Text: 1 Samuel 17:31-40
Are any of you control freaks? How do you feel when something important needs to happen, or some big decision needs to be made, but you can’t be the one who decides or makes it happen? Isn’t that the worst feeling in the world?
It’s only natural to want to be in control. Successful people feel this the most. But the message of the Bible is that we are not in control. We must trust the Lord. We see this with David and his interaction with Saul. David does not have experience, at least not the kind of experience that Saul is looking for. Yet David does not lose faith or become paralyzed with worry. He knows that God is control. And he remembers that he does have a very important kind of experience—past experience of God defending and delivering him.
Therefore, this morning we will see how courageous faith looks past worldly experience, worldly tools and techniques, and looks to God and how He has consistently helped His people. We do not trust in ourselves, our own smarts, nor our tools and techniques, but rather we trust the Lord to grant us the victory.
David’s Interaction with Saul
As we mentioned in the previous sermon, David is getting ready to fight Goliath. But he meets oppositions. Now he meets with King Saul, and he too tries to discourage David from going forth to fight the giant. Saul says to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (vs. 33). Those are strong words. “You are not able.”
Now, Saul doesn’t simply argue that David is too young. The word translated as “youth” is nah’-ar, a term that is used of young men and servants. David is likely an older teenager at this point. He’s not old enough to be enlisted in the army, but he looks like he’s old enough. After all, Saul is going to offer David his armor. We know that Saul was an unusually tall man for his time. Why would he even bother offering this to David unless David was similar in size? Further, David is later able to lift Goliath’s sword and use it to cut off Goliath’s head (1 Sam. 17:51). A little boy isn’t going to be able to do this. But an older teenager could. And consider this. Just one chapter earlier, David was described in this way, “skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam. 16:18).
Saul’s point is more about training than age or physical development. He argues that David is not acquainted with war and will not know how to fight. That’s why David answers with an argument from experience:
But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam. 17:34-36)
David argues that he might not have experience in the army but he does have experience in fighting. More importantly, he has experience trusting in God to deliver him from such danger. The key point in David’s argument is this— “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
The Armor of Saul
Having failed to dissuade David, Saul now tries to help him. He offers him his armor:
So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. (1 Sam. 17:38-39)
This armor was the armor of a king. It would have surely been some of the best armor around. But David says no. Why?
The text actually doesn’t say that the armor doesn’t fit. After all, Saul isn’t a dummy. He knew that his armor was larger than what most could wear, and it would be a waste of everyone’s time to offer armor to David that obviously wouldn’t fit. Instead, David says that he hasn’t “tested” the armor. This means that David hasn’t tried it in combat or practice. He doesn’t know how he will be able to move and fight in it.
David isn’t against armor in principle. Later, he will accept armor and weapons from Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:4). But he doesn’t want Saul’s armor. What’s the problem? I think we can see David’s logic in what he does choose to wear. “Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:40).
David chooses to use a shepherd’s tools and a shepherd’s weapons. We don’t need to get romantic about this. The sling was a lethal weapon, after all (see Judges 20:16). The point is that David is using what he has always used, the tools of his trade thus far. He is relying on that experience he cited in vs. 34-37. David does not want to use some new tool or technique in order to win the battle. He trusts the Lord to do the work, and for his part, David will rely on his past training and experience.
But ultimately he is relying on the Lord.
The Battle is the Lord’s
The main lesson comes out in two places. First, in verse 37 David explains his trust in God. “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Then a little later, David will say to Goliath:
You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. …the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands. (vs. 45, 47)
The point is this—God is in control. He will determine the victory.
This does not mean that we shouldn’t use means. David is not saying no tools, no weapons, no tactics. But he is saying that we shouldn’t rely on them. We shouldn’t put our trust in them. Ultimately, it is God who grants the victory.
Let’s consider the ways in which this message applies to us today.
1. First, do not trust in your own power, strengths, and skills. This is a perennial danger, and it often hits us when we have a little success. Back in Deuteronomy, as Israel was about to inherit the Promised Land, God warned them:
Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up… then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” (Deut. 8:11-14, 17)
Israel didn’t do anything to earn their reward. But having received it, they were tempted to think that it was natural, that it had come to them because they were righteous, smart, and hard-working.
Something similar happened to the gentile, King Nebuchadnezzar. “The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). And what happened to him immediately after that? God humiliated him, turning him into a beast of the field, eating grass.
Success can be a danger, even for faithful people. It lulls us to sleep. It makes us think that we finally “figured it out” and brought about our blessings. Cotton Mather once said, “Godliness begot prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother.” Don’t get caught up in your own hype. If you are faithful you will be blessed. But you can’t let those blessings turn your faith away from God and to yourself. Stay humble. Remember the source of the good gifts.
2. Don’t even trust men or special experts and leaders. Perhaps we don’t think we know the perfect way to do things, but we believe that someone else does. This was certainly a trap for the early church:
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Cor. 3:5-8)
We have to remember the people who have been blessed with success are still means that God uses. He gives the increase.
3. Now, this doesn’t mean that we should reject training or preparation. We just need the right kind. The Bible says to train and prepare in the Lord. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). And this means that we must study His Word and rely upon that.
You remember that famous passage from Proverbs 3:5—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” It is in between verses which call upon us to learn God’s Word and to remember it all our days.
So you should train. But it must be the right way. You train in the Lord. Just as David remembered how God delivered him from the lion and the bear, we should remember the Word of God, which we should be training in all our lives.
And this is consistent with the message not to trust in ourselves because:
4. Faith is relying on God and trusting in Him to work things out. At its heart, the call to faith is the call to believe that God will bring about the promised results.
Jesus’ famous teaching on worrying makes this very point:
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
…Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matt. 6:25-17, 31-34)
Those words are impossible on their own. Of course you are going to worry about food and clothing! Of course you are going to worry about a job! But Jesus reminds us that God knows that we need those things. God is going to take care of us. But He calls us to be faithful. He says that if we seek the kingdom first, then God will be sure to provide for our needs.
And so trust Him. This applies to those hard decisions we mentioned at the beginning. You can paralyze yourself trying to answer every unknown. Instead, consider the reasonable issues and then move forward. Don’t over think it. You can’t solve all the problems. You can’t know how it’s going to work out. Be righteous. Be faithful. Trust God.
Do your diligent work. But then let God work it out. Trust what you know. Remember what God has done for you already. He will continue to keep His word.
The battle is the Lord’s. Believe.