“And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight this Philistine” 1 Samuel 17:32 (ESV)
For many reasons, during the past week my thoughts as well as my reading, have been on the glory of God. Through the prophet Isaiah God declares, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my place to idols” (Isaiah 42:8). God’s glory is indeed wrapped up in His name. In our discussions regarding salvation, we have come to know that our right standing before our holy God is based completely upon the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. We contribute nothing to our salvation (save the sin that makes it necessary, as Richard Baxter reminds us). God receives all of the credit for our salvation, not most of it. This is because He alone is worthy of glory, and He will not share it with anyone.
David and the Glory of the God of Israel
When I consider the glory of God and His name, I must undergo my own spiritual CT scan to see where I stand daily on this vital issue. Very quickly I realize that I am not happy with my personal assessment. I ask myself where I might go in Scripture to see an example to follow regarding a deep and abiding concern for God’s glory. I am taken to 1 Samuel 17, that familiar text about David and Goliath. I would encourage you to read this passage which may be so familiar that the real issue is missed. As usual, I am indebted to the preaching/teaching ministries of Phil Johnson, Steve Lawson, and Alistair Begg for what follows.
Verse 11 of this passage gives us the sorry state of affairs. In response to the Philistine’s taunting, Saul and the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. David’s arrival sounded the missing theological note. He walked onto the field of battle concerned about something that was of no concern to the armies. It should have been, but it wasn’t. David’s concern was for the glory of God’s name. He realized that there was more at stake than the fate of Israel. It was clear that the armies were sidelined by fear. They were on the field of battle but their perspective was all wrong. Their behavior revealed that they did not believe their beliefs.
Interesting question—do I believe my beliefs? Have I learned how to doubt my doubts? This will mean the difference between progress and loss. The Israelite’s behavior makes it clear that they did not believe what they affirmed. Let me illustrate. They believed that Yahweh was the living God. Yet they acted as if He were dead. They believed that Yahweh was the Lord Almighty, yet they were acting as if He were powerless. They believed that Yahweh was the faithful covenant keeping God, yet they were acting as if He were indifferent to their plight. They believed that Yahweh was the Deliverer, but acted in such a way as to suggest that they did not expect Him to deliver them. Having lost sight of God they lost heart for the battle.
These two things always go hand in hand. When we lose sight of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible—and incidentally this is why we must read our Bibles: that we might know God as He makes Himself known to us in the pages of Scripture—we will inevitably lose faith and heart for the battle. Like the armies of Israel, we will begin to view the challenge from a purely human perspective. Their sorry predicament emerges from the fact that they have a skewed perspective. Verse 20 tells us they are prepared to go out and shout. So? They may be shouting in verse 20 but we know in verse 11 that they are cowering in response to the Philistine’s words. And in verse 24 we know that they are running in response to the Philistine’s challenge. We discover in verse 28 that they begin to argue within the ranks of those who are the servants of the living God.
What has happened is very obvious—they are acting poorly because they are thinking wrongly. It is all about our minds. That is why Paul says be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2). That is why the Bible says as a man thinks, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Our thoughts control our actions. When the people of God think wrongly, they begin to act poorly. We ought not to stand in judgment of them because we ourselves understand how easy it is to get into that position. When we begin to think wrongly and act poorly, the first thing that we need is actually the last thing that we want. This is illustrated in the text in the interchange between David and his brother Eliab.
Instead of Eliab admitting that David had sounded a necessary theological note which had been sadly missing from the proceedings thus far; instead of admitting that he was in the wrong and his younger brother was in the right, he goes on the attack. What he needed—the correction that David brought—was the last thing he wanted. He wanted to feel good about himself, but in his heart he knew that every time Goliath challenged the armies of Israel and they failed to respond, they were acting wrongly. The answers to the taunts of the giant are provided by the young shepherd boy.
We are no different. We often do not want others to point out to us that we are thinking wrongly and acting poorly. There is more than a little jealousy on the part of Eliab. You see David’s faith confronts the army with their failure. David’s enthusiastic inquiry makes their inactivity all the more glaring. Look at Eliab’s response—verse 28 says he burned with anger. It infuriated him to hear what his younger brother was saying. In contemporary Christian terms, we might call David a fanatic. What is a fanatic? Someone who loves Jesus more than I do.
Instead of admitting that this person is approaching things properly, we are confronted with their attitude which highlights the fact that we are thinking wrongly and acting poorly. Instead of admitting that this illuminates our need, we go on the attack and try to sideline the person, questioning their motives and arguing against their actions.
That will always be the case when we are thinking in a man-centered way. Eliab was jealous for himself; David was jealous for God and for the glory of God’s name. That is why David says that there is no reason that this uncircumcised loud-mouth should be defying the armies of the living God and holding court in this way for a period of some 40 days. . Nobody should be arguing with that—it is perfectly true. David then, in essence, asks: Is it not understandable that I, or someone else, should inquire about the possibility of taking up the challenge by God’s enabling and for God’s glory?
I will never cease to be amazed at how the Bible is able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15), and how it gives us a clear picture of what a true believer looks like. How I long to live the life of faith in adversity that we see in the life of Joseph or Paul, and to put first in my life the glory of God and His name as we see here in David.
Blessings in the Lord Jesus to the glory of God,