1 Samuel 17 is the picture of the Mediator against a mediator. David against the Goliath. The middle-man representing Israel, against the middle-man representing the non-Christian. As David exclaims, “…who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v.26).
Yet, it is important to see the Spirit-led chronology of 1 Samuel. It is in chapter 16 that we see David anointed as King over Israel by the oil of Samuel’s horn; he is the elected one, displaying to us that the true king of the church cannot be elected by men, but elected by the Father. Christ is the true elect one – that he should be the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, despite Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah being appropriate candidates for the second king of Israel. Yet, before Samuel’s anointing of David, David already elected himself as the rejected mediator. He already lived in confidence of the living God – just as the covenant of Christ was made with Abraham before he was circumcised, so David was the rejected Shepherd of Israel before he was officially anointed as the Spirit-led Shepherd.
Thus when we see the juxtaposition of the Spirit rushing upon David against the Spirit leaving Saul, we are led to believe that Saul, in chapter 17, will not be the mediator-king of Israel. Would the LORD leave Saul for a shepherd boy? Indeed, the LORD already has. Instead, we are faced with the picture of a ruddy, unnoticeable but handsome youth who is the LORD’s beloved, immediately contrasted with the champion named Goliath of Gath, a likely descendant of the Anakim (Joshua 11:22), the giant enemies of the children of God for generations since Genesis. Where David played the lyre to exorcise Saul’s evil spirit (though this occurs after David defeats the Goliath), the Goliath stood six cubits tall with armour which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. Here is the meek man from the house of bread (Bethlehem), against the descendant of the giants (Goliah who is likely to be Anakim from Gath – Joshua 11:22, c.f. Numbers 13; Deuteronomy 1-2, the giant enemies of the Christ-like Noah, Moses, and Joshua).
The Goliath shouts, “Choose a man for yourselves” (v.8), and yet they have chosen Saul who brought Israel down to a spirit of dismay (v.11). This dismay is something which we experience when we lose our sight of David, and put ourselves in the shoes of David and become like Saul:
“…Gath means ‘wine-press’. And here we see Goliath crushing the LORD’s vineyard. Israel is the vine and Goliath is the vine crusher. Watch him crush them, vv10-11:
And the Philistine said, “I defy (reproach) the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
The word ‘dismayed’ means literally ‘shattered’ and Israel has been constantly told ‘Don’t be dismayed by the nations.’ (Deut 1:21; 31:8; Josh 1:9; 8:1; 10:25). Instead God would dismay (shatter) the nations – how? Hannah tells us at the beginning of 1 Samuel:
Those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His Anointed. (1 Samuel 2:10)
Through the Messiah, the LORD would shatter all opposition. In 1 Samuel 2 we see world-wide realities – judgement to the ends of the earth. Hannah looks ahead to the victory of the LORD Jesus. But in chapter 16 we see little David anointed as king. And here in chapter 17 we see this little king picture for us the victory of the Anointed One.” – Glen Scrivener from “Five Smooth Stones – Preaching” blog post
Where the Philistines stood at Socoh, between Socoh and Azekah at Ephes-dammim, on one mountain, the Israelites stood against them on the other mountain. The Philistines stand between the bushy and the tilled, at the edge of blood – between the wheat and the chaff (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17) – and it is upon this image of standing in the valley in-between that we are reminded of Mounts Gerizim and Ebal (Deuteronomy 27-28), the dichotomy of the blessing and the curse – all found in the Word of God Who is with the Israelites (Deuteronomy 30). Where Goliath, by his physical stature and manly works intimidated the Israelites into cowering fear (v.4-11) by words of discouragement, David in his youth and wisdom answered the rhetorical – who dares oppose the living God? We are not speaking of human contrasts – but that of light and darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light. Human works cannot overcome the grace of God to use David, the young shepherd-boy who had no sword in his hand. As much as Jonathan and Saul endured by the culture of pagan kingship; as much as Saul stood taller than others with his long and stiff neck (1 Samuel 9:2, 10:23; Exodus 32-33; Isaiah 3:16) looking like an uncircumcised king, his sword is naught in the face of the twelve judges who succeeded by faith; of the old-man Moses who considered the reproach of Christ greater than the riches of Egypt (Hebrews 11); of Abraham who having encountered the Angel of the LORD walked by the LORD’s direction to significant locations which bore greater meaning when Israel fulfilled his geographical path. This is God’s economy, that He should conquer and bruise the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15) by the sacrifice of a meek, humble and innocent lamb led to the slaughter; by the stone which the workers rejected but the cornerstone of their salvation (v.50; c.f 1 Peter 2:6-7). Indeed – Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands (chapter 18v.7).
