Next in our series of articles on teens who changed the world, we’re talking about David and Goliath. Saul was the king of God’s people and he had a huge problem—literally. His giant problem was a huge Philistine named Goliath. Everyone was terrified of him. Goliath, according to the Bible, was six cubits and a span, which equals about 9 feet nine inches. That is one scary opponent! In those days, there was a race of people called Anakims who were very tall. Most of them got destroyed when Joshua and his people conquered Cannan, but there were still some left in Goliath’s town and Saul was the unlucky king who had those Philistines mad at him.
One way battles were fought in those days was for each army to choose a champion. The champions would fight each other, one-on-one, to decide which side won the battle. Of course, the Philistines chose Goliath, and no one in Saul’s army wanted to go up against him.
While this big brave army was busy being scared and trying to get out of defending the Lord’s army, a teenager named David showed up to bring lunch to his brothers. He was the king’s armor bearer, but he was allowed to go home sometimes, something the soldiers couldn’t do. When he arrived, he found the army all in an uproar over having to fight Goliath. Goliath had been taunting them for forty days, daring them to choose a champion, promising his people would be their servants if they won (but of course, he was sure they wouldn’t win.) Most likely, seeing how long it was taking the army to find someone willing to take on Goliath just built his confidence even more. Goliath was an arrogant giant and getting more so.
Saul was getting a little desperate. He promised that whoever went up against Goliath would be given great riches, could marry his daughter, and even cause his family to be free in Israel. Even with all those promises, no one was interested.
David was talking to his brothers when Goliath showed up and issued his challenge one more time. Now David got mad. He asked just who Goliath thought he was, trying to take on God’s army.
David’s older brother got mad at David, suggesting his younger brother ought to go back home and tend his sheep instead of running around wanting to watch the armies. But David had bigger plans than just watching the army. If no one else would fight Goliath, he, a teenager and a shepherd, would just have to do it himself.
Of course, David’s brother was pretty upset by that, reminding David he was just a kid and Goliath was an experienced solder. But David argued that he had at least a little experience. Once, while taking care of his sheep, a lion and a bear came and nabbed a sheep. David rescued the lamb and when the lion and bear attacked, he killed them. David announced he would do to the Philistine exactly what he’d done to the lion and bear, because Goliath was defying God’s army (and therefore God.) He said God would protect him now in the same way God had protected David against the bear and lion.
Saul told David to go ahead and give it a try. What choice did he have, really? No one else was willing to do it. The king gave David his own armor to use and also provided him with a brass helmet and a coat of mail. But David protested he’d never used those things before. He preferred weapons he had experience with, so he took off the armor and put down the sword. Instead, he found five smooth stones and put them in his bag. He picked up his sling and was ready to go. As a shepherd, he understood slings, which shepherds used to keep animals away from the sheep. Still, to most people, it seemed like a crazy idea to go after a giant soldier with a shepherd’s sling and a few rocks.
When Goliath saw a young boy had been sent to fight him, he laughed. He started making fun of David and even David’s God. David didn’t let the mocking get to him. He knew who he was. He trusted his skills and he trusted God. He responded:
“45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands (1 Samuel 17).
David wasn’t afraid because he knew God was on his side and Goliath, who had defied God, could not call on God for help. So David confidently approached Goliath and killed him with the very first stone, which frightened the Philistines so badly they ran away.
What made David so brave? He was confident because he had prepared for this moment—even though he hadn’t known it was coming—by learning to use his slingshot well. He had also prepared by developing a powerful faith in God. He had taken the time to learn for sure that he was a member of God’s church and to develop his testimony to the point that he had no doubt he would be helped and protected. Finally, he didn’t go into battle for his own glory and honor. He was defending God against the mocking of someone who hated God’s people.
Both his temporal and his spiritual preparation came together to help David change the world when he was only a teenager. This moment would make him famous, but he was going to learn that being famous wasn’t everything he might have thought it would be. The next post will talk about one of the greatest friendship stories in the history of the world—and more danger for David.