In 1 Samuel 15, the Lord rejected Saul because of the king’s unfaithfulness to His word. The Lord was not interested in appearance or typical military might but faithfulness from the heart. He found in David, son of Jesse, the kind of simple courage that qualified David to be king. The Lord confirmed His choice of David by empowering the young shepherd boy to advance against the Philistine giant, killing him, and winning the affection of the people.
The drama of 1 Samuel 17 underscores themes of spiritual warfare in Israel’s history. When Goliath saw David approaching, Goliath taunted him and “cursed David by his gods” (1 Sam 17:43). During the fight, David’s basis for advancing against the Philistine was primarily spiritual; he said:
I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies—you have defied Him. Today, the LORD will hand you over to me. Today, I’ll strike you down, cut your head off, and give the corpses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the creatures of the earth. Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD’s (1 Sam 17:45b-47; Psalm 17).
In order to fight Goliath, David first had to face opposition from those who failed to annihilate the Philistine giant. Eliab, David’s oldest brother spitefully reproved David, “I know your arrogance and your evil heart—you came down to see the battle!” (1 Sam 17:28). Later Saul said, “You can’t go fight this Philistine. You’re just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young” (1 Sam 17:33). Their unwillingness to buoy the courageous David was rooted in 40 days of cowardice (1 Sam 17:11-16). David responded with confidence in his God, straightaway telling the king, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” (1 Sam 17:32). David’s confidence was based upon past experience with predators like lions and bears, which he overcame by the power of his God. David exclaimed, “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the bear will rescue me for the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam 17:34-37; see Psalm 62). It is thus not surprising that David took up five stones and a sling to fight the Philistine.
In the storyline of Scripture, David’s courage contributed to the scrapbook of faithful acts the author of Hebrews assembled for his audience. For him, David’s might in battle against Goliath (Heb 11:34) was an example of the kind of faith that pleases God (Heb 11:6) and gains His approval (Heb 11:39). The author of Hebrews expected his audience—those who had received the promise of Christ and the better covenant in His blood—to act with similar courage.