David is often referred to as a character in the Bible who was known to be a man after God’s heart. This is some pretty high praise when we look at our lives and the many ways in which we feel that we fall woefully short of being worthy of God’s love. In reality, history tells us that David was an actual flesh-and-blood man, with all of the failings and shortcomings of other men. You’ve probably heard the story of David and Goliath, in which David killed a fearsome man, a huge soldier in the Philistine army (whom many called a “giant”) with a single stone and a “slingshot.” David’s life was filled with soaring highs such as that account, and with miserable lows, even as the king of Israel.
David wasn’t perfect, so what made him different from other men of the time? No matter his circumstances, David loved God and walked closely with Him. He talked to God always, in both prayer and song (the entire book of Psalms in the Old Testament consists of letters and songs David wrote to God) – even during his highest highs and lowest lows. He did this from the time he was a young boy until he drew his last breath. In all things, David trusted God, and complete trust in God is the deepest expression of our love for Him.
Perhaps the best way to understand a person’s thought is to try to get “inside” that person’s head. Consider this, an exploratory narrative of David’s best-known accomplishment, from David’s point of view – the legendary fight with Goliath:
Chosen To Be King
Me? Why me? My brothers are older. They are taller and stronger, and very brave men! There must be some mistake. David wasn’t the only one at the feast who listened to Samuel’s announcement in stunned disbelief. In fact, Samuel himself was a bit surprised when God told him that David was the one He chose to lead Israel as king someday. But when the fresh-faced 15-year-old boy joined the rest of the people of Bethlehem in answer to Samuel’s invitation to a feast of celebration, God clearly and plainly told Samuel, “Arise. Anoint him, for this is the one I have chosen.”
God knew that Israel needed a king who would be just and wise but who, above all, would love Him and lead his people in the ways of the Lord. God’s messenger Samuel could see David’s tall, strong, brave older brothers, so he naturally assumed that one of them would be chosen by God. But God knew David’s heart. The chosen king would be tested, his heart broken, his will weakened and his leadership threatened, but God knew David would walk closely with Him. He knew David’s trust in Him no matter the circumstances.
Let’s take a look at David a year or two after Samuel’s remarkable announcement. A young boy, a mere teenager, David was still a shepherd and content to remain so. And in his daily walks with his flock, he continued to walk closely with God.
Laughing, David playfully herded the wayward sheep back into the flock. God has chosen me, yes, but for what? I’m a shepherd, and happy to serve my father in this manner. In the solitude of the desert, David herded his flock of sheep and talked with God daily, praising His name and taking comfort in His presence. As he grew a year older, then two, his courage and his kindness bloomed; he faced wolves in defense of his flock, and always kept count to be sure none was left behind.
In scripture, God’s people are often referred to as the flock, and in the New Testament, Jesus is known as the shepherd. A shepherd lovingly tended his flock, never leaving one behind but rather, leaving the entire flock for a time if necessary, just to rescue one that had gone astray.
In the time of the war between the Israelites and the Philistines, one Philistine, Goliath, mocked the Israelites, challenging them to match one of their soldiers against him. He stood head and shoulders above other men, garbed in heavy bronze, his shield-bearer always in front of him. The Israelites were afraid of Goliath and his challenge. Even David’s older brothers, who were engaged in the battle, were discouraged. Who among them could slay this giant?
In this war, David was still a young man and a simple shepherd, too young to join the battle lines. His father asked him one day to carry bread and cheese to his brothers on the front lines. In doing so, David heard Goliath bellowing his challenge, mocking the soldiers of Israel. He asked who the giant was, and what would be done for the man who answered the bold challenge. When his brothers heard of David’s presence and questions, they called him wicked and shamed him for not tending the sheep as he was told. Undaunted, David answered his brothers and the other soldiers by saying that he had faced bears and lions with his bare hands in defense of his flock, and that God had protected him every time. Surely he could face the giant and enjoy God’s protection in defense of Israel.
Maybe the most overlooked yet most important part of this historical account is simply this: David accepted Goliath’s challenge.
King Saul offered David heavy armor and a sword to prepare to face the dreaded giant. Uncomfortable in the heavy garb, David opted for just his shepherd’s clothing. He chose five smooth stones from the riverbank, and took only the stones and his sling along to face the giant. When Goliath saw the young boy coming out to face him with only the sling and stones, he laughingly vowed not only to kill him but to feed his flesh and bones to the wild animals.
David boldly stood his ground and looked squarely at Goliath, vowing to slay him not with his own strength and skills, but with the power of the Lord God.
With those words, David hurled a stone at Goliath and struck a single death blow to the giant’s head.
Trusting in God’s strength and protection, David fearlessly faced the giant that had terrorized an entire army for forty days. He did not brag of his own strength or skills; rather, he put on the armor of God and trusted Him to carry him through this battle as He had through so many before. Whether tending his flock or facing a terrifying giant, David turned to God for strength and courage.