Calvary Road Baptist Church

IS THERE NOT A CAUSE? A SECOND LOOK”

First Samuel 17.29 

Turn in your Bible to First Samuel 17.29. When you find that verse, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

“And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” 

If you were in attendance last Sunday morning, you might remember that I preached from this text a sermon that focused on the concept of the cause. I developed the message from God’s Word along the lines of the name of our cause (the cause of Christ), the nature of our cause (to glorify God by seeking and saving that which was lost), the narrowness of our cause (pointing out that you cannot have it all, and that choices have to be made about how you live your life as a Christian), and ending the message by pointing out the need of the cause (that being your surrender rather than merely your commitment).

This morning I want to look at our text once more, but this time considering the relationships that were necessarily involved in David’s dilemma, in one of David’s many personal forks in the road that he would come to over the course of his long and industrious life, and David’s personal challenge at a young age in light of what he knew to be true. As we proceed, it will become evident that David’s dilemma, which was certainly more dramatic than most of the dilemmas you and I will ever face, is nevertheless relatable to the dilemmas you and I will face in our lives. We each come to forks in the road we travel and have to make personal choices related to the challenges we face in light of what we know to be true.

However, it is important to understand David’s experience in light of moral issues. David’s situation is not the same as someone in the armed forces who finds himself in a fire fight, the outcome of which affects the quality of his life or whether he even survives. Neither is David’s situation to be likened to a police officer facing an armed robber with his life or quality of life being threatened by a criminal.

The reason David’s experience is recorded in God’s Word is not because it is like those situations I have just described, but because David’s experience is dramatically different than those situations I have just described. David is a believer. He aligns with God. His opponent is the avowed enemy of God who has defied the armies of Israel. Therefore, his is a preeminently a spiritual conflict of a type that a soldier and a police officer rarely engage in. That understood David’s experience and the decisions he faced are, except for the complete absence of violence and the threat of violence in most cases, remarkably like those Christians find ourselves coping with. In short, the police officer and the soldier in combat are individuals who are called upon to exercise what I refer to as physical courage. Lives are at risk, and the decisions they make involve threats to life and limb.

Believers engaged in spiritual conflict, on the other hand, do not always find ourselves in need of physical courage because in our circumstances the threat is rarely a threat to life or limb. On our part, the great need is for what I refer to as moral courage, because the threat is so much more often a threat to the quality of one’s spiritual life than it is a direct threat to physical health and safety.

May I elaborate? I have observed men who are more willing to wear a uniform and expose themselves to the threat of physical violence in combat than they are willing to risk the mild possibility of someone disapproving their efforts to witness for Christ. The reason? Fear. I know men who wear a uniform and expose themselves to threats to life and limb who will not risk attempting to provide spiritual leadership to their wives. The reason? Fear. Of course, they deny it, but it’s fear just the same.

So you see, though there is at times an overlap of what we might term physical courage and moral courage, they are not always the same thing. In David’s life, at least that portion of his young life’s experience recorded in our text, there was a blending of physical courage and moral courage that I will point out to you. What I hope you will benefit from is a consideration of David’s display of what might be termed moral courage.

Regarding relationships, we will consider David’s question, “Is there not a cause?” in light of three important relationships we can identify at this crucial time in his life and the way in which those relationships were related to David’s courage, both his physical courage and his moral courage: 

First, THERE IS THE RELATIONSHIP THAT EXISTED BETWEEN DAVID AND GOD 

David is more frequently a topic of Scripture references than anyone else in God’s Word besides the Lord Jesus Christ. For that reason, there is no need of us seeking to establish the relationship David had with God, Who described His servant David in Second Samuel 23.1 as “the sweet psalmist of Israel.”

Instead, I will read only the most familiar psalm penned by David that reminds us of his relationship with God, the 23rd Psalm: 

1  <<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. 

