God.
II. A true spirit is superior to the greatest social prestige of our foes. Goliath had obtained great fame as a warrior. Prestige is a wonderful thing--a mighty power. Give a man or an institution a prestige, and however feeble and worthless it may be, people will be disposed to yield to its influence. Many institutions, governments, books, live not on the ground of their merits; but because of the prestige they have obtained. But the true spirit will overcome this. Goliath, with all his prestige, fell. Whatever may be the prestige of evil, the true spirit will overcome it. Idolatry, war, etc., have prestige, but they shall fall.
III. A true spirit is superior to the completest accoutrements of our foes. Huge evil, in our world, is well-armoured--defended by armies, navies, governments, customs, learning, wealth; but a man with the true spirit will overcome it. “This is the victory that overcometh the world,” etc.
IV. A true spirit is superior to the proudest vauntings of our foes. But how does this true spirit ensure victory in the battles of life?
1. It enables man to employ the best means. It is fanaticism that makes men regardless of means. Enlightened devotion is ever anxious to select the most fitting. Though it feels that all success is from God, it presumes on no supernatural help. David could stand at a distance from his huge antagonist, could calmly take his aim, and make his calculations. He could hurl the pebble at the vulnerable spot. The whole instrumentality seems well adapted. No miracle was used--for no miracle was wanted.
2. It enables man to use the best means in the best way.
(1) With undaunted courage.
(2) It inspires the possessor with invincible determination.
3. It ensures the aid of God in the best use of the best means. (Homilist.)
The source of victory
I. The victory of the Church is made certain:
1. By the promises of God.
2. By the necessary triumph of righteousness over unrighteousness, of truth over error, of love over hate.
3. The glory of God and the establishment of universal and eternal harmony in all the domains of His moral government require it.
II. The source of the victory is not human, but Divine. A Divine Leader, Christ, to whom all newer in heaven and earth is given. The weapons He employs are spiritual.
III. The spoils of the victory ours. (Homiletic Review.)
David and Goliath
The story is a casket, and the spirit of David is its Jewel, Come near, and I will open the lovely casket, and show you its lovelier Jewel.
I. David was on God’s side. This was a religious war. Goliath fought for Dagon, and cursed David by his gods. David fought for Jehovah. The battle is the Lord’s, David said truly. David was careful not so much to have God on his side, as to be on God’s side, and do only God’s will. Goliath rose before him like a mountain plated with iron and flashing brass: his spear a beam, his voice thunder. At first we pity the stripling as being devoted to certain death. Yet without a quiver, or a moment’s delay, he offers himself as the champion of Israel. People speak about the giants you have to fight, but really you, like David, have one giant before you. He is the great adversary, the evil one, the Goliath of hell. Stripling as you are, you must accept his challenge for the duel. If you conquer your Goliath, all his hosts will take to flight. You must not think lightly of this war in the town of Man-soul. Our soldiers in Zululand despised the Zulus, and hundreds of them were slain at Isandula. The remnant still despised their foes, and at Intombi lost their lives for their error. An old Christian, who had hewn his way through the bloodiest scenes at Waterloo, laid his hand upon his breast, and said to me, “I never knew what fighting was till I began to fight with the enemy here. Waterloo was child’s play to this.” But fear not, for you can be on God’s side. Wellington once ordered a captain to take a Spanish fort, before which many of his comrades had fallen. “Give me first a shake of your conquering hand, general,” said the captain. They shook hands; the captain dashed forward, took the fort, and declared that the victory was owing to the touch of the general’s all-conquering hand. What courage must it then give you to know that God is your shield, and Jesus Christ the Captain of your salvation.
II. In God’s strength David fought, else he was mad when he faced Goliath. God’s Spirit gave him his holy courage, suggested his weapons, and guided the stone from the sling to Goliath’s crashing temples. Was not David the man after God’s own heart because he so frankly owned God in everything? His spirit shines in his beautiful confession, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” No feature in boy or girl, in man or woman, is more beautiful than this gentle and modest spirit, which makes its possessor even as a weaned child; and you shall have a good share of it if you feel that you owe every good thing to God’s boundless and unbought mercy. This spirit is no mark of a soft and cowardly nature, for it was the spirit of Israel’s champion and Goliath’s conqueror. Now the humblest person in the world may cherish the same spirit. Yes, David’s lofty spirit may be put into the humblest events. A poor needlewoman in her garret one day told me how she fought the Goliath of poverty. Though lonely and in poor health, she had won the battle. She looked a real heroine as her eyes expanded with exalted feeling, and she thus closed her story, “I may well say with David, ‘Blessed be the Lord God, for He teacheth my bands to war, and my fingers to fight.’” Her needle was perhaps used as nobly as David’s conquering sword.
III. David the conqueror. If on God’s side you shall win in the end, because God shall win, and all His shall win with Him. Their cause must triumph in His. True, God’s good soldiers do not always fare on earth as David did when his stone entered the giant’s resounding skull; but in their darkest days faith made them sure of utter and eternal victory. “Where wilt thou remain then?” asked the Emperor Valens of Basil, who had refused to forsake Christ for idols. “Either under heaven, or in heaven,” he calmly replied. David, you know, is a type of His Son and Lord, our Saviour. He is our champion, who, in our defence, has slain hell’s two Goliaths, Sin and Death. You should love to think of Jesus Christ as having conquered all His and our foes. This grand fact makes the Bible full of holy triumph. Ours is a grand faith, as of men whose foes have been routed. As David triumphed not for himself only but for all Israel. So Christ triumphed for all His people. Our faith should then claim a share in all His triumphs. (James Wells, M. A.)
Power and weakness
Providence would not permit him to remain long in obscurity. Once more the Philistines assemble their hosts together, and suddenly appear on the frontiers of Judah. Two reasons might have led them to resolve on this enterprise with a degree of confidence. They might have received tidings of Saul’s madness; of the recent rupture between Saul and Samuel; and they knew that Samuel was God’s prophet; the probability, therefore, was that God had withdrawn from his people the protection with which He had hitherto surrounded them. The condition of the Israelites at this juncture gives us a clue to the real cause of the Church’s weakness during many periods in its history, and suggests the reason why it has oftentimes been so desperately attacked by its enemies. When its leaders are men of piety, wisdom, and power, when God’s glory is conspicuous in the midst of it, the Church is unassailable. But when its leaders are afflicted with madness, when the Divine presence takes its departure, then its antagonists are inspired with boldness. David was not to be dissuaded from his purpose by the unjust accusation of his haughty brother. If you do what is right, you must expect opposition: if you strictly follow the dictates of conscience you will not fail to be censured by the world, if you determine to improve in any way the condition of your fellow men there will always be plenty of people to ridicule your efforts. Be, therefore, constantly prepared for it; and let this, instead of depressing your spirits, spur you on to greater determination, to renewed activity, to more strenuous exertions. It is the voice of weakness which says “Give up;” there is a nobler voice which says. “Quit you like men, be strong; never falter when duty calls.” David adopted the likeliest means, by far, to ensure success. Let us be men of faith by all means, let us implicitly rely on God’s strength, let us acknowledge that without Him we can do nothing; but then we should not rest content with this alone, as it nothing further were required of us It is our place to employ means, the best means we can think of the likeliest means to be successful, if we would secure the results which we most desire. We know that this is true in reference to worldly concerns, and we act accordingly. But let us bear in mind that it is not less true in connection with spiritual matters. This narrative brings before us a striking contrast, a contrast between the weakness of self-confidence and the power of faith Goliath may he taken as the representative of brute force; blustering, showy. Confident, but in reality, the very incarnation of weakness. You will always find men who will magnify this kind of force, who will give it the highest praise, who will even worship at its shrine. But let us remember that there is something nobler, higher, and more enduring than this--moral grandeur, compared with which, mere force is a mean, worthless, despicable thing Goliath may also be taken as the representative of that fierce opposition to God’s truth, which has, at all times, been more or less prevalent in the world. Atheism has sometimes put on a bold front, and threatened to sweep away the very name of religion from among men. We might refer to the mad proceedings of France, during the Revolution, as a notorious instance of this. But to what a miserable issue these impious attempts led in the end! And God’s truth has its enemies still, even in our own land. Infidelity, indifference, and corruption unite their forces against it. They love to display their strength, they indulge in scornful language, they predict the speedy downfall of true religion. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Self-confidence may manifest itself in the conduct of God’s friends, as well as in that of His enemies. But, wherever it is found, it is invariably associated with weakness. Peter was never so confident as when he said to our Lord, “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee both into prison and to death.” But he was never so weak as at that hour. We may take David, on the other hand, as the representative of simple, child-like, earnest faith. Yes, faith is a power--a wonderful power--a power even in this life. These were men in whose vocabulary the word impossible was not found, and consequently they achieved the most extraordinary results. By faith Alexander conquered the world; by faith Hannibal crossed the Alps; by faith Columbus discovered America. These men believed in their ultimate success, and triumphed over every opposition. But it is in the Bible that we have the most remarkable, the most illustrious, the most substantial instances of the power of faith, for here we have faith of the highest kind, faith in God. Our constant prayer, then, should be, “Lord, increase our faith.” Our support in trial, our strength against temptation, our ability to perform our duties, depend upon the measure of our faith. (D. Rowlands, B. A.)
David and Goliath
The three principal divisions of this chapter seem to be, first, the conduct of Goliath; secondly, that of David; and, lastly, the result of the battle, in the destruction of Goliath and the defeat of the Philistine army. And as the Israelites of old were beset by many implacable enemies, so are the church and household of God now beset by deadly enemies, in unbelieving and wicked men, who, like the Philistines of old, despise the knowledge of God, and whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil. Faithless thoughts and evil passions are Philistines within the citadel; evil examples and persuasions of ungodly men ere as Philistines in open arms or secret ambuscade without; and the unseen enemies are wicked spirits; “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” says the apostle.
