The Dos and Don’t of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 16-17)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Uncategorized, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Miles Macleod

I get the privilege of talking about one of the most famous Bible stories — David and Goliath. The story of the young shepherd defeating the giant is so popular that you’re as likely to hear the names “David and Goliath” in a headline as you are in a sermon

  • Take, for example, this sports headline (slide) which attempts to capture an unlikely victory by Princeton University’s basketball team. In this case, Princeton is the “David.” Ironically, Princeton, once a training school for preachers, turned its back on its Christian mission over 100 years ago — hardly a university after God’s heart. Today, Princeton is many things, but a “David” is not one of them. 
  • Or how about this linkedIn article (slide) that has five takeaways for the business world. Interestingly, God is never mentioned once. The article has turned the story of David and Goliath into humanist propaganda that teaches if you just believe in yourself, you can overcome any Goliath in your life. 

Today, my goal is to wrestle this story back from the headlines and give us some things to think about that are actually grounded in scripture. But first, a little bit of context might be helpful before we jump into the story. (slide)

I’m gonna have you guys help me with the context, see who’s been paying attention. Let’s do some fill in the blank. In the beginning, God created the world, and it was (good). But mankind sinned, and then it got (bad), and no matter how hard the people try, they can’t make things any (better). This becomes a recurring theme of the Old Testament. 

  • Noah couldn’t rebuild God’s kingdom even when God wiped out all wickedness. 
  • Abraham couldn’t stay in the place God told him to go; he heads to Egypt at the first sign of trouble.
  • Jacob was a liar to begin with. 
  • Joseph chooses the comfort of his Egyptian life over God’s land and, as a result, God’s people are enslaved.
  • Moses, because of his doubt, never steps foot in the promised land. 
  • And don’t even get me started on Judges

Despite these failures, God continues His plan to create a kingdom that will be a reflection of His goodness for all the world to see. Early on, one of the ways that God sets His kingdom apart is by making them a nation without an earthly king. Instead, God is their king. But when things get difficult, the people come to Samuel, the first prophet and final judge of Israel, with a solution. It wasn’t to repent or to submit to God’s kingship. Instead, they made the mistake that many Christians today make when things get scary  — they turn to politics.

 (slide) The people say to Samuel, “appoint for us a king to judge us like all the [other] nations.” Samuel, at God’s urging, tries to warn the people that an earthly king would pervert justice in order to elevate his own name. Despite the warning, Israel insists, and so God gives them what they asked for. It reminds me of a saying: “Be careful what you pray for, God just might answer it.” 

And so a king was selected: Saul. What started as a promising reign eventually ends in ruin. Saul becomes a symbol for the corrupting nature of power and by the time our passage rolls around, the once mighty king is now a broken mess. So Samuel denounces Saul and tells him that God is already looking for his replacement. And THIS is the context in which we meet David, the young shepherd from Bethlehem. 

Today’s lesson – from 1st Samuel, chapters 16-17 – is called the Dos and Don’t of David and Goliath.  (slide) We will begin by looking at three things that David does that we might also consider. Each of these takeaways will end with an essential question, meant to spur us closer to action.  (slide) We will end the lesson with one thing that we must NOT DO when it comes to this story. 

Let’s get started. First up on our to-do list, number one: (slide) Do have a heart for God. David’s story starts with a scene made for reality TV. Samuel travels to the city of Bethlehem to find a new king and eventually shows up at Jesse’s house, so Jesse parades his sons in front of Samuel, hoping one of them will be picked. We start in verse 6: (slide

  • 6 When they came, [Samuel] looked on Eli-ab and thought, “Surely the Lord‘s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” (slide) 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 

We know what happens next. David shows up and is anointed the next king of Israel. And so we assume, I think correctly, that there is something about David’s heart that makes God choose him. 

