A narrative recorded thousands of years ago speaks of one small nation pitted against another even greater one. But what makes this rivalry different from others is that one of the armies had the advantage of an abnormally tall and mighty warrior. The smaller nation constantly felt powerless whenever this giant along with all of his taunts and challenges came before them. They felt that there was nothing they could do, since no one would ever dare come forward to stand against such a colossal individual, along with his immense armor and towering spear. But in the end, one young man did come forward and stand up to his taunts, and ultimately was able to defeat him with a single blow. The amazing aspect of this defeat is that the young man’s backing and triumph came from God Himself.
Let’s look at the story from its source: “And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:4-11).
Goliath was definitely an enormous person. Although reports of his exact size vary, he was as much as ten feet in height, and, while not mentioned above, his build was very likely that of a strong heavyweight, since he had to support as much as a hundred and twenty-five pounds of armor. A man this big would be able to clean the leaves out of the gutters of your house without a ladder, and could keep going and climb up on the roof to clean out the chimney too! Don’t forget that spear he carried either. Estimates of its length range from six to eight feet or longer, and its weight may have been as much as sixty-five pounds. Putting all of this together certainly gives us a picture of a ‘super-warrior’!
In this period of history, attacks would typically start out slow, with one side first trying to intimidate the other by shouting out challenges, insults, or humiliating statements. This was all an attempt to psychologically weaken the opponent and gain an edge before the actual fighting began. In this instance it worked quite well, since the king of Israel and those with him became greatly troubled by these intimidating words. Yet neither this king nor his people made any effort to seek God for deliverance from this mighty oppressor. Yet God, out of His love for His people, had already begun to carry out a plan that would help Israel overthrow this colossal Philistine spokesman and army.
Prior to, and during all of this fear campaign that the enemy was carrying out against the people of Israel, a young Israeli shepherd named David was unknowingly undergoing battle training back in the pastures far from the battlefield. Later in this same chapter we read that David “…kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (1 Samuel 17:34,35). God brought these little ‘giants’ before David to conquer first, to prepare him for the bigger ones that were to come.
Now, for true believers and servants of Christ, there are always going to be ‘giants’ to face in our life. They may come as individuals, or as trials, or as circumstances that are nearly impossible to overcome on our own. God intentionally places them in our path to develop and prepare us for more difficult encounters ahead, just as a soldier trains for a future skirmish, or a student studies and learns many subjects in preparation for undertaking a career. It is our responsibility to make sure that we utilize these periods of preparation and training when they come, or we will be easily overcome by greater problems we encounter in the future.
Our success does not come so much from the victories won in the main battlefield, but rather from the battles already encountered and won in the wilderness. We are not to be like the Israelites and their king here, who “were dismayed, and greatly afraid” at just the sight of Goliath and the Philistines. It is in our time of prayer and dwelling on God’s Word that we develop the ability stand up to and fight the opposition that will someday come our way.
In part two of this series, we will see just how this training in the remote pastures begins to pay off for David, the Israelites, and ultimately us.