It was this uniquely God-oriented heart that first got David “on the map” when he took the field against the Philistine giant Goliath. For King Saul to be willing to put his whole nation at jeopardy in the hands of a little boy who had shown up from nowhere was an unheard-of act of bravery — or foolishness — on the part of the ruler. Why was he willing to “put all his eggs in one basket,” especially such an unlikely basket as a shepherd boy who said that he was going to confront the ironclad behemoth of a man with just a simple slingshot? Obviously, the king was able to see something more than David’s boyish outward appearance. He must have been able to discern that there was a real difference in this young man — something that imitated form within his heart.
Perhaps the answer lies in the report that had occasioned the lad’s entrance into the king’s field operations tent. When David had showed up at the battleground, his whole intent was to bring a care package from his father to his three senior brothers who were enlisted in the king’s battalions and to collect a little news about his brothers’ wellbeing to bring back to the father upon his return. His brothers — embarrassed by their cowardice before the giant’s threatenings — ridiculed the boy, claiming that his objective was to badmouth them when he got back home.
David’s response was that he had no evil intent and then questioned their own motives with the enquiry, “Is there not a cause?” Interestingly enough, he was told on at least three occasions that King Saul had put up a generous bounty for anyone who would go up against the giant — his daughter’s hand in marriage, tax-exempt status for his family, and a huge monetary reward for the warrior. Still, none of the king’s men was motivated by even such a generous prize that awaited their bravery. David, on the other hand, seemed unaffected by the allurement of the reward money or status afforded to the victor. For him, there was a cause that far exceeded the price tag attached to the bounty placed on Goliath’s head. His concern was that the giant had defied the army of the living God. With God’s reputation at stake, the little shepherd boy had a motivation that could not be found in the hearts of any of the other men gathered in the Valley of Elah that day. The love he had for the object of the psalms he had composed as he wandered about the hillsides of Bethlehem was more intense than anything that could be bought with a royal bride, tax-free living, or a bulging purse. Something more powerful burned inside his soul and spirit — something that when it was reported to the king made the ruler certain that he had found the necessary element for facing the giant’s challenge. The thing that burned inside David’s young heart was divine purpose.
That purpose of defending the honor of his God separated David from all the other men on the field that day. For forty days, the entire army had cowered before the threats of the giant, yet David boldly stepped forward to take on the over-sized challenge. Why? There are several hints in the passage that tell us how David’s perspective was different from that of the rest of the army. In verse eight, Goliath looked at the army and called them “the armies of Israel” and “the servants of Saul.” In verse ten, Goliath said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day.” In verse nineteen, they are called “the men of Israel,” designating a political state to which the men owed their lives. Verse twenty-four states that “the men of Israel” fled from Goliath and were dreadfully afraid. In verse twenty-five, “the men of Israel” spoke of the man who had come up to defy “Israel.” Everyone continued to see himself as part of a natural, physical kingdom. However, in verse twenty-six we see a turn.
“And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
It is only David who sees himself as a member of the “army of the living God.” That personal relationship with God gave the little shepherd boy a confidence that none of the trained soldiers could muster. No matter how much we acknowledge His omnipotence, if we don’t recognize that He is in a personal relationship with us and is, therefore, willing to act on our behalf, we will not be able to appropriate that omnipotent power for our own personal situation.
David showed up with a different vision of himself and the people to whom he belonged; he saw himself as a soldier in the army of the Most High God — not as just part of a human effort led by a mortal king in a natural nation. By standing up and asking the question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David made a quantum leap into a new dimension and broke the month-long stalemate between the opposing armies. His question became the catalyst for Israel’s victory. Even as a teenager, David was able to make a difference because he dared to see himself differently. He saw himself and the situation he was facing through his heart relationship with God.