1. Now, observe with what exactness the person and the accoutrements of this champion are noticed, as if to show us that there was nothing wanting to render him a most formidable adversary. His height, six cubits and a span--about ten or eleven feet; His strength, it must have been prodigious, as may be collected from the weight of the armour in which he was clothed, and from the ponderous size of his spear. He seemed prepared to crush any opponent, and so fortified as to be almost invulnerable. Nothing was probably more remote from his thoughts than being overcome in a contest; and he therefore spoke in those taunting and boasting words. He was thinking of conquest, and confident in his own strength. “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” So it was with this unbelieving Goliath. His defiance of the Israelites, and in them of the God of Israel, was the sealing of his own fall. Whenever it so pleases God, He can make the meanest creature an instrument in His hand, can raise the poor out of the dust, and the beggar from the dunghill, and set him among the princes of his people. “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee: in famine He shall redeem thee from death, and in war from the peril of the sword.” Goliath’s armour was only of human proof, the weapons of mere human invention: his boasting and defiance came from an unbelieving and self-confident tongue. And Satan, the spiritual Goliath, is his armour impregnable? Are his weapons sure to destroy thee? Is his address to thy fears such as should appal or intimidate thee? Has not a stronger than he already come upon him, and overcome him? Hath he not taken from him all his armour, in which he trusted, and divided his spoils?
2. Let us now turn to the conduct of that remarkable person, who was designed by God to be the conqueror of the boasting and unbelieving Goliath. Now, you may observe that David attributes the conquest which he gained over the furious beasts which attacked his fold, not to his own strength or prowess, but to the Divine help and deliverance: he looks to the same God who had before delivered him, for protection now, and feels confident that he shall be prospered in the approaching struggle. And to whom should the Christian look in the day of trial and difficulty, but to the same almighty and gracious hand which has holden him up ever since he was born? What should he call to mind to encourage him but God’s tender mercies and loving kindnesses, which have been ever of old? And he will find, as David did, that it is “good for him to hold him fast by God, and to put his trust in the Lord God.” To one of less courage than David, a courage which nothing but a firm trust in God and the aid of the Spirit of the Lord could have given him, the appearance of this formidable giant, armed at all points, and a warrior from his youth, might well have caused dismay; but David “looked not on his countenance, or the height of his stature,” persuaded that God would “deliver him from his strong enemy;” that He who can save by many or by few would “break the shield, the sword, and the battle,” would make all human strength but weakness. So, in all your trials, of whatever kind they be, do not flatter yourselves in your own strength; do not lean to your own understanding, skill, or power: without God you can do nothing; with Him you may surmount the most appalling dangers.
3. Here I shall close the history of this wonderful event, the result of which was the deliverance of the Israelites from the power of their enemies, and from the fears and apprehensions which had so oppressed them. Let me remind you that our blessed Lord triumphed over the power of Satan, our great spiritual enemy, destroyed his works, and frustrated his malice, by the same aid by which David triumphed over Goliath--he had the arm of God with him; and, “if God be for us, who shall be against us?” And be assured that you have no reason for fear if you hold you fast by God. Remember how man’s natural fears are apt to magnify difficulties and dangers. There is a lion in the way. Had David shrunk back at the sight of Goliath, where would have been his crown of rejoicing? If the Christian looks back with fear, what will be his reward? Set thy face as a flint, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble. (Thomas Loveday, B. D.)
David and Goliath
1.In one respect every Christian resembles David: he has been anointed by the Holy Ghost for an especial purpose: called and selected from the world to be “a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.” As our condition and duties are spiritual, so our enemies are spiritual. No considerate person will deny that these opponents are as far more powerful than our best unassisted resolutions as Goliath was than David. There is, therefore, without any forced or fanciful parallel, this decided resemblance between the cases of David and ourselves; both are endowed with the strength of the same Spirit: both are exposed to very unequal enemies. The first prevailed.
2. Can we learn, from his example, how we may prevail also? After David had received an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Ghost, and was solemnly appointed to the highest dignity to which any of his countrymen could aspire, we do not find that he assumed that superiority to his brethren and even to his father, to which he was most undoubtedly entitled; he went back to his pastoral occupation, and remained in the discharge of his duties as a respectful son and an affectionate brother. This conduct of David will astonish none who understand the real spirit of the Gospel. If there be one here who values himself on his spiritual acquirements, and his growth in grace; who supposes himself to have been arbitrarily selected by God, for no other purpose, it appears, than to be saved without exertion; who trusts in himself that he is righteous and despises others; let him be entreated to review the conduct of a character manifestly and confessedly actuated by an extraordinary portion of God’s Holy Spirit, and let him compare this conduct, with his own. Living in strictness, after God’s own heart, David, as be did not seek power or grandeur, even when the Kingdom of Israel was conferred on him by the most unquestionable title, so neither did he court, difficulty or danger. His eldest brothers had gone to win glory in the cause of their God and their country; but he, God’s chosen servant and his country’s anointed king, lingered in the fields, inactive and obscure. It is therefore the duty of the Christian not ambitiously to throw himself in the way of temptation in order to exhibit his zeal for his profession, or his confidence in victory. This is becoming a tempter himself, and acting in open violation of a positive command, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Had David, contrary to his father’s will, rushed to the battle and accepted the challenge of the Philistine champion, it is most probable that he would have been ruined by his ill-judged and unauthorised temerity. David, at length, finds an opportunity of reconciling the gratification of his noble desires with the strictest observance of duty. He is sent by his father to the camp. He feels that Goliath’s audacious boasting must be opposed at all hazards; and he also feels that the Spirit of God is sufficient to enable him, a weak unarmed youth, to enter the lists with the gigantic challenger. With the same feeling it is that we should advance to the contest with the enemy of our souls. He is far more powerful than we, and those who have not faith to oppose to him the invincible weapons of the Spirit of God, cower and tremble at his advances. He defies us all, who are “the armies of the living God,” “Christ’s church militant here on earth.” The Christian whose faith is unshaken wonders when be looks around him and beholds so many of his brethren tremble before the wily foe: but their terror is a stranger to his breast. He inquires with David, “what shall be done to the man who takes away the reproach from Israel?” And the answer is, “the man who killeth him, the king will enrich with great riches,” “the riches of the glory of his inheritance.” “He that overcometh,” saith the Lord, “shall inherit, all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” Faith in this promise, and hope to attain the reward, determine him to exertion. He heeds not the reproaches of a fearful brother who dares not resist the enemy; be will not listen to those who would persuade him that his strength will not sustain him, for he knows that it is not his own strength, but that of the Almighty, on which he relies. Firmly, therefore, he advances to the conflict, exclaiming “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the Armies of Israel whom thou hast defied.” The grace of God is an invincible weapon, but we must employ it, or it will no more fight our spiritual battles, than a sword will defend us while we delay to draw it; or than the stones of the brook could avail David, while they only lay in the sling. We must therefore, as in everything else, so in resisting temptations, not only pray for God’s grace, but do our own diligent endeavour to overcome them. And, if we do this sincerely, we may be quite sure that we shall be carried through Again, the sling and the stone would have been useless, had not the Spirit of God guided the hand of David; and in like manner the Christian must feel convinced that the various means which are allowed him of contending with sin, are only efficacious because “it is God that worketh in him to will and to do.” The certainty that all his strength is from above, and the determination actively to employ that strength, must go hand in hand; neither will effect anything without the other, but the two combined will, by the blessing of God finally beat down Satan under, our feet.
3. In our warfare with sin we shall occasionally find the armies of Israel ready to fly before the face of the enemy. We shall find some of our brethren, like Eliab, afraid to engage in the contest themselves, and yet ready to reproach us with pride and haughtiness of heart,” because we have determined to live a life of severer holiness than any which they can bring themselves to bear. In our conduct towards them we must imitate that of David. How eloquent and forcible is David’s appeal to his injurious brother. “Is there not a cause” why we should persist in the firmest adherence to a practice conformable to our professions? There is every conceivable cause. There is gratitude for love which eternity could never repay; there is love which eternity could never satisfy; and there is even private interest, which is more effectually served by the service of God than by any other assignable means. By this appeal our brother may be convinced that there is some cause for what we do, and, through the mercy of God, may himself be reclaimed, and be our comrade in the battle, and our witness and companion in the triumph above. We shall also find persons in the world like Saul, equally afraid with Eliab to engage, but who will hold towards us a different language. They will tell us that we are too weak to contend with all the difficulties which we speak of, and they will offer us, as Saul offered David his armour, worldly precepts and maxims for the conduct of life, taken from their own experience and adapted to persons like themselves, but which, not being founded on the strict and undeviating model of the law of God, are no more accommodated to the use of the Christian, than the massive and cumbersome panoply of Saul became the slender and unaccustomed David. But we “cannot go with these.” We have not proved them, and assuredly, did we prove them, we should find them useless. (H. Thompson, M. A.)
David and Goliath
I. I ask, and i propose to answer, the following question,--Why is all this story so particularly set on record?
1. And first, I am of opinion, that viewed only as a passage in sacred history--a singularly life-like piece of very ancient narrative--the chapter before us might reasonably occupy a most conspicuous place. Such a page could not be spared from Jewish history.