  • This is confirmed in Acts 13:22 (slide) when Paul said that God raised up David to be their king, of whom [God] testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”

We get our first clue of what it means to have a “heart for God” right at the end of the Acts verse. To have a heart for God means to “do all of God’s will.” Everything that God asks. But what leads someone towards this type of radical obedience? I thought about this question a lot as I studied David and eventually arrived at this answer:  

  • Having a heart for God is not so much about what you do; it’s about what you know to be true. And you need to know two things to be absolutely true: 1) you are not awesome, 2) God is awesome. I think David knew these two truths, especially early on in his life when our story takes place.
    • When we first meet David, what do we know about him? Look in verse 11, we know that he was the last born + he was a shepherd. In other words, he was about as low as you could be in the social hierarchy of ancient Israel. And therefore, it wasn’t difficult for him to submit to God’s will because God’s plan must be better than anything ancient Bethlehem had to offer a last-born shepherd.
      1. This is a good time to pause for some self-reflection. Would I be willing to give up my future, my dreams, my retirement plan, my job, my titles, my everything in order to do anything God might ask? 
      2. On a similar note, I think it’s why Jesus talks about building His kingdom with the poor in spirit, meek, and the broken-hearted. Because God is looking for people who will gladly trade their lives for radical obedience. This isn’t an easy trade to make; it requires us to have a right understanding of our own spiritual poverty
    • Not only that, we must also have a right understanding of God — our second truth. For as unworthy as we are, God is everything else and more. Again, David serves as a good model for this reminder — we see his dependence on God all throughout his Psalms. (slide)
      1. In Psalm 116:1-2. he writes, “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” We see in these verses equal parts desperation and devotion. It is because he is so desperate that David remains so devoted. [repeat] In other words, he knows that God is awesome and he is not. (slide) This is what it looks like to have a heart for God. So here’s our first essential question of the day:  How can we develop a heart for God like this? I want you to store it away for now because we’ll come back to it. 

Moving on to number two on our list: Do be foolish for God’s glory. (slide

I have a story that I hope explains what I mean by this. 

  • A STORY: Andy Van Der Bijl (Bail) was born into a small Dutch village in 1928. From a young age, he had a thirst for adventure that eventually led him to enlist in the Dutch army where he served in Indonesia. During his time there, he committed unforgivable acts of violence against innocent Indonesians. These sins haunted him, and he became wrapped in a sense of guilt. He knew, at his very core, that he was rotten. Nothing he did – drinking, fighting, writing — helped him escape this stranglehold of guilt. His time in the army ended when he was shot in the ankle. 
  • While recovering in the hospital, he was amazed at the joy and conviction in which the Christian nurses served. This led him to eventually open a Bible and when he did, he discovered a God so great that He could blot out the guilt that burdened his heart and replace it with an eternal hope so profound that it would force Andy to reconsider his very purpose for living. Desperation to devotion. 
  • A couple of years later, a traveling preacher came through Andy’s village with a challenge: would anyone be willing to give up their dreams and devote their life to making God’s glory known throughout the world. Brother Andrew, as he came to be known, writes about his response in his biography.(slide)
    • “Whenever, wherever, however you want me, I’ll go… Lord as I stand up from this place, and as I take my first step forward, will you consider this a step towards complete obedience to you? I’ll call it the step of yes.”  
  • From that YES, (slide) Brother Andrew dedicated his life to bringing the gospel to the most dangerous places on earth. By the time he died in 2022, Brother Andrew would deliver millions of Bibles to places where being a Christian could get you killed. Many people considered his actions to be rash, dangerous, even foolish. In response, he wrote this:(slide) “I am a fool. For God. Whose fool are you?” (slide)
  • Brother Andrew, like David, did things that seemed foolish to the world around him, but both men did it for God’s glory. This is what I want us to consider.  (slide) I’d like to point out two things that David did that made him look foolish to the world: 1) his willingness to say YES to God’s will, and 2) his willingness to defy worldly logic.  
  • 1. David is willing to say YES. What we see from the very beginning of David’s story is a lifelong pattern of him constantly submitting to God’s will. Over and over, David says “YES,” no matter how foolish it might seem. Notice too, that David doesn’t put conditions around his YES. No task was too big or too small(slide)
  • In verses 12-13, we see David saying YES to becoming king. This is right after he’s called in from watching sheep. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. 
  • So let’s get this straight. David, who is an expert in sheep, is agreeing to God’s will to lead God’s people. And oh by the way, Israel has enemies at every border waiting to either kill or enslave the people. 
  • In any context, leading a nation on the brink of destruction without any training or consideration, is absolutelyfoolish.” And yet, he said YES. And some of us are reluctant to say yes to leading a small group? We think we’re not gifted or we don’t have the right training. Don’t you see, that sometimes this is God’s point? The less equipped you are, the more glory He gets. So don’t be afraid to say yes to big things — to serving at church, sharing the gospel with your co-worker, or giving up your dreams for God’s glory.
  • Now, skipping ahead, in chapter 17, verses 15-18 (slide), David is the king in waiting; he knows he will one day be king of Israel, and he is still saying YES to the small things that God puts in front of him. In this passage, he’s saying YES to watching sheep and running food errands for his father. Again, this is foolish! What future king spends his time taking care of livestock? On a similar note, some of us are ready for big things, but can’t be bothered to help clean up after church or stock the food pantry. How about you? Can you be faithful in small things? 
  • 2. Second, David was willing to defy worldly logic . We see this as he prepares for his fight with Goliath in verse 32 . After bringing food to his brothers who are on the front lines of Israel’s army, he hears rumors about a giant Philistine warrior.    (slide)

