First Samuel 17 records for us the famous story of David versus Goliath. You probably know the story well. The Israelite army had set up camp at the Valley of Elah, ready to battle the Philistines. But there was a problem. The Philistines had an unbeatable warrior named Goliath, and he was massive. No one dared face him. No one, that is, except David, a young shepherd-child who arrived to check on his older brothers at battle.
The narrative goes on to tell us how young David confronted gargantuan Goliath with only his shepherd's staff, his sling, and a few small stones from a nearby stream. I'm sure you know how the story ends. Against all odds, David used his sling to deliver a mortal strike to Goliath's forehead. In doing so, God used David to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines.
Ultimately, the story of David and Goliath is a story of a faithful God who prevails on behalf of those who belong to him. And through the story, we learn three great lessons about God's salvation.
God's People Cannot Save Themselves
At the core of the story is an army who could not stand against a great enemy. First Samuel 17:24 describes the fighting men of Israel as having "great fear" of Goliath. Even Saul, the king of Israel, was "dismayed and terrified" (1 Sam. 17:11). And rightly so. By the description given in verse 4, Goliath stood close to ten feet tall. By all accounts, Goliath was a monstrous bear of a man! His defiant presence alone caused the Israelite army to hide back with fear. They were paralyzed; they couldn’t save themselves.
The same remains true of us today. But in our case, sin is what paralyzes us. Not with fear, but with death. Apart from Christ, we are those who are "dead in [our] transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1; cf. Rom. 6:23). We cannot save ourselves, not when our great enemies, sin and death, have us strangled in their Goliath-like grips. We desperately need someone else to save us; we need someone else to deliver us from death and give us life.
Thankfully, God has given us such a Savior.
God Graciously Provides a Deliverer
When David arrived on scene, he was dismayed that no one would stand up against the Philistine enemy. With total reliance on the Lord, he gave word that he would face the one standing in defiance of God. But Israel's king was concerned. "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him," said Saul, "you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth" (1 Sam. 17:33).
By all external appearances, David was not supposed to win this battle. He was just a boy. He had no experience as a soldier. How could he possibly confront a ruthless bear of a man? Yet—for God’s own honor and glory—David is exactly who God chose to prevail against Goliath. In David, God provided the unlikeliest of heroes to be his people’s champion.
As we gaze at the beauty of God’s wisdom—as we see him elect a shepherd-boy to be his people’s deliverer—we are pointed forward to the ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for [his] sheep" (Jn. 10:11). God has provided us with our own unlikely Deliverer!
When God looked down on our broken, sin-struck world, he looked with eyes of mercy and grace. With an unthinkable act of compassion, the eternal Son took on human flesh. But when he took on flesh—when he descended to our broken world—he did not descend to a kingly palace. No, he was born in a barn in Bethlehem. The Lord Almighty—our Creator—humbled himself and came to us as a helpless infant among animals, as the unlikeliest of Saviors. And he delivered us in the unlikeliest of ways. Not as a mighty warrior in battle, but as a humble servant, through his own death.
And he did all of this as our faithful Promise-Keeper.
God Faithfully Saves His People According to His Promises
Long ago, God promised a Child who would deliverer us from sin, death, and even Satan himself. It’s a promise that takes us back to the garden of Eden, where we find our ancestors shamefully hidden from God because of their own rebellious sin.
In the midst of all the heartache that came as a result of our fall, an incredibly beautiful promise was shared: a future son of Eve will deliver a mortal wound to Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15). It’s a promise that looks ahead to the childlike David delivering a mortal wound to Goliath’s head. But David was but a shadow of Christ; he foreshadowed the true, eternal Shepherd-King who would arrive to deliver our souls.
Jesus is the better David who has come to crush Satan’s head through the cross and through the empty grave. Jesus is the heavenly Son—born of a woman—born to save us from sin, death, and Satan himself, to fulfill the wonderful promise given long ago in the garden we once called home.
This Christmas, may we remember: because we cannot save ourselves, God has graciously given us a Savior, whom he promised long ago. He has given us Jesus—the Child of promise—in total faithfulness to his Word, so that we could be restored to our true home in heaven. May we rest and rejoice in his merciful provision, and may we praise him for his awesome faithfulness.
Rejoicing with you,