2. Then further,--the indications which it contains of a providential purpose and plan, would better still account for the presence of the chapter we have been considering, in the Book of Life. It sets forth how man’s extremity is God’s opportunity; and how He works by humble instruments; and how, from the very first he “hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”
3. But it requires little familiarity with the method of the Holy Spirit to be aware that another and a hatter reason may be given, than any of these, for the large and curious details in which this narrative abounds, as well as for the prominence given to the story of David’s encounter with Goliath of Gath. Be persuaded that a greater than Goliath--a greater by far than David is here. This is none other than a parable or a prophecy in action. Call to mind also our Saviour’s method with the Tempter. As “there was no sword in the hand of David,” so was no carnal weapon employed by David’s Son when He encountered Satan and overcame him. But at least you will see that in slaying Goliath with Goliath’s sword, David did in emblem the very thing which David’s Son did in His last encounter with the Prince of this World. But what says the Apostle? St. Paul declares that Christ died, in order “that through Death He might destroy him that had the power of Death, that is the Devil.” It was suggested that the true reason why the history of the encounter of David with Goliath is recorded with such memorable minuteness of detail, is to be found nowhere but in the Gospel.
II. I propose to enforce and explain it. Does anyone then inquire how can there really exist such a correspondence between a type and its antitype; seeing that the two histories are severed from one another by full a thousand years?
1. Let us not err, like the Sadducees of old, because we “know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God.” So many and such remarkable points of resemblance and analogy cannot be all accidental. It is simply incredible. All antiquity cannot be mistaken. The wisest of the moderns cannot be dreamers all. The loom in which the stuff was woven proves to be of Heaven, not of Earth: and the workmanship is in consequence Divine, not Human. Images of Divine mysteries are to be seen in wrought here and there: colours other than were imagined: forms and faces which recall the things of Eternity: words which would be meaningless--deeds which would be very trifles--unless they are freely interpreted, as they claim a right to be, of God and of Christ.
2. Then, as for the use of such an exhibition of things future. I can see at once very many uses. No stronger proof of the Divinity of the narrative can be imagined. That the same inspiring Spirit was at work with the writers of either covenant, is plain. That the Gospel was contemplated before the Delivery of the Law, becomes abundantly established. This entire system has a kind of prophetic cogency and convincingness of its own; which will, with some minds, outweigh every other proof of the entire Inspiration of Holy Scripture. The consequences of our Saviour’s victory over Satan we can, of course, only guess at. That some very mysterious circumstances of triumph were transacted in the unseen World, cannot be doubted; but express Revelation is silent. Note, however, that “the spoiling of the Egyptians” at the Exodus, is again and again spoken of: nay, is brought, into marked and mysterious prominence. Lastly, when our Saviour Christ, describes His own victory over Satan under the figure of the Stronger than the strong--who cometh on the strong man armed and taketh from him the armour wherein he trusted;--He is careful to add, as one consequence of His victory, that He “spoiled the other’s house;” and again, that He “divided his spoils.” And to this agree the words of the prophet Isaiah,--“He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He hath poured out His soul unto death.” . . . And now with all this before you, confess that the circumstantial relation concerning what David did with Goliath’s armour--Goliath’s sword--Goliath’s head--becomes doubly interesting, doubly precious! “Glorious hint of the completeness of Christ’s victory!” cries the Christian student. “So may all Thine enemies perish, O Lord!” We eagerly confess that there are other lessons, another class of lessons, lying on the surface of the narrative. This may be called the moral side of Holy Scripture.
(1) “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the hear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” He made God’s past mercies a pledge of mercies yet in store: God’s past deliverances he regarded as an earnest of deliverances yet future.
(2) “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts.” The contrast here is between the World’s weapons and those which God commands;--the secular, as contrasted with the Divine method. It is the Church’s confidence against the World’s might. Divested of its accidental shape, these words of David express the faithful soul’s individual readiness to fight in God’s strength; to conduct its warfare (and what is our whole life but a warfare?)--to conduct its warfare, I say, in implicit reliance on God. (J. W. Burton, M. A.)
I. in the battle of life good men have to fight a powerful foe. Satan is strong, subtle, and experienced adversary. No opponent is too powerful for him; no attack too difficult, and no place too sacred for assault.
1. In the battle of life we have to contend with numerous adversaries.
2. In the battle of life we are often hindered by those who ought to help us. “A man’s foes,” etc.
3. In the battle of life we are animated by various feelings
4. In the battle of life past victories strengthen us for future conflicts.
II. In the battle of life good men need Divine assistance. “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, whom thou hast defied.” This dependence was right for four reasons.
1. It ensured the right help for the combat.
2. It awakened a right spirit for the combat. Goliath was an idolater; he treated the God of Israel with contempt. David had a profound faith in God’s supremacy.
3. It led to a right selection of weapons for the combat. The sling multiplied David’s chances of success, and afforded him greater protection by keeping his opponent at a distance. It is wise to keep our enemies as far from us as possible.
4. It secured a right issue in the combat. Appearances are often against true men and sound principle. Appearances are against the Church now, but ultimately the Church will triumph. Appearances were against, Christ, but a momentary defeat was turned into a glorious victory. It is sufficient for us to know the issue will he right. (J. T. Woodhouse.)
The Old Testament has just three stories of moral heroism carried to the verge of martyrdom. They bring before us five heroic figures--David, Daniel, the Three Children. Today we are met by the first of these stories. Are you like the one or like the other? Are you a member of the average, or just the one exception out of thousands? Do you stand with the powerful Saul, and all his armed soldiers, of all of whom it stands so pitilessly recorded, “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid”? Or, is there something still within you after all these years which constrains you as part of your being to stand out alone and put that question of Divine curiosity befitting either a child or a hero, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” It never even entered into the head of David that such a foe as this Goliath could win the day. He saw through the man in an instant. He had hurled a foul reproach against the people of God, his doom was as certain as if he already lay stretched upon the plain with the stone deep in his forehead. Then, again, David had reason for his faith. The child was father of the man. Observe yet again, David would fight only with his own weapons, not with the more perfect weapons of others. He would be just himself. And yet once more, David felt as few even of the greatest ever have it given to them to feel, the immeasurable difference between material force and moral force, between man at his proudest and God using his feeblest instrument. That is our poor, prosaic language as we try to sum up the moral and incomparable act of daring; but not such the language of the young hero poet at the grandest moment of his life. Now you do not need me to remind you that this history is also parable. It is not only a record of heroism, it is, further, a type of all moral conflict. Young children, as they read it in the nursery, half expect to fight some day that real Goliath. We have other visions of the powers which war against the soul. We sometimes almost wish that the issue was equally clear and simple and, so to speak, localised. “Then the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, and there was a valley between them.” Impossible there and then to doubt who were the Lord’s people and on which side you should range yourself--as impossible as it would have been on this day of July seventy-seven years ago, before Wellington’s great fight at Salamanca, for any Englishman to doubt on which of the two Spanish hills he should offer his life to his country. There the historian describes the opposing armies as exchanging cannonades from the tops of those hills, on whose frowning rocks, he says, the contending generals stood like ravenous vultures watching for the quarry. An imposing picture this. We almost see the scene; but now, in our day, is that, I ask, a fair type of our spiritual battlefield? Are there two, and but two, separate armies? Is there always a valley between them? If some formidable champion appears, challenging us and our friends to the combat, are we quite sure from which corner of the field he will come up, and whether we can truly and fairly be satisfied that to defy Israel and Israel’s God he is come up? “Ah!” we sometimes say to ourselves, “if only the trouble were so clearly defined, just a battle between Israel and the Philistines, light and darkness, truth and falsehood, purity and uncleanness, mercy and cruelty, freedom and slavery, reverent piety on the one side, and arrogant, insolent Atheism on the other; if only it were a pitched battle between two recognised hosts, leader against leader, army against army.” And, thank God, there are some issues which are absolutely clear. There are those upward struggles of which the three fair mountain tops, temperance, soberness, chastity are the goal and the prize. These struggles are both outward and inward There is the inward struggle. We do not attempt to describe it, only we say from our hearts, “God help each brother and each sister to fight it through His strength and not their own.” But the struggle may be outward also. The talk about some book or some trial, the smile, the shrug of the shoulder, the innuendo, the sneer--there is the challenge to test what you are worth, to make you show your colours, to prove whether you will take a safe but ignoble refuge with the silent, cowering majority, or whether you will confess Christ before men and say boldly what you think or feel. It is in battles of this kind that the insight of David and the faith of David are both needed and found. Now, as then, the majority do nothing, they are cowed by a vast distrust, they start already beaten. In truth they walk by sight, and not by faith. But thank God there are faithful among the faithless The David heart is still beating; there are those who are certain that the bad cause is doomed, however confidently it swagger. But we all feel there are other contests in which the path of duty is by no means so clear. There are, so to speak, battles without a battlefield, battles which refuse to be localised or even outlined. Where is the enemy? Who is he? How far is he an enemy? Is he to be fought or is he to be first understood and then reasoned with? Is he certainly an enemy or may he be a friend in disguise, a friend, not of ourselves, which matters but little, but of God, which matters everything. Doubtless we have to fight; we have to confess Christ, and that before men as well as in the sanctuary of our own hearts, but our difficulty lies not so much in bearing taunts or confronting direct and scornful denims, as in answering to ourselves the question, “What is truth? What is Christ? What does He say of Himself? What do His holiest servants say of Him? Nay, what do His very silences imply as to His sinlessness and its one necessary source?” And yet more, what is His will as regards human life? On all such subjects there are thinkers and writers and speakers who contemptuously place Christ on one side. That, they would say, is not His sphere. How are we to treat such men, some of whom we meet daily, many of them upright, earnest seekers after truth, it may be dear friends of our own? Are these to be regarded as our Goliaths, brutal impersonations of arrogant impiety? Hardly so. The parallel does not and will not bold. The more we try to make it bold the more we are blinding ourselves to facts and sinning against the eternal laws of charity. And this, conscience tells us, cannot be a fight on behalf of God. We can never truly confess Christ before men by using weapons which the Spirit of Christ condemns. And yet we must confess Him. We must first make up our minds as to His will, as to the principles and causes which are in His sight true and precious, and then we must be ready to act out our faith. As the kingdom of God cometh without observation, so the confessing of Christ before men in the ceaseless battle of faith and unbelief may have but few spectators, and afford but few opportunities for visible and audible heroism. And yet the true heart of David may be beating there and the strength which was perfected in David may be perfecting itself there in many a humble, self-depreciating combatant. It is by faith of this kind that Christ is still making ills promise good. It is by creating in human souls a perfect trust in Himself which nothing can enfeeble or destroy. Are you willing to leave to others who do but echo while they affect to form the spirit of the age, that applause which such conformity never fails to arouse; or are you content for yourself with that other applause heard oven in this life by the humble champion of faith in Jesus?