In this story, we see an example of a young man who was able to move in the spirit in contrast to people who were moving in the soulical realm. All the members of Saul’s army looked at the physical size of Goliath — who was almost ten foot tall. They looked at the physical weight of his spear with the javelin head alone weighing thirteen pounds. They looked at this mighty warrior who had been a champion and a longstanding hero among his people. And they decided that it would be impossible for them to fight him. When David asked about the reward for the person who would go out to fight this man, they immediately began to give him soulical responses. Nobody other than David looked at anything from a spiritual perspective!
David was the only one who was able to divide between the soul and the spirit. Everybody else was seeing things according to their natural perspective. They saw Saul as their leader; they saw Israel as their allegiance. It was only David who looked into the spirital realm and saw the situation as a conflict with an uncircumcised Philistine who was defying the army of the living God. In verse thirty-six, David declared, “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God,” and in verse forty-five, he addressed the giant, “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 God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.”
David was able to see that he was in the army of God because he had gotten out of the soulical realm and into the spiritual realm. He had a different perspective on life. To him, it wasn’t important that he would be able to marry the king’s daughter. To him, it wasn’t important that he was going to be exempted from taxes. To him, it wasn’t important that he would be given great wealth. The only thing that was important to him was that the God of Israel had been defied; David would be able to uphold and justify the name of his God, the living God.
When the others looked at Goliath, they saw at him with an exclamation point: “He’s big! He’s mean! Look at that spear and that sword and that armor! Wow! Look at the record he has fighting!” David is the only one who came out against this man — not with an exclamation point but with a question mark: “Who is he? Who does he think he is to defy the army of the living God?” With his spirit man, he had Superman x-ray vision. He was able to look beyond that shield and behind that man’s armor to see something that nobody else had noticed about the man. Nobody else called him “an uncircumcised Philistine;” only David was able to see his spiritual condition. David saw that Goliath was not part of a covenant with God; therefore, it didn’t matter how big he was, or what kind of record he had as a warrior, or how much armor he had, or how strong he was. None of that was going to be important because he was not in a covenant with God. David had the total advantage because he was in a covenant. This young lad had a spiritual perspective and could see that he had the upper hand.
In Genesis chapter twelve, God promised Abraham that anyone who cursed him or his seed would be cursed. David knew that this was part of his covenant heritage. He knew that he was blessed by God and that whoever came against him would be cursed. The moment Goliath had defied the army of the living God, he had placed himself under a curse and was, therefore, subject to David. As long as Goliath was defying the army of Israel, he could probably win. As long as he was defying the servants of Saul, he probably could win. But when he said, “I defy the army of the living God,” David saw that the covenant was called into play and, therefore, David was the victor and Goliath was the victim.
David also knew from the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 28) that if he would diligently obey the voice of the Lord to observe carefully all His commandments that the Lord would set him above all the nations of the earth — whether they were pigmies or giants. David understood that he was in a covenant and that he was, therefore, predestined to be seated high above all principalities and all opposition. He understood that he was predestined to be a success and not be defeated. He understood that he had an inheritance and that he was able to reach into it because he was living in the spirit and not the soul. His emotions looked at the big Philistine and said “Whoa!” But his spirit looked at the covenant and said, “Go!” David had a circumcision mark that proved that he was in covenant with God and that he had the authority to take on the challenge.
Now, let’s read between the lines in an attempt to look beneath the surface for clues to what made David able to attack and take down his nemesis. When we do, we will see that there are several clues hidden in “plain sight.”