32 David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of [Goliath]. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” (slide)

Continuing on in verse 38: Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

  • Over and over, David defies worldly logic. It was foolish for him to fight Goliath in the first place and certainly foolish to not put on any armor. But in God’s kingdom, what seems logical is not always the right choice. 1 Cor. 3:19 says, For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. 
  • It’s important to note here that foolishness for foolishness sake is not what is being asked. To be foolish is not the point. The point is that for the sake of God’s glory, we are willing to do things that defy the world’s logic.  
  • So here’s our second essential question: (slide) Are you willing to be foolish for the sake of God’s glory? Similar to the first question, we will return to it later. 


  • One of the most common mistakes people make when reading the story of David and Goliath is to think that it is a story about how God helps His people fight their battles. While that statement might be true, it is not the point of this story. Remembering this helps us better understand our third point — DO fight the right enemies. Let’s continue looking at the story to see what I mean. 
  • To begin with, Goliath is not David’s enemy. Goliath wasn’t making David’s life miserable. He wasn’t sneaking into the pasture at night and taking David’s sheep. Goliath is GOD’s enemy. Let’s look at 1 Samuel 17, verse 8. This is Goliath talking:  (slide)
    • 8 …Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 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.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
  • It’s important that we consider what Goliath is saying here. He’s saying that the people of Israel will be his servant. He will be their master. He is attempting to take the place of God. The question at hand is this: who will the Israelites serve — God or Goliath? David eventually responds… (slide)
    • 45 “You come to me with a sword and 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. 46 This 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 host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.”
  • Clearly, this isn’t some situation that David has gotten himself into and is now turning to God begging for help. Rather, David is responding to God’s glory by offering himself as a living sacrifice. In other words, God is not fighting David’s battles. David is fighting God’s enemy. 
  • So how might this apply to our lives today? 
  • STORY: Let’s walk through a scenario and consider our passage. You work with a person that you don’t like. This person is a Goliath-sized jerk. He is condescending, sneaky, lying, but he’s also really good at his job. There is a promotion, and it’s between you and him. Should you pray for God’s intervention to help you defeat your co-worker in the race to get promoted? Is the co-worker the real enemy? Does God look at him and say, well, if Miles doesn’t like him, me neither? Of course not! 
    • So who is the enemy? Well, what is it in this scenario that attempts to strip God of His rightful glory? What is it that wants to sit on God’s throne? Maybe it’s the lack of trust for God’s plan in your life. Maybe it’s just greed. There are the things that could rob God of His glory. These are the real enemies. These are things we should be trying to fight. 
    • So instead of always asking God to fight your enemies — your mounting bills, your lack of a spouse, your misbehaved kids, your mean boss, try offering your life as a living sacrifice so that His name will be glorified? Consider spending more time fighting His enemies than asking Him to fight yours. This is something that we can take from David. 
  • So the third essential question, then, is NOT do you trust God to fight your enemies? The question is (slide) DO YOU TRUST GOD ENOUGH TO FIGHT HIS ENEMIES? 

So after looking at David’s story, we are left with three essential questions: 

  • How can you develop a heart for God?
  • Are you willing to be foolish for God’s glory?
  • Do you trust God enough to fight His enemies? 

