In 1 Samuel 17, we find the well-known narrative of David and Goliath. And although the main human characters in the narrative are David and Goliath themselves, the story is ultimately about a faithful God who prevails on behalf of those who belong to him. God—who is sovereign over all creation—uses the newly anointed shepherd-boy, David, to save and deliver his people from the oppression of the Philistines. In doing so, we learned three things about God’s deliverance and salvation of his people:
1. God’s people cannot save themselves
Verse 24 describes the army of Israel as “much afraid” of Goliath. Earlier in verse 11, even King Saul is described as “dismayed and greatly afraid.” From the Hebrew words used in both instances, we can understood that this “fear” carries the idea of standing in awe. It helps us understand why the Israelite army stood back: The men were so dismayed and so afraid, that they stood in fearful awe, helplessly frozen in terror. Israel had no comparable champion; Israel was paralyzed in fear; Israel could not save itself.
The same remains true of us today. However, in our case, sin is what paralyzes us; not with fear, but with death itself. Ephesians 2:1 describes us as “dead in trespasses and sins,” and this because the byproduct of sin is death, as revealed to us in Romans 6:23. Since dead people cannot resuscitate themselves, they need someone else to give them life; they need someone else to save them. This point is coming up next. For now, it is important to remember: We cannot save ourselves, not when our great enemies—sin and death—have us strangled in their Goliath-like grips.
Therefore, since we cannot save ourselves, what we must do instead is rest in God’s work of deliverance on our behalf. It is a rest that begins with trust in him as our object of faith. As Augustine has said, “You have made us for yourself, and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
2. God provides a deliverer for his people
Verse 33 records Saul’s words to young David: “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth.” By all external appearances, David was not supposed to win his battle with Goliath. He was but a young lad and he had no experience as a soldier, how could he possibly confront Goliath?
Yet—for his own honor and glory—this young boy was exactly who God chose to shockingly prevail against Goliath. So we realize: God often provides the unlikeliest of heroes to be his people’s deliverer. As we gaze at the beauty of God’s wisdom—as we see him elect David as his people’s unlikely deliverer—we are at the same time pointed forward to the ultimate Shepherd-King, Jesus Christ, who “lays down his life for [his] sheep” (John 10:11). We simply cannot read the narrative of David and Goliath without considering the unlikely Savior God has provided to us!
In an unthinkable act of compassion, God looked upon our broken, sin-struck, rebellious world, and he himself took on human flesh in order to one day die on a cross for us, eternally paying the wages of our own sin, that we—the guilty ones—might be declared forever innocent and just, and that we might enjoy him eternally as our friend.
When he took on flesh, however, he did not descend to a kingly palace. Instead, he was born in a barn in Bethlehem. He was placed not on a throne, but on a feeding trough reserved for livestock. And so the sovereign Lord over all creation humbled himself and came as a helpless infant among animals, crying in the arms of the human mother who delivered him in his incarnation. He was, at that very moment in human history, the epitome of an unlikely hero.
Nevertheless, this helpless, newborn infant was our Savior, and the angels rejoiced and sang at his arrival. So we’re encouraged—as people who can never rescue themselves—to rejoice in the unlikely Savior God has provided to us. Later in the story of David’s defeat of Goliath, when the men returned home from war, 1 Samuel 18:6-7 shows us the women of Israel dancing and singing “with songs of joy” over the news of God’s deliverance through David. We do the same today over the good news of our deliverance from sin and death through Christ. So as we rest in God’s work of deliverance on our behalf, we also rejoice in God’s provision of a delivering Savior, and we join the angels who joyfully sang at Christ’s birth.
3. God saves his people according to his promises
A question arises: “Why does God save, at all?” We might begin to find the answer to this question in one particular and glorious aspect of the character and nature of God: His faithfulness to his Word.
Many Old Testament passages promise and foretell of a future Messiah who would rescue God’s people:
- Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…”
- Isaiah 40:5: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
- Micah 5:2: “But you, O Bethlehem… from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler…”
They all point to one grand promise of a Messiah who would be born in Bethlehem to be the light of men. It’s the grand story-line of Scripture:
- God created everything very good.
- Our sin brought a curse to a good creation.
- As a result, we live separated from a holy God in the darkness and brokenness of our own sin nature.
- But God promised to rescue people who could not rescue themselves by taking on human flesh.
It’s a promise that goes right back to the garden of Eden, where we find humanity shamefully hidden from God in their own rebellious sin. In the midst of all that heartache, an incredibly beautiful promise is shared by God: A future son of the woman, Eve, will deliver a mortal wound to Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). It’s a promise that looks ahead to the unlikely David delivering a mortal wound to Goliath’s head. But David is but a shadow of Christ, foreshadowing the true, eternal deliverance we receive in Christ crushing Satan’s head at the cross and the empty grave.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise. He is that heavenly Son born to an earthly woman; born to save us from sin, death, and Satan himself; born to be our Savior.
Indeed, God saves his people precisely because he has promised to save his people. He is faithful to his Word. We respond to such beautiful faithfulness with praise, and as we do, we join David himself in adoration of our faithful God: “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised” (Psalm 18:1-3).
A lifelong response to a faithfully saving God
May we always remember:
- We cannot save themselves.
- God has provided an unlikely hero to save us.
- God has faithfully done so according to his promises.
And as we remember these truths:
- We rest in God’s work of deliverance on our behalf.
- We rejoice in God’s provision.
- We praise God for his faithfulness to his Word.
My dear Lake Murray Community Church: Rest, rejoice, and praise the one who has promised and faithfully given us a Savior. It’s our lifelong response to a faithful God who saves.
With joy in Christ,