David’s father sent him on an errand to check on his senior brothers at the battlefield and report their conditions back to him. While on the errand, David encountered the challenge of Goliath and transitioned into a mission to kill Goliath, lead Israel to victory over Philistines, and establish himself as future leader of Israel. God called David to the mission by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Through the mission, David teaches all people: if you pledge to worship and serve God and live according to the pledge, then God will be your God and will lead you to victory over every enemy or weapon set against you.
We examine the events leading to David’s confrontation with Goliath and draw an example to illustrate that God may send messages to a child through normal parent-child interactions. The study continues our series on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. We have identified three categories of such messaging based on previous sessions. In the first category, typified by the Call of Samuel, the message is clear to the parent and consists of information that the child should implement himself/herself with parental guidance. For example, Eli understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. The second category consists of a clear instruction to a parent to implement for his/her child. For example, in Instruction to Parent for Child, we discuss God’s revelation to Rebekah regarding relationships between Jacob and Esau. The third category consists of messages delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child recognizing at the time that the information is a message from God. For example, in Joseph Called to Mission, we discuss Jacob sending his son on what he believed was an ordinary errand that we now understand as God calling Joseph to a special mission to Egypt.
The current study discusses another example in the third messaging category. The example is based on events leading to David’s confrontation with Goliath. We discuss an understanding that the events illustrate God prompting a parent to pass information to a child that becomes a pivotal input to the child’s development. David’s father, Jesse, sent him on an errand to check on his brothers in the battlefield and bring back information about their condition. The errand took David to his encounter with and triumph over Goliath, leading Israel to victory when they feared defeat, and establishing himself as a future leader of Israel.
We see remarkable similarities between the call of Joseph to the Egypt mission (Joseph Called to Mission) and the call of David to battle Goliath. In each case, a father sends a child on an errand to check on senior brothers and report back to the father, the child runs into an obstacle on the way but presses on toward completing the errand, and the child confronts a situation that transforms the errand into a long-term mission of much greater significance. The events appear designed to provide opportunities for us to learn about clarity of parental communication and the importance of a child listening to the parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information.
Also, based on David’s encounter with Goliath, we learn about applying human effort with faith of God intervening in his own way and time through what we do at the human level. David triumphed over Goliath using weapon that would have been inadequate by any human standard. We examine his actions to identify what he did that could have contributed to his effectiveness against a formidable enemy.
David’s Diligence on the Errand
David’s father, Jesse, requested him to visit with his brothers at the battlefield, take some gifts to them and their battalion commander, assess their conditions, and report back to him: “… and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them” [1 Samuel 17:18].
David understood the objective of the errand was to assess his brothers’ conditions based on talking to them and observing them in the battlefield and bring information to his father based on the assessment. Therefore, when he did not meet his brothers at the camp because they had left for the battle area, he left the supplies at the camp and went after them: “And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers” [1 Samuel 17:22]. He knew he had to meet and talk with them in order to perform the errand satisfactorily.
Going to the battle area provided him an opportunity to hear Goliath and witness his interaction with Israel’s army, and thus transition from his father’s errand to the mission for which God had called him out to the battlefield. The opportunity to make the transition resulted from his clear understanding of the objective of the errand and diligence on the errand (i.e., desire to accomplish the objective of the errand). His understanding of parental instruction and diligence in implementing the instruction are remarkably similar to Joseph’s behavior in performing his father’s errand during his call to the Egypt mission (as we discuss under Joseph Called to Mission). The two accounts illustrate the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Neither of the fathers knew he was delivering a message from God by sending his child on an errand. In each case, the parent communicated the objective of the errand clearly and the child understood and intended to complete the errand as instructed.
Therefore, the accounts help us to understand some essential elements of parent-child interaction. Parental communication should be clear enough for the child to understand and the child should listen with an intent to understand and implement the information. Because David understood his father’s instruction and intended to implement the instruction, he went to the battle area after his brothers and there had opportunity to witness the interaction between Goliath and Israel’s army under Saul.
