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Five Smooth Stones

There always seems to be someone presenting himself as the enemy of God. Why is that? It’s because God is the only game in town that is a threat to anyone. If we pay attention, we will see that this happens all the time.

In 1 Samuel 17:1-10 we meet Goliath, a giant Philistine from Gath. He was estimated to be close to ten feet tall and had a really bad attitude. These people are first mentioned in Numbers and then again in Joshua:

“But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak (strong-necked) came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

“And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim from the mountains: from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. None of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod.” (Joshua 11:21-22)

They are also mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:28, 2:10-11, 21 and 9:2. The Israelites had been afraid of these giants for a long time. According to Joshua 11:21-22, at that time there were only a few areas still held by these giants, which shows their continued resistance to God and His people and that is reflected in Goliath’s insolence and defiance.

Goliath represents satan

Although Goliath is real, he is also a “type” of satan. He represents the devil, the great enemy of God and man and, as such, he seeks to terrify and bring into captivity all who call on the name of the Lord. The devil always wants our focus.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5: 8)

Goliath’s size is symbolic of the devil’s power and his armor reminds us of the devil’s armor spoken of in Luke 11:22. His desire was for the people of God to serve him; this is satan’s desire too

“….if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” (Goliath speaking) (1 Samuel 17:9b)

He tries to draw the Israelites to his level, by setting the tone of the fight. Satan does this through temptation – drawing us into realms where he is stronger than we are (in the flesh, at least.)

Another quality that Goliath shares with satan is that he associates himself with “other gods”.

“So the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” (1 Samuel 17:43)

King Saul represents the flesh

When confronted by the Philistines, King Saul does what he always does: draws up in battle formation. We will often resort to our habits when we find ourselves in crisis.

“And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 17:2)

Challenged by earthly forces that seem impossible to beat, this warrior king is dismayed and afraid. Sometimes even the most bold among us will find ourselves overrun by a crisis.

“When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (1 Samuel 17:11)

While there is nothing wrong with being afraid, that word “dismayed” means “to totally break down and lay down.” Saul was controlled by his fear of Goliath. Satan seeks to control our souls like that.

When David was resolved to fight Goliath, Saul put his confidence in man-made armor and required David to try on Saul’s armor and carry his sword. This pulled David down to Goliath’s level in that his confidence would be in earthly things.

Using Saul’s armor and sword would have also doomed David and Israel to defeat because they were heavy and bulky. This would have impeded David’s God-given abilities and that would have delighted the enemy.

David – a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14)

When all this takes place, David is already anointed to be king; therefore he has the spiritual power to fight Goliath. We must always be aware that even in the case of physical conflict there is a spiritual battle going on. I might have the physical ability to be victorious but if that is not backed with spiritual anointing I may lose anyway.

“So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is the one! Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” (1 Samuel 16:12-13)

David has the anointing to be king, but he does not yet have the position of king, therefore he doesn’t have all authority in this matter. This is a key point because it shows the importance of respecting earthly authority. David never confronts Goliath until he is given the authority to do so by the king.

David has also already been used to bless Israel (through the king) by using music to free the king of a demon (1 Samuel 16:23.) Now David is called to confront Goliath, a type of satan and, in this way, David symbolizes Jesus.

In the same way Jesus expresses His outrage at the temple and in rebuking Peter when he expresses ideas that are satanic in origin, David expresses his outrage at Goliath’s insolent attitude toward Israel.

“…who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26b)

David represents walking after the Spirit

David refuses Saul’s armor, preferring to face the obviously strong Goliath from a stance of evident weakness rather than one of strength. We see this same dynamic present in Jesus as He faces satan in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting (Matthew 4). Later, on the cross, Jesus refuses to use the strength of legions of angels, relying instead on His Father who evidently tells Him not to use that strength.

Despite his seeming physical inferiority, David ultimately kills Goliath and stands with his enemy beneath his feet.

“And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly." (Romans 16:20)

“For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25)

David killed Goliath with a single stone, but the Word tells us that after refusing Saul’s armor and sword he chose five smooth stones. Five smooth stones.

