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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 21 July 2014

David's victory (1 Samuel 17)

Everyone is aware of the story of David and Goliath, of how a teenager defeated a powerful champion. There is a danger in focussing only on physical aspects of it that we fail to see several spiritual lessons from the incident. So here are six.

First, one person who truly trusts in God can do far more than a large number who merely accept that he exists. The most striking aspect of this incident is not the competency or otherwise of the Philistine army, but the incompetency of the Israelite army. The Israelites were aware of what God had done for the predecessors in the past, but that did not help them very much in the present, which suggests that they did not have a relationship with him. Their contact with God was superficial. In contrast, David had an ongoing relationship with God.

Second, it is often the case that public victories are usually preceded by private ones. Before David had this victory over Goliath in the pubic gaze, he had known victories privately when he had been enabled by God to defend his family’s flock when it had been attacked by wild animals. How can we know that we will have victories in the sight of others? One answer is to have experienced God’s power in places where no-one else was around. It is easier to stand for God in public once we have tasted his power privately.

A third detail is that obedience in little things often prepares for usefulness in bigger things. How did David come to be present at the scene of battle? He was not there because he had become involved in helping Saul at the court when he had his bad moods (see previous chapter). Instead, he was there because he obeyed the fifth commandment and did what his father asked him to do and take some food to his brothers. If he had disobeyed his father, he would not have won the victory.

Fourth, David was not deterred by the discouragement of those who should have known better. His brother Eliab knew from personal experience that David had been chosen by God as the next king (he was there when Samuel anointed David). Instead of encouraging David, he did the opposite. That is common experience of those who wish to do something for God. I suspect having read about and heard of many such comments, and the occasions and consequences of the discouragements, that the person who receives them should regard them as a sign from God that he is with him or her. It is a strange experience to be discouraged by those who should know better.

A fifth lesson is that we should never assume that all offered help is helpful. David refused to use Saul’s armour, although probably every soldier in the Israelite army would have chosen to take it if it had been offered. Physically the armour did not fit David and sometimes in the spiritual life advice can be given that does not fit. If we are the ones who gave the advice, we should not be offended if the person after trying it concludes that it does not fit. We should leave the choice to him.

A sixth lesson is that although David fought by himself he did not fight for himself. His contribution was seen by him as belonging to the overall activities of the Israelite army. A sense of such unity when everyone else was useless is very challenging and gives great insight into the outlook and heart of David. Sometimes we may think that others are not doing what they should, but that does not mean that we should promote ourselves.

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