<< 1 Samuel 17: Goliath Slain by David >>
“David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.”-I SAM. xvii. 37.
WHAT the Christian life is in part a warfare, is the experience of every true follower of the Lord. There is much of peace, and much of blessing, attendant upon one who walks in the path that leads to life; but there is also much of struggle. Hence we may see the reason of the history of Israel, of which the old Testament mainly consists, being so much taken up with narratives of military affairs, which would be distasteful to the spiritually blinded man, were it not that, either dimly or clearly, he can perceive that they are types of internal conflicts. He must fight against the lusts, passions and practices which are in his lower nature, if his soul is to become a kingdom of peace, and if the palm of victory is to enable him to say with the apostle; “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. iv, 7, 8.)
Nor is the battle of spiritual life a single struggle. It consists of many campaigns. There are foes manifold and various, which are to be resisted and conquered. The Word of God is said to have many crowns, The apostle said, “I die daily” (I Cor. xv. 3I); and so it will be with every Christian. His first struggles will be of a comparatively external kind. He will have to decide to break off from the vices and the company of bad men, and commence a new life. This is a great achievement at the time, and requires courage; prayer, faith and determination for its accomplishment. It is with some a hard battle; but it is one which leads to a great victory. We usually rest a while after this early effort; but find, as life continues, that other enemies assail us, some under one form and some under another; and we need all our vigilance, and all our faithfulness, to come off on all occasions completely victorious. We shall be wounded, sometimes, and half dead (Luke x. 30); but, blessed be the Divine Mercy, if we are but faithful, we shall never fail to come out at length more than conquerors through Him who loves us, and is able to save all those who trust in Him.
Three classes of conflict are referred to in our text. David alludes to his conflict with a lion, and also with a bear; and every Christian must not only be like David, spiritually a keeper of sheep, or in other words a preserver of the affections of innocence and charity in the fold of his heart, but he must also fight against the lion and the bear, when these would take and devour a lamb out of his mental flock.
The lion comes in the form of a spirit of opposition to all religion. A raging spirit of contempt for all that is good, infused by evil spirits, is a furious lion, daring and destructive.”The devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour 17 (I Pet. v. 8). David speaks of his trials in this respect on several occasions. “My soul is among lions and I lie among them that are set on fire, the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword” (Ps, lvii. 4). “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth; break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord ” (Ps: lviii. 6). To break their great teeth is to scatter by truth their pretended facts and false statements. In the ninety-first Psalm it is said to the man who loves the Lord “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shall thou trample under feet” (ver. 13). Every spiritual David has to fight against the lion; and if he be faithful and true, he will be able to say, like David, “The Lord delivered me out of the paw of the lion.”
But, in due time, he will have a visit from the bear. This heavy, lobbing inhabitant of the forest and the cave, is the type of an absorbing love of the world. It is an animal of strong affections, but low, clumsy, and coarse. It seems all appetite; it pants and longs, and is full of restlessness. It is like the love of the world, never at ease. The bear’s eagerness, the bear’s growl, the bear’s coarseness, all symbolize the impatient, hankering, surly disposition of one who on!y cares for earthly things. Some men who have resisted the lion, yet succumb to the spirit of the bear. They wish to be suddenly rich. They clutch and hug the possessions of earth; they pant for more with unceasing eagerness, and never have enough. It is as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him; or leaned his hand upon the wall, and a serpent bit him (Amos v. 19). If they fail in their overweening desires for carnal delights and pleasures their deep and bitter mourning realizes the words of the prophet: “We roar all like bears” (Isa, lix. 11 ). If, however, we are faithful to our high calling, and set our hearts upon the treasures of heaven first, and desire only so much of other things as the good Providence of the Lord awards to us while we are living in accordance with His Divine Will, we shall be able to say like David, “The Lord hath delivered me also out of the paw of the bear.”
But these two deliverances not only afford matter for grateful recollection, as mercies past, but also serve as a foundation for confidence in the Divine protection in the severer conflict that lies before us, the conflict with the terrible giant of Philistia. “He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”
We have endeavoured, in previous discourses, to make it apparent that the Philistines represent those who adhere to the phantasy of salvation by faith alone; which is, their idol, their Dagon, their all in all. These people will write, wrangle, fight, and pray, for what they call faith: while love and charity, justice, mercy, and humility are ruthlessly trampled under feet. Formerly the Philistines in the Church would rush eagerly to plunder and destroy the property of those who differed in creed from themselves; and were quite reckless if thousands fell of those who in their estimation did not rightly believe. Happily this extreme is now seldom experienced; but even yet there is far more regard for those of the same creed, and dislike for others, than justice or true religion would sanction. Goliath is the type of these. He was proud, boastful, and lifted up in his own conceit. His name signifies “lifted up.”