Though we are provided no information in connection with this psalm that would inform us of when in his long life he wrote it, it does reveal a strong and vital relationship with the God of Israel that existed from David’s youth. He referred to this relationship with God to King Saul when he testified of God’s past deliverance of him and his expectation of God’s deliverance in the future: 

“The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”[1] 

How might we describe David’s relationship with God? How about courage arising from the confidence that resulted in both concern for God’s glory and confidence in God’s superiority that showed itself in David’s commitment? How about we describe it another way? David had faith in God that was strengthened by his experience of the faithfulness of God, which resulted in his willingness to trust God in the future as he had trusted God in the past. Such a willingness was evidenced by his steadfast determination to stand for God’s honor in response to God’s previous care for him in times of danger. Should we also point out that the courage David demonstrated at this crucial time in his life was courage fostered by a relationship with God that already existed? I think so. He had already put God to the test with a bear and with a lion. Therefore, he did not enter the fray at this time completely unaware of what God would and could do.

This gives rise to wisdom about such things that you may have noticed some people do not have. They find themselves challenged in a significant way and they expect God to bless them, only to be surprised to find themselves greatly disappointed. What happened to the disappointed can most easily be explained by considering David once more. He was ready to deal with Goliath because he had already trusted God when he faced the lion, and then again when he faced the bear. Do not think, dear Christian, that you will be ready for the greater challenges in life after avoiding the previous smaller challenges God has placed in your path. You will not be ready to face a Goliath after running away from a lion and a bear. As I have stated to you on more than one occasion, the process is crucial to the product. For David to be the person who was ready to rely on God to deliver him, he had to have come through the battles with the bear and the lion. Those were crises God had placed in his path to prepare him for the day when he would bring food to his brothers and learn of this Philistine giant named Goliath. The point being, your relationship with God, must already exist if you are going to trust God in a crisis, if you are going to depend upon God when you are challenged, and if you are going to be ready to glorify God when the time for courage and deliverance comes. You do not dictate when you need God, but He dictates the occasions when He will prepare you. He also dictates the occasions when He will use you. Your duty is to be ready when the time comes. David was ready because his relationship with God was real, was tried, and was tested. 

Next, THERE IS THE RELATION THAT EXISTED BETWEEN DAVID AND GOLIATH 

David’s relationship with the Philistine giant Goliath could be described in two words; brief and deadly. Goliath’s acquaintance with the Jewish lad would be short and fatal. From Goliath’s perspective, their short-lived interaction would hinge entirely on his size as a giant, his experience as a seasoned warrior, and his observations of the Israelite army’s cowardice. From David’s perspective their close encounter of the first kind can be described in three ways:

First, David’s observation. For forty days Goliath stood atop a hill and yelled across the valley at the Israelite soldiers on the other hilltop: 

“Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us... And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”[2] 

“When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.”[3] 

Then David arrived on the scene and beheld the sad spectacle, observing the Philistine’s blasphemy, and also observing the Israelite army’s pathetic cowardice. Understand, there is nothing wrong with fear. Fear is normal and natural. But when fear paralyzes you into inaction or causes you to turn away from your duty, obligation, and responsibility, then you have become a coward. Sorry to offend you, but that’s what you are. When you turn away from your duty, obligation, and responsibility, you are a coward. Cowardice is what David observed on one side of the valley. Blasphemy is what David observed on the other side of the valley.

That gave rise to David’s objection. David reacted with understandable astonishment, saying, 

“What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”[4] 

Already affixed in his mind was the punishment that should be visited on Goliath. The Philistine blasphemed God. Therefore, the Philistine must die.

