Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 1Sa 17
The story of David's victory over the Philistine giant Goliath
is an enacted parable of the promise of Gen 3:15 (the seed of the woman crushing
the head, and power, of the serpent). It is also a powerful and provocative
picture of our redemption.
David's defeat of Goliath typifies the work of Christ in two
different, though related, aspects:
Christ's moral victory over the power of sin in himself, and
coming victory over sin in its military and political forms.
It was necessary that Christ first conquer the "world" in
himself, by subduing the lusts of the flesh, so that he might be qualified to
conquer the nations and rule over them. Both these victories -- the one past,
the other yet future -- are beautifully outlined in the stirring drama of 1Sa
17. In this epic encounter between faith and force, Holy Spirit and human
nature, the heavenly and the earthly, we see all the redemptive purpose of
Almighty God, unfolding from Eden onward.
"Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war" (1Sa
17:1). The name "Philistine" has found a place in the English language as a
common noun, describing those who are ignorant and uncultured, who are "of the
earth, and earthy" (1Co 15:47), without the least aspiration toward higher
things -- in short, the natural and mortal enemy of everything that is
The Philistines pitched their tents in "Ephes Dammim", which
signifies "the border of blood". This site was a little south of Jerusalem and
halfway over toward the Mediterranean Sea, at the border between the Israelite
hills and the Philistine plain. In this story, "the border of blood" marked the
crest, or high point, of human power -- the point where blood, and sin, and
death were to be broken and turned back. [It is also the "border of blood" in
the sense that it prefigures the point where the blood of Christ, shed in
obedience and dedication to God, established the boundary of righteousness and
life!] "This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves
halt" (Job 38:11). As such, "Ephes Dammim" typifies Golgotha in the past, and
Armageddon in the future: the sites where "sin" reaches its high-water mark and
is then repulsed by the hand of God. (Linguistically, Ephes Dammim is closely
related to "Aceldama" -- the "field of blood", where the traitor Judas met his
fate: Acts 1:19.)
"The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another,
with the valley between them" (1Sa 17:3).
Mountains and hills in Scripture often represent powers and
kingdoms (Zec 6:1; Dan 2:35-45; Joel 3:17; Isa 2:2,3; Eze 38:20), while valleys
are places of sorrow, humiliation, and trial -- and sometimes of destruction,
such as the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:12), where the serpent-power of the
Gentiles will be broken when it comes against Israel.
Like David, Jesus had to descend into "the valley of the
shadow of death" (Psa 23:4) to win his victory. He had to confront the "giant"
of sin in the very arena where that giant reigned supreme -- the flesh of
humanity. Like Israel too, Jesus had to go through his own "valley of Achor
(trouble)" (Hos 2:15), and "valley of Baca (tears)" (Psa 84:5-7). On the other
side of the "valley" of sufferings, he would come at last to the "glories that
would follow" (1Pe 1:11) and , beyond that, to the Kingdom of God.
"Goliath" (1Sa 17:4) means "exile"; he was from "Gath", which
means "winepress". The Philistine giant was, like Cain (Gen 4:14,16), an exile
from God because of sin. He was trodden down by David, his enemy under his feet
(Psa 8:6) -- even as all human power and pride will be trodden down by Christ
(cp 1Co 15:25,27; Eph 1:22) in the great "winepress" of the wrath of God (Isa
63:3; Rev 14:19).
Goliath's height was six cubits (the number of man: compare
the "666" in Rev 13:18). He was covered with bronze, or brass -- its reddish
color suggesting its connection with the flesh. He was the human equivalent of
the bronze serpent of Num 21 -- the power of sin destroyed by Christ on the
cross (John 3:14). He was arrayed in armor and weapons of the flesh, in contrast
to the spiritual arsenal of Eph 6:13-17, which was David's trust (1Sa 17:45), as
well as Christ's.
This mighty champion of the flesh came out into the valley
between the two armies, every morning and evening for forty days (v 16), to defy
the God of Israel. It was a sad, shameful spectacle; not a man of Israel, not
even King Saul (himself a giant: 1Sa 10:23!), nor his son Jonathan, a brave
warrior, had the faith and courage to confront this blasphemer (1Sa 17:11).