Start of Mission
David heard Goliath’s challenge as he talked with his brothers: “Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them” [1 Samuel 17:23]. Also, he observed that the men of Israel were afraid of Goliath: “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid” [1 Samuel 17:24]. On hearing Goliath and observing that the men of Israel were terrified of him, David’s focus changed from performing his father’s errand to dealing with the challenge of Goliath. He saw Goliath’s challenge to Israel as a defiance of God [1 Samuel 17:26]: “… For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
SIGNIFICANCE OF CIRCUMCISION Recall that God ordered circumcision of male offspring of Abraham and descendants as a symbol of his covenant or conditional promise that he will “be God to you and your descendants after you” [Genesis 17:7] if “you and your descendants” will worship and serve God. Therefore, David described Goliath as “uncircumcised Philistine” to draw a contrast between the Philistines and the Israelites: He understood at the time that Philistines were not covered by God’s covenant with Abraham whereas the Israelites were covered by the covenant. Being covered by the covenant means that God is their God and will lead them to victory over any enemy such as the Philistines.
David recognized his mission as killing Goliath and leading Israel’s army to victory over the Philistine army. But his real mission was to use “killing Goliath” to explain to all people that if you pledge to worship and serve God and live according to the pledge, then God will be your God and will lead you to victory over every enemy or weapon set against you. He accepted the mission by performing his father’s errand with an intent to complete the errand as instructed by his father.
Unwavering Commitment to Mission
David remained focused and committed to fighting Goliath and leading Israel to victory over the Philistines. He spoke to small groups of men, trying to motivate them against the Philistine champion. His most senior brother tried to discourage him, but he continued. He was referred to Saul and Saul tried to dissuade him, but he made a strong case to convince Saul that God will lead him to victory against Goliath. He recounted his experience against beasts that came after his flock and said to Saul: “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” [1 Samuel 17:37]. Saul accepted David’s case and approved him to go and fight with Goliath.
Prayer, Battle Cry, and Sermon
As he approached Goliath to fight him, David declared that his purpose was to kill Goliath and destroy the Philistine army so that everybody will know the people of Israel worship and serve God that is greater than every power and protects his people against every enemy. He declared this purpose as a prayer, battle cry against Goliath and the Philistines, and sermon to all people: Israelites, Philistines, and any that may hear or read about the battle. He was going into the battle as a service to God “… for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” [1 Samuel 17:47].
David went against Goliath with his shepherd’s sling and “five smooth stones” that he chose from the brook [1 Samuel 17:40]. He struck the Philistine on the forehead with one stone: “Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth” [1 Samuel 17:49].
The shepherd’s sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone (see description at Shepherd’s Sling). The sling works by “extending the length of a human arm” thus allowing stones to be thrown much farther than they could be by hand. The effect of David’s shot on the Philistine is undoubtedly a miracle because “the stone sank into his forehead” would need a projectile velocity difficult (if at all possible) to accomplish by human force alone.
David identified with a mission to kill the Philistine, a man representing an enemy set against a people pledged to worship and serve God, in order to demonstrate to the fighting men of Israel and to all people that God fights for those that pledge to worship and serve him and live according to the pledge. This was the mission to which God called him by prompting his father to send him on an errand to the location of the battle. He proceeded on the mission by doing what he could with faith of God intervening at his time and in his way to accomplish the objective of the mission.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Peter Escapes from Herod’s Prison, God provides input to solving our problems but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to seek solutions by doing what we can with faith of God intervening at his chosen time and in his chosen way. By doing what we can with faith we are able to get in position to receive God’s intervention. That is, we work diligently because we have faith that God will intervene and we want to be ready to accept and utilize his intervention. This principle applies to confronting every goliath, if you pledge to worship and serve God and you live according to the pledge.
Summary of What We Learned
David’s father sent him on an errand to check on his senior brothers at the battlefield and report their conditions back to him. While on the errand, David encountered the challenge of Goliath and transitioned into a mission to kill Goliath, lead Israel to victory over Philistines, and establish himself as future leader of Israel. God called David to the mission by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Through the mission, David teaches all people: if you pledge to worship and serve God and live according to the pledge, then God will be your God and will lead you to victory over every enemy or weapon set against you. Also, through his confrontation with Goliath, David teaches the role of human effort in positioning yourself to accept and utilize God’s intervention. He defeated Goliath by doing what he could with faith of God’s intervention based on understanding and believing in the supremacy of the power of God in every human challenge.