This led to David’s opportunity. He knew immediately what he must do. He would become an instrument in the hand of God to execute judgment upon the blasphemer who as champion led an army that sought to annihilate the Jewish people. And he would do it using the skills he had developed over the years as a shepherd, with his sling and a stone. Imagine a Jewish lad growing up in the Judean wilderness, engaged in the dreary task of tending to his aged father’s flock. Could anything be more boring than mind-numbing hour after mind-numbing hour of making sure prowling predators are kept away from the lambs and younger sheep? Boring. No one to talk to. No one to interact with. “What about his dog?” Basques used dogs. Scots used dogs. Europeans used dogs. But dogs were not used to tend to sheep in the Middle East.

To pass the time he played various instruments at night and composed songs under the stars. But what did young David do during the day, day after long and lonely day? He passed the time by practicing with his sling. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of small stones were whipped and released. Again and again and again he aimed and launched, aimed and launched, aimed and launched. And he hit his targets. He hit a big rock. He eventually could then hit a small object. Then he met with success at a farther distance. And then farther still. Then he was able to surprise a jackal. Eventually he could hurt a jackal. Finally, he could blind a lion and a bear with well-placed stones from his sling. And what he could blind he could kill.

That’s how he would kill Goliath. He would run toward the giant, which would surprise him. Surprised, the giant would then lower his shield. Stunned that the lad was running toward him, the ugly brute would momentarily pause and stand still, wondering what to do next. No one had ever run toward him before. And then, while he was standing still in amazement, David would launch the smooth stone at such velocity that when it struck his forehead, the giant would be stunned and fall to the ground, perhaps already dead. Then, if he weren’t already dead, David would kill him with his sword.[5] All of those details were fixed in his mind before he spoke to King Saul, before the king attempted to fit him with his oversized armor, and before he persuaded the cowardly king to permit him to risk his own life. Is there a risk to stand for God? There is always a risk when doing right.

Each time he related how God had delivered him from the lion and the bear David became more confident, more bold, and more eager. And that’s what happens when a believer speaks of God’s past deliverances. He encourages himself in the future. Then he did what he had spent most of his life preparing to do, and what he had only a few minutes before planned to do. His confidence in God produced in him the needed physical courage to act decisively and slay Goliath. 

Finally, DAVID AND HIS BROTHER 

The strict chronology would demand that I speak to you first of David’s relationship with God, followed by his relationship with his brother. But there is a great benefit for you by addressing David’s relationship with his brother last, after taking note of his brief relationship with Goliath. Two issues summarize David’s interaction with his eldest brother minutes before he stepped out of his brother’s shadow and became the towering figure in Jewish history who would forever surpass the brother he had once admired:

First, David observed his eldest brother’s passive attitude toward the enemy of God and Israel. David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons, with Eliab being the eldest. David was considered far too young to go to war, while Eliab was undoubted as the Jesse’s oldest son considered to be in his prime as a warrior. I have no trouble imagining David looking up to Eliab during his growing up years. Eliab the oldest. Eliab the biggest. Eliab the strongest. Eliab the bravest. Eliab is bearing the burden of the firstborn. How heroic Eliab must have seemed to be to David, perhaps being the one who first taught David how to wield a sword, a bow, a lance, and a sling. But when David arrived with food for Eliab and two other brothers he was stunned to see the men of Israel running away at the sight of Goliath, because they were so afraid.[6] Being witness to such conduct would no doubt create a question in David’s mind about the courage, about the convictions, and about the worthiness of Israel’s soldiers. Included in David’s questioning of those men would be questioning in his mind of his brother, Eliab.

Then, David observed his eldest brother’s antagonism toward him. In First Samuel 17.26, David asks no one in particular, 

“What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 

To paraphrase, David is asking the terrified soldiers, 

“What reward will be given to the man who slays Goliath and removes this shame from our nation? After all, who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 

In response to young David’s obvious challenge to those who had run from Goliath, his older brother Eliab reacted with scorn and ridicule, as I pointed out last Sunday. To which David responded, 

“What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” 