Why did David pick stones as a weapon when he could have chosen a sword or a spear or a bow and arrow? There were people in Israel (the tribe of Benjamin) who were renowned for their abilities with slings and stones. It was common to use this as a weapon.

“And from their cities at that time the children of Benjamin numbered twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who numbered seven hundred select men. Among all this people were seven hundred select men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair's breadth and not miss.” (Judges 20:15-16)

Why did he pick five smooth stones when he was only going to use one? There are two theories on this. One is that David wanted four stones as backups in case he either missed with the first…or failed to kill Goliath.

I don’t believe this idea because David was skilled with a sling, having killed predator animals with one. A stone thrown with a sling is said to have the stopping power of a .45 caliber slug. David was going to connect with Goliath and would drop him. There was no doubt of that.

The second idea is that Goliath had four brothers. Some people believe that he was prepared to fight them next. I tend to believe this, however, David didn’t personally kill Goliath’s brothers. They were killed later by David’s men. I believe that the immediate purpose of the five stones were for preparation. David was ready.

This being the case, there is another, deeper, reason that the number five is important here. Five is the number that stands for Divine Grace and that makes this really interesting.

David didn’t just pick up any five stones at random.

“Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:40)

David “chose” those stones. The Hebrew word translated as “chose” is “bachar”; it means “especially chosen; judged to be excellent after it has been tested; taking a keen look at something; a careful, well thought-out choice.” (Zodiates)

See what David does in 1 Samuel 17:40, keeping in mind that he is the anointed one and is under authority to do this.

  • He takes his staff – a symbol of equipping and authority.

  • He carefully chooses five smooth stones (divine grace = empowering provision from God).

  • He receives the stones. He puts them in a pouch. They were his.

  • He prepares himself. He has his sling ready.

  • He draws near to his enemy.

At this point we have the anointed one, representing all of Israel…representing us… facing the enemy, who represents satan.

Now it is important to ask, “Why did David choose five smooth stones?”

The meanings of some Hebrew words can reveal the significance of things we might otherwise miss. The Hebrew word for “smooth” in 1 Samuel 17:40 is “challuq”. It literally means “portion or inheritance”. It is related to a word found in Zechariah 2:12.

“And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 2:12)

The word in the Zechariah verse for “inheritance” is “cheleq”. It means virtually the same thing as “smooth” in 1 Samuel 17:40. This word shows up a number of times in the Old Testament. In fact, both words show up in one verse:

“Among the smooth (challuq) stones of the stream is your portion (cheleq); They, they, are your lot!( gowral, go-rawl or destiny)” (Isaiah 57:6a)

When David bent down and carefully chose those five stones, he was picking up his inheritance, his portion…and was stepping into his destiny. That he received them from a stream speaks of the presence of the Holy Spirit, so often symbolized by water.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)

Let’s look again at the sequence in David’s equipping for battle, bearing in mind what we have just seen.

  • David is serving by feeding his brothers, in obedience to his father.

  • He sees someone mocking and hurting the people of God.

  • He is outraged.

  • He is convinced that God can handle this problem.

  • In obedience to his authority figure (King Saul), he tries out Saul’s idea: to rely on man-made armor.

  • Seeing it for what it is….he rejects it and chooses instead something God made: smooth stones. He chooses God-given weapons over man-made protection.

  • Goliath, doing his best impersonation of satan in all his pride and arrogance, mocks David (representing Jesus) and lets down his guard by lifting the visor of his helmet, giving David a good shot at his forehead.

  • David calls on God to fight the fight.

“Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands.'” (1 Samuel 17: 45-47)

  • David kills Goliath and beheads him.

What follows this is interesting. When David seized his inheritance (which started with him preparing himself by picking up the stones) he was well on his way to the throne. However, it would be a rough ride for a while. Sometimes we can be in God’s will and things will still be difficult.

After David killed Goliath people began to compare him to King Saul.

“So the women sang as they danced, and said: "