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18 minutes

Five Lessons from David and Goliath

Read in:

18 minutes
Five Lessons from David and Goliath

No Armor Required

What lessons can the story of David and Goliath tell us? Sure – this is a commonly known Bible story. I first learned it when in grade school as my Sunday school teacher put pictures of David and Goliath up on a flannel board (do you remember those). Of course this is a classic underdog story where David, scrawny kid comes to battle a huge mountain of a man and through God’s grace and power beats him. It seems like a simple enough story on the surface, but deep within comes real truth. Biblical truth. Let’s see what we can uncover.

The story of David and Goliath comes to us from 1 Samuel 17. There is a propensity in society to classify this as a “story” or fairy tale. Something way to farfetched to really have happened. I mean who has ever heard of someone like Goliath in real life. We must remember what Paul tells us though –

When Paul is discussing the scriptures he does not mean the new testament. It did not exist yet. He means the old testament – the Talmud. From this we believe that the retelling of the confrontation between David and Goliath, along with the rest of the Old testament is a truthful retelling of actual events as God helped the writes to remember and record them.

So as we open our bibles to 1 Samuel 17 we find the Philistine army gathered for battle in Socoh which was about 10 miles west of Gath – a major Philistine city. Across the valley the armies of Saul were gathered. The armies occupied two mountain sides and there was a valley between them.

We read that a champion from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, who was from Gath (just 10 miles away), came out to challenge the Israelites. He was 9’ 9” tall and had bronze armor including a helmet, chain mail weighing 78 pounds and bronze leg armor. He had an enormous javelin slung between his shoulders which had an iron tip weighing 15 pounds. He was accompanied by a shield-bearer. He was an impressive sight. We read how he taunted the armies of Saul beginning in verse 8:

The sight of Goliath filled the Israelites with fear as did the words he shouted at them – so much so that they fled from him and hid. No one dared to accept the challenge.

1. God Uses Those We Least Expect.

The first lesson David and Goliath tells us is that God often chooses to use those we least expect. In the case of David this is quite true.

In verse 17 we are introduced to David the son of Jesse. This may have been his first interaction with Saul, but we actually meet David in the previous chapter where David, the future king of Israel, first meets Samuel. At this point in the narrative God has rejected Saul as king for his disobedience in dealing with Amelek. Samuel is mourning over Saul’s failure as king and God’s rejection of him.

God, however, is done dealing with Saul and wants to get Samuel up and moving. He has a new man for the job and he needs Samuel to go and anoint him as the next king. He sends Samuel to see Jesse, a man living in Bethlehem who had eight sons.

We start reading in 1 Samuel 16:1:

Notice how the arrival of a prophet of the Lord can bring good tidings or bad tidings. The people were concerned to see Samuel coming toward their town.

King David of David and Goliath fame.

Samuel figured that among the mature, elder sons of Jesse there would be a future king – surely one of these God would choose. Notice how Samuel arrived at this conclusion – he saw that they were tall and pleasing in appearance. God passed on every one of them. Samuel must have been wondering what God had in mind…

With so many physically capable sons, each mature and proven we see instead that God choses the youngest. As we know God chooses based on what is on the inside of the person – not what we see on the outside. We would learn later than God called David “A man after my own heart”. In this case God chose the least expected to rule a nation – and defend a nation as well!

2. The Lord Delivers Those Who Rely On Him

Our second lesson from David and Goliath is that the Lord delivers those who rely on Him. This is a clear message running throughout both the old and new testament. We see it in Moses’ life, clearly in David’s life, we see it in the prophets – think of Johnna, Daniel and Elijah. Think of Job.

As we return to the battle field we find that Goliath has been coming out and challenging the Israelites every day for 40 days. During this time David has been taking provisions to his brothers and then returning to the field to tend the sheep. This was a common practice for family members – who could not fight due to age or gender – of those on the front lines defending Israel. We find David in verse 23 witnessing the Goliath’s challenge for the first time:

Imagine the shock for David. Hearing the giant ridicule, the army of Saul and seeing the men flee for safety, hiding in holes and behind things. David was unaware of the great reward Saul offered to the man who would defeat Goliath. He must have been even more incensed by the situation after learning that no one would dare try to defeat him.

David’s indignation over the words of Goliath, which clearly angered him, was evident. How could the army of the living God allow this gentile to cause such a reproach for Israel? David’s words made their way to Saul, and as a result, he sent for him. In the presence of the king, David declared that he would go and fight the giant. Saul was undoubtedly surprised to see this young man, who was likely still a teen, declaring his intention to face Goliath in battle. We pick up the narrative in verse 33:

David had this confidence because he knew who God was and had experienced His divine delivery more than once. He was absolutely certain that God would be there for him again as he tells Saul in verse 37:

3. Be What God Has Called You to Be

(Not What Others Think You Should be)

David won Saul’s approval to fight Goliath but Saul had some ideas of his own as to what the ideal fighter would look like. Our third lesson from the story of David and Goliath is to be what God has called us to be – not what someone else thinks we should be.

