He was the youngest boy in his family, this young shepherd from Bethlehem (I Sam.16:11). As a shepherd keeping his father’s flocks, living out in the sun and under the stars, he experienced the fullness and wonders of nature. He loved to compose poetry and sing music and many times his works spoke of the world he experienced (e.g., Psalm 29, 19, 8). He was brave. He fought with a lion and a bear to protect his father’s flocks because he was passionate about whatever he did (I Sam. 17:34-36). He had the blessing (or maybe the curse) of being a good looking young lad (I Sam. 16:12,18) and he easily made friends with all whom he came in contact.
When Samuel first met him, he was not physically the man he would later become, but his heart was already far advanced of his body. When the Lord had sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint the new king, he thought he had found him when he saw Eliab, David’s oldest brother. He said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him” (I Sam. 16:6). He judged Eliab’s physical stature to be the measure of a good king. But God told him not to look on his countenance, nor the height of his stature, nor his outward appearance, for the Lord looked on his heart (I Sam. 16:7). God chose David to be king because he was “a man after His own heart” (I Sam. 13:14).
Even as a youth David had an unusual zeal for the things of God. His three oldest brothers, Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah had followed king Saul to battle (perhaps because they were conscripted – I Sam. 14:52). When David was charged by his father to take provisions to their captain, he heard Goliath of Gath defy the armies of the Living God and challenge one of them to a battle to the death to determine the fate of the rest. David instantly said to those that would listen, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Sam. 17:26)! All other men, including king Saul, who literally stood head and shoulders above the rest in Israel, fled when they heard the Gittite and were afraid (I Sam. 17:11). But not David!
When the news of David’s comments made it’s way to the tent of King Saul, he had to see him. He quickly brought this young man, who had earlier played the harp to soothe Saul’s fragile nerves, in to his tent to examine him (I Sam. 16:22,23). David boldly told him, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (I Sam. 17:32)! To his brothers, this might have been boasting from a naughty heart, but in reality it was genuine courage from a heart of faith. To Saul, the great warrior, it might have been an outrageous claim and even a little insulting. But it was sincere and true. David believed that God would make Goliath just like the lion and the bear–dead (I Sam. 17:37). And He did.
David tried the armor which Saul offered him but it was no use. David said he could not wear them because he had not proved them. Saul was a full grown man who stood head and shoulders above every other man in Israel. David was not yet grown into the man he would become. Had the situation not been so grave, it must have been rather amusing to see David place a helmet on his head that was too large or try to walk in greaves that hindered his efforts. Saul’s armor was no good to David and against a spear the size of weaver’s beam with a head that weighed 600 shekels of iron it would have proved ineffective anyway. David already had a greater shield than that of Saul (e.g., Psalm 3:3; 5:12; 28:7; 33:20; 144:2). David, on his part, chose a staff, a sling and five smooth stones with which to defeat Goliath, but one stone was enough (I Sam. 17:40).
When the Philistine giant of Gath saw young David approach, he was offended. Did the Israelites consider him a dog, he asked, that could be beaten with a staff? He cursed David in the name of his false gods and promised to feed David’s flesh to the beasts and the fowls. This huge, hulk of a man arose and began to slowly approach David. But “David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine” and took out his sling and a stone and, with the precision matching that of any Benjamite sling, sunk the stone in the giant’s forehead (I Sam. 17:49). When the Philistines saw that their champion had expired, they took to flight, David leading the pursuit.
The women of Israel, overjoyed at their deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines, began to praise David. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” they sang, to the great displeasure of King Saul. It was from that point on that Saul began to eye David and seek ways to rid himself of this perceived enemy (I Sam. 18:8,9). But the Lord was with David and caused him to prosper (I Sam. 18:12). David was made king over Judah and ruled from Hebron when he was thirty years old for seven years and six months (II Sam. 2:1-7; 5:4), and then made king over all Israel over which he ruled till he was seventy years old (I Kings 2:11; I Chron. 29:27).
Though David was a man after God’s own heart, he was not perfect. Three great transgressions mar his great example. First, there was the sin with Bathsheba. David liked women, just as his son by Bathsheba would as well. But David gave in to unlawful desires and it began a downward spiral in his life. Second, David sinned in numbering the people. David apparently did not trust God enough at this time. And finally, what could be David’s greatest failure was his lack of parental guidance. Amnon attacked his sister Tamar, Absalom killed his brother Amnon and attempted a coup, ousting David and going in to his concubines, and Adonijah attempts to take over from David. David never once displeased Adonijah, and he may well have treated his other children similarly (I Kings 1:6). David’s family was fraught with all manner of problems.
The great glory of David, however, rests not in any great deeds but in his relationship to the Messiah. The Christ was the seed of David (Rom. 1:1-4). God had told David that when he slept with his fathers in the grave that God was going to raise up his seed after him and His throne would be everlasting, as would His kingdom (II Sam. 7:12,13). David’s psalms describe the glorious resurrection of the Christ and the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom (Psalm 1; 16). All of these prophecies ultimately find their fulfillment in Acts 2 and the establishment of the church of Christ, the tabernacle of David (Acts 15:16).
Eric L. Padgett