1 Samuel 17:12-30
12 David was the son of Jesse, who belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. Jesse was from Bethlehem in Judah. He had eight sons. When Saul was king, Jesse was already very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul into battle. The oldest son was Eliab. The second was Abinadab. The third was Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest sons followed Saul. 15 But David went back and forth from Saul’s camp to Bethlehem. He went to Bethlehem to take care of his father’s sheep. 16 Every morning and evening Goliath came forward and stood there. He did it for 40 days. 17 Jesse said to his son David, “Get at least half a bushel of grain that has been cooked. Also get ten loaves of bread. Take all of it to your brothers. Hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten chunks of cheese to the commander of their military group. Find out how your brothers are doing. Bring me back some word about them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel. They are in the Valley of Elah. They are fighting against the Philistines.” 20 Early in the morning David left his father’s flock in the care of a shepherd. David loaded up the food and started out, just as Jesse had directed. David reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions. The soldiers were shouting the war cry. 21 The Israelites and the Philistines were lining up their armies for battle. The armies were facing each other. 22 David left what he had brought with the man who took care of the supplies. He ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As David was talking with them, Goliath stepped forward from his line. Goliath was a mighty Philistine hero from Gath. He again dared someone to fight him, and David heard it. 24 Whenever Israel’s army saw Goliath, all of them ran away from him. That’s because they were so afraid. 25 The Israelites had been saying, “Just look at how this man keeps daring Israel to fight him! The king will make the man who kills Goliath very wealthy. The king will also give his own daughter to be that man’s wife. The king won’t require anyone in the man’s family to pay any taxes in Israel.” 26 David spoke to the men standing near him. He asked them, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine? Goliath is bringing shame on Israel. What will be done for the one who removes it? This Philistine isn’t even circumcised. He dares the armies of the living God to fight him. Who does he think he is?” 27 The men told David what Israel’s soldiers had been saying. The men told him what would be done for the man who killed Goliath. 28 David’s oldest brother Eliab heard him speaking with the men. So Eliab became very angry with him. Eliab asked David, “Why have you come down here? Who is taking care of those few sheep in the desert for you? I know how proud you are. I know how evil your heart is. The only reason you came down here was to watch the battle.” 29 “What have I done now?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 Then he turned away to speak to some other men. He asked them the same question he had asked before. And they gave him the same answer.
As I watch the interaction in this passage between David and Eliab, I see the impact of fear, cowardice and inactivity in the human heart in contrast to the fresh eyes of courage, faith and purposeful activity. David has been active in his purpose – serving Saul and tending his father’s sheep – and so comes to the battle lines with fresh eyes and a heart of faith in God. Eliab should have been active in his purpose – battling the Philistines and overcoming their army – but has instead experienced the exhausting taunt of Goliath for 40 days and been part of an Israelite army paralyzed by fear and inactivity. And so, when David speaks up, Eliab responds with nasty, angry and bitter words coming from a heart that must have been deeply frustrated – overcome by fear, inactivity and a resultant inability to rise in his purpose.
This passage is a warning to me. A warning to the effect of – if I allow fear to take hold in my life, my purpose will be frustrated and I will find inactivity, cowardice and nasty bitterness growing all by itself. Most dangerously, this nasty bitterness can be unleashed on those who could MOST HELP me get back on purpose. David has a strong sense of purpose, and yet his influential eldest brother does everything in his power to shut David down.
Lord, I want to be free from the paralysis of fear and cowardice. I see that keeping active by faith in my purpose is crucial to this end. Lord, refresh your sense of purpose and call on my life, and help me be bold in fulfilling this, no matter what the taunts and lies my enemy will hurl in my and my peers direction. And where I have lost battles in the past, help me learn from my weaknesses and mistakes, and remember that you’ve already won the war!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh