Can you believe it? We’ve now read over 25% of the Bible! This week takes us from 1 Samuel 12 through 2 Samuel 2. This covers the reign and fall of king Saul to the rise of David.
1 Samuel can be summed up by the words of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2. That’s why I chose that for our reading today. The first book of Samuel is a record of reversal of fortunes, beginning with Hannah’s rise over her rival, Peninnah. Then Eli’s leadership falls because of his wicked sons, and Samuel rises as a Prophet to be the final Judge before the monarchy. Then later, Samuel’s own sons are unjust and this gives rise to Israel’s request for a king, like the nations around them. God gives them what they are asking for in Saul. Then Saul rises from humility to become a successful leader, but then begins his fall, prideful and disobedient, then as a selfish and jealous ruler, Saul becomes consumed with protecting his throne from David. David, the youngest of eight brothers, is anointed by Samuel in his youth to replace Saul as king. Throughout the story of David and Saul we see their character developing as Saul clings to power, and David’s faith is tested and proven over and over.
We watch as the Spirit of God departs from Saul and an evil spirit sent from God comes upon him. (It’s kind of hard to know what to do with that, isn’t it?) But God uses it. Lo and behold, Saul actually summons David to come play the harp for him as he suffers from this evil spirit’s affliction. David enters the king’s court, but goes back and forth from watching his father’s sheep to the palace to play for Saul. We, as readers, know that David has already been anointed to be king. Saul, however, unaware of this, likes David and makes David an armor bearer for himself. That is, until Saul sees the threat.
1 Samuel 17 is one of the great turning points of the book. (Perhaps the climax). Israel is fighting the Philistines and they have a champion named Goliath who issues a challenge: Choose a man to come fight me. If he kills me, we will be your slaves, but if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the ranks of Israel!
Nobody in Israel’s army took the bate! This Goliath was about 9 feet tall and armed like a tank. The Bible tells us that Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. This story shows that having a king like the nations around us isn’t enough. Israel needs a bigger king than Saul. Saul’s a big man, head and shoulders taller than most, but, as Quigon said in Star Wars, “There’s always a bigger fish.”
Then Jessie sends David to check on his brothers “who followed Saul to the war.” When David arrives, he hears Goliath’s taunt and gives this answer: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of…. Saul? The armies of… Israel? No! David knew who their real King is! This is not Saul’s army. It’s not Israel’s army. This is the army of the true and eternal King of Israel. This is the army of God. Even more is in David’s words. David says, not army, but armies, plural. God is the God of the hosts of heaven and Israel is God’s chosen nation who walk in covenant with Him. David’s words reveal a very different vision of who is in charge and who is being challenged here. So David offers to go meet this enemy of God’s armies himself!
As a shepherd David learned to depend on God for strength and God has delivered David from a lion and a bear as he took care of his father’s sheep. David’s faith was not in himself. Saul’s strength depended on himself and his army. David’s didn’t.
David ends up standing before king Saul saying what sounded like a fools words. He said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
Saul objected, but David’s words prevailed. David’s theology was based on experience. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (Actually, the Hebrew word for paw and hand are the same here). The LORD is the deliverer. David trusts in God and His might so much he seeks to comfort Saul’s dismay.
Next two things happen to further reveal where Saul is and where David is in their faith.
First, Saul tries to arm David with the things Saul trusts in: his armor, helmet, and sword. Saul can’t think otherwise than in these as the way to do battle.
Second, David puts them on, but quickly abandons them. He says he’s not used to them. There’s a lot in those words too. David would later become very used to such tools of warfare, but not now and not here. David took off what Saul trusted in. Instead, David takes his shepherd’s staff and sling and goes and picks up five stones. Not that he trusts in these, but these are the shepherd’s tools. Shepherd and king are closely related images in the Bible.
Then he goes to face Goliath.
Why do we love this story so much? Do we just like to see big enemies taken down by underdogs? The Philistines will tell this story too. History sounds different depending on which side you’re on, right? The Bible makes one thing clear. David was no underdog. David was seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Thus David was better armed than meets the eye.
Goliath sees him coming, looks him over, realizes he’s just a youth and curses David by his gods. Goliath’s speech betrays his evil heart. This will be his last recorded words.
David also has a speech here. Listen to his words:
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
That’s the real reason we love this story. This is not just a story about David. This is a story about God. If you miss that, you miss everything that matters here.
Saul is all about Saul. That’s his greatest flaw. What makes David so great is that David is all about the Lord! David is so about God that it is God that takes Goliath down. David here is the man after God’s own heart. Goliath falls before David, but so does Saul. David is who you see, but God is directing the whole event!
David slings a stone that sunk into Goliath’s forehead. Falling face down, Goliath lies defeated to the utter dismay of the Philistine army and the utter thrill of Israel’s army. David takes Goliath’s own sword and cuts off his head and carries it to Saul.
Goliath fell before David. Saul will fall too. Here Saul is so in the dark, he doesn’t know who David is. Saul is not used to seeing past his own nose. He can’t imagine the youth that played the harp is the same as this conquering warrior.
From here the book of 1 Samuel tells the long story of Saul’s demise and David’s struggling rise.
Saul becomes jealous of David’s growing reputation when the girls sing of Saul’s thousands and David’s ten thousands. He begins seeking David’s death through deceptive means at first, then later openly pursuing David to kill him. Saul is afraid of David and realizes that the Lord is with David.
Saul’s own family, his son Jonathan and his daughter Micah protect David from Saul. They love David! The Spirit of God protects David from Saul in a strange story at the end of chapter 19. David has to flee from Saul and several gather to David as followers.
Saul is relentless and become more and more unstable as the story unfolds.
Jonathan comes to David in chapter 23:16-17 and tells David, “Don’t be afraid. My father will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel and I will be second to you. Even my father knows this.” Here the Bible shows us that Jonathan, heir to the throne of his father, Saul, openly recognizes and accepts David as the future king.
Chapters 24 and 26 give us two interesting events where David could easily have killed Saul, but David refuses to lay an hand on “the Lord’s anointed.” Chapter 25 gives us the story of Nabal and Abigail. The Bible shows us that even Abigail knows that David will be king. (vs 28 & 30).
Saul has run David out of Israel, and now Saul faces the Philistines alone. He is without a champion. Even God is silent, so Saul goes to a witch to call up Samuel. Its pitiful. Samuel tells Saul that he and his sons will die when the Lord hands he and Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow. The next day Saul is wounded by the arrows of the Philistines as they close in on him, and falls on his own sword, killing himself.
When David hears of it, he took up a lament and ordered it be taught to all the men of Judah.
Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights, How the mighty have fallen!
So, what’s our take away from these things?
Where does your strength come from? Where do you put your trust? Decide now to put it in God and keep making that decision every day.
No one can defeat God’s purposes. Resistance to God’s plan is destined to ultimate ruin and failure.
God’s way is not the easy path we might like it to be, and in fact, it is through many hardships that we must enter the kingdom of God.
It is worth it! Never give in, or give up.