Servant of God, well done; well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintained
Against revolted multitudes the cause
Of Truth: in words mightier than they in arms;
And for the testimony of truth hast borne
Universal reproach, far worse to bear than violence
For this was all thy care to stand approved
In sight of God, though worlds judged thee perverse.
(Montague Butler, D. D.)
At Oxford they call the same river the Isis which at London Bridge we call the Thames: what is the difference between the two? Immense. You have only to look at the tiny stream in the old university city and then look at the broad swelling current at London Bridge bearing ships upon its ample bosom. Difference! there is only contrast. Precisely, but I will tell you the difference all the same. The difference is that the full ocean has poured its waters up to London Bridge, it has widened the channel and deepened it too, you cannot tell which is salt water and which is fresh when they have mingled together, one has come to deepen and amplify the other--the full current of the boundless sea. There is plenty more where that came from to reinforce the Thames every day. Now go out in the strength of that figure, and live your life realising that “that which drew from out the boundless deep” can be turned again home for your life and for mine; there is plenty where that came from, eternity is the source of the supply. Infinite is that to which our soul is called, and every man is omnipotent who stands before the Lord. (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
1 Samuel 17:47
The battle is the Lord’s.
David and Goliath
This familiar dramatic story has much to teach us. One lesson only is our present consideration--David’s heroic and victorious faith. “Time would fail me,” said the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in his beautiful chronicle of the worthies of faith, “to tell of Gedeon and of Barak, and of Sampson and of Jephthah; of David also.” And when does his faith shine with such lustre as when, having single-handed slain Goliath, he “turned to fight the armies of the aliens”? In this narrative we see--
I. The surprises of faith. Forty days; and is he ever to be met in combat? Who will meet him? No Hebrew veteran. No well-panoplied soldier, but a young shepherd, and he with well-slung stone will be victor! Unlikely warrior! unlikely weapon! unlikely victory! A victory of faith. A surprise of faith. So has it ever been. The surprises of history are the surprises of faith. Who are the men who have “entered the kingdom” of influence wherein with abiding sceptre, they rule the human generations? Men of faith. The great men whose names are in the Old and New Testament chronicles were less likely, according to human judgment, to leave the impress they have upon the ages. And what surprises await us if we but emulate such faith? We “can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us!”
II. The hindrances to faith. It is easy to go in company. It is easy among the faithful to deem our faith strong. But solitude tries the spirit. Celebrated is the poet’s Abdiel, because “faithful found among the faithless, faithful only he.” And where was another faithful beside David through all the camp of Israel.? It was no ordinary foe against whom his courage kindled. Much, too, had he to hinder him in the craven spirit of Israel. Nothing in this to help David. His eye, lit with indignant courage, met no answering light in any other. Israel’s only answer to Goliath’s challenge was--flight! Enough in this to arrest David from offering himself for the combat. Who is he to stand forth as the pick of the nation’s valour? He is brought into the presence of the king. But David had to beat down hindrance sharp and strong before he reached Saul’s tent. Sharper, I think, than from any other. To be thus rebuked and slandered by a brother! But his faith stood fast. He answered not bitter with bitter. Eliab was his brother, not his Lord. “The battle was the Lord’s,” the battle within him as well as against Goliath And the Lord gave him the inner victory before the outer. Had his faith failed him before Eliab he had never stood before Goliath. Hindrances to faith! “How many hindrances we meet” in the way of our heart’s supreme surrender to, and reliance on, Christ! Hindrances from tyrannic evil habit whose power Christ only can break. Hindrances from our circumstances; our business methods; the worldly faithless atmosphere in which we long have lived. From those who nearest us can affect us the most, from kindred as close as--closer than--was Eliab to David. What then? All the more need for earnestness. But whether within or without, “the battle is the Lord’s.”
III. The argument of faith. Faith has varied arguments. God’s promises are one. God’s character is another But experience is the argument of David. This he urges with Saul. A valid argument is that of experience. Has God ever forsaken David even when life depended upon well-aimed blow against wild beast? As He had never forsaken him, so he never would. One victory carried with it the assurance of another. One enemy slain that all enemies should be destroyed. We too have personal memories of deliverance. These are to be cherished. They are silent promises. To the listening heart they speak of goodness to come as well as past. “Jesus Christ” is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
IV. the simplicity of faith. With what naturalness David enters and moves through this wondrous story! He “runs” into the camp and against Goliath with a boy’s eagerness, and yet stands among the soldiers, before the king, and face to face with the loud-tongued foe with the calm heroism of seasoned warrior. He will have no controversy with Eliab. He presumes not on his former service to the king; others open for him the way; the king sends for him. He is not boastful, but tells enough of his previous prowess to secure the king’s assent to his championship. If faith be simple, not marred by any self-seeking, fixed only in the Lord, set only on His glory, difficulties drop asunder into a pathway for our feet. No matter of what kind they may be. Only trust in God and do the right; let that be the constant rule of life, and you can safely leave the result with Him. Be fearful of criticism; be swayed by the opinions of men, and then the path darkens, troubles gather, and even when the right thing is done it has no acceptance with God, being done to please men and not Him.
V. The victory of faith. Calmly forth went David, a spectacle to two armies. On he went alone, yet not alone, “being,” in the words of Josephus, “accompanied with an invisible assistant, who was no other than God Himself.” He teaches us to fight. He assures us of victory. Under His banner “the weakest saint shall win the day.” He helps to every prayer and effort of resistance. (G. T. Coster.)
1 Samuel 17:49
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and smote the Philistine in his forehead.
Faith working wisely
It would be interesting to dwell on the various personages that appear prominently in this historic scene. They are Saul, Eliab, Goliath, and David; the dismayed monarch, the envious brother, the scornful enemy, and the man of God. Whatever Saul’s sins had been, he acted well on this occasion. He did not despise the rumour of David’s words but sent for him; and when he professed his readiness to fight the Philistine, “Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.” There is something very affecting in these words. Saul had violated the principles of the theocracy; he had been rejected by God, and the sentence of rejection bad gone forth; “the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him;” and yet he could recognise the workings of that Spirit, be touched with expressions of godly trust, and bid God-speed to another in an exploit forbidden to himself. Poor Saul! In Eliab we have a characteristic display of genuine human nature. Goliath stands before us as a type of brute power and blustering self-confidence. What shall we say of David? What simplicity and strength of heart appear throughout! what meekness before his angry brother, what modest dignity before Saul, what courage before Goliath, what humility and confidence before God!
I. David possessed a strong and unwavering confidence in God. From whatever grounds that assurance proceeded, he felt it; and it was the secret of his calmness and strength. The inquiry may occur to us, How came David to have this faith? We do not read of any Divine declaration made to him on the subject; it is not written that God told him that he should triumph: whence then did it proceed? was it holy trust, or vain presumption? It is possible to possess a sure confidence of success, and to succeed in consequence of that confidence, and yet to have no just grounds for it; and David might have felt securely and wrought gloriously without any reasonable basis for his trust. The only ground he himself assigned was past Providence. But in connection with something else, that deliverance would have a special argumentative force. Along with his predicted destiny it would be valuable. The Lord had said, “Arise anoint him: for this is he.” Thus set apart by the prophet, immunity was assured him; and the immunity already granted would justly bear the character, not of a mere fact, but of a kind of pledge and guarantee. And might there not be something more still? Is it unlawful to suppose Divine suggestion and impression? We are told, in connection with his selection as Saul’s successor, that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” A like confidence may be possessed as to particular events. Who has not read of instances of strong presentiment in men having no religion, in relation to their worldly destiny, or the success of their enterprises? They were determined to reach a certain goal; they felt that they could reach it; and they did reach it: power and purpose became prophecy. The history of saints furnishes like instances.
II. David’s faith worked wisely. If he had confidence in God that victory would be his, he expected victory in the way of applying his own powers and resources. It was not a miracle, but a natural operation, that he looked to for triumph. God must be in it, but not in it so as to dispense with means. The opinion is very prevalent, and the impression still more so--though neither so prevalent as they used to be--that God is in the habit of employing unlikely instruments; that, for the purpose of revealing His all-sufficiency and bringing honour to Himself, He delights to contrast results with their secondary causes, and to disappoint the calculations founded on the supposed efficiency of human agents. To hear some men talk, you might conclude that God cannot be properly said to employ instruments at all; that in Nature, and still more in Providence, and most of all in grace, they are not so much instruments that He employs as obstacles, not so much things having a tendency and fitness to accomplish His designs as things altogether unsuitable and inappropriate. Now this belief or feeling is entirely erroneous and woefully mischievous. Many are the connections in which this important truth is lost sight of, and men imagine that they do honour to God by denying or ignoring it Sometimes the grand central truth of the Gospel is adduced as an illustration of important results brought about by unlikely means; and Paul’s statements respecting “the foolishness of preaching” are made to sanction this use of the doctrine of the cross. Yet surely this is to mistake the matter altogether. We admit and maintain the need of Divine influence to render even this truth effectual--and that influence is one of the most glorious proofs of the virtue of Christ’s death--but we also assert that never was truth more adapted to produce the effects proposed, to open the deep fountain of human affections, than the truth of “Christ; crucified.” Much the same may be said of faith, as the appointed instrument end condition of spiritual blessing. The importance attached to faith in the Bible, and the marvellous virtue ascribed to it, are often regarded as a proof a mere arbitrariness on the part of God, having nothing to do with its inherent qualities and powers. And truly, if faith were what many deem it, a simple reception of historical facts or theological opinions, it might properly be so regarded. But if faith is, as any careful student of the New Testament may easily ascertain it to be, spiritual insight and sympathy as well as intellectual credence; if it is the reception of Gospel facts in their moral meaning and relations; it would be difficult to discover how anything except faith could realise the effects which Christ came into the world to secure. How can truth operate except by being believed? How can spiritual truth operate but through spiritual faith? The truth we are now asserting requires to be applied to spiritual human agency. Many need to be convinced of the propriety of this application of it; they do not see that the power of Christian workers has a regular relation to their qualifications. Doubtless in Greek and Roman and even Jewish eyes, the agency which Christ appointed and honoured was feeble and worthless, ridiculously so; considered simply as “of the world,” and in connection with merely worldly works and aims, it was foolish, weak, base, yea nothing at all: but that is very different from saying that in God’s eye, and according to spiritual laws, and for the production of spiritual effects, it was so. The doctrine we have in hand should be recognised in the sphere of physical and secular affairs. We are not perhaps in most danger here; it is in the department of God’s spiritual works that we cleave to the faith and expectation of the irregular and unusual: yet is there on some minds an impression that law does not preside over our material and worldly interests, and that God does interfere to avert the natural consequences of actions and conditions. David had confidence in God, the simplest and firmest, that he would overthrow Goliath, but in the strength of that confidence he employed his familiar weapons of offence. He did just what he would have done if he had sought the destruction of the giant without any confidence in God: but his confidence doubtless enabled him to do it better than with a faithless heart he could have done it; it was an inspiring, a strengthening principle. And true faith is always such. (A. J. Morris.)
Common things in capable hands
A short time ago a geologist heard of a builder’s yard where an enormous heap of stones might be purchased. The man of science bought the whole stock for a few pounds, and had the collection removed to his own premises. From the heap the geologist was able to discover many unique specimens of fossils, and today several of our leading museums have been enriched and smaller museums supplied with collections worth in all a large sum. Common weapons in the hand of a good man are often used by the Lord to achieve victory. God can use the simplest gifts of His workers if consecrated to His service. (Sunday Companion.)
1 Samuel 17:50
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone.
David’s first victory
I. David was a type of our Lord Jesus Christ. The early fathers of the church were very great in opening up typical analogies. With regard to this particular transaction let us note, at the outset, that before he fought with Goliath, David was anointed of God. Samuel had gone down to Bethlehem and poured a horn of oil upon his head. The parallel will readily occur to you. Thus hath the Lord found out for Himself one whom He has chosen out of the people. With His holy oil hath He anointed him. Jesus, the antitype of David, is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The Spirit was not given by measure unto him. See how the correspondence goes on. Our Lord was sent by his Father to his brethren. As David was sent by Jesse to his brethren with suitable presents end comfortable words, in order to commune with them, even so in the fulness of time was our Lord commissioned to visit his brethren. Jesus was roughly handled by his brethren, whom He came to bless. David, you will remember, answered his brethren with great gentleness. He did not return railing for railing, but with much gentleness he endured their churlishness. In this he supplied us with but a faint picture of our beloved Master, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. We pass on to observe that David was moved by intense love of his people, he saw them defied by the Philistine. The name of Jehovah was dishonoured! That braggart giant who stalked before the bests defied the armies of the living God! A further motive was present to stimulate his patriotic ambition. How could David’s bosom fail to glow with strong emotion when he was told that the man who should vanquish and slay that Philistine should be married to the king’s daughter? Such a prize might well quicken his ardour. Now in all this he plainly foreshadowed our Lord Jesus Christ. He loved His own: He was always ready to lay down His life for the sheep. And then there was the joy that was set before Him that He should have the church for His spouse. Goliath is called in the Hebrew, not “champion,” as we read it in the English, but the middle-man, the mediator. If you put the whole case fairly before your own minds, you will readily see the fitness of the word that is used. There is the host of the Philistines on the one side, and there is the host of Israel on the other side. A valley lies between them. Goliath says, “I will represent Philistia. I stand as the middle-man.” Now, it is exactly upon that ground that the Lord Jesus Christ fought the battles of His people. We fell representatively in the first Adam, and our salvation now is by another representative--the second Adam. He is the Middleman, the “one Mediator between God and man.” Mark you well that David did smite Goliath, and he smote him effectually--not in the loins, or on the band, or on the foot--but in a vital point he delivered the stroke that laid him low. He smote him on the brow of his presumption, on the forehead of his pride. So when our Lord stood forth to contend with sin, He projected His atoning sacrifice as a stone that has smitten sin and all its powers upon the forehead. Thus, glory be to God, sin is slain. It is not wounded merely, but it is slain by the power of Jesus Christ. And remember that David cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. Augustine, in his comment on this passage, very well brings out the thought that the triumph of our Saviour Jesus Christ is here set forth in the history of David. He, “through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” You will find the analogy capable of much amplification. Make a picture of it at your leisure, and it may prove a beneficial study and a profitable meditation.
II. David as an example for every believer in Christ.
1. You cannot do David’s work if you have not David’s anointing. When you remember that your Divine Master tarried for the heavenly anointing, you can hardly expect to do without it.
2. David, too, stands before us as an example of the fact that our opportunity will come, if our efficiency has been bestowed, without our being very particular to seek it. David fell into position.
3. Learn from David, too, to return quiet answers to those who would roughly put you aside from your work.
4. Learn, again, from David’s example, the prudence of keeping to tried weapons.
5. Next, observe that from the work which David begun he ceased not till he had finished it. He had laid the giant prone upon the soil, but he was not satisfied till he had out off his head. I wish that some who work for Christ would be as thorough as this young volunteer was. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The giants, and how to fight them
All young people like to hear and read stories about giants. I suppose there is hardly a person in this country who knows how go read, but who has read the famous history of Jack the Giant Killer. I remember, when a very little boy, reading it, and thinking what a wonderful history it was. Some people pretend to think that it was hardly possible for David to throw a stone with sufficient force to sink into the giant’s head. One of this class, a foolish young man, who pretended not to believe the Bible, was once riding in a stagecoach, which was full of passengers. He was trying to ridicule some of the Bible stories. Among others, he spoke of this one about David and the giant. He said he thought the giant’s head must have been too hard for a boy like David to send a stone into it; and, turning to an old Quaker gentleman, who sat in the corner of the coach, he asked, “What do you think about it, sir?” “Friend,” said the old gentleman, in a dry, quiet way, “I’ll tell thee what I think: if the giant’s head was as soft as thine it must have been very easy for the stone to get in.” I want now to speak about five giants that we should all unite in trying to fight against.
I. The first giant I am to speak of is the giant heathenism. This giant doesn’t live here. He is found in countries where the Gospel is not known. His castles may be seen in Africa, and in India, in China, and in the islands of the sea. He is a huge giant. This giant is very strong, and very cruel. Well, what are we to do to this giant? Why, we must fight him, as David did Goliath. The Bible is the brook to which we must go. The truths which it contains are the stones that we must use.
II. The second giant I would speak of is the giant selfishness. The giant selfishness never sees, or hears, or does anything for anyone but himself if you find that you are getting to think more of yourself than of others, then be sure the giant is after you. We must fight this giant by self-denial.
III. The third giant I want to speak about is the giant covetousness. This giant is very large in size, and very strong in limb; but he has the tiniest tittle bit of a heart you ever saw, might put it in a nutshell. The only wonder is how so huge a frame can be supported by so little a heart. But this is not all, for little as his heart is, it is hard as stone. He is ashamed of his name, and won’t answer to it. He pretends that his right name is--frugality. But this is a great story. Frugality is a very different person. He is a good, true, honest fellow If you ask, How are you to fight him? I answer, by learning to give.
IV. The fourth giant of which I will speak is the giant ill-temper. But how are we to fight against, this giant? I answer, By trying to be like Jesus. We always think of Him as--the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” Do you suppose that this giant ever got a single link of his chain on Jesus? No.
V. The last giant I wish to speak about is the giant intemperance. He is a very ugly-looking fellow When he is in a good humour, and feels jolly, he puts on a silly face, and looks very foolish. But when he gets in a passion he is awful looking, and it makes one shudder to see him. (R. Newton, D. D.)
David and Goliath
The moment the words are read the instruction will be seen.
1. Helps may sometimes be so multiplied as to become hindrances. We reserve a measure of our pity for the modern Davids in the pulpit who imitate popular preachers, and in the classes who seek to reproduce the rare excellences of famous teachers more tall and more brilliant, and so fail because they stalk around in unnatural panoply, and are borne down by a greatness they cannot fill out to its full swell.
2. There is always room in the Divine purposes for proper originality in human methods.
3. The best instrument for God’s service is generally that which God has bestowed on the individual worker. It is simply silly for any spiritual martinet to bluster when he sees that Christians are doing well in winning souls, and insist that David shall put on armour like Saul’s when he can accomplish far more in his own way as a slinger with his brook stones. Let all wise men and women take what Providence has put within their reach. Here comes again in a new history the old demand once made of Moses: “What is that in thy hand?” The crook he had used with the sheep in Horeb became the “rod” which divided the Red Sea. Shamgar took his ox goad, because he was accustomed to it. Samson seized the jaw bone of an ass, because he found it “moist” and ready when he “put forth his hand.” Dorcas did glorious good in Joppa with the needle her hand loved.
