The Faith of a Child
1 Samuel 17:12-30
12Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man [Jesse]was already old and advanced in years. 13The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. 17And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.” 19Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. 24All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26And David said to the men who stood by him, “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?” 27And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.” 28Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.
So far in this story of David, we haven’t learned much about him. Now, in just a few verses we begin to get the measure of this kid. It would appear, based on the text, that David serves both Saul, (as musician and armor bearer) and his own family, as shepherd. He is part of Saul’s court, but probably not all of the time. At the beginning of this story about Goliath, he is clearly working in the fields as a shepherd for his father. His three oldest brothers are serving the army alongside of Saul and David is sent to them with food. At that time, a soldier was expected to provide his own food. So one can only image there where many family members coming and going with supplies for their men in military service.
My (sanctified) imagination takes over when this story opens. I can just see a teenage David running from his father to the battlefield. He’s a young enough male to be excited by the action of a battle. Running food to his brothers was probably a pleasure for him. But now he gets to see Goliath in action and suddenly a teenager inadvertently makes all those Israelite soldiers look as cowardly as they are behaving. He is incensed by the lack of faithfulness and loyalty being expressed by both King Saul and his men. This child asks the question no one else is willing to ask. “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” His spirit is assaulted by the disrespect shown by the opposing army and declares as much. Using that imagination again, consider how those adult soldiers felt as this child mocks their faithlessness. And chief among those who should feel bad is King Saul. David's own brothers, who know that he has been anointed as the next king, mock him. Eliab, his oldest brother says, "And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?" Such a clever way to tell David he had no business at the edge of the battle and to go back to his sheep. As only a teenager can do, David blows him off and talks to someone else.
Perhaps my vision of this scene is wrong, but I don’t think so. We’re beginning to get a picture of this young man who has been chosen to lead God’s people. He is brave and most of all, he is faithful. He knows with all his heart that God is not afraid of Goliath and victory can be theirs if they only trust in Him. I rather admire this teenage male bravado. Those who don’t share this great faith are put into their place with just a few words.
What we don’t see in David is fear. Saul’s fear has spread to the whole army. David isn’t buying that attitude. Instead, he is already looking to what God can do. That is a characteristic we will find throughout David’s life and it makes him the hero we know so much about.