Goliath was of Gath. The name “Gath” means “wine-press,” and the wine-press corresponds to the rational faculty, whose office is to press out the essences of things, so as to get at their hidden meanings. Goliath, the giant of Gath, represented those of the present day who are bold and strong in their announcement that the way to heaven “is not a heavenly life from love to God and man, strengthened by faith in the Holy Word, but that belief only in the death of Christ to pay the penalty of their sins is the one thing needful. No need of repentance, no need of God’s commandments, no need of doing anything; “only believe.”
This is so remarkable a contradiction to the plain statements of the Bible that of itself it would sink by its own weakness. But, to give it strength, resort is had to reasoning; and the unregenerate heart readily favours the arguments which are to “make the commandments of God of none effect” (Matt, xv. 6).
“God is so perfectly, so infinitely pure,” they say, “that no one can obey Him to the extent which His purity requires. The smallest failing even in thought must vitiate all we do and make it sinful in the Divine sight. As if our Heavenly Father were like a parent who required a young child to do things far beyond its power and punished it for “what it was unable to perform, The Lord says, “My yoke is easy, and my, burden, is light.” (Matt. xi. 30). But these reasoners say, “The Lord’s yoke is infinitely difficult, and His burden it is quite impossible to carry.” The Philistines reason again: “Man was upright at first; but he has lost his ability by sin: and therefore it is impossible now to obey the will of God, and our virtues themselves are sins.” As if the Lord had not set forth our works of obedience done from love and faith, as GOOD WORKS. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. v. 16).: The same reasoners declare that if a true penitent were to be faithful all the rest of his life, he would yet be as far from salvation as ever, because the Divine wrath would be against him for past sins, which he could never atone for, inasrnuch as every good act of every day is already due to God, and therefore there is no merit left to set against sins gone by. As if the Lord had ever said that for so much sin there must be somuch merit. As if the Lord had not declared: “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his. transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him; in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live ” (Ezek. xviii. 2 1,22). Men do not go to heaven, because of merit, or payment of any kind but because of the Lord’s goodness and mercy, and their preparedness. “They that were ready went in with Him, to the marriage;and the door was shut” (Matt. xxv. 10). “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for MINE OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. xliii. 25). ” Again,” say these reasoners, “to make salvation dependent on what any man does is to take the glory from the Lord Jesus Christ, whose all-sufficient Atonement on the Cross paid the Father for all man’s sins past, present and to come, But where do we read in Scripture of the sorrows of the Saviour being paid to the Father? He was the Father in the Son. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. V. 19). “Our Saviour Jesus, Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity; and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit, ii, 13, 14). When men who were his debtors had nothing to pay, whether they owed five hundred pence or fifty, He “frankly forgave them both” (Luke vii. 42).
These and such like reasonings, then, have in reality no foundation in the Divine Wisdom, nor in the Written Word. Yet by these means, and the secret inclinations of our depraved nature the system of salvation by FAITH ONLY has become a giant, and has long boastfully defied the armies of the living God. It has filled thousands of pulpits with far more exhortations not to think of pleasing our Heavenly Father by keeping His commandments, than with those encouragements to do His holy will which our weaknesses so much require. A good life seems, in the estimation of many, to be more dangerous, as leading to self-righteousness, than a bad life as unfitting us for heaven.
The height of Goliath, six cubits and a span, represents theimposing character of this system in its own esteem, It is far above the measure of a man, Six is used in Scripture in reference to the labours and states of the regenerate life; thus, there are six days in which we are to labour, before we attain the sabbath of rest. The six cubits and a span spiritually intimate that, in the estimation of the mental Philistines, their system is a full substitute for the whole of the regenerate life, and something more. They claim our Lord’s righteousness to be imputed to them. We might as well claim His Omnipotence, His Godhead. But, of course, if it could be had, it would be equivalent to all our spiritual attainments, and something more.
Goliath was well armed. ” He had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail: and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders” (ver. 5, 6). This abundance of armour in other parts, while the feet were comparatively exposed, would seem to imply the possession of abundant knowledge of religion, and acquaintance with the Word of God, except such parts as relate to obedience and righteousness in daily life. It is written, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass: and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut. xxxiii 25). That is, thy daily walk, all thy actions, shall be guarded by truth and goodness: and help shall be given as thy daily needs require. Goliath had nothing for his feet. The system of BELIEVING ONLY takes little notice of the feet. And yet the Lord says, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (John xiii, 10). True religion never forgets the head; but it also never forgets the feet. “If thy foot offend thee, cut it off” (Mark ix. 45). If there be anything in thy business or thy daily doings contrary to the spirit of Christian virtue, reject it, and see that thy feet, as well as thy head, go in harmony with true religion. ” Our feet shall stand within thy gates, a Jerusalem” (Ps, cxxii. 2). The apostle Paul, in describing the Christian’s spiritual armour, did not forget the necessity of having the “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph. vi. 15.)
