John Bradshaw - David and Goliath
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Walk around Jerusalem and you're walking in the footsteps of Jesus. When Jesus was alive, the temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD, was right there on top of the Temple Mount. It was built by Herod the Great. And although it likely wasn't as magnificent as the temple built by Solomon, it was still impressive. Archaeologists believe it looked something like this. So it was here that Jesus turned over the money changers' tables. They left the temple, and the disciples showed Him the temple buildings.
And Jesus shocked them by telling them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down". That seemed like an impossibility. The temple was the symbol of Jewish greatness, of God's favor towards His people. And here in Jerusalem, Jesus told His followers that it would be destroyed. Today you can see some of the stones of the temple that were cast down. The prophecy was fulfilled. And, of course, it isn't only Jesus who came here. This was the city of David. And the location of David's ancient city has been uncovered. It's hard to imagine how people cannot have faith in the Bible, given all the evidence in favor of the Bible provided by a place like this.
At the location of the ancient city of David, which is essentially right behind me, archaeologists have found many seal impressions. A seal is something that in ancient times functioned much like a signature. One of those seal impressions bore the inscription, "King Hezekiah". Another said, "Isaiah the prophet". These were real people, and archaeology has provided evidence for the existence of these people hundreds and hundreds of years laster. Now, surely, finding seal impressions here in Jerusalem has to be even harder than finding a needle in a haystack. It seems God directed those archaeologists to make those discoveries to encourage us to have faith in the Bible. Daniel lived here in Jerusalem, along with his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Them and others were taken from here down to Babylon. Nehemiah returned from Babylon to here in Jerusalem, where he rebuilt the wall and re-established society, and so on. Jeremiah, here in Jerusalem. Ezekiel lived here. King Solomon reigned from right here in Jerusalem.
But when it comes to the stories of the Bible, you know that there's a lot more in Israel than Jerusalem. And today I want to take you to the site of one of the most remarkable stories in the Bible. The story of David and Goliath took place not far from here in the Valley of Elah. It's about a 45-minute drive from Jerusalem southwest, and there's no doubt that it's the legitimate site of where David's encounter with the giant took place. The background of the story is this. King Saul had been king of Israel. The Philistines, who may originally have come from Europe, Crete, some archaeologists say, had developed quite an advanced and sophisticated society. For a while they were a constant thorn in the side of Israel.
And you read in 1 Samuel 13 that there was no blacksmith in Israel. The Philistines had prevented them from making swords or spears, so if an Israelite wanted something sharpened, he had to go to the Philistines to get that job done. You can imagine how well that worked out for them. In chapter 15, Samuel the prophet instructs Saul, the king, that he should go to Amalek and eradicate the Amalekites. But he didn't. Instead he saved the king and much of the livestock. Samuel said to King Saul, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you". When we get to chapter 17, Saul is still the king, but he's a shell of a man. Verse 1 says, "Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim".
Where I am right now is Azekah. It was here that Joshua defeated the five kings of the Amorites, large hailstones falling on the kings and their men right in this vicinity. There's some real history here. Verse 2: "And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines". I'd like to point out for you some of the locations here. Now, Sochoh, or Sochoth, that's over there in the distance. You'll see the lighter green, uh, the plains, uh, the valley. Beyond that, the trees going up on the hills the other side, that's Sochoth right there. Where I am now is Azekah, and in between, that's the valley floor, Ephes Dammim.
So it was right there that all the action took place in the David and Goliath story, right there. Verse 3 says, "The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them". Verse 4 says, "And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span". Now, I'd like to show you where Gath is. Remember, I'm on Azekah, a hill, really. Interestingly, it's now a national park. In Israel, a lot of these significant old archaeological sites have been turned into national parks. So I'm on Azekah, over there Ephes Dammim, where the fighting took place, where Goliath lost his life. But where was Goliath from? He was from Gath, and Gath is out there.
Now, if the weather was cooperating with me a little bit better, I'd be able to show you the hill that really marks the location of Gath. But the weather isn't, and so it's in that direction. Not very far, actually. So Goliath's home town was over there, and he fought David over there. He was really pretty close to his home town when he fought. Now, Goliath, according to the Bible, six cubits and a span, he was more than nine feet tall. That's tall. Now, some people have tried to explain why Goliath was that tall. They've said that he suffered from something known as gigantism, and that that's the reason that he was so tall. You know, I don't think you need to believe that. The Bible simply says that he was a giant, and so he was. And he certainly isn't the only giant mentioned in the Bible. Now, I'm six feet one. Goliath was all of me and then half of me again. That's a big guy. I'll be back with more in a moment.
Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. The story of David and Goliath is one of the great stories in the Bible. Now, you could say it's a story of the little guy beating the big guy. And sure, it is. But really, it's a story of great faith, and it's a story of a lack of faith. We're at the site of where the conflict took place between David and Goliath, between Israel and the Philistines, in the Valley of Elah in Israel. David and Goliath squared off against each other right there, just right over there. Now, this Goliath was an interesting character. Tall, more than nine feet tall, in fact. He came from just over there, a place called Gath, not very far away at all. Verse 5 of 1 Samuel 17 says, "He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze".
The coat of mail weighed 150 pounds. The Bible tells us, "He had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him". Everything about this man was big, especially his attitude. "Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, 'Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall 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.'"
So who should have fought? Well, Saul, of course. He was the king. He stood a head taller than anyone else in Israel, and as God's handpicked leader, he should have gone forward, totally trusting that God was with him. But no. Remember? He'd been disobedient, significantly. He evidently hadn't repented, and God had told Saul that He'd rejected Saul as king. Saul was dispirited. It's as if he had no fight in him. And at the time when he should have been courageous, there was no courage to be found in him at all. Verse 11 says, "When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid".
David is introduced to the story in verse 12. We're told that he was one of eight sons, and that his father was elderly. Three of his brothers, the eldest three, were in Saul's army, squaring off against Goliath and the Philistines: Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. David was the youngest son in the family. Jesse sent David from their home in Bethlehem, which is about 16 miles away, as the crow flies. But back then, there weren't highways or well-paved roads. David would have walked over hills and some pretty rough terrain. In fact, his dad told him to run to where the fighting was taking place. Jesse commissioned David to take food to his brothers and to bring back a report regarding how things were going. And when David arrived right here in this place, at the scene of the battle, the two armies were set in array against each other.
When David met up with his brothers, Goliath was coming out to taunt the armies of Israel. The Bible says, "And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid". He learns that Saul would give the man who killed the giant great riches. His brothers actually rebuke him. One of them says, "Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle".
That wasn't very nice. David comes into the presence of King Saul. Now, think about this. A young shepherd boy standing before the mighty king. A shepherd. Not a warrior, not a fighter, a humble shepherd. But as we're about to see, your standing in this world doesn't need to be measured by your age or your occupation. Your usefulness for God isn't measured by, you are not restrained by your station in life or in this world. What God was looking for was a man of faith, someone who would rely on Him alone. That man wasn't Saul; it wasn't any of David's brothers, or any of the soldiers in Israel. If no one would stand up to this giant, what would end up happening?
You shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that you're not well enough equipped to do something great for God. Now, when I say "something great," really what I mean is "something faithful". There's a certain baptized egotism that sees people wanting to do something great for God, but truly their motivation is simply to do something great for them, to be noticed. And that's a trap, and you want to avoid that. But God is still looking for men and women and boys and girls everywhere to allow Him to use them. So here was David, a boy, a shepherd, a teenager, the last person you would have thought would take down a giant. But when God called David, David surrendered to God and let God use him mightily.
"Then David said to Saul, 'Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.'" And Saul pretty much stated the obvious in his answer to David: "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth". Now, David doesn't argue, but he explains to the king that when he was keeping his father's sheep, a lion and a bear attacked the flock and took a lamb, on different occasions, no doubt. He killed them both. David was a young man of courage, and courage was in short supply here in the Valley on Elah that day. And David said this: "The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine".
Now, notice what David's doing. He pointed to a time when God had done something great, and based on that, he believed the same God was able to do something great again. Let me encourage you. When God answers your prayer, no matter what it's about, remember that. Don't forget it. You might even want to write it down. And then you can always say to God, "Last time, you did this, so therefore I'm believing in You to do some great thing again". Answered prayers aren't powerful only in the moment; they're evidence that the God who was faithful before will be faithful again.
"And Saul said to David, 'Go, and the Lord be with you!'" Saul put his armor on David, thinking it would be a help to the young man. Surely he wouldn't want to go up against the giant with no armor. But he did. It seems to me that David wanted the credit for his victory to go only to God. Wearing armor might have led some to think that it was the armor or, or his preparation that secured his victory. And what happened next? Well, in a moment, we'll go to the very creek, the very stream, where David found the stone he would use to take down the giant. I'll be right back.
This is the Valley of Elah, about a 45-minute drive from Jerusalem in Israel. It was here that the children of Israel camped on the hills on one side of the valley, and the Philistines camped on the hills on the other side of the valley, when Goliath taunted Israel. It was here that David traveled from his home in Bethlehem. And even though he was only there to bring food for his brothers and to take back a report to his father, David soon found that he was in much deeper than he expected when he left home. David went down to a brook. In fact, it was this very stream. Busy road nearby right now. Assuming, of course, that the stream hasn't changed its course over the years, and maybe it has. But there was a stream here in David's day about 1000 years BC. And this is the stream that survives today.
