Sermon on 1 Samuel 17:12-37 – “David vs. The Giant, Saul”

Sermon on 1 Samuel 17:12-37 – “David vs. The Giant, Saul”

Sermon for Sunday, April 7, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Num 13:25-33 ESV] 25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.” 30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

New Testament reading:

[Rev 13:1-10 ESV] 1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear: 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Gospel reading:

[Mat 10:34-39 ESV] 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Scripture reading:
[1Sa 17:12-37 ESV] 12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. 17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.” 19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. 24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.” 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before. 31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. 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.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”


After a couple week’s break from 1 Samuel, we’re back.

This is nothing, compared to John Calvin. You might know the story. He was preaching a book of the Bible but was exiled from Geneva and his church. When was recalled years later, he began preaching just where he left off. Something beautiful about that.

I am not Calvin, but the Word of God is the same now as it was then. And so we look to the word of God. Today from 1 Samuel.

And its relatively easy to pick up where we’ve left off, because we left off in the well-known story of David and Goliath. We saw that Israel had “A Giant Problem.” It was a problem that lasted for generations, only culminating in Goliath of Gath. Before his time there were other giants in the land, variously called the Nephilim, the Rephaim, and the Anakim.

But before we get to David vs. Goliath — which will be the subject of next week’s sermon, Lord willing — there is first the Giant Problem which David faces from WITHIN ISRAEL. Indeed, from the very top. The Giant Problem there is KING SAUL. It is not that he is huge — like Andre the Giant or Shaquille O’Neal — though he was quite tall. The giant problem for David is that Saul first (in this chapter) DOUBTS him but later continues to OPPOSE him.

This giant problem stems from the fact that Saul does not believe in the Lord.
David does believe in the Lord.
And, like oil and water, the two will not mix.

So, The great enemy of David is … whom?
Not Goliath. (whom he dispatches in a quick battle) No, not Goliath, but Saul.
Look at the Psalms for example.

In the titles (or explanations) of various Psalms, we hear about David vs. Saul.

Here are three notable references in the Psalms:

[Psa 18:1 ESV] 1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.

[Psa 57:1 ESV] 1 To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

[Psa 59:1 ESV] 1 To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

This is the great enemy of David, Saul.

Even where we are in chapter 17 of 1 Samuel, we find that before David can even get to Goliath he has to get through Saul. And even before that, David has to deal with his own brother, Eliab.

So I want to look today at first,
I. The Trouble with Eliab.
II. The Trouble with Saul
And finally, we’ll conclude with,
III. A Giant Solution, Faith.

So first, we have:

I. The Trouble with Eliab

Eliab is David’s brother. He is the oldest son of Jesse.

Remember, Samuel went to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse because God had told him that there he will find the next king. And Eliab, the first born, was the first that Samuel passed over. He, in fact, passed over all of the children of Jesse, until — asking if there were any others — came to David and anointed him as the next king.

Well, now we have Eliab and two of his brothers — Abinadab and Shammah — at the army camp at the site of the standoff between the army of Israel and the army of the Philistines.

And the text twice says that these brothers “followed Saul to the battle.” It’s not clear to me if this is just a simple fact that is being noted, or if it implies that they are LIKE Saul, or followers of Saul.

But there is the fact that Eliab, like Saul, has stood there for 40 days hearing Goliath challenge them to send a man out to fight and has not taken him up on that.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

It has been said that, in the Bible, 40 often conveys TESTING.
You see this in the 40 years in which Israel was in the wilderness.
And there was the 40 days in which Jesus was in the wilderness.
Not we have 40 days of being tested by Goliath.

And NO ONE is passing the test. No one is standing up for the honor of God. They continue to let Goliath defy them. To “defy” is “to challenge to do something considered impossible.” Goliath says, in effect, “it is impossible for you to beat me in battle.” And so he is defying Israel, but also he is defying and dishonoring Israel’s God. Goliath thinks he’s “top dog.” Goliath doesn’t know his limits. But sadly, neither do Eliab or Saul know Goliath’s limits. They, with the help of God, COULD beat Goliath. But they don’t go out to fight.

So along comes David. Not following Saul, but directed by his father Jesse. And think this implies or leads to the fact that David listens to and follow his Father God as well. Davis obedient. His father tells him to take some grain and bread to his brothers at the camp and 10 cheeses to their commander. Then he says “See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

We see a hierarchy of food here that I certainly agree with. Cheese is greater than bread. Cheese, in my opinion, is among the greatest food known to man. Maybe not for health, but for taste. So I really wonder what kind of cheese these 10 cheeses are. Supposedly the cheeses of that era were soft curd-like productions, not hard Edam’s and Gouda’s. That’s really a shame.

So David brings food for his brothers and their commander. This is because the soldiers would have gone to war with just a few days supply, and they were volunteers, depending on friends and family for provision.

Then, when Jesse says to David “bring some token from them” in return, this “token” is something to prove their health and safety. One source comments that it could be a “lock of their hair, or a piece their nail, or such like.” Maybe something from home that their father would recognize.

Well, David arrives and talks to the “men of Israel” and hears that the one who fights Goliath and wins will get a great reward, wealth plus marriage to the King’s daughter plus freedom for his father’s house.