And when Eliab’s friends joined in his condemnation of his little brother, he stood up to them as he had stood up to Eliab, who had probably for David’s whole life been to that moment his hero. But no more. David not only observed the blasphemy of the Philistine, but he also observed the cowardice displayed by his brothers, by his brother’s comrades in arms, and by his own King Saul. Never again would David, never again could David, hold those men in high esteem. Never again would he admire them. Never again would he seem to emulate them. How could he be anything like the men he had once admired and maintain his self-respect? Those men were soldiers, warriors, fighters, and crusaders on behalf of God. They refused to soldier, were afraid to engage in war, too fearful to fight, and too cowardly to crusade for God. For their whole reason for existing they were not absent without leave, they were present without courage. After his observation of their paralyzing fear, they lost David’s admiration forever. And how do we know they lost him forever? He showed moral courage in standing up against the ridicule of those older warriors. There was no need for physical courage at that point since they would not harm little David, Eliab’s youngest brother. However, David did need moral courage, because they did try to shame him. And David had moral courage. He stood up to Eliab’s attempt to embarrass him and call his motives into question. And he continued to stand up to the attempts of others to similarly shame him. How could they shame him without his permission? They were the cowards. They were the men who ran from Goliath. And their efforts to shame young David were feeble attempts to cover their cowardice.

Where did David’s moral courage come from? David’s moral courage, the courage to stand against his brother’s cowardly assault on him, and the courage to stand against the mob of soldiers who ganged up on him in an attempt to assuage their guilt and gloss over their cowardice, came from God. His courage obviously did not come to him from the example set for him by his brother, or by the other soldiers, and certainly not from King Saul. And his courage came to him despite the ferocity of his adversary, the Philistine giant Goliath. Where, then, could his courage have come from? From within? What a joke. Of course not. David’s courage, both the moral courage he displayed to his brother and the other Israelites and the physical courage he displayed to the hideous brute named Goliath, arose from his relationship with God. Like God said to Joshua in Joshua 1.9, “Be strong and of good courage,” so David took to heart God’s attribute of faithfulness to His promises. 

You may think you have nothing in common with young David if you are a believer. But you are wrong. You have more in common with David than you realize. Consider with me.

Like David, you may not see yourself as measuring up to many people you look up to. With David, the reason was his youth and inexperience. With you, it may be your youth and inexperience, or it may be your humility and the spiritual tendency to esteem others better than yourself. That’s a good thing. As well, like David on this occasion, you may find yourself in the company of those who claim to be your allies, who you perhaps had expected to set an example for you to follow, but who may have proven themselves to be more full of bluster than they have been willing to engage in the fight in front of them.

They talk about loving Jesus and how thankful to God they are, but they are afraid to fight the good fight of faith. They are oblivious to God’s challenge to “Be strong and of a good courage.” From time to time Christians who have a desire to do right even face the challenge of other Christians subtly seeking to shame them. Some behave as though it is normal, natural, and to be expected of more experienced believers to do other things than ministry, to focus more on personal pursuits than evangelism as if such conduct is somehow commendable. Commendable to not serve God or seek the salvation of the lost?

Such is the doctrine of demons. Such is the seduction of evil spirits. Spiritual Christians have not the “spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” Second Timothy 1.7. Those who because of their fear will not engage in ministry, will not seek to make the name of Christ known among the nations, will pretend to have other motives, other concerns, other reasons or justifications for not doing right, for not serving God, for not seeking the salvation of the lost. But the real reason is and can only be fear.

It was fear that stifled King Saul. It was fear that stifled Eliab. It was fear that stifled Eliab’s comrades. Oh, they tried to pretend their conduct was the result of other causes, just as they sought to shame David so they would not have to admit to themselves that he had moral courage while they were cowards. They would later witness the fact that he had physical courage when they had none.

__________

[1] 1 Samuel 17.37

[2] 1 Samuel 17.8-10

[3] 1 Samuel 17.11

[4] 1 Samuel 17.26

[5] 1 Samuel 17.40-50

[6] 1 Samuel 17.24

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