David had every right to be mad with his brothers. Here he was in 1 Samuel 17, delivering aid to the brothers he thought would be hard pressed in war, and they were instead caught in a fear-fueled stalemate. A horde of Philistines loomed on the other side of the battlefield, but his bros and all the men of Israel were too paralyzed to meet the threat in battle. Or maybe “paralyzed” is the wrong word for it. Israel’s soldiers were running . . . just in the wrong direction. They fled the battlefield at the mere appearance of a fierce brute you may have heard of before. The man who stood nine-and-a-half feet tall. The Philistine soldier who could hoist a weaver’s beam as a spear and who’s armor alone weighed 125 pounds. The giant Goliath.
And this giant was calling for hand to hand combat, a winner-takes-all duel of nations—the Israelite’s champion against the Philistine’s champion, Goliath himself.
So sure, maybe it was kind of understandable that David’s brothers were hiding in fear. We might be tempted to understand their cowardice, but David certainly didn’t. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” he shouted for all the cowering men around him to hear. He couldn’t understand why no one had risen to the challenge. With the living God on their side, after all, who wouldn’t want to take the giant out?
The response to David’s question by his oldest brother, Eliab, was a biting put down. Eliab was too scared to take on Goliath himself, but he wasn’t about to let his baby brother be the hero. “Why have you come down?” Eliab cries. “And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.”
With this one sweeping verbal blow, Eliab sought to undercut David’s intentions, his occupation, and even his character. It was utterly unfounded and uncalled for, and a modern macho American portrayal of what happened next would feature David reducing his brother to shreds. He had plenty of dirt on his brother to sling back with, for sure. “Oh yeah, maybe I did come to see a battle, but looks like there is no one man enough to bring it!” “Samuel anointed me king over you, remember?” “If I’m wicked, what does that make you?”
But instead of bickering with his brother, David merely dismissed the insult and moved on, trying to find someone who would give him the scoop on the giant in town. Turns out, though, his brother wasn’t the only one to treat David like a nosy, annoying little boy who should be ignored. He was given the cold shoulder by the callous soldiers again and again. How frustrating it must have been to David to see such apathy and indifference! But still, he didn’t give in to his frustration and start quarreling with the soldiers. His question was probably double-edged. He wanted to know about this giant who was as haughty as he was hefty, but he was also challenging the soldiers to action. When they refused to answer him and rise to action, he didn’t waste any more breath on them.
David’s persistence and zeal finally got him an audience with King Saul, and then, a matchup with the Philistine brute. When the dust settled from their climactic face off—you know the story—David held up the severed head of Goliath for all to see. The Philistines lost their confidence and the soldiers of Israel finally found their courage at the sight, and an all-out rout of the enemy followed.
There’s a huge lesson here for all of us, I think, and that is this: What would happen if we stopped squabbling with our brothers, and started pursuing the real fights? Sure, some of our Christian brothers are annoying. They are camped on the sidelines of the battle, too apathetic to join in—or even, we might be tempted to think, drop the "a" in apethetic. But what would happen if we stopped trying to babysit fellow believers into being as engaged in the struggle for hearts and souls as we think they should be, and instead just got down to the business of slaying some giants?
I enjoy making snarks at Southern Baptists and the pandemonium at your local mega-church’s youth group just like most people do, and I so often gripe about Contemporary Christian Music or Tobymac’s latest attempt to “make Jesus music cool”. But all those guys are in my camp! The real fight is across the valley, and he’s yelling profanities and curses against my Lord. He’s a giant, a lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. He’s a formidable foe, a doctrine spawned by demons, but I have been given something better than David’s sling to take him down with. As a soldier for Christ, I have been given divinely powerful weapons for the destruction of strongholds!
So, no more walking in the flesh. No more posturing and boasting and laying the smack down on my brothers who annoy me, or even insult me. Wherever there is teaching that is clearly contrary to God’s Word, that is where you’ll find the true warriors of Christ rallying. They won’t be found arguing over the worship music or the color of the carpet in the foyer. The personal strongholds of sin are what you’ll see stalwart Christians laying siege to. They will be focused on removing logs instead of pinching at specks. It’s time to run out into the battlefield and meet Goliath head on. When we trust in the Living God, there’s nothing we can’t conquer.
My sister Caroline recently lived this out. In talking with a local mega church pastor, trying to get him engaged in the fight for life through the Forty Days for Life prayer rally, she was frustrated with his response that he’d rather be known for “what he stands for, not what he stands against”. She tried to reason with him through a couple more e-mails (doesn’t standing for something automatically mean you will be standing against that which is contrary to it??). But when he kept graciously bowing out of the conflict to publicly stand in prayer for the endangered unborn, Caroline moved on. She had to get back to rallying the prayer warriors who were willing to stand and take on the giant deception of abortion. And through God’s blessing on the campaign, she saw much, much success in our community.
I wonder if, years from now, that pastor will regret that he didn’t have a hand in the transformation of our society from a culture of death to a culture that values life at conception. It’s not our place to say what battle he should or should not join, though. God will hold him accountable to that. We just need to be faithful to bring down the giants in front of us. And if we fight the right battle and bring a giant down, perchance our distracted or fearful brothers will find their courage and join us.
Now I, Paul, myself urge you by Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every though captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
2 Corinthians 10:1-6