And Eliab hears the conversation. This is where the trouble starts for David.

“Eliab’s anger was kindled against David.”

First we recognize that Eliab is ungrateful. Not thanking for the food.
Then Eliab is jealous of David who had been chosen by Samuel to be King and not him.

So he is antagonistic from the get-go.

He questions David’s purpose. “Why have you come down?” “And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness.” He feigns care for the sheep! And them wrongly imparts sin to David. He says “I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

But David is just obeying his father! He’s not doing as his brother has falsely claimed.

Eliab accuses David of wrongdoing, but David is obedient, and Eliab for a whole 40 days has refused to fight Goliath.

TRUTH: This episode between David and Eliab reminds of an important truth. There are enemies on the inside. Unbelievers even within the church of God, and even in one’s own family.

It is like Jesus warns in [Mat 10:36 ESV] “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Jesus speaks of “bringing not peace, but a sword.” The point is, there will always be people who oppose the truth. Jesus is the truth, but some prefer the lies. Romans 1:25 says “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”

Unbeliever love lies. That is why they suppress the truth of God that they are born with, endowed with, and have implanted in their minds.

Eliab, David’s very brother, is following lies.

This is a warning for the church of God. A warning for his invisible church – for all believers of God — that in His VISIBLE Church, in the very VISIBLE family of God, there are some who are not truly of God. “Not all Israel is Israel.”

And so Paul directs the elders of the church not only to feed the sheep, but to drive away the wolves. Believers are to taught the Word of God and encourages; unrepentant unbelievers are to be driven out of the church.

So that is Eliab. But I’ve been working towards Saul. This is the next enemy of David, the real giant trouble that he has here in present account and in later parts of his life.

II. The Trouble with Saul

Saul and David are not of the same family, but they are of the same nation. So you wouldn’t expect them to be enemies, but enemies they become.

In this chapter we find Saul’s opposition to David coming by way of doubt. Saul is a doubter.

David volunteers to fight Goliath. He says, “Your servant [meaning himself] will go and fight with this Philistine.”

It is important here to understand David’s motive. He’s first obeying his father; he’s not coming out, like Eliab says, to see what is going on with the battle. He’s obeying his father. And then, when he hears Goliath’s challenge, David is motivated to honor his Father in Heaven.

In vs 25 Goliath is said to be “defying Israel.” And this is not just Israel, but the God of Israel with the nation. David confirms that in vs. 36 saying “Goliath has defied the armies of the living God.”

So what is David’s motive? It is zeal for the glory of God. It it to put an end to Goliath defying Israel and Israel’s God.

So we have Goliath saying: who will dare fight this giant?
But David says: how dare this giant challenge God and his people?

And David knows that the Lord has protected him and won him victory over the Lions and Bears that come after the sheep he has guarded. And, if God will protect him then, so will God give him victory over Goliath. That is David’s conclusion. And Saul, in one sense, comes around to it saying “Go, and the LORD be with you!” But, as Saul is not a believer in the Lord, we have to question his motives here. He might just want David dead so as not to be any trouble to him. Or maybe he says “Why not!?, go for it.” And when he says “The Lord be with you” we next find him saying “and wear all this armor.” He doesn’t “get” it. David won’t need any armor.

But first (and probably continuing in his mind) Saul is a doubter. He says to David, “You are not able.” (v. 33) Goliath is a warrior, trained from youth. And you are just a youth! No way. You don’t stand a chance. You see Saul has no faith in God. That is his giant problem. The giant in front of David is no problem at all for the God of the universe. And so there is no reason to doubt.

This encourages us regarding doubt. It is NOT that we CAN’T doubt others. But rather that we should NEVER DOUBT THE LORD. [REPEAT: WE SHOULD NEVER DOUBT THE LORD.]

The doubt of Saul seems to be an inspiration or precursor to the doubt expressed in Revelation 13:4

[Rev 13:4 ESV] 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

The people say that “who can fight against the it?”
This is much like what Saul is saying with Goliath, “Who can fight against him?”

Well, the Lord can.

This problem of doubt we see throughout the Scriptures. Like when the spies reported giants in the land and the people doubted that they could conquer it.

III. Faith, a Giant Solution

But the solution — the giant solution — is always faith.

Not FAITH in yourself. This isn’t a message of self-esteem.

It is about FAITH IN GOD.

FAITH IN GOD IS THE GIANT SOLUTION to the problem of doubt.



Not faith in self.

Not faith in faith.

But faith in God.

Faith in God.

So, when doubt comes your way, when troubles come your way, you can respond not with “I can overcome” but honestly and truthfully saying “I am not able, but I have a savior who is.”

Whether our enemy is within the gates

the doubters who plague us

opposition in our own family

or even the Devil himself, we can say:

“I am not able, but I have a savior who is.”

This point was made so forcibly in the Luther movie some years ago.

There, the actor portraying Martin Luther says:

If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior… then we have a God of love, and to see God in faith is to look upon His friendly heart. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this… “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? “For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. “His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God.

So let us trust in God,
Let us have faith in Jesus Christ,
for the Lord shall have victory.