The first detail that is hidden in plain sight is the difference between the ways everyone else and David assessed themselves. As we’ve already noted, there are at least nine places where the Israelites and Philistines alike referring to “the men of Israel,” “the servants of Saul,” “the army of Israel,” and simply “Israel.” (verses 2, 3, 8, 10,11, 19, 21, 24, 25) Yet when David looked at the situation, he saw it from a totally different perspective; he saw himself as part of “the army of the living God.” (verses 26, 36) While everyone else had only a natural vantage point from which to evaluate the situation, David was able to see it from a divine perspective. From a human’s point of view the giant was huge, but from a heavenly perspective the giant was no big deal. In this same context, thee is a totally different perspective in the way David looked at the king’s reward for fighting the giant. When the young shepherd boy appeared on the scene at the Valley of Elah, he was told by three different sources that the king had issued a monetary reward, the privilege of marrying his daughter, and tax exemption to anyone who would fight and kill Goliath. (verses 25, 27, 30) Yet, for David neither the money, the bride, nor the tax exemption was a significant cause. In fact, the following chapter suggests that David did not claim his prize money in that he sent a message to King Saul indicating that he was too poor to pay the marriage dowry. (verse 23) The very fact that a dowry was required suggests that the king had actually reneged on his offer of tax exemption. In addition, David’s question, “Who am I…that I should be the son-in-law of the king?” (verse 18) proves that the marriage promise had been forfeited. Otherwise, David would have readily acknowledged that he was due the honor as a result of having confronted the giant. Instead, for David the stimulus for taking up Goliath’s challenge was that an uncircumcised Philistine had defied the armies of the living God. (verses 26, 36) Here again, David was different from the others in that his motivation and purpose were not on the human level of money, marriage, or taxes — but on the divine level of defending the name and reputation of the living God.
There is another truth that is totally concealed in open view in this story — David had a scripturally inspired plan of attack. When he confronted his adversary, he announced that his intention was to cut off the giant’s head and to feed his flesh to the birds of the air. (verse 46) Although the story does not specifically tell us how he developed this plan, I feel confident that it must have been inspired by the promise in Deuteronomy 28:7 that when our enemies come against us one way they will have to flee seven directions. Certainly, David was impressed that, although there were thousands of Philistines on the field that day, only one was challenging him. While there was the possibility of attacks from a thousand different directions at once, his opponent was coming at him from only one angle. Surely, such a scenario must have quickened the biblical promise in his heart. Next, the young shepherd must have questioned how the singular opponent could flee away in seven different directions. Then the answer flashed into his mind, “If I cut off his head and let his body fall to the ground, that will be two directions. And if the birds of the air that consume his flesh fly away to the north, south, east, west, and straight up into the air, that will be five more directions. The total will be seven different prophetic directions!”
Yet there is one more factor to be discovered in the giant-conquering story, and it is again hidden in plain view in the story. This detail has to do with what David held in his hand as he challenged the giant. Since I made this discovery, I’ve asked audiences all across Asia, Africa, and both North and South America to tell me what the shepherd boy had in his hand when he went after Goliath, and no one has ever given me the correct answer. Everyone mentions the sling, and most mention the five smooth stones, but no one has ever told me that he also held a stick. Interestingly enough, it is the stick in his hand — not the sling or the stones — that is actually intended to be the focus of attention in this part of the story. (verse 40) In seeking the significance of the stick in David’s hand, we must go back to the story of another shepherd who was sent out to fight another giant and do exploits for the Lord. As Moses wandered through the desert, caring for his father-in-law’s sheep, he encountered a burning bush from which he heard the voice of God Himself sending him off to single-handedly face the emperor of the mightiest nation on the planet — an even more formidable foe than the one who stood before David in the Valley of Elah. When Moses replied that he simply couldn’t take on such a gargantuan task, the Lord asked him one unpretentious question, “What is in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2) When Moses answered that it was stick, God directed that he throw it on the ground — and when Moses obey, the stick turned into a snake. After God revealed to Moses that there was literally supernatural power in his hand, Moses actually changed the name of his stick to “the rod of God.” (Exodus 4:20, 17:9) It was with this stick in his hand that Moses made his appearance before Pharaoh and began to challenge the most powerful government and army on the planet. It was with this rod in his hand — and occasionally in the hand of his spokesman Aaron — that Moses brought plagues and devastation upon the resistant nation, opened up the Red Sea as a way of escape for the Israelites, and even brought water out of a rock. (Exodus 7:19; 8:5-6, 16-17; 9:22-23; 10:12-13; 14:16; 17:6) Undoubtedly, the young shepherd took a lesson from the life of the older shepherd as he determined to take his staff with him when he went into battle with the giant. Notice that the story in I Samuel actually focuses on the stick in David’s hand in that it was only the stick, not the sling or stones, that Goliath noticed as the shepherd boy approached. (verse 43) Having mentioned the stick, Goliath then proceeded to curse David in the name of his pagan gods. David’s response was that even though the Philistine came against him with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, he was coming against the giant with the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. Then for good measure, he added that it was the God whom Goliath had defied. In looking at the parallels set up in the conversation between the antagonist and the protagonist, it seems obvious that David perceived the stick in his hand to be symbolic of the power of God just as Moses had realized that his staff demonstrated the authority of God in his conflict with his foe. The stick in David’s hand was his connection to the supernatural power of God needed to guide his sling and hurl his projectile to its target.