Goliath’s challenge and boasting are indicative of the vain gloriousness of an unpurified heart. Pride and self-confidence are always found where innocence and heavenly charity have not yet been allowed to enter.
But let us now return to David. He represents the spiritually minded man; the man who has already overcome the opposition to religion from falsity, and the carnal-mindedness which would animalize our nature. He has slain the lion and the bear; and is now equally ready to oppose a vain semblance of religion which is not obedience, nor charity, nor love; however confidently proposed or defiantly proclaimed, He trusts in the Lord with simple love and faith. Saul’s armour is offered and declined. It is not outward arguments that are needed. Nothing in which the external man trusts will suffice.
He takes his staff in his hand. The staff corresponds to those promises of the Word which encourage and support. David says in another place: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps. xxiii. 4). He takes five smooth stones out of the brook, and puts them in a shepherd’s bag. Stones correspond to truths; smooth stones to truths of love. The brook signifies the “living waters” of the Word, as then known and present to the soul. “God is Love” is the first of these smooth stones. ” The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psa. cxlv. 9). This is a beautiful stone, as well as a smooth one. It is a “pearl of great price.” (Matt. XIII. 46). The second of these smooth stones is the first and great commandment: “Thou. shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Deut. vi.5 ; Matt. xxii. 37). How smooth and delightful is the truth that we should love Him who has infinitely loved us, and done such wonders of mercy and love for us. The third is that for the Lord’s sake we should love our neighbour as ourselves. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John iii. 14). The fourth smooth stone to take from the brook of the Word is that from love we should obey the Lord’s precepts. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John xiv. 15). “I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold” (Ps. cxix. 127). ” O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (ver. 97). The fifth smooth stone is the assurance that we are ever in the Lord’s hands. His care is over us, and His love works within us, wherever we are, and whatever we do. In health and in sickness, in life and in death, THE LORD WILL PROVIDE. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delighteth in His way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand” (Ps. xxxvii. 23, 24).
David’s placing these stones inthe shepherd’s bag represented our placing truths in the memory. This is a spiritual bag, for containing what we need; and it is the most capacious and the most convenient of all bags. It is of this the Lord speaks;
“Provide yourselves bags which wax not old” (Luke xii. 33).
The sling is that which gives direction to the stone, as the bow is the director of the arrow; and like the bow, it corresponds to doctrine: for this teaches how to apply the truths of the Word so as to be effective. The victorious Christian is represented in the Book of Revelation as riding on a white horse, with a bow in his hand, and going forth conquering and to conquer (vi. 2). David’s sling gave the proper direction to his stone: the Christian’s doctrine teaches how to apply his truths, so as to repress any evil against which their power is brought.
David aimed at the giant, and struck him in the forehead. He fell vanquished at once. The forehead corresponds to the will as to its motives or intentions. The forehead is above the eyes: the intentions are above the eyes of the intellect or understanding. The saints in heaven are said to have the Father’s name written on their foreheads (Rev. xiv. I): not that they have a word written there; but that the Divine Love, the nature of the Father, is expressed in all their aims and in their every motive. The forehead of Goliath, however, signifies the motive of those who love and sustain a religion which rejects obedience and love as essential to salvation. It is not love that rejects love; for love is the life of the Lord, the life of heaven, the life of every virtue; “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. xiii. 10). What is it, then, which despises charity, and rejects justice as an essential of true piety? What is it that dares to scorn the commandments of God as the essential laws of the life of a Christian? What is it that has separated religion from life, and made zealots who are bitter, ill-natured, peevish, and who yet think they are true followers of the lovely Prince of Peace? What is it that swells up bombastically, and disdains humble and sincere Christians who diligently follow their Saviour, but who cannot follow them ? It is self, self-conceit,
pride of intellect. This is the moving cause, the head and front of their offending. The stone of God’s truth sinks deeply into this forehead, and the giant is overthrown. The spiritual Christian sees they who are of such a defiant, insolent spirit, “love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” (John iii. 19). The Lord is love; they are self. Whosoever does not deny himself cannot be the Lord’s disciple. He who denies love and obedience, denies the whole Word of God; for on the two grand commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matt. xxii. 40) Without Christian love there is no faith; for “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom, x, 10). It is love that believes all things, says the apostle (I Cor. xiii. 7) : and without love there is no church, no good works, no heaven.
The giant reels, and falls: and David rushes forward, and cuts off his head with his own sword; or, in other words, shews that the whole aim and end of such a system, which professes to defend itself by the letter of the Bible, is condemned by the letter of the Bible: for every part of the sacred book is full of exhortations to the effect of the Lord’s own declarations. “If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. xix. 17). ” Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. v. 19).
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)