Thinking about the battle that was soon to occur in the valley – we realize that there was a lot riding on the outcome. If this young man failed, then all of Israel would become servants of the Philistines. Their victory in a decisive battle would likely have led to the subjugation of the Israelite tribes, imposing tributes, and forced labor, as was common in ancient conquests. Saul wanted to insure success so he encouraged David to wear his own armor and carry his weapons into battle as we read in verses 38 & 39:

The NIV renders verse 39 this way, making the problem clearer:

King Saul had the best armor and weapons in the entire Hebrew army. He was king after all. David realized, that in spite of the honor of wearing the kings armor and using his sword it was not going to work because he was not used to them. Instead David went into battle wearing just the cloths he wore every day as a shepherd. This allowed him to fight unencumbered as he was accustomed. Wearing the armor would have put him as a significant disadvantage, as he was not used to wearing it.

David found that he had to be who God had made him to be – a shepherd defending his home, not a soldier wearing the kings best armor.

4. Be Prepared When Engaging in God’s Work

Our fourth lesson from this story revolves around David’s preparations for battle. He was about to fight a giant and deliver the people of Israel through the hand of God. He was certain of this, but he did not enter the fight unprepared. He expected God to deliver Goliath as He had the bear and the lion – miraculous to be sure, but that delivery had to be in line with how God acts. It required some preparation on the part of David. David knew this.

David selects stones as he faces Goliath - lessons we can learn

As we remember from the story – David used a sling shot as his weapon of choice. This was a leather pouch on two long leather tethers. It would be swung around at great speed and then one of the tethers would be released allowing the projectile to fly away at high velocity. Immediately after departing from Saul David gathered five smooth stones in preparation for the coming encounter with Goliath. Verse 40 says:

But why five stones?

Some scholars suggest that David was being prepared in case he need to fight one or more of Goliath’s four brothers which are mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:15-22. It is possible that he simply need to be prepared in case a battle ensued after he defeated Goliath and he did not want to be defenseless. Regardless the reason we observe that David prepared himself adequately to do what God was calling him to do.

Once prepared he could trust God to do His part.

5. Finish The Work God Has Appointed for You

We know that David kills the giant. This is one of the most famous stories in the old testament. What we may not realize is that he did more than hit Goliath with a stone from a sling shot. In fact, he made sure the giant was dead – finishing the work God had appointed him to do – which is what our final lesson from the story about David and Goliath. The narrative of the battle between these two is found in verses 41 – 49.

David could have fallen back now. I am sure the language Goliath was much stronger than what is accounted in Samuel. David should have been shaking in his sandals. No Israelite had come this far yet. I am sure the giant was disgusted by the scrawny little boy sent out to meet him in battle. This would not be a battle – it would be like flicking a fly off his arm.

David was not about to be intimidated. He knew something Goliath did not know. The Lord God was fighting for David and His people. You can hear it in David’s confidence. I wonder if Goliath had a moment of pause to wonder what was going on.

Once Goliath had fallen he was most certainly dead. It seems like the whole valley must have just froze at that moment. The Israelites were likely stunned to see this near child kill the giant and the Philistines paused in unbelief the sight of the mortal wound inflicted on their champion. We read that David had no sword, but he desired to finish the job. In verse 50 we read:

So the Philistines were routed that day and the men of Israel pursued them cutting them down as they fled. It was possible because one young man believed that God could use him and he refused to back down when God called him to a job.


A familiar story, but some lessons to be learned that might not have been obvious at first blush. Lets recap these five important lessons the story about David and Goliath reveals about God and those he uses:

  • God Uses Those We Least Expect
    • Sometimes that person might be us
    • Sometimes we might be called to assist that person
    • We need to be open to the call of God
  • The Lord Delivers Those Who Rely On Him
    • We need to be in communion with Him to be relying on Him
    • Sometimes that delivery might not look the way we envision it
    • We need to be open to the will of God and be sure we are not dictating our will to Him
  • Be What God Has Called You to Be
    • God has called all of us who claim His blood to a role in ministry
    • Sometimes that role might not be glamorous but we should do our best as that is the work He has called us to
  • Be Prepared When Engaging in God’s Work
    • God will supply our needs as He promises
    • That does not exempt us from preparing appropriately
  • Finish The Work God Has Appointed for You
    • We should not leave our work partially completed