David is confident that Goliath can be defeated (1 Samuel 17:31-49). He cannot see why anyone should be afraid of him – and he offers to be the one to take him on. I will go and fight him! But though Saul surely desperately wants someone to go and take Goliath on, this is not the offer to accept. He will open himself to all sorts of criticism if he sends this lad out to his death at the hands of Goliath. But David is insistent. He tells how he has killed lions and bears in the course of taking care of his sheep. The implication is that, by comparison, this is an easy task. And, of course, in particular he is not afraid of Goliath because he is reliant on God.
I don’t want to go far down the route of using Goliath as a way of describing the things that we face. But it is worth just asking in passing – what are the giant things that frighten us? And might it just be, not that our fear that would vanish, but that we would find a better way of coping if we were more careful to remember God’s presence with us?
David names God, and that is always a good thing to do. The Lord has saved me from lions and bears; he will save me from this Philistine. The soldiers in Saul’s army are cowards, but they are cowards because they are facing this thing on their own. David’s grounds for taking on this battle are theological, rather than anything else. He will do it because God is with him. As Brueggemann says: “David does not doubt the old stories of God’s deliverance, because he has firsthand data concerning bears and lions.” Saul is persuaded and he offers David his own armour. Here the story takes a bit of a comic turn because David staggers around in Saul’s armour for a bit before abandoning it. It is far too big for him – and he doesn’t need it anyway. David goes against Goliath with just five small stones and his sling. But that is all he needs. Well, it’s not, actually. All he needs is God’s presence. That is the important thing, and that is the point of the story. The story reminds us that the power and strength that we need come from God.
Saul thought he knew what was needed to engage in this kind of warfare – and so he equips David with all the standard army gear. He is grateful for David’s faith, but has not yet realised just how radical is this faith. David proposes a radical alternative. Forget the armour, the sword, the helmet. What are needed are just five smooth stones and a sling. Are there times when we think we know what is needed, times when we stack all the equipment up, but need to discover God’s very different approach.
David must have appeared to be unarmed and defenceless. His alternative must have seemed no viable alternative at all. But David is ready to respond to God’s call. And that’s the question. And that’s the point. How ready are we to respond to God’s call? Because if God is calling us to do it, even giant-killing is possible!