Goliath was too great, too powerful, and too fearsome to be overcome by any mere
Now comes a break in the narrative (v 12), introducing the
second antagonist in this epic struggle: David, a young man, a shepherd of
Bethlehem (v 15), has been sent by his father to take provisions to his three
older brothers serving in Saul's army (vv 17-19).
David, when he comes to his brothers, is met with mockery and
derision (v 28). Likewise Jesus, when he comes to save his brothers from the
"giant" of sin, meets the same ridicule. How much natural man needs salvation;
yet how little he realizes it. Like the drowning man, he will thrash about and
generally resist the very one who has come to save him... and he must in fact be
saved from himself, and his own worst instincts, as well as the external
The boy David cannot understand the inaction of Saul's men:
"Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the
living God?" (v 26).
The words of the shepherd boy come to the ears of the
distraught king, who is so desperate that he sends for him. And the poor
shepherd boy says to the mighty king: "Let no one lose heart on account of this
Philistine; your servant will go and fight him" (v 32).
Saul reasons according to the flesh, which is fatally obsessed
with size and natural advantage: "You are not able..." (v 33).
BUT WHY NOT, IF GOD IS WITH HIM? "If God is for us, who can be
against us?" (Rom 8:31). How often do we forget the strength of faith, and make
the same mistake -- being tentative, timid, and even afraid? How often do we
forget that, if God is on our side, then nothing can stand in our way!
David wisely refuses Saul's offer of armor. The children of
the Spirit are no match for the children of the flesh IF they attempt to meet
them on their own ground and do battle with their own weapons. The "seed of the
woman" will always be outclassed by the "seed of the serpent" in numbers,
experience, prestige, and learning. Their defense -- and offense -- must be in
the "shield" of faith and the "sword" of the Spirit (Eph 6:16,17)!
For the battle, David chooses five smooth stones out of the
brook (1Sa 17:40). (Why five? is it because Goliath has four brothers -- 2Sa
21:15-21 -- who were also giants?) The stone which is to bring down the mighty
giant has been slowly and meticulously shaped by the flowing waters of the
brook, its rough edges smoothed and rounded, until it is ready for the use at
hand. This smooth stone, then, typifies Christ -- prepared through the trials
and tribulations of daily life and special, providentially-developed experiences
for the unique work of deliverance. (In a similar figure of speech, Christ is
also spoken of as the Stone rejected by the builders, who is later made the
cornerstone of God's temple: Psa 118:22.)
David's sling would propel the stone to its destined target.
The sling, made of animal skin, would have required a death for its preparation.
Like the garments that God prepared to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness after
their sin, the sling also typifies a sacrificial death. This sling
(representing, in effect, the sacrifice of Christ) gives all the power to the
stone which David hurls against the giant: it is the sacrificial offering of
Jesus Christ, coupled with his spotless character, which had been tested and
prepared by the Father, that destroys the Power of Sin on behalf of all
Prophetically, David is also the stone cut out of the mountain
of human flesh WITHOUT HANDS (that is, born of a woman but without a human
father: Gen 3:15), which strikes and destroys Nebuchadnezzar's image (Dan 2:34),
and then proceeds to fill the whole earth with the glory of Yahweh.
The smiting of the "dream" image in Daniel 2 is parallel to
David's smiting of Goliath, with one significant difference: one stone strikes
Goliath in the HEAD (cp Gen 3:15), which symbolizes the vital life center. The
other strikes the image upon the FEET, symbolizing the time when destruction is
accomplished -- at the very end of the age of the Kingdom of Men. But, each
time, the end result is the same: the great image of "Sin" is destroyed, and
Israel is saved.
The Nebuchadnezzar image represents the accumulated history of
the four great empires that collectively make up the "serpent-power" of the
Kingdom of Men, which has oppressed and will oppress God's kingdom of Israel.
David's selection of FIVE smooth stones relates his victory to the FIFTH great
Kingdom: the Kingdom of God that will finally conquer all and fill the earth
with His glory.
"Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and
struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he
fell facedown on the ground" (1Sa 17:49), already dead (v 50). On this verse the
old Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, quaintly writes: "See how frail and
uncertain life is, even when it thinks itself best fortified, and how quickly,
how easily, and with how small a matter, the passage may be opened for life to
go out and death to enter."
This is the typical fulfillment of the Edenic promise that the
woman's seed should crush the serpent's head. The antitype stretches from the
cross to the military destruction of the last vestiges of human misrule and
oppression, when Christ returns.
"David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the
Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him [that is,
with the stone: see v 50], he cut off his head with the sword" (v 51). And later
he brought the head to Jerusalem (v 54). Jerusalem proper was at this time still
under the control of the Jebusites (2Sa 5:6-10). We know that Goliath's sword
came to be kept at Nob (1Sa 21:9), an Israelite settlement of priests very near
Jerusalem (cp Isa 10:32; Neh 11:32). So probably Goliath's head was buried there
too. Nob may be identified with Golgotha ('the place of a skull'). David's act
symbolized the destruction of the power of sin, accomplished by Jesus in his
life, and finalized at Golgotha just outside the walls of Jerusalem. (Ancient
Hebrew tradition also suggests that Golgotha was so named because it was the
burial place of Goliath's head.)
David's act also prefigures the cutting off of all mortal
ruling power, and the transferring of all the world's headship to Jerusalem,
"the city of the great king" (Mat 5:35).
"Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout
and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.
Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron" (1Sa
David's wonderful feat revitalizes and energizes the army of
Israel, which then go on to rout the Philistines, "possessing the gates of their
enemies" (cp Gen 22:17; Rev 1:18; 20:6; 1Co 15:256,55,56). Those who were
powerless and afraid to face Goliath receive new faith and strength and courage
upon witnessing the victory of David. Like David in this richly symbolic story,
Jesus in absolute reality is the only one capable of winning the special victory
over the "serpent". Yet his victory over that "devil" -- like David's over
Goliath -- delivers his brethren who, previously, "all their lives were held in
slavery by their fear of death" (Heb 2:15).
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your
sting?... The sting of death is sin... But thanks be to God! He gives us the
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 15:55-57).
Reading 2 - Isa 61:10
"I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of
righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride
adorns herself with her jewels" (Isa 61:10).
The "garments of salvation" are the garments of a priest (Exo
28:2,40; Psa 132:9,16; Isa 62:3; Exo 39:22); but they seem also to be the
garments of a bridegroom -- an interesting combination!
Likewise, also, the priestly garments are in Scripture likened
to the uniform and armaments of a warrior (cp Eph 6:10-17).
Both these additional aspects of the priest's service are
firstly, the priest as the mediator for God Himself, would represent God in
His aspect as the Bridegroom, or Husband, of His people Israel, the Bride; and
the priest, like a warrior, would wage war against sin in all its
manifestations, both personal and institutional -- compare 2Co 10:3-5: "For
though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons
we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have
divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every
thought to make it obedient to Christ."
In Psa 45, as well as the Song of Songs, and especially in Rev
19; 21, our great High Priest Jesus Christ appears in his joint "offices" as a
victorious general and a loving Bridegroom. And both these (superficially quite
disparate) occupations are very appropriate!
Reading 3 - Mat 6:5,6
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they
love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by
men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you
pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Mat
By "room" is meant a "closet" (AV).
Jewish men wore a garment called a "talith", "talis", or
"prayer shawl", all the time, not just at prayer. "Talith" consists of two
Hebrew words; "tal" (tent) and "ith" (little). Thus, each man had his own little
tent. (The apostle Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, but also a tentmaker. Some
believe that he made prayer shawls, not tents to live in. Since all Jews could
not worship in the Tent of Meeting at one time, God gave to each Jew his own
private sanctuary where he could meet with God. In prayer, the man would pull it
up over his head, forming a tent, where he could retreat to cali upon Yahweh. It
was intimate, private, and set apart from anyone else -- enabling him to totally
focus upon God. It was his prayer closet.
With this may be compared the words of God through Isaiah:
"Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves
for a little while until his wrath has passed by" (Isa 26:20).