1 Sam. 17:26, “Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
We are all familiar with the story of David and Goliath recorded for us in 1 Sam. 17:20-58. David arrives on the scene just at that time when Goliath chose to issue his daily challenge. He hears the words of this giant as Goliath stands to blaspheme and to defy the armies of God. David sees that no one is doing anything about it. Everyone is afraid and hiding. Some of the men tell David what has been going on and then he asks the questions in the text at the head of this post, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God”. Notice the spirit of his questions. Especially take note of these two words, “reproach and defy”. These are the key words. They both come from the same Hebrew root and you’ll find some form of this root six times in this narrative. It appears in v.10 where Goliath says, “I defy the armies of Israel this day”. It’s found in v.25, “Surely he has come up to defy Israel. It’s found here in v.26 twice, “What shall be done to the man who takes away the reproach from Israel…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God”. We see it again later in v.36 and v.45. As Dale Ralph Davis argues in his commentary this is really the key word in this entire narrative. Goliath is not merely some big bully from Philistia, there is something much more fundamental happening here and David saw it and deeply felt it. This giant is dishonoring God’s people, and in doing that, he is dishonoring God. He is defying God. The honor of God is at stake in this.
Here in v.26 this is the first time David says anything in first Samuel and his first words introduce us to the great passion that was burning in his heart for God’s honor. David had come to know God even as a boy. He had walked with God throughout many a solitary day among the sheep on the Judean hillsides. He had worshipped the unseen but always present Jehovah. He had contemplated his greatness and his glory with a deep and reverent joy. He was a lover of God and a worshipper of God and as he walks into the camp and he hears this uncircumcised blasphemer defying God’s people, he can hardly believe his ears. It seems as though his innocent heart had never imagined that any living being would have the audacity to speak in such a blasphemous manner. Immediately his ire is up, a holy emotion of anger wells up in his heart, the very depths of his soul are stirred. As he speaks to the men, and then to his brothers, he seems to be shocked that no one is trying to do something about this. Only David, it seems, recognizes what is really at stake here. It is David who brings into the camp an entirely different world view. He injects a theological perspective, a God centered perspective into the situation. “Don’t you see what is happening? Have you forgotten about God’s honor? Doesn’t God make a difference in all of this? Don’t you see that this man is mocking God? If God has so identified himself with Israel, do you think that He’s indifferent toward these slurs upon his reputation? Well, as for me, I just can’t stand by and allow this uncircumcised Philistine to trample God’s name in the mud. I’ve go to do something about this,” So do you see, friends, the concern by which David was animated? It was his burning passion for the honor of God.
Now in our warfare as Christians this must be our burning passion also. This is the thing that must animate and move us more than anything else. As we wrestle with remaining sin, as we wrestle with the temptations of the devil, as we strive against evil, as we face many trials and difficulties and hardships along the way, as we engage in the great work of the gospel and seek to assault Satan’s Kingdom by evangelism and missionary endeavor, we must always be reminding ourselves that in this warfare the glory and the honor of God is at stake. There is something much bigger than you and me and our needs and our problems. This is not merely a personal fight that we are engaged in. The warfare we are in is ultimately between God and the devil. The battle that we are fighting is the Lord’s battle. Remember who you’re fighting for, remember the cause. This is the cause of Christ that we’re fighting for. The honor and the glory of God and the honor of the faith that we hold dear and the honor of the church is at stake in this. So we must get our eyes off ourselves and think about that.
These Israelites had forgotten this and it made them all cowards. Their love for God was either not there, or it had grown terribly cold. And with the absence of that love there was the absence of a proper zeal for his glory. God forbid that we would be like them. We must think about the kingdom to which we belong, the God we represent. Think of what a privilege it is to be in this fight, to be enrolled in God’s army. Think of the tremendous cost that was paid to redeem us. Now, my friend, do you want to let God down? When you’re tempted to give in to sin or to give in to despair or to give up, think about this! Do you want the glory and honor of God to be blasphemed because you played the coward? Do you want to bring reproach upon Christ and upon the gospel? We must quit focusing on ourselves and our problems and our difficulties. We must stop feeling sorry for ourselves and think about God and his glory. What will your children think of Christ if you fail to fight and you give in to the devil? What will your family members think of Christ? What will your work associates think of Christ? What will happen to the reputation and honor of God and of his church and of his gospel among those who know you? Brothers and sisters, this should be our great concern. It’s the honor of and glory of God!
This is the consideration that so stirred the heart of David. Here was the entire army of Israel cowering down and defeated and scared to death. But then here comes this young shepherd. When he saw what was going on, what did he say? What stirred his heart, what made his blood boil with holy zeal? He said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of God?” And when he was reproved by his brother he said, “Is there not a cause?”
Dear friends, let us each ask ourselves, why do I go to church? Why do I pray? Why do I engage in service and ministry, and gospel efforts? Why do I resist the devil and fight sin and seek to live a holy life? Is it merely to get certain benefits for myself? That’s fine, in part, but is that all it is? That’s not to be our first motive and our chief concern in this warfare. Our greatest concern is to be the glory and honor of God and of Christ. David, in effect, says to Israel and to us, “Jehovah’s reputation is at stake and that matters to me. In fact, it matters so much that I’m even willing to risk my life for it”. Now the question is can you and I say that? Can you say and can I say that what matters most to me is not my own advantage or my own reputation or my own security. What matters most to me is the honor of God. May God grant that we can we say that. Insofar as this is true of us we will know something of the courage and zeal for God’s kingdom and cause that marked the young man David.