He was the errand boy, an adolescent shepherd turned gopher for the day, sent to get snacks for his brothers, the real fighters on the front lines. Just hand over the brown bag of humus sandwiches and the fist full of figs, he was told, and go on back to chasing your sheep. But young David didn’t listen. Instead, he raised his hand and crossed the line, offering to fight Goliath. Because of that, he’s become a hero of our faith.
What makes David a hero?
1 Samuel 17:32-49 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
He stepped into the fight as if it was already won.
He put on the armor of God.
He refused to be anyone but himself.
Goliath wore a head of iron and shouldered a coat of mail, he stood six cubits and a span and gripped a javelin thicker than a weaver’s beam. He was the Philistine champion, the undefeated warrior of war. The world knew it and so did the Israelites. And after 40 days of Goliath taunting and threatening, a challenger refused to come forward.
David, however, believed that the righteousness of boys is mightier than the unrighteousness of men. That being self-confident is no match for being God-confident. That the technologies of war always surrender to the technologies of faith. That the heroic act isn’t so much slaying the giant, but a willingness to square up to that which scares us most.
Acromegaly is a disorder where the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone, pushing the body to unhealthy heights. Symptoms include arthritis, compression of the optic nerve and fatigue. Malcom Gladwell writes that Goliath, like other giants, suffered from acromegaly. That by the time David drew near, the once mighty warrior couldn’t move with dexterity, couldn’t grip his weapon, couldn’t even see the shepherd boy.
Still most of us are Israelites trembling in the trenches, cowering beneath all that towers over us, forgetting that we’re only as sick as the fears we refuse to face, even though the Goliath of our lives is likely nothing more than a masquerade of muscle and might that only has to be hit between the eyes before face planting into the ground.
If there’s a dragon breathing down your neck, then pierce it in the heart. If there’s bully across the schoolyard, then get in his face. If there’s a monster beneath your bed, then turn the light switch on.
The threatening behemoths that stand between victory and us are never as daunting as they seem up close. It was Goliath all along, not David, who was the underdog. The entire battle only took two verses and one stone. With the Lord on your side, it will be over before it begins for you too.