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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Samuel 17

Verse 29


1 Samuel 17:29. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

IT is impossible for any man so to conduct himself in this world, as to avoid censure: but it is desirable so to act, as not to deserve censure. The rule prescribed for us, in Scripture, is this: “Be ye blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world [Note: Philippians 2:15.].” Like our blessed Lord, we must expect to have our words and actions misconstrued by wicked men: but we should labour to be able to say, with him, “Which of you convinceth me of sin [Note: John 8:46.]?” The appeal which David makes to his indignant brother, in my text, is precisely that, which, when blamed by any one for an action that has offended him, we should be prepared to make: “What have I now done” that was deserving of blame? or what have I done, which was not called for by the circumstances in which I was placed?

Let me,


Unfold to you David’s vindication of himself—Mark,


The blame imputed to him—

[He had been sent, by his father, to inquire after the welfare of his brethren; and he had executed his office with all practicable expedition [Note: ver. 20, 22.]. But, whilst David was conversing with his brethren, Goliath came in front of the Israelitish army, as he had done both morning and evening for forty successive days, to challenge any individual to single combat. David heard his impious defiance, not of Israel only, but of Israel’s God, and was filled with indignation against him: and, having heard what honours Saul had engaged to confer on any one who should encounter this giant, he expressed his willingness to undertake the task, and to risk his own life in defence of his king and country. Not that he conceived himself able to cope with this mighty man: but he knew that God was all-sufficient for those who should trust in him; and he doubted not, but that God would give him the victory over this insulting foe.

For this his brother Eliab severely reproved him, imputing his professed zeal to pride and vanity, and a desire to see the battle, which was at that very instant about to commence. He reflected on him, too, as having deserted his proper post, and as neglecting his proper duty; though he knew the end for which he had come thither, and by whom he had been sent.]


His vindication of himself—

[Lovely was the spirit of David on this occasion. He did not “render evil for evil, and railing for railing;” but, with meekness and modesty, and yet with a firmness expressive of conscious innocence, he appealed to all around him: “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” Have I manifested a grief of heart that my nation should be so insulted, and an indignation of mind that Jehovah himself should be thus defied? Have I expressed a willingness to expose my life in the service of my king, my country, and my God; and is evil to be imputed to me for this? Is there any thing in this deserving of blame? Besides, “Is there not a cause” for what I have said and done? Does not the insolence of this haughty champion call for it? Does not the dispirited state of my own countrymen require it? Does not, also, the honour of my God demand it? And is there any time to be lost? In the space of another hour this gigantic foe may be out of reach; or the battle may have begun; and the time for honouring my God, and benefiting my country, may be for ever lost? Why, then, am I to have all manner of evil imputed to me, for that which is in itself most commendable, and which the occasion so imperatively demands?]

David being undoubtedly an example to us in this matter, I shall,


Take occasion from it to vindicate those who stand forth as champions in the Christian cause—

They, in their place, must expect to incur censure from an ungodly world—
[Their conduct will be condemned, as unbecoming in persons of their age and station: it will be traced also to pride, and conceit, and vanity, as its real source: and it will be represented as an occasion and a plea for neglecting their proper business in life. The Christian that will serve his Lord and Master with fidelity, shall be sure to meet with some measure of the treatment to which the Saviour himself was subjected: “If they call the Master of the house Beelzebub,” let not those of his household hope that they shall be suffered to escape reproach. Even the friends and relatives of a Christian, and especially if he be young, will be among the first to vent their indignation against him: Why should he be singular, and venture to adopt a conduct not sanctioned by his superiors? Why should he, by his indiscreet forwardness, cast a reflection upon all his brethren as wanting in zeal? Why does he not content himself with discharging his own proper duties, without interfering in matters that are too high for him? What can actuate him in all this, but a vain desire of distinction, or an hypocritical pretension to qualities which he does not possess? In this way shall not his actions only, but his motives also, be judged by those who have not the courage or the piety to follow his example.]

But the faithful Christian may adopt the very appeal which David made to those who censured him—
[“What have I now done,” that calls for this reproof? to be condemned for manifesting a love to God, and a desire to wipe away the reproach that is cast on Israel? When I see the great adversary of God and man exulting in his might, and putting to flight all the armies of Israel, is it wrong in me to enter the lists against him, and to enroll myself as a soldier of Jesus Christ, to maintain his cause? What, if I be weak and incompetent to the task, is it any evil to confide in God, and to believe that he will “perfect his strength in my weakness?” Methinks, in an undertaