ALTHOUGH THIS CHAPTER is often regarded merely as a story for children, it furnishes one of the richest types of the Lord Jesus, of the victory He has gained and the deliverance He has secured. Truly the oil of joy replaced the mourning and the garment of praise the spirit of heaviness (i.e., weakness, faintness) in the valley of Elah that day and God was glorified, Isa. 61. 3.
For these results to be brought about it pleased God to use a man; the man who, alone of all ‘the thousands of Israel’, was able, in such an hour, to count unhesitatingly upon his God. He came upon the scene unheralded and unknown, himself wholly insignificant – the least in a family which had little standing in Israel. But he was the man who had been prepared by God for the work that must be accomplished if the dishonour done to Him was to be removed.
It was a strange situation
that confronted him on that shameful day in the history of Israel. Their men of valour helpless and speechless, faint and fearful: no one able to take up the defiant challenge of a mere man, and he an uncircumcised Philistine. To David it must all have seemed scarcely believable. Nevertheless, it would be folly to think of them as a company of cowards. Saul himself, Jonathan and his armourbearer, Abner and doubtless many others were men of proved courage and established reputation. But it was a situation that could only be met by simple confi¬dence in God and they seem to have left Him out completely. So did Goliath: he saw only the servants of Saul and the armies of Israel, v. 8, 10. He knew no better, but they did. Yet they also used Philistine language and could only talk about Israel and their king v. 25. David spoke an altogether different language, for he saw the armies of the living God and die dishonour put upon Him, v. 36, 45. The result was that whilst the others are described as dismayed, greatly afraid, sore afraid, and were put to flight even by the words of the giant, David was able to face him, armour, sword, spear and all, with serene confidence. It was not that he was not conscious of those things – on the contrary he had a much closer view of them than anybody else!
So the ‘man after God’s own heart’ was the man who, in a time of general failure, when fear filled the hearts of all others, had his vision filled with his God and therefore counted confidently upon Him.
When we read the Holy Spirit’s record of the early days of assembly witness we find that He saw fit to repeat again and again that the
Believers were characterized by boldness
That was the outcome of His keeping their hearts in power the truth that the ascended Christ was on the throne of heaven, Acts 2. 32-35. Much additional knowledge concerning that great enabling and sustaining truth had been revealed when Paul, writing to Timothy, found it necessary to say ‘For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness but of power, 2 Tim. 1. 7, R.v. The word ‘fearfulness’, says W. E. Vine, means cowardice and timidity, whilst ‘power’ here denotes the ability requisite for meeting difficulties and for the fulfilment of the service committed to us. The exhortation is not less necessary today. How often the suggestion that some action should be taken in simple obedience and faithfulness to the Word of God, in faith leaving the consequences to Him, at once calls forth all kinds of fearful and faithless anticipations of the possible outcome. In the event nothing is done, and the testimony suffers, Satan triumphs, God is dishonoured, all because His people were not counting upon Him. This should cause serious heart searching, since ‘great boldness in the faith’ is promised to those who serve well in the assembly, 1 Tim. 3. 13.
It was a different David
who fled from Saul not long after his victory over Goliath, with the giant’s sword grasped in his hand and fear filling his heart, 1 Sam. 21. 9-10. Of the sword he said, ‘There is none like that’. How much better it would have been had he said about his God ‘There is none like Him’. Dependence on carnal weapons and past experience had, for the time, replaced counting upon Jehovah. A few years later he was again possessed by fear and asked ‘Who shall deliver me from the hand of Saul?’, i Sam. 27. 1, – Saul, who hand was so small compared with Goliath’s hand.
Goliath was not the only giant to be overcome and the time came when David found himself in combat with another. Waxing faint, he needed the strong arm of Abishai to save him. Yet the weight of Ishbibenob’s spear was only one half of that of Goliath, 2 Sam. 21. 15-22. It was not only increasing years that had reduced his strength: Abishai was probably no younger. Was it not sin and its consequences that had taken their toll? So David passed from the ranks of the giant-killers and we gladly note that others came forward to fill that role.
Coming again to our own day
how large arc the difficulties, how great the dangers, how hopeless the situation if we are not actively and consciously counting upon our God. Sad indeed it is that instead of turning in simple trust to Him, some turn to this new thing or that. These may possibly have some value but the great necessity is Himself, to set the Lord always before us, Ps. 16. 8. The present need then is for men and women after God’s own heart, who share David’s confidence that ‘the battle is the Lord’s’, who are skilful in the use of the weapons He supplies and to whose vision He is so real that giants and all others, men and things, arc seen in proper perspective. Then His work will prosper and He will be glorified.
To be followed by THE MAN WHO ENDURED