And as you look around, you see there are many... rocks that would have been suitable, enabling David to do the job that he needed to do. And so he went armed with a staff, that's a stick, and a sling, that was all. Of course, with five of these. Goliath was covered up in armor and had an armor-bearer that went before him. David went with virtually nothing, except he had what mattered most. He had God on his side, and he knew it. When Goliath saw that Israel had sent a youth out to fight him, he was disgusted. He said to David, "'Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?' And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, 'Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!'"
Now, notice what David said in verse 45: "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a 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". Verse 47: "Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands". The Bible tells us that when Goliath came out to meet David, David ran towards Goliath. Then, without a sword, using only a sling and stones, David ended the life of the Philistines' champion. A stick, a bag, a sling, and five stones. Now, why five stones? Certainly not because he thought he would miss, although maybe he was intending not to appear presumptuous. It would take a lot of confidence to go out there with just one rock.
Now, what about the idea that Goliath had four brothers? Well, the passage itself doesn't say anything about that. Now, there is a story in 2 Samuel 21 that speaks about four other Philistine giants. Does this mean they were Goliath's brothers, and they were there that day? No, not necessarily. Seems to me that's just speculation. Could be right, I guess. But really, probably a bit of a stretch. The Philistines, of course, did not keep their promise that they would serve Israel, but instead turned and fled, pursued by the army of Israel, which was now feeling pretty confident. It's interesting the effect that one person of faith can have on a group of people whose faith is flagging.
The wounded fell along the road to Shaaraim, which means "two gates". It's believed that that is the city, the old city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, which is right where I'm standing now. And also they fell along the road to Gath, where Goliath is from, and Ekron. In the most unlikely of circumstances, God's people were victorious. And why was that? Because a young man, well, a boy, really, believed God was with Him. He was jealous for the honor of God, not for his own honor. David was motivated by causing people to see that Israel's God was the true God, and that was clearly seen that day. I'll tell you this; if we are more concerned with the honor of God and less concerned with the honor of ourselves, both the world and the church would be a better place.
David wanted to see God honored. The pagans at the time, the Philistines and others, believed that a military victory demonstrated that their god was the true god, the most powerful god. David couldn't stand the thought of the God of heaven coming off looking second-best. Sometimes it's right to take risks, but when God is with you, it's not a risk; it's a sure thing. Now, let's switch this up just a little bit because all of us are in the midst of our own David-and-Goliath battle, every person alive. Goliath would be an adequate representation of the devil coming against God's people, taunting, threatening.
So what do you do when the devil comes by? What do you when, when temptation gets after you? And let's remember temptation is stronger than we are. "All have sinned," the Bible says. Jeremiah in Jeremiah 17:9 wrote that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it"? He wrote a similar thought in Jeremiah 13:23 when he said, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil". In other words, we have this problem heart, this broken character that wants to do wrong and doesn't want to do right. And that causes dissonance between us and God. We're easy pickings for the devil. We're like the little guy against the big guy. So what do we do? You know what it's like to fail and to fail again. You know what it's like when temptation gets the better of you. It doesn't feel good.
Now, what weapons did David have in his fight against the giant right there in the Valley of Elah? Well, he had a sling and stones. A sling and stones. You wouldn't think that would guarantee him success. Now, what weapons do we have in our fight against sin and temptation? Well, Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, when he said, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds". So, what are the weapons that we wield in our battle against sin and temptation? Faith, the Word of God, the promises of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit. Live close to God. Invite God into your life. He will live in you, bring His power into your life. Read the Bible. Do what Jesus did when He was confronted by temptation, and quote Scripture. You can let the Word of God be your defense.
Now, here's how this works. You have a need in your life, and you claim the promise made by God to you that you find in Philippians 4 and verse 19: "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus". You lack wisdom about a certain situation in your life, and you remember that God made a promise to you that you find in James 1 and verse 5: "If any [man] lack wisdom, let him ask of God, [who gives] to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him".
These are promises. God made them to you. And when you claim those promises, you're simply taking God at His word. God has said, "I will do this". You are saying, "Okay, I'm calling You on that. I'm believing You on that. I'm expecting You on that". In other words, "I'm having faith in You on that. And I'm anticipating, I'm believing that You are going to do what Your Word says". And in your battle against sin and temptation, that is powerful. David defeated the giant right here in the Valley of Elah. Satan, the "giant," will be defeated right here in your heart, right where you are, when you call on God and expect God to do great things for you.