Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

King David's Faith in God Persevered and Israel Increased

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"...a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who understands playing on the harp, a prudent man, a man of war, wise in speech, handsome, and the Lord is with him" (I Samuel 16:18, OSB).

King David put his faith in our Lord. He constantly and consistently asked our Lord for His will: "What do I do" with matters of political or military significance. Many people know of King David's slingshot and the famous one on one encounter with Goliath, the Philistine giant man. A slingshot was not a weapon of war nor was it composed of iron and foreboding to an enemy. It simply signifies that King David was not born nor grew up a fighting man. Undoubtedly God was with the young shepherd boy David. David would go from shepherd to king humbly and in God's time.

Many people know of Israel's second king; King David's battles on the battlefield being victorious. But the length of time and the number of battles King David won in the name of our Lord is staggering. Not only staggering but imagine the unsettlingly times that called for each and every battle. The strife of knowing that at any moment something could go erroneously wrong and armies would be summoned could make anyone's anxiety escalate and take matters into his/her own hands. But for King David a battle was fought to protect your faith, your nation and tribe, your livelihood, and your homes.

King David was in the midst of many conflicts and fought many great armies for many, many years. How does one survive this type of stress and anxiety and war at every turn? King David loved the Lord. He chanted psalms to the Lord that came from his heart; He played the harp to Him sweetly, He gave all praise to Him; and King David thanked him for everything in everything. He looked toward our Lord when it came time to go to battle. King David did this even as young man.

These are the battles King David fought and won before and during his reign:

  1. Philistines
  2. Geshurites and Amalekites
  3. Amalekites
  4. Benjaminites (civil war)
  5. Jebusites
  6. Philistines
  7. Philistines
  8. Ammonites
  9. Arameans
  10. Ammonites
  11. Absalom (civil war)
  12. Sheba (civil war)

The Holy Old Testament Books that tell the battles of King David are listed below. One Holy Old Testament Book could not encompass all the wars King David fought:

  1. First Samuel (First Kingdom)
  2. Second Samuel (Second Kingdom)

Isaiah wrote long after the Kingdoms...

"It shall be, before they cry out, I will listen to them; while they are still speaking, I will say, 'What is it?'" (Isaiah 65:24, OSB)

King David fought lions and bears before he fought his first battle with Goliath. He fought them and developed his faith in God-alone and on his own. King David dealt in reality each day. As a youth, he came to understand that when people fail God does not fail and continues on to the next day. When the unexpected happens, God is not the unexpected. Instead God remains the same every time he called upon Him. King David's faith was built on these premises.

Perhaps that is why King David felt more comfortable with a slingshot rather than a sword and was not afraid of someone twice his stature. Perhaps the most famous battle in the Holy Old Testament was not between two armies but between two individuals in the Valley of Elah This was a war in which one person represents each army. The same reasoning was applied at King David's anointment by Samuel the Prophet.

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Have no regard for his outward appearance, nor for the maturity of his stature, because I have refused him. For man does not see as God sees; for the man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord sees into the heart.'" (I Samuel 16:7, OSB).

A famed early church father, Cyprian (d 258) has been quoted often as saying God will not only judge our deeds but our words and thoughts as well. Prior to Cyprian's conversion he was a prolific speaker who sought glory for himself; but once his conversion was well founded he did all things, both oratory and written, for the glory of God.

The Israelites were frightened of the Philistines. No one wanted to fight Goliath. The anxiety was high and humiliating. They became frightened by the increasing emotion around them. The appearance of a man and the size of an army, especially when they were a minority, can be overwhelming. All of this can lead to poor decision making if appearance of what is perceived is frightening to them and to us today.

At the bottom of a ravine in a streambed King David found his stones for his sling shot. He was only a youth, not fully grown. Yet he confronted Goliath, approximately 9 feet and 9 inches tall. Goliath wore a bronze helmet on his head and armor on his chest that weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. His legs were also covered in bronze and he carried a shield carrier and javelin. From Goliath's shoulders' to his knees, he was protected against the enemy's weapons. The Philistines had conquered the use of iron and metals for war. The Israelites were using copper, which its best function perhaps was to slice foods such as cheeses.