4. Giant killing is yet the chief calling of the Church. We may call the apparently mismatched combatants Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Truth and Error; it is invariably the worse which seems colossal, and the better which appears insignificant. Error can generally find an obsequious armour bearer; Truth sometimes has to stand alone with a sling. Often great leaders will contribute their cast-off clothing, but they do not offer to put their extra height, into risk. And the lesson is full of counsel and cheer for chivalrous souls who are valiant for the truth, that they have patience, fight with courage, and trust God forever.
“For the God of David still guides the pebble at His will:
There are giants yet to kill--wrongs unshriven;
But the battle to the strong is not given
While the Judge of right and wrong sits in heaven.”
5. Here seems to be a register of the real worth of mere “muscular Christianity.” A few calm words from Canon Charles Kingsley might well be quoted here: “Better would it be for any one of you, young men, to be the stupidest and the ugliest of mortals, to be the most diseased and abject of cripples, the most silly, nervous, incapable personage who ever was a laughing stock for the boys upon the streets, if only you lived, according to your powers, the life of the Spirit of God, than to be as perfectly gifted, as exquisitely organised in body and mind, as David himself, and not to live the life of the Spirit of God, the life of goodness, which is the only life fit for a human being wearing the human flesh and soul which Christ took upon Him on earth, and wears forever in heaven, a Man indeed in the midst of the throne of God.”
6. It is the weakest sort of so-called honour which has to assert itself in bluster.
7. The calmness of faith is always resolute and self-possessed. “The battle is the Lord’s.” There is a motto for all Christian life. John Bunyan has mentioned some of our modern giants: giant Despair, and giant Grim; giant Pope, and giant Pagan. Perhaps we could think of a few more who have come nearer yet to our own experience, and might have been named in the history of Christiana and the children. There is giant Pride, and giant Profanity, giant Untruth, giant Envy, giant Appetite; all of these confront us and with some of them we have had fights. But we can stand before them quite calmly if only we remember we come “in the name of the Lord of hosts.”
8. The best defence against evil is found in a swift attack.
9. There can be no Providence in God’s government that is not in some sense truly special.
10. The weapons of the wicked are often at the last turned against themselves.
11. The victory of faith belongs only to Jehovah. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
David’s victory ever Goliath
I. Observe, first, from this account, that a humble station is no hindrance to the grace of God. David, unknown and unnoticed, feeding his father’s sheep at Bethlehem, was chosen by God to be an instrument to promote His glory, and to do great good in the world.
II. Observe, again, that faithfulness and diligence in appointed duties is the way to honour and respect. It was so with David. In the performance of his daily duties, in obedience to his father, in submission to man, be was prepared for great and noble deeds.
III. But the lesson especially taught us in this chapter is that which the Apostle Paul elsewhere enforces: “My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?” If we trust in Him through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour, we need not fear our spiritual enemies--the enemies of our souls. (E. Blencowe, M. A.)
The victorious races
Look now with me, a moment, at another element of strength in the Missionary Church. Not only is the power of God promised to her fidelity, but the wisdom of God is visible in the choice of her materials. In our modern times, God has put His gospel faith into the best races on the globe. David has better blood in his veins than Goliath. The races to which God has intrusted His staff and five smooth stones of gospel truth are the same races that drew up Magna Charta and the declaration of Independence--the races that have made iron types to talk and iron ships to swim--that have strung the telegraphic nerves through humanity’s limbs, and have woven out of revealed law the highest forms yet reached of Christian civilisation. For the spread of His gospel, God has made Great Britain strong, and Holland industrious, and Germany learned, and has saved the American Republic as by fire. The welfare of Christianity has God bound up with the welfare of certain races and nations. If this be so, how vitally important it is that those nations who essay to Christianise other nations should themselves be Christianised to the very coral. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
1 Samuel 17:52-53
And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted and pursued the Philistines.
Keeping the victory
When General Wolfe was mortally wounded at the battle of Quebec, he said after his third injury, “Hold me up; do not let my brave boys see I am wounded.” A little later, as his blood was fast ebbing away, he said, in faint tones, “The victory is ours! Oh! keep it.” So, when our Lord died for our sins on the cross, He virtually said to His redeemed ones, “The victory is ours. Oh! keep it.” And this is the victory that makes His victory ours, and overcometh the world, even our faith. There must be no surrender by sin or unbelief of what He has obtained for us. (H. O. Mackey.)
1 Samuel 17:58
Whose son art thou, young man?
Relation of ancestry to character
I am not surprised that when this shepherd boy (ushered in and introduced by Abner, commander-in-chief) entered the Royal presence with the ghastly trophy, his fingers clutching the hair of Goliath’s head, the king looked at him with admiring wonderment, and put the plain, straightforward question of my text, “Whose son art thou, young man?” It was natural that Saul should wish to know something of the antecedents of so brave a youth; doubtless, he wanted all the particulars about his age, the place of his birth, his upbringing, his occupation, and so forth; but he conceived that such signal valour must be hereditary and ancestral; so his first and main inquiry touched the parentage of the juvenile warrior, “Young man, who was your father?” Whatever views we may hold upon the subject of heredity, there cannot be a doubt as to the fact that qualities, moral, intellectual, and physical, are transmitted from father to son. Some families are noted for longevity; others for good looks; others for love of adventure. The aquiline nose runs in the line of the Buonapartes; the large lip in the House of Hapsburg; the bald head in the House of Hanoverse In some instances there is a certain expression of countenance traceable to the third or fourth generation. I call on one of you at your lodging, and take up the portrait album on your table; and instantly say, as I point to a photograph there, though I never saw the original, “You don’t need to tell me who that is; one can see at a glance that you are a chip of the old block.” Mental qualities are transmitted too. In one case it is musical talent that descends; in another, the love of poetry; in a third, the gift of acquiring languages. And what is yet more to the point, moral tendencies, bad, good, and indifferent, are passed on from parent to child. Only last week I heard of a case in which a confirmed slave of alcohol actually said, “My father was a drunkard, and my grandfather was a drunkard before him; I shall be a drunkard too; we belong to a race of drunkards. I may as well accept my fate, it cannot be helped.” On the other hand, noble and generous features of character appear sometimes to run in the blood. If there could be anything like a pious momentum coming from a long line of Christian progenitors, some of us ought to be godly indeed. St. Paul was not afraid of being misunderstood by Timothy when he wrote to him, “I thank God when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice.” And this suggests the truth, that on the mother’s side, perhaps even more than the father’s, this law of heredity seems to prevail. When David answered King Saul’s question he made no mention of his mother, but there is nothing in that omission; for he quite understood the monarch’s object, that he wished to know his family connection Could I be near you in the hour of strong temptation, when you are ready to belie all the holy memories of a pious home, I would whisper in your ear the question--till you would start back with loathing from the vice to which you were going to yield--“Whose son art thou, young man?”
I. My first word is to those of you who save sprung from a lowly parentage. If there is anything more utterly contemptible than for one who has risen a bit in the world to be ashamed of his humble origin, it is the conduct of him who ridicules his low-born brother. Sometimes we hear it remarked, with a sneer and a curl of the lip, concerning some young man who is doing well, and carrying all before him, “Oh, he has risen from the ranks!” Well, the more honour to him, if it is so; and the more shame upon the silly, contemptible snobbishness that could be guilty of such an utterance. It is in no spirit of cheap Radicalism that I say this. It is not a question either of patrician or plebeian sympathies at all. I will venture to say it is simple common sense. Blue blood, as it is called, is by no means the purest blood. I believe that some of you have far more reason to be proud of your pedigree than could you trace it to Tudor or Plantagenet.
II. My next word is upon the heavy responsibility that rests on you who have been born in the line of a Christian parentage. We shall not talk of rank now, but of character. You come out of a godly nest. Your father was a man of God, your mother a sincere believerse A long line of Christian inheritance is something to rejoice in. When a man can make out a genealogical tree of his own family, and point cub to me, that root, stem, branch, and twig were all holy, I say he has good cause to thank God, and esteem himself as belonging to the peerage of the skies. Well did William Cowper say--
“My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned, the rulers of the earth;
But higher far my proud pretensions rise--
The son of parents passed into the skies.”
“Whose son art thou, young man?” It is a frightful aggravation of a man’s guilt when his whole life is a contradiction given to his father’s counsels and his mother’s prayers; when the child of a godly ancestry tramples on all the holy traditions and memories of the past, and determinedly breaks through the moral fences that had been set around him. Such persons generally make an awful rebound. The worst of men are apostates from the purest faith. Tell me what good influence a young man has resisted and defied, and I will give you the gauge of his depravity.
III. I am not afraid to put the question even to those of you who have had no such advantage. I thank God that I have seen many a clean bird come out of a foul nest. If ever a man might have been supposed to have had bad blood in his veins, it was Hezekiah, who was the son of one of the worst monarchs that ever reigned over Israel. He was cursed with a most polluted parental example. One might have said of that young man that he was born to vice. And yet he turned out a devout and holy man of God. Yes, Divine grace is stronger even than blood. History can supply many an instance, to the praise of Him who ofttimes finds the brightest diamonds in the darkest mines, and the richest pearls in the deepest seas.
IV. I feel that I cannot part with the text without giving it a purely spiritual meaning, in respect of which there are but two paternities, and one or other of these each of you must own. Would to God that, as I address to you all the question, “Whose sons are ye, young men?” you could with one voice reply, “Behold, now are we the sons of God.” “Ye are of your father, the devil,” said Christ, with awful plainness of speech, to the unbelieving Jews; and let it never be forgotten that, unless we are the subjects of Divine adoption, we are all “the children of the wicked one.” I tell you that, whether you realise it or not, you have, each of you, Royal blood in your veins. Your pedigree traces back to the King of kings. St. Luke goes right up to the fountain head when he finishes his genealogical table thus: “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the Son of God.” Awake to the glorious fact, and claim your high inheritance! Amen. (J. T. Davidson.)