Even as an adolescent, David had an awareness of the power of identifying with the name of the Lord — an awareness that made him unique among the warriors of Israel. Whereas everyone else identified with the name of the king and nation, David proclaimed the name of his God — a name that he would not use in vain; instead, it was the name that he knew would invoke victory as the Lord defended His reputation. David would later express what must have been in his heart that day when he penned the words of Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”
It was not only the Philistine in the Valley of Elah who has met his Waterloo at the name of the Lord, but also every giant throughout history has learned to fear the authoritative power of the name of the Lord. In Acts chapters four and five, the first Christians were imprisoned for preaching the gospel. When they were brought to trial, they were offered what might have been the original plea bargain in that they were to be released if they would agree to never preach in “this name” again. (Acts 4:17) There was no concern about their preaching, healing, or doing any other sort of ministry — as long as they didn’t use the name of Jesus in the process. The Goliaths all through history have feared the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9) because that know that at that name they must bow down powerless (verse 10). The wise Solomon wrote of his revelation concerning the authority of the name of God with the words, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10) He may have been taking a clue from his father David who had opened his twentieth psalm with the words, “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” The term he used for “defend” could easily have been translated, “set thee on high.” Thinking back on the methods of warfare at the time that these men wrote, the relationship among the terms “tower,” “set on high,” and “defend” is obvious. Since the weapons in use were spears, arrows, and swords, the person on the high ground had all the advantage. Standing at the bottom of a tower aiming up with a bow and arrow or a spear could be more destructive to oneself than to his enemy since gravity would be pulling down on the arrow or spear. Eventually, everything that went up would come down — possibly striking the one who sent it up. Our position of defense in the strong tower of the name of the Lord insures that no weapon formed against us will prosper. (Isaiah 54:17) In fact our enemies’ weapons may even prove to be their own undoing as with Haman’s gallows that was built for Mordecai (Esther 8:7), the pit that the culprit dug to ensnare his neighbor but fell into himself (Proverbs 26:27), and even Goliath’s own sword that was used to cut off his head (I Samuel 17:51). On the other hand, the person at the top of the tower had gravity’s force working for him rather than against him. Any projectile he hurled at the enemy would accelerate with the force of gravity, yielding it much more powerful as it impacted its target. So it is when believers use the name of the Lord. He adds His powerful authority to any energy we have exerted so that the impact is infinitely more forceful than we could ever initiate on our own. When challenged by sickness or disease, we can make our stand in the name of Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals all our diseases. When threatened by financial lack, we call upon the name of Jehovah Jireh, the God who supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. If we are troubled, we can stretch forth the rod labeled Jehovah Shalom, the God of our peace. When lonely, depressed, scared, or anxious, we can present the stick etched with the inscription Jehovah Shama, the God who is ever present and who will never leave us nor forsake us.
Surely this message is what David had in mind when he penned the words, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)