June 9th 2010

David And Eliab

“For forty days the Philistine [Goliath] came forth every morning and evening and took his stand.  Now Jesse said to his son David…‘See how your brothers are…. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.’…David… reached the camp… and greeted his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath… stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it…. David asked the men standing near him, ‘…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’…When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’…David… turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter…. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.”
1 Samuel 17:16-31 (NIV UK)
One thing that impresses me in the well-known story of David and Goliath, is that David didn’t let Eliab defeat him, and that must have been hard.

David, it seemed, had little right to be there: he was abandoning his own very insignificant duties to interfere in things too big for him. No doubt he had some morbid curiosity to watch a battle—and how vain of him to imagine that he, of all people, could help with the present emergency!

True enough, David could not claim to be qualified as a soldier or an advisor, and there was no way he could make public, at this point, his anointing to be king. As a sort of reserve armour-bearer, only present on a family visit, David’s right to fight was probably the most tenuous of anyone there. He hadn’t even shared the hardships the army were going through; and this is undeniable: it is nearly always a big mistake to catch a passing giant by the ears, even if you are praying like a windmill all the while.

There was more at stake here than David’s own life, and it certainly would have been unconscionable to put himself forward on a hazard. How could he know that this was his fight? How could he be so sure he recognised God’s time, place and will?

To begin with, there was a definite gap. Someone had to stand up, and nobody had yet, in spite of all the rewards offered. Then, also, David had meditated long enough on the Biblical history of Israel to know that, in times of emergency, God would send and empower a leader to save the nation, and he knew that his own anointing gave him responsibility towards his people. Finally, he remembered two of his past experiences that clearly paralleled the present threat.  It was no stretch of the imagination to see and hear Goliath as a lion or bear, the frightened army as a flock of sheep, himself in the same role as before, and God giving the same protection and victory. Everything (except other people’s opinions) suddenly lined up and pointed in the same direction, and it was towards the honour and glory of God more than any personal motive.

David had already read the script. And, thankfully, he didn’t let Eliab, or anyone else, cause him to doubt it.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
 Study by Fiona Jones 
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