The king saw, what you and I see, that this question of heredity is a mighty question. The longer I live the more I believe in blood--good blood, bad blood, pure blood, humble blood, honest blood, thieving blood, heroic blood, cowardly blood. The tendency may skip a generation or two, but it is sure to come out, as in a little child you sometimes see a similarity to a great grandfather whose picture hangs on the wall. That the physical and mental and moral qualities are inheritable is patent to anyone who keeps his eyes open. The similarity is so striking sometimes as to be amusing. Great families, regal or literary, are apt to have the characteristics all down through the generation, and what is more perceptible in such families may be seen on a smaller scale in all families. A thousand years have no power to obliterate the difference. Scottish blood means persistence, English blood means reverence for the ancient, Welsh blood means religiosity, Danish blood means fondness for the sea, Indian blood means roaming disposition, Celtic blood means fervidity, Roman blood means conquest. The Jewish facility for accumulation you may trace clear back to Abraham, of whom the Bible says “he was rich in silver and gold and cattle,” and to Isaac and Jacob, who had the same characteristics. This law of heredity asserts itself without reference to social or political condition, for you sometimes find the ignoble in high place and the honourable in obscure place. A descendant of Edward I, a toll gatherer. A descendant of Edward II, a doorkeeper. A descendant of the Duke of Northumberland a trunk maker. Some of the mightiest families of England are extinct, while some of those most honoured in the peerage go back to an ancestry of hard knocks and rough exterior. This law of heredity is entirely independent of social or political conditions; for you find avarice and jealousy and sensuality and fraud having full swing in some families. The violent temper of Frederick William is an inheritance from Frederick the Great. It is not a theory founded by worldly philosophy, but by Divine authority. Do you not remember how the Bible speaks of a chosen generation, of the generation of the righteous, of the generation of vipers, of an untoward generation, of a stubborn generation, of the iniquity of the fathers visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation? So that the text comes today with the force of a projectile hurled from mightiest catapult, “Whose son art thou, young man?” “Well,” says someone, “that theory discharges me from all responsibility. Born of sanctified parents, we are bound to be good, and we cannot help ourselves. Born of unrighteous parentage, we are bound to be evil, and we cannot help ourselves.” Two inaccuracies. As much as if you should say, “The centrifugal force in nature has a tendency to throw out everything to the periphery, and therefore everything will go out to the periphery.” You know as well as I know that you can make the centripetal force overcome the centrifugal, and you can make the centrifugal overcome the centripetal. As when there is a mighty, tide of good in a family that may be overcome by determination to evil, as in the case of Aaron Burr, the libertine, who had for father President Burr, the consecrated; as in the case of Pierrepont, Edwards, the scourge of New York society seventy years ago, who had a Christian ancestry; while, on the other hand, some of the best men and woman of this day are those who have come of an ancestry of which it would not be courteous to speak in their presence. The practical and useful object of this sermon is to show to you that if you have come of a Christian ancestry, then you are solemnly bound to preserve and develop the glorious inheritance; or if you have come of a depraved ancestry, then it is your duty to brace yourself against the evil tendency. I want to arouse the most sacred memories of your heart while I make the impassioned interrogatory in regard to your pedigree: “Whose son are thou, thou young man?”
I. I accost all those who are descended of a Christian ancestry. I do not ask if your parents were perfect. There are no perfect people now, and I do not suppose there were any perfect people then. You have a responsibility vast beyond all measurement. God will not let you off with just being as good as ordinary people when you had such extraordinary advantage. Ought not a flower planted in a hothouse be more healthy than a flower planted outside in the storm? Ought not a factory turned by the Housatonic do more work than a factory turned by a thin and shallow stream? Ought not you of great early opportunity be better than these who had cradle unblessed? Your Heavenly Father charges against you all the advantage of a pious ancestry--so many prayers, so much Christian example, so many kind entreaties--all these gracious influences, one tremendous aggregate, and He asks you for an account of it. Ought not you to be better than those who had no such advantage? Better have been a foundling picked up off the city commons than with such magnificent inheritance of consecration to turn out differently. Oh, the power of ancestral piety! Oh, the power of ancestral prayer!
II. I turn for a moment to those who had evil parentage, and I want to tell you that the highest thrones in heaven and the mightiest triumphs and the brightest crowns will be for those who had evil parentage, but who by the grace of God conquered--conquered. Find out what the family frailty is, and set body, mind, and soul in battle array. Conquer you will. I think the genealogical table was put in the first chapter of the New Testament not only to show our Lord’s pedigree, but to show that a man may rise out of an ancestral line and beat back successfully all the influences of bad heredity. See in that genealogical table that good King Asa was born of vile King Abia. See in that genealogical table that Joseph and Mary and the most illustrious Being that ever touched our world, or ever will touch it, had in His ancestral line scandalous Rahab and Thamar, and Bathsheba. Perhaps the star of hope may point down to your manger. Perhaps you are to be the hero or the heroine that is to put down the brakes and stop that long line of genealogical tendencies, and switch it off on another track from that on which it has been running for a century. Estranged children from the homestead come back through the open gate of adoption. There is royal blood in our veins; there are crowns on our escutcheon. Our Father is King, our Brother is King; we may be kings and queens unto God foreverse “Whose son art thou, thou young man?” Son of God! Heir of immortality! Take your inheritance! (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Heredity and celebrity
I confess I am rather interested in the whole subject of heredity. I have been at some pains to inform myself as to the calling or occupation of the fathers of many men who have risen to honourable distinction in the world; and, perhaps, you would like to have some of the results of that inquiry. I shall select a few at random taken from a very varied list. The distinguished astronomer Kepler was the son of an officer in the army; the poet Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott, of attorneys; Chatterton, of a schoolmaster; Handel, of a surgeon; Thomas Hood and Samuel Johnson, of booksellers; Mozart, of a bookbinder; Blackstone, the eminent lawyer, of a silk mercer; the poet Pope, of a linen draper; Sir Isaac Newton, of a farmer; Thomas Arnold, of a tax collector; De Foe and Akenside, of butchers; Dr. Jeremy Taylor, of a hairdresser; the artist Turner, of a berber; Christopher Columbus, of a wool comber; the great astronomer Halley, of a soap boiler; Haydn, of a wheelwright; Luther, of a miner; Lord Eldon, the famous lawyer, of a collier; George Fox, of a weaver; Captain Cook, of an agricultural labourer; and last, but not least, John Bunyan, of a tinker. (Great Thoughts.)
The value of a noble ancestry
There is the prophecy of a holy ancestry. (2 Timothy 1:5.) Oliver Wendell Holmes remarks that most people think that any difficulty of a physical sort can be cured if a physician is called early enough. “Yes,” Dr. Holmes replies, “but early enough would commonly be two hundred years in advance.” There is the tremendous law of heredity, the awful sweep and reach of which science is just now beginning to throw some adequate light upon. But this law takes in its strong grasp not only features and damages and incitements which are physical; it pushes onward into coming generations characteristics which are mental and moral also. And if one be budded out of a religious ancestry, it is a vast boon and blessing. And to be steadily determined to he true to such ancestry, and to refuse to run athwart the strain of it, is a tremendous help and impetus in warring the good warfare. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)
I am the son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite.--
That is a very simple account for a man to give of himself, yet it answered the question which elicited it. Standing before the king, grasping the head of a man who made Israel quake, a nation looking at him, yet he speaks as if a stranger had accosted him in some peaceful retreat of the pasturage! David might have said, “Samuel came to my father’s house in search of a king. He passed by my brethren one by one; I was seat for at length from the sheep fold, and Samuel anointed me king of Israel. Behold in this bleeding head the first sign and pledge of my kingly power!” Instead of speaking so, he merely said, with a child’s beautiful simplicity, “I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
1. Learn that men may be anointed long before their power is officially and publicly declared. God may have put his secret into their heart long before he puts the diadem upon their brow. We do not know to whom we are speaking.
2. Learn that God’s arrangements are not extemporaneous. The men who shall succeed to all good offices are known to Him from the beginning to the end. To us the prospect may be dark, but to God the whole course is clear; the successor is anointed, but, not yet declared.