So it can be surmised, the Israelites had good humanly reason to be frightened of the Philistines; they were taller, larger in number, and had more proficient weapons. And their King, King Saul, had through the years become more anxious and had much difficulty sleeping at night. King Saul and the Prophet Samuel were also at odds which added to the King's increasing anxiety. By increasing anxiety and the forsaking of God in his life, King Saul sent the young boy David into battle with a giant. Perhaps he thought "What's the risk, he does not fight in my army?" or "what glory would there be if the enemy killed a young boy?" or "he's only a shepherd."

When we are frightened by the emotion around us, we need to appeal to our Lord for guidance. The appearance of a man, the size of an army, especially when we are a minority, all can lead to poor decision making if appearance of what is perceived is frightening to us. That's exactly what King David as a teenager instinctively did, he appealed to his God.

Goliath had challenged the Israelites 40 mornings and evening with no response until King Davids. King David without a sword, without army training of any sort, without the blessings of his father or older brothers, fought one full grown giant man and won.

King David was wise and grew to know when to fight, when to hide, and to live one day at a time was what he was called to do by his God.

King David became the mightiest ruler of his day; he expanded the boundaries of Israel from approximately 6,000 to 60,000 square miles, opened up trade routes and highways throughout much of the countries surrounding him. He destroyed idols and made priesthood as sacrosanct. King David was no priest but his heart was with God.

King David's humanity proved he was not perfect. But most often his repentance was sincere. King David gave all glory to God on the battlefield and with his successes. Though he took the head of Goliath and Goliath's sword from the battlefield, we are not told of where they were taken after the battle and the tents of Israel were moved. The sword of Goliath was returned to King David by a priest who he was fleeing from King Saul and used the sword as protection for himself from King Saul's men. King Saul would kill this priest, his family, and the city for the priest's deed.

We are not told if King David had a trophy tent or room where he kept spoils of battles. Perhaps because he did not consider himself the winner of prizes but the doer of the Lord's will. The first King of Israel, King Saul, was a farmer from the tribe of Benjamin. The second king of Israel, King David, was of a totally different tribe and occupation. King David was of the tribe of Judah and a shepherd.

Both were anointed by Samuel the Judge and the Prophet who preceded them both in the care taker role of Israel. Neither were warriors by birth or strategic war plotters. We do not learn how to combat from King David. Instead we learn how to overcome obstacles and how to ask for the will of God. We learn that all the positive things in our lives can be attributed to God. We learn to think wisely and live each day.

King David had faith, learned accountability and courage as a shepherd, and learned to rely on his understanding while alone guiding and guarding those sheep and keeping them safe from predators. We can assume his sling shot among animal predictors, just as with Goliath, was all he considered necessary to protect himself and this is how he became proficient in its use. A God given talent that perhaps faith improved upon.

King David realized the Lord established him as King over Israel and the Lord had "exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel" (II Samuel 5:12).

God can overcome the smallest and greatest challenges in our lives. He does it through hearts first and then through capability. The characteristic of being a warrior is listed the third one in the initial verse of this article....

"...a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who understands playing on the harp, a prudent man, a man of war, wise in speech, handsome, and the Lord is with him" (I Samuel 16:18, OSB).

A musician and a man of valor were before becoming a warrior. King David was talented, wise, and brave. Valor signifies a bravery of the type that quantifies courage and a respect for human life. Following this he was a warrior. As a King, he protected and made the Israelites prosper giving God the victories of his campaigns.

One has to always remember the slingshot and not the weapons of iron. Our slingshots of keeping steadfast in our faith, unanimously following our leaders whom we know are faithful to the Lord our God, and asking that no blood guilt be on our hands because of anxiety like King Saul who killed with his own sword is significant of. Others will come after us who will examine in times of trials and tribulations did we "Come in the Name of the Lord of Hosts" as did King David.

Let us all pray for our beloved Egypt, for all those who have lost their lives for their faith, for all the churches that were burned down to grant a new and glorious rebirth, and for a country seeking to firmly plant democratic roots.

Just as King David, may we look into the depths of those whom mistreat us (King Saul)—and still show compassion and love with their sons and daughters recognizing Jonathan's eyes and heart in his one remaining crippled son (II Samuel 9).

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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