Few Old Testament stories are better known than the story of David and Goliath, wherein a shepherd boy defeated a mighty warrior of the Philistines. But as we see in today’s passage, David won the victory not because of his own strength or skill but because of the presence of the Lord with him.
One of the most important things to note in this story is the contrast between King Saul and David. Remember that the king of Israel was supposed to be a model of faith for the people (Deut. 17:14–20). However, in the encounter with Goliath, Saul proved to be anything but a model of trust in the Lord. No less than the other Israelites, Saul feared Goliath (1 Sam. 17:11). Yet, Saul should have known that it was God’s will to deliver the Israelites from the hand of the Philistines (10:1), so his refusal to act accordingly and fight Goliath himself betrayed his own lack of confidence in the Lord.
David, on the other hand, acted more kingly than the king of Israel. Modeling trust in the Lord, David believed God would deliver him (17:37). In opposing Goliath, David effectively led Israel into battle, which was the king’s job. Moreover, the honor of God’s name was at stake—Goliath had cursed David and David’s Lord (v. 43). When Saul thought preserving his own life was better than confronting the dishonoring of the one true God, David preferred to risk his life lest the sacrilege continue. Saul was a man experienced in battle who would have looked intimidating in his armor. David was but a youth, confronting the giant not with the armor of battle but with a sling and five smooth stones (vv. 38–40). In all this, we see a fulfillment of God’s declaration that in choosing David, our Lord looked at his heart (16:7). David was impressive not because of his stature or weaponry but because he relied on God to rescue him and the rest of Israel.
Goliath appeared intimidating, but David, the man after God’s own heart, knew appearances can be deceiving. Saul feared Goliath on account of the giant’s fierce outward appearance, yet David saw past this to who Goliath really was—an enemy of God and His people, and therefore surely on the losing side (17:41–47). And so, when David launched the stone from his sling (at a speed of up to 150 miles per hour), he knew that God would guide it to bring him victory in that battle (vv. 48–54). But Saul, still judging by appearances, could hardly believe that such a lad could have succeeded.