“I can’t go in these” was a statement of individuality. The shepherd boy of Samuel 17:36-39 was about to face the Philistine giant Goliath in individual combat. King Saul was trying to assist him toward victory by providing his own armor and sword. Yet David was unwilling to use the king’s equipment.
A Lot of Moxy, self-confidence and poise was involved in declining the king’s offer. Why? First, because it would have been the finest tunic, the best quality armor and the most technologically advanced sword. Second, because he was refusing the King of Israel. Normally kings and presidents dictate circumstances. They carry an aurora of authority to which others are expected to submit. Thirdly, David’s status was low. Ignored by his family, not invited to his own anointing, and the last in a long line of sons. Stuck with the sheep. One would think David would be lacking is self-confidence. Instead, he speaks an instantly recognizable reality: “I am not used to these.” He says it twice. This was individuality at its best.
Be Yourself When I was in seminary, some of us wanted to preach with the calm, nourishing, brilliant commentary of Dr. Warren Wiersbe or the scholarship and logic of Dr. Leon Wood. But the guys who continued to be what they were becoming . . . the guys who continued to develop their own style . . . the guys who became more themselves were the smart ones. Be yourself. Have confidence in the creative work God did when He made you you. God is not into cookie-cutter Christians (that’s a Wiersbe-ism). There’s only one you. God is impressed with you. He made you. He likes His handiwork.
Today’s Individuality runs from one extreme to the other. In America, it is self-focused; in prior years in Japan, individuality was surrendered to the nation. Until Commadore Perry sailed into Yokohama Harbor in 1853, the Japanese had no individuality. It had been surrendered to the state which dictated society, right down to what toys a child in a given class could play with and what each class could and could not wear.1 So we see both extremes.
So much of today’s Individuality is self-centered. The weirder the better. The more bazaar, the bigger the buzz. The more outlandish, the more attention. Weird for weird’s sake (Philippians 3:19). Today’s individualism is self-glorification, based on the odd and outrageous. To be scandalous is to be admired, as the standards of civilization take a beating; as people become noteworthy by challenging cultural norms and what is good for society. What has constituted a healthy society is mocked by much of today’s individuality.
Healthy Individuality Not so the individuality of our text – David refusing the king’s personal war gear. The tunic is said to be Saul’s very own tunic (“Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic . . . .” (vs. 38). While the text does not say the sword and helmet were Saul’s personal property, it seems logical.
Notice that this individuality steps down and away from the king’s own armor and sword to a shepherd’s sling. Big reduction in technology and firepower.
David’s healthy individualism was based on his knowledge and experience of the equipment. He knew his sling. He used it to good effect protecting his sheep. The time American kids waste on Game Boy, XBOX and PlayStation, David spent learning to hit small targets with his sling. Alone with the sheep, what else was there to do? We can assume as he stepped out to confront Goliath that David was confident he could hit his forehead – the one unprotected spot on Goliath’s anatomy.
When the servants recommended David to Saul, they said, “He is a brave man and a warrior.” How did that become known? On what basis was he called a warrior? I suggest border skirmishes with the Philistines was warm-ups for the main event (Goliath). It appears he knew his sling very well.
David’s healthy individualism was also based on use of the ordinary. Saul’s armor would have been out of character for him. It was not him. David was not about armor and helmets; he was a sling guy. Ordinary, the known, the everyday. Why did ordinary work for him? Because the power is not in the sword or sling – it is in God. God slew Goliath through David’s faith and long hours of practice. God can use us even if we are ordinary. We know what we are and what we aren’t. So when spiritual things happen, we know God did them.
Lastly, David was focused on God’s glory (vs. 45), not personal attention. Being important in the kingdom was not the issue for David. God being honored was the issue. It still is. And God still does mighty things with ordinary people when we focus on Him.
- The up-side was no wars for 300 years.