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David’s “unrational” lack of fear

When it comes to being afraid, I think I would be safe in saying that there are times in which we all have fear. A loud thunderstorm, a venomous snake, a plane that shakes at 35,000 feet may be things that cause us to become afraid. In the Bible there are times when people are afraid and then there are those people who never seem to be afraid. One cannot read the life of David and conclude that he was never afraid but there are not many times recorded. Some passages (Ps 55 and 1 sam 21:12)  indicate fear on David’s behalf.

By and large though, he not a fearful person. Many of the psalms written encourage us by sharing that there is no reason to fear. Psalm 23 is probably the most well known.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  (Psa 23:4 ESV)

Others are:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  (Psa 27:1-3 ESV)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,  (Psa 46:1-2 ESV)

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?  (Psa 118:6 ESV)

David seemed to have  a very pragmatic approach to situations that would cause other men to cower in fear. This approach could be summed up in “What’s the worst that can happen?”

This seems to be the attitude that David had as he confronted Goliath. As you read the passage in 1 sam 17, you see David, time and again, express his confidence that God would deliver him.

The armies of Saul heard the challenge of Goliath and were afraid. They had forgotten who was on their side! David came to remind them of that simple fact. The assembly of God’s people did not know how the Lord saves. They soon would!

and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”  (1Sa 17:47 ESV)

Fear is often the result of worry about what might be. I agree with Mark Twain: most of the things I have worried about never happened.

What might have been in David’s case is a quick death. However, he would then be with God and that would be good. So if you can accept the worse case scenario, then go slay your Goliath with the help of the Lord. What’s the worst that can happen?

Facing our Goliaths

When Israel went to war with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 17, they gathered on one mountain and geared up for battle. The Philistines, their perpetual antagonist gathered on the other mountain and the battle was to take place in the valley between them. This time however, there would be a twist introduced in the form of Goliath.

Goliath stood apart from the Philistines and challenged Israel to send one man to fight him in a winner take all contest. All the champion from Israel had to do was to defeat Goliath. While it is never a good idea to put one’s fortune at risk in a “winner takes all contest”, this seemed an especially bad idea considering Goliath’s stature. 

And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.  (1Sa 17:4-7)

This man was well armored but more than that, he was very tall. If each cubit is 18 inches, this man stood over 9 feet tall, probably closer to 10 feet.  It is hard to actually picture Goliath as anything other than a serious war machine and to take him on in battle would be an certain suicidal endeavor.

Of course, Israel promptly choose it’s champion and sent him out in order to fight and defeat Goliath, right? Wrong! When Goliath challenged Israel, they cowered in fear:

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. (1Sa 17:11)

This should surprise us since Israel had a long history of defeating the Philistines. From their beginning, their whole existence is owed to one amazing victory over another. It started with the defeat of Egypt, progressed through a conquering of the land of Canaan, continued with the  beating back of oppressors during the times of the Judges, and even a recent victory under Saul over the Amalekites. (I Sam 15)

What went wrong? Why the fear and dismay?

There was a subtle change that had recently taken place that might explain that. Really, it might be better to say that it was the final straw in a change that was already underway. Saul had left God and God had let him go.

When Saul disobeyed God by not following through on the utter destruction of the Amalekites and their posessions, God decided to find a new King for Israel. After that day, we read:

And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.  (1Sa 15:35)

God had withdrawn his favor from Saul and the kingdom of Israel, slowly, started to turn into a secular kingdom. It didn’t get far, certainly not as far as those Paul describes in Romans 1, from whom God also turned away, but the process was starting. Their reaction to Goliath’s challenge shows that their focus was on the present reality of this life. The “sword and the spear” was all the assembly knew about. They had forgotten, or at least had lost trust, that God would fight for them.

When you find yourself facing Goliaths in your life and the fear begins to overwhelm you, ask yourself a question: Am I trying to solve this with man’s wisdom and methods, or am I going to rely on God’s ways to help me overcome this fear?

Next blog: David’s response.

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