Despite being anointed as king over Israel in his father Jesse’s house (1 Sam. 16:1–13), David did not ascend to the throne immediately; rather, he was pressed immediately into the service of King Saul (vv. 14–23). It was in the first part of his service to this king that David displayed many of the heroic qualities that would be so closely associated with him later on.
Soon after David entered the court of the king, the Philistines moved to attack the nation of Israel. As was common then, the armies of each nation stood opposite one another on two mountains with a valley in between them — squaring off, so to speak (1 Sam. 17:1–3). From their vantage point, the Philistines and their champion, Goliath, engaged in a bit of psychological warfare, taunting Israel and boasting of their military superiority (vv. 4–10). This was also the usual way for armies to face each other before battle, and the clear atmosphere of the land of Palestine made it easy for shouts to be heard up to a mile away. Thus, Saul and his army had no problem hearing Goliath, and they were “greatly afraid” (v. 11).
While Saul was off fighting Israel’s battles, David, a shepherd, was tending to his family’s flock. But he was then sent to bring food to his brothers who were fighting in the army of Israel (vv. 12–22). Confident as he was in the strength of Yahweh, the only true God, David was dismayed that no one in the army was prepared to fight the pagan enemies of the Lord (vv. 23–30). So the king-to-be volunteered to face Goliath, not because of the reward promised to the victor but because of the chance to take part in God’s cause against His foes (vv. 31–37). As is well known, David defeated Goliath using the simple weapons of a shepherd — a sling and a few stones (vv. 38–58).
Not every cause that presents itself to us is worthy of our enlistment. Yet when the Lord calls, the only right choice is to answer the charge. Like David, we should not fear when we are pressed into service; indeed, we should be the first to volunteer to face potential suffering for the sake of Christ. We can be sure that God will give us the final victory when we fight for Him according to His ways. Though there will be some casualties on our side, the war’s outcome is decided, and all those who suffer now will be raised in triumph in the world to come (Rev. 6:9–11; 20).