It is therefore a time of trial – that while the law was given over forty days and forty nights; that while Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years; that while Israel had gone into Egyptian exile for over 400 years; that while the Goliath came forward to take his stand again for forty mornings and evenings we are faced time and time again with the failures of Israel. These men cannot elect the right man. In fact, their common response is that of listlessness; is that of worshipping self-made and self-elected gods (Exodus 32); is that of remaining in the wilderness like the lost sheep. And yet we see David leaving his sheep with a keeper as we see the historical and living parable of the Father electing His Son to search out the one sheep – Israel, as the rest of the sheep stood by the guardianship of the keeper (Matthew 18:12).
Now the problem in v.28 is that the sheep do not receive this saviour. “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?” What arrogance! The Son of God has come down not to condemn, but to save (John 3:16-18) – but those who are not saved are already condemned (John 3:16-18). Where are the sheep? They are with a keeper (v.20) in the wilderness; yet the flock of Israelites here are the epitome of the lost. “All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid”. Yet, in spite of this obvious imagery of being terror-stricken by man, not God, Eliab has the nerve to ask the future king why he has come down.
And so David stands by the Word of God – it is but a word (v.29), but what a word it was which stirred the hearts of the Israelites against him rather than for him (Isaiah 6:9). This is the same David who, before the Spirit rushed upon Him, was already indwelt with the Spirit by faith in Christ – he went after every enemy and struck him and delivered his sheep out of the enemy’s mouth (v.35) – and this is our Son of God who comes to us to strike the head of the Goliath in order to deliver us from the bind of sin. This is the Son of God who delivers us by binding the strong man – the Goliath (Matthew 12:29).
While we see that David and Christ are of the one and same function in chapter 17, it is important to distinguish that David understands himself to be but a type and shadow; the true deliverer and Saviour is Christ, the LORD who delivered him from the paw of the lion, the paw of the bear, and the hand of this uncircumcised Philistine (v.37; v.49). It is not by the sword of man (v.50), nor by the works or armour of any king (v.38-40), but by the righteous robe through the proclamation of the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel (v.45). “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (v.43) – indeed, Goliath is but a barking and fierce dog, but Jesus Christ can conquer this venomous animal as a meek and humiliated lamb – that He should come to Satan with the stick, the wooden cross to hang the worst of criminals.
It is here that we see Christ use Satan’s weapon against him and bruising him; and though Goliath cursed David by his gods, David stood by the Trinity, the Spirit who gave David faith in the Anointed Witness (1 Samuel 12:5) of the Father. Instead of David’s flesh being fed on by the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, it is Goliath’s and the Philistinian flesh which is fed on – to prove the power of the living God whose name Goliath has defiled. The living God against the dead gods. The living Christ, the living Mediator, who elected himself as king for the people, against the dead gods and the dead mediators (both Saul and Goliath).
Thus it is by the weapon of the sting of death that Satan’s head is stung, that Goliath’s pride: his sword and spear, are but tools turned against him. That the cross used to crucify sinners whereby Christ was crucified is in turn the place where Satan, and death, is nailed. The death is swift, sharp and unexpected, as the rest of Israel looked on. We are this Israel – the unbelieving, rejecting, lost sheep turned mad from man-induced terror. We are not David, the typological Son. We are not the rejected Saviour of the church. Furthermore, even David, attributed his honour as a type to the God whom He had faith in. Yet, his model of faith is not for us to fulfil; but it is an unceasing faith which Christ had in His Father.
It is here that we consider the rewards of the battle. Do we, as a church, go to reap the harvest when the Seed has been long planted (Luke 19:17)? The harvest is ripe but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37) – and the harvest was effected by the Christ who conquered the strong man. The harvest was effected and planted by the Christ; all we need to do is to go out and harvest – there is no more “word” to add. It is by David’s Word of God that the battle is won, and it is not by our apologetics, our wisdom, our methodology that the rewards of new creation, the crowns (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19), are received. These crowns: the souls of men, must be pursued by us. We are the workers who stand on the victory of Christ; we are called to be global missionaries to preach that victory is won, and that no victory is achieved by us nor by our faith. It is all brought to fruition by Christ and His Spirit. So we are to rise not in timidity but with a shout and pursue our enemies as far as the gates of Ekron, from Shaarim as far as Gath and Ekron; eradicating the enemy as far as the winepress where it is Christ who presses it alone (Isaiah 63), the Christ who crushes and truly eradicates Gath beyond the double-gates Shaarim. Work still needs to be done, and David’s victory is not realised until the plunder is received by His work.
Who is the man? Who is the king? “Abner, whose son is this youth?” Abner could well have replied, “He is the Son of God, the man after the Father’s own heart, Jesus Christ – the Anointed Saviour”. No – David clarifies, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite” (v.55-58). So we are brought full circle to Christ’s humanity as the son of Joseph; as the Nazarene born in Bethlehem. He conquered Satan as the human Angel (messenger) of the LORD; he conquered Satan by the flesh of men. He conquered Satan by the wooden stick. He conquered Satan by the rejected stone. He conquered by self-election. He conquered by His unceasing proclamation of the word. He is the son of God and son of man, the only Mediator for both Philistines and Israelites before the Father in heaven.