1 Samuel 17 "The Portrait Hall": The Shepherd Warrior

David was “a man after God’s own heart” according to the Scripture. His life and troubles have become an inspirational primer for believers for generations. Did David have some quality none of the rest of us have? Was he made with a better connection with God? How can I have a walk like his?

Key Principle: You cannot see faith through fear, nor fear through faith. We must learn HOW to look at the circumstances in front of us!

The Background:

There is an immense statue at the end of the long hall of the Gelleria del Academia in Florence that holds one of the most remarkable and stunning sculptures ever produced. Michelangelo’s “David” stands nearly 18 feet tall, with eyes that are both compassionate and fierce. He holds a sling in his huge hands. It was right to sculpt him in immense proportion, for he was certainly one of the “giants” of the Bible. You stand with him in the presence of greatness. There are some things you should know of David though:

  1. The sculpture took four years to carve from the mass of marble, because the marble piece was flawed when it arrived from the quarry: It is an illustration, that although David was a giant among men, he was literally born with a flaw.
  1. He was the youngest of ten – eight boys and two girls – and likely born very late in Jesse’s life (cp. 1 Sam 17:12). I believe there is ample evidence from the Scripture that he was unplanned, perhaps unwanted, and certainly not highly regarded by his father. He grew up lonely!
  1. Despite his lonely background, God had great plans for this youth. Abraham’s story takes 14 chapters of the Bible, Joseph another 14 chapters, Elijah has but ten. David’s story captures 62 chapters of the text! There is not NT author that referred to a man of the Hebrew Scriptures in more detail, as David is mentioned 60 times!
  1. David possessed a special quality throughout his life. It was not a massive strength, rather it was a deep spiritual sensitivity toward God that ran throughout his life. Note Psalm 18:70-72. Look at the words! They remind us of some of the basic patterns that are developed in life that set a child on a path to please God. 1) a servant’s spirit; 2) faithful in small things; 3) gentle and caring; 4) able to be entrusted with greatness; 5) clean and developed heart for God; 6) skilled and experienced hands!

The Problem (17:1-3)

Eli died, his sons were killed in disobedience. Samuel was aged and his sons lacked the heart to lead the people for God. A king was chosen, but by now God had grown weary of Saul’s instability. Saul had been told of the end of his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:27-28) and the words burned his ears.

When the leader (Saul) was spiritually unstable, the enemy attacked the flock, entering the place of their fruitfulness and taking it away (17:1). The people went out to defend their land, and the sides were drawn (17:2-3).

The Challenge (17:4-39)

 1. The enemy possessed a terrifying weapon (17:4-11).

  • He was in stature over 9 feet tall (stature seemed to impress the people of the time, see the choosing of Saul (1 Sam. 9:2) and with Eliab ben Jesse (1 Sam. 16:6). Since they were clearly geared to be impressed by this, the enemy used it! (17:4).
  • The weapon was well defended and impenetrable – his coat weighed about 125 lbs.- probably David’s total weight! (17:5).
  • He was equipped with protection of the vulnerable areas of his legs, and he possessed two marvelous offensive weapons: a javelin perched on his back and a huge weighted spear (17:6-7).
  • He had a shield bearer that walked before him into battle to carry his shield (17:8).
  • His pride and self assured nature showed in his challenge: “Beat me and we will all serve Saul!” (17:9-11).

 2. Israel stood in dismay for forty days (17:12-31).

 3. God provided encouragement and rescue from an unlikely source. David was not sent to the battle to fight, but to supply his brothers and bring back news (17:12-15).

It is worth stopping here to ask a question: “Had God forgotten David?” Is God aware of where you are and when He will use you? YES, Do the work of a servant and God will call on you at the time of His choosing! Note Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget her nursing infant and not care? They may forget, but I will not! You are inscribed on my palm and your ways, your defense, your care, it is ever in front of Me.” After David was anointed he want back to the FLOCK (1 Sam 16:19). We would have been getting fitted for a crown or getting new business cards, KING ELECT.

  1. The time grew long and there was a need for provisions (17:16-20).

David took the five gallon sack of grain and ten loaves and ten cuts of cheese to the men as instructed. Before he left, he made sure the sheep were tended to, as he met his responsibilities.

  • David came and observed the situation and questioned what he saw (17:21-31).
  1. David is the only one on the scene who reminds the people that God is their God (26).
  2. David suffered the insults of the older brother Eliab, and David did not allow himself to be tied up in the war of words (28,29).

 3. David offered help (17:32-39).

  • David offered but was dismissed as an incapable youth (17:32-33).
  • David responds with stories of what God did through him in the past (17:34-37).

It is worth noting at this point that David’s courage to stand in this incredible moment of testing was forged in his time with the sheep! He was out of sight in solitude, obscurity, monotony, reality and was carefully learning the lessons of becoming a great warrior and king! God uses the mundane to teach the profound lesson. Don’t kick against the “normal” day. DAVID LEARNED TO BE HEROIC WHEN NO ONE ELSE WAS WATCHING!

  • Saul tried to put his armor on David (something God would do later when he made David king of Israel) but David could not wear it (17:38-39). Note here that we need our own lessons in our walk with God. We cannot wear another’s fitted protection.

The Deliverance (17:40-54)

Remember, we cannot see faith through fear, nor fear through faith. We must learn HOW to look at the circumstances in front of us!

A couple observations:

  1. God wants us to get ready to be used in incredible and surprising ways – Be ready!
  2. God’s solutions are often overlooked, but are usually simply and require submission to Him and sensitivity to His leading!
  3. God teaches the profound through the ordinary and often is doing His greatest work in us when we are utterly unaware of the work. David learned to KING IT with the sheep, and awaited 12 years between his anointing and coronation.
  4. Things done to bring a greater testimony to the Lord will receive His special aid and boost! Things done to help us will perish! (17:45-47).