Now I promised we would return to these questions, and we will, but first let’s consider our final point in today’s lesson: (slide)

4. Don’t make David the hero. We know how the story ends. David goes against Saul’s good judgment and walks out into the battlefield to face God’s enemy with a slingshot and five rocks. (slide)

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 

At this point, it seems natural to declare David the hero. Afterall, we love a good hero. Social psychologists suggest that there is something deep within the human psyche that makes us long for heroes. In a scary world, heroes offer us hope and direction. And so, like other good things –family, work — we elevate their status and look to them for direction. In the 21st century, we have replaced golden calves and baals with celebrities, politicians, and preachers. 

And when our heroes are threatened, we naturally defend them, sometimes without even thinking. We do this with David too, like when we end his story right after his famous battle scene. But his murder, adultery, and disobedience — which we’ll hear more about next week — are just as much a part of God’s story as David’s unlikely victory against Goliath. When we don’t tell his whole story, we deny God his central point: God is great; not David.

So if David’s not the hero, who is? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to our year-long sermon series about the Whole Bible, you probably know the answer. The answer is ______

David, like all OT characters, is meant to point us to the real hero. Jesus is the good shepherd who never leaves His sheep (unlike David). Jesus is the righteous king who never falters (unlike David). Jesus is the builder that builds an everlasting kingdom (unlike David). 

Whereas David’s story leaves us with some (slide) good questions to consider in regards to our faith, Jesus’s story leaves us with some good answers to every question posed in today’s lesson. (slide). Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection — the Gospel message — is the fuel for our heart change, the model for our foolish faith, and the courage for our battles. 

Let’s look at each question to see what I mean:

  • We started the lesson looking at David’s heart and posed this question: How can you develop a heart for God? The answer is, and always has been, found in the gospel. The gospel is the fuel that makes a heart change possible. (slide) Billy Graham says, “The Gospel shows people their wounds and bestows on them love. It shows them their bondage and supplies the hammer to knock away their chains. It shows them their nakedness and provides them the garments of purity. It shows them their poverty and pours into their lives the wealth of heaven. It shows them their sins and points them to the Savior.” The Gospel message is the only message that exists that looks directly at the depravity of the human soul and says to it this: you are still loved. Without the Gospel, we are stuck with religion — us trying to create in ourselves a heart that God will like. But because of Jesus — our hero — we are given a new heart, born again into his unending grace. (slide)
  • Our second takeaway looked at David’s “foolish” approach to living for God and asked this question: Are you willing to be foolish for the sake of God’s glory? While David’s story certainly provided some talking points, it’s Jesus that provides the better model for foolish living. You want foolish? How about the creator of the universe coming down from heaven to serve mankind. How about the only perfect person taking the punishment for everyone else’s sin; how about this: he died, so you could live. Everything about Jesus’ story seems foolish to the ways of this world, and it’s for a reason — it’s because he was reversing everything that had been messed up. Because of Jesus, we are left with the perfect model for how to live a life that defies the world’s logic for the sake of God’s glory.(slide) He must increase, but I must decrease. How foolish! How wonderful! (slide)
  • And finally, we learned from David how to fight the right enemies and ended with this question: do you trust God enough to fight His enemies?  It is Jesus’ work on the cross that gives us the courage to fight His enemies. Jesus has already taken care of our greatest enemy — sin. And because he defeated sin and death, we now have the courage to fight His battles. We no longer have to fear death, failure, approval, jail time, anything! Our future and our identity have been secured by His victory. Because He willingly fought and died for us, we are now honored and equipped to fight for him, whether that’s sin in our personal lives, apathy in the church, or injustice in the city — we are certain that with Christ, there is nothing to fear. The cross has told us so. 

In conclusion, the main takeaway from David’s battle with Goliath has nothing to do with following David’s example and conquering the Goliaths of your life. (slide

JD. Greear says this: “The Bible is not about heroes you are supposed to emulate; it is about a savior you are to worship.” 

So if you are going to do anything this week to exercise your faith, do this: get down on your knees, meditate on the beauty of the Gospel, allow the Spirit of truth to wash over you, and when that’s done, get up and rejoice for the hero that never fails us. 

And if you’re here today, you’re new to this Christian stuff, all we ask is that you consider what you’ve heard. Consider the possibility that there exists a hero so great that he knew everything about you — your darkest secret, your greatest shame — and He still gave His life for you. If you want to learn more about this Jesus, we invite you to join our church in our year-long Bible reading plan and discover the world’s greatest hero story ever written. And we invite you to come and talk to us afterwards. 

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