Many people would insert the name Goliath in the blank space of the title, but after studying this scripture passage, I realized that Goliath is just that – a 9 foot Philistine “giant” getting in the way of the real battle that’s at hand. Goliath is considered one of the main characters, but in my book, he’s a secondary one.
The name that I insert in that blank space above is Eliab, David’s oldest brother. Many may think that he is a minor character in this short story, but I think that the exchange that happens between these two brothers is in fact, the exact moment in which both the battle and victory was won for David that day.
Whether you’ve read it or not, many of us are familiar with the David and Goliath story. At least we are familiar with the fact that David – a young shepherd boy – steps forward with only a stone and slingshot in hand and slays Goliath.
“Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:49)
The part of the story that I wasn’t familiar with, was the exchange that happens on the battlefield between David and Eliab and some of the other Israelite soldiers.
I re-read and re-read this chapter and after each time, I continually asked myself the same question: “why is this part even here?”
After reading the below few verses, would you say that they are memorable parts of the story?
“Now the Israelites had been saying ‘Do you see how this man (Goliath) keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him.” (1 Samuel 17:25)
David hears this and almost in a state of disbelief he asks the men to repeat and clarify the details of this generous reward that the king will do.
“David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills the Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)
The Israelites responded and “repeated to him what they had been saying and told him ‘This is what will be done for the man who kills him.” (1 Samuel 17:27)
So we clearly understand that there is a hefty prize attached to Goliath’s life, and here is where the conversation gets intense.
All of a sudden Eliab catches wind of David’s presence and chatter on the battlefield, and immediately becomes annoyed and angry with his younger brother.
I’m pretty sure he’s saying to himself “Why is he even here? He’s a shepherd boy and should be home with my father tending the sheep! He has no business being here. Plus, he’s embarrassing me among my peers.”
We get a sense of major superiority from Eliab, and honestly, I understand why. He was the oldest of eight boys, and I’m sure he was used to receiving all the attention and respect from the family – more so than any of the other brothers. Eliab was used to the spotlight and getting all the glory.
Despite being cruel to his younger brother, we can see his perspective when we read how he heard about David speaking among the guys and “burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” (1 Samuel 17:28)
Ouch. Not only super embarrassing for David to be publicly shamed like that, but by his own brother. That hurts.
However, David has the perfect posture – he didn’t care about the mean venomous words and opinions of others, his feet were firmly planted in his faith, and he knew in his heart that God’s opinion about him was the only one that mattered. David responds to his brother by essentially saying “What did I do to make you so mean and angry towards me?” and then he turns away and starts talking about the prize topic again to the other soldiers.
“He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.” (1 Samuel 17:30-31)
Again, this is not a part of the story that originally stuck out to me, and again, I found myself asking “Why is this part here?” Is it here to show the competition and sibling rivalry between David and Eliab? Ok, maybe, but I’m not sold on that being the reason. Is it here to show how God can use anyone for His purpose, even a shepherd like David? Ok, yes, that sounds like a stronger purpose for this part of the story, but I still wasn’t satisfied. There had to be a deeper reason why this exchange between David and Eliab and the conversation amongst David and the Israelites was inserted into this scripture passage.
Then it hit me. It was like the verse jumped off the page and hit me in the forehead like one of David’s stones. But the twist was, the verse that jumped and hit me is the verse that isn’t there. It’s missing. It’s the most important verse and the one verse that left me thinking.
You see, the verse I’m referring to is verse 30.5. What happened between verse 30 and verse 31? Or should I say, what was it that David said that made the king call for him?
V30: “He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before.”
V31: “What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.”
What did David say? I think verse 30.5 should say “David said to God, ‘Yes Lord, send me!”
Yes, David won the battle against Goliath that day with one forceful shot of his sling, but I believe the real battle was won in that moment on the battle field while David was among the soldiers and his brother.
David already knew that the battle ahead belonged to the Lord and was already won! God had been readying David spiritually, physically, and emotionally all those years while he was tending sheep, so that right at the perfect moment, when He would call him up to the front line of battle, he was ready and willing to fight. That perfect moment that David would be available and running towards the challenge with bold faith and knowing he’s fighting on the winning side! Which is exactly what David did.
“David ran quickly to the battle line to meet him.” (1 Samuel 17:48)
All those years of growing up as a shepherd boy, years of being in the waiting – waiting for his life to change in any exciting way – were in fact, years in training. These were the years of training that led up to that one single moment on the battle field of David raising his hand and saying “Yes Lord, send me! I’ll go!”
I wonder if the two times David asked that same question to the soldiers (about the prize details), wasn’t because he was an idiot and needed them to repeat it, but what if he repeated the question because he was having an internal conversation simultaneously with God?
What if David was simply “buying time” by asking the question to the soldiers a second time? What if the Israelites were talking about one thing in his ear, but God was talking about another thing in his heart? The Israelites were talking to him about material prize terms, but God was talking to him about eternal prize terms. Two conversations happening at once.
What if amidst all the battlefield chatter, God was talking to David’s heart saying “You, David. I want to send YOU!” and David was responding in his heart saying “Me? A shepherd boy like me?”
So, in order to “buy more time” with his conversation with God, he asked the question again to the Israelites – he simply needed more time to fully evaluate the task at hand and what he was being asked to do by God.
I can imagine that while the conversation with the soldiers on the outside was happening, the conversation with God on the inside went something like this: “Let me evaluate the situation Lord. Ok, all odds are against me – my brother, this giant Philistine, I’m in my shepherd clothes not armor, but You are the Living God and all things are possible with You Lord. Yes, send me Lord! I’ll go!”
It was in that moment on the battlefield that David knew the battle already belonged to the Lord. It was in that moment on the battlefield that David won a personal battle against his brother – by not allowing his brother’s opinion to rule his heart, but focusing only on God’s opinion about who he was. It was in that moment on the battlefield that David knew he could take on Goliath.
This moment on the battlefield amongst the soldiers and his brother is when the battle was already won for David – before he even stepped up to battle with Goliath.
David may not have been physically trained for battle, but he sure was spiritually trained, which enabled him to hear God speaking. God can’t work if your posture is closed. God needs you to be ready and available in order for Him to use you to execute His plan out on the field.
Let God worry about your position on the battlefield – because the battle is already His!- let us focus on being available to his instructions.
That is what I want. I want to have such a tight line of communication with God, that I have bold faith like David and run towards every opportunity God gives me saying “Yes Lord, send me! I’m available! I’ll go!” I want to have the strong posture to turn away and not allow outside noise to distract me from the direction God needs me to run in.
I challenge us to all check our pulse and evaluate our heart. Is your heart all booked up? Is it by appointment only, or is it open and available allowing the Real Scheduler to tell you where you need to go and what you need to do at exactly the right time every hour of every day?