3. In studying the period of David’s history which is comprised between his anointing and the killing of Goliath, we shall discover some qualities in David which we may well imitate. Soon after his anointing, David became harp player to the king. This seems to be a descent. Are there not many apparent anti-climaxes in life? Is this a conspicuous example of them? “Play the harp! Why, I am king,” David might have said. “Why should I waste my time in attempting to prolong the life of the man who is upon my throne? The sooner he dies, the sooner I shall reign; not one soothing note will I evoke from my harp!” Had David spoken so, he would have dropped from the high elevation which becomes the spirit of a king. Are we skilled in music? Let us help those who are sad. Have we this world’s goods? Let us seek out the poor, that, they may bless us as the messengers of God. Have we power to say beautiful words? Let us speak to men who are weary of the common tumult which is around them. To help a man is the honour of true kingliness. After this engagement as harp player, David went home to pursue his usual avocations. How well he carried the burden of his prospects! We see no sign of impatience. He did not behave himself as a child who, having seen a toy, cries until it is put into his hands. David had the dignity of patience. He carried the Lord’s secret, in a quiet heart. When David came to see his fighting brethren, by the express instructions of his father Jesse, he disclosed a feature in his character in true keeping with what we have seen. When he had become acquainted with the case, he at once looked at outward circumstances in their moral bearing. Other men, including Saul himself, were talking about, mere appearances. They did not see the case as it, really was. Their talk, in fact, was strongly atheistic. Now for another tone! David called Goliath, not a giant, not a soldier, but an uncircumcised Philistine, who had defied the armies of the living God! This is a moral tone. This is precisely the tone that was wanted in the talk of degenerate Israel! As used by David, the very word uncircumcised involved a moral challenge. This tone retrieves the honour of any controversy. It brings strength with it, and hope, and dignity. Oh, for one David in every controversy! Men lose themselves in petty details, they fight about straws, they see only the surface; David saw the spiritual bearing of all things, and redeemed a controversy from vulgarity and atheism by distinctly and lovingly pronouncing the name of God. The atheist counts the guns, the saint looks up to God; the atheist is terrified by the size of the staff, the saint is inspired by his faith in right and purity. Such a man cannot fail. David interpreted the past so as to qualify himself for the future. When Saul doubted his inability to cope with the Philistine, David recounted some of his recollections as a shepherd. The past should be our prophet. David confided in the unchangeableness of God. Forms of danger vary; but the delivering power remains the same. The great fight of life is a contention between the material and the spiritual. Goliath represents the material; he is towering in stature, vast in strength, terrible in aspect. David represents the spiritual: he is simple, trustful, reverent; the merely fleshly side of his power is reduced, to the lowest possible point,--he fights under the inspiration of great memories, in a deeply religious spirit, not for personal glory but for the glory of the living God. As a contest between strength and strength, the scene was simply ridiculous. Viewed materially, the Philistine was perfectly right when he disdained David, and scornfully laughed at the weapons which the stripling produced. Goliath showed a most justifiable contempt; as a materialist he could indeed have adopted no other tone. David made no boast of his weapons. He pronounced the name of God, and put his life in the keeping of the Most High. The application of the truths of this lesson is easy as a matter of inference, but hard as a matter of realisation. Some men save, others are saved. Such is the law of sovereignty. This law of sovereignty penetrates the whole scheme and fabric of life. David saved, Israel was saved; activity and passivity make up the sphere of this life. Without any attempt at fanciful spiritualising, we see in David the type of the one Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, who bruised the serpent’s head, and won for us the one victory through which we may have eternal life. “Crown Him Lord of all.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
I have tried to apprehend the character of David. David was a prophet, but I shall speak most of him as a man; and I desire most to call your attention to him in his actual and his merely human life. This it will be my effort, briefly to sketch, and, as I sketch it, to connect such reflections with the statements as arise naturally out of the incidents. The opening of David’s public course glows with sublime ardour, and is full of heroism. He will go forward against presumptuous sell-confidence. He understood where the noblest strength lay, and nobly he used it. He showed, what the whole history of man exhibits--that faith in Divine protection, that devotion to conscience, that intellectual skill, that moral enthusiasm, can trample down resistance, however gigantic. What is muscle at any time against mind? What is passion against belief? What is frenzied anger against deliberative conviction? Reverence and Reason are the true conqueror of the earth. To them belong the victory, and to them belong dominion. David stands out, as a type of this great power. The monster fell dead before his missile, and he, the victor, has left, a record of our learning, to reveal to us, for everlasting ages, what is the potency of the gifted and the inspired mind. He may be placed as the deathless incarnation of what, trust and thought can accomplish against tyranny and force.
1. David was one of those great and original men, whom humanity at rare intervals produces. His mind was of that order which creates the age in which it lives, and that saves or destroys the nation which it rules. His character was that which Time, if it would, is not able to kill; that which History is forced to remember. It is the destiny of transcendent power, whether it be good or whether it be bad, to leave everlasting impression on the affairs of mankind. David was a man of power, various and exalted. Strong in intellect, and wise in experience; strong in will, end commanding in expression; strong in every attribute which compels obedience, he was accomplished also in the qualities that win it. Poetry, music, architecture, he loved with extreme desire; he advanced them with a noble zeal. In some points he resembled Bonaparte. Like Bonaparte, he arose from the people, and sat upon his throne by their will; like Bonaparte, his people adored him, and would endure to the last extremity of human nature for his interest. Like Bonaparte, he was a conqueror. His circumstances were created by the age, and not by himself. He had to meet and to subdue them as best be could. Like Bonaparte, he was a dictator. He had, to be sure, his great and mighty men, for he knew, by the glance of a look, the man who was born to control his associates; and as he knew the man, he selected him. Like Bonaparte, he was a legislator. He gave his people laws, and he established among them a settled and systematic administration. But he had a piety, and a faith, and a devotional sensibility, of which the mighty modern had not a single impulse. There is another modern, to whom David also bears, in some degree, a resemblance--Peter the Great, of Russia. David, as Peter, found only barbarism in the land; but, ere he died, it was exalted and civilised. The great king of Israel, as the great czar of Russia, was the patron of every art, and the friend of every genius who could raise his country into prosperity and dignity. He found his brethren dwelling in tents; he departed from among them living in palaces. He found them scattered tribes; he left them a collected and compacted nation. Under the guidance of his stupendous mind, the land was filled with plenty, the sea was covered with commerce, literature was encouraged, industry was successful, victory waited on arms, and wisdom prevailed in counsel. If we contrast David with Saul, David appears as superior as heaven is to earth. It is superiority, not of an improved succession, but of a new creation. Saul, like David, was exalted from common to kingly life. Saul, like David, was a man of battle, and a man of blood; and here the resemblance closes. To the end, Saul was only the savage warrior, a man of might and daring, a man of prowess and enthusiasm. This agrees fully with his personal qualities, and is in nowise opposed to his original condition. It is all that we might imagine, and our expectations are neither surpassed nor contradicted. Commanding in the qualities which make a man of war, David had, in more signal perfection, those which in a better period would have made a man of peace.
2. The history of David leaves one impression on the mind deeply and plainly; and that, is that moral principle does not always correspond with devotional sensibility. I do not say that devotional sensibility is not a fine element in moral action; nay, I hold that,, without it, the highest beauty is wanting to character and to virtue. But still, devotional sensibility may be found in many persons, who are weak in right principles, and unstable in right purposes. How fervently could David pray, but bow feebly did David practise! Yet David was not really insincere. It is well and wisely written--“The heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it?” Much and strange contradiction there is in life, but less of positive hypocrisy than is imagined. David is a type of many kings and many men. The example, in this character which Scripture gives us, is ever and ever repeated in history; and it is as often corroborated in daily life. And, in our own experience, how changeful and uncertain are our characters? In an hour we passionately resolve, and in another as recklessly break our resolution. Instability and inconsistency there are in this, but sincerity there is in it also. The real philosophy of the matter is that the religious element, like the other elements of our nature, must be good or bad, as it is directed. By the religious clement I mean, in this connection, the faculty which connects us with the invisible and eternal world; and this, directed by ignorance and passion, may do, without remorse, deeds that have no name, but, influenced by knowledge and by benignity, raises a man, not simply to be a little lower than the angels, but to be their equal and their companion. But the merely devotional man is not necessarily a virtuous man; nay, he is not necessarily a benevolent man; he may fail in rectitude, or he may fail in humanity. Of this principle, the whole history of the Church gives sufficient evidence; for many a devout man has been dishonest, and many a devout man has been cruel. I do not join in the common cry which stigmatizes all such as hypocrites. I do not believe that the failings of those on whom the world charged inconsistency always sprang from deceit: I simply believe that they were men of partial development, and that, in the exaggerated expression of some faculties, others were disproportionately, and thence injuriously, weakened. Wickedness there is abundantly in the world, and so far there is, in the world, a universal subject and cause of grief. But, when sin unites with noble gifts, it is exceedingly sinful. Let me offer a few words--a few words on that, blood-guiltiness, for which some men, through David, assault the Bible. We are to judge David as we judge other men, by his times and by his circumstances. His age was one of rudeness and it was one of blood. It was a period when men got readily into conflict, and when conflict was associated with little that was forbearing or magnanimous. The barbarian instincts to contention were those which then were the most developed. Prowess was the great test of excellence. Might was the principle of right. The military hero was “the highest style of man.” Shall we make that David’s sin, which was David’s fate? Was he not a warrior by the necessity of events, rather than by any personal contrivance? What else could his life have been, but that of warfare? By what means could he have avoided being, throughout his course, a warrior? David’s career was splendid and successful. Was he happy? Was he even moderately happy? When David sat upon the throne of Israel did he never recall, in melancholy vision, the green pastures and the still waters, where his breast, was calm, and where his step was free. David was not a happy man. Despondency settled on his soul, and calamities, treading fast upon each other, haunted all his latter days. He is an example that no grandeur, no prosperity, no impunity from station, no glory of command, no flattery of obedience, can strip sin of its hatefulness or rob it of its sting; that God’s eye is on the monarch as thy, beggar; that, in the depth of millions, their transgression can find them out; and that, in the stern truth of God’s own sentence, it can shriek within their conscience the terrible rebuke of Divine condemnation. David, too, is an evidence, if evidence were wanted, that grandeur is a poor shelter against grief. When shame fell upon David’s house, when hatred placed one child in deadly feud against another, the glare of royalty was a small matter in the sadness of nature. What was kingship to the English Charles, when, after arraignment before his own people, he clasped his children for the last time to his bosom, before his going to the block? What was kingship to the French Louis when he felt he must leave his helpless wife and orphans to the mercies of the mad avengers, who began in his own blood the retaliation for centuries of suffering, which was only to be accomplished in a wilderness of death? What was kingship to David when his own flesh were his enemies? I have spoken of David as I proposed, as one within the circle of our imperfect humanity, and I have spoken of him in the spirit of humanity. In this spirit I view in him an incarnation of its capacities, and an example of its weakness. In this spirit I cannot think of him otherwise than in solemn reverence and solemn sorrow. With this solemn sorrow and solemn reverence, I contemplate his mighty mind; with reverence I see its grandeur; with sorrow I behold its fall from that grandeur, to wilder itself in madness, or to lose itself in folly. I learn how strength may work for wretchedness, how privileges may turn to penalties. Looking upon David comprehensively, in his greatness, in his abasement, in his repentance, in his guilt, in his aspiration, in his affliction, I am reminded of his own words, suggested doubtless by his own experience--“Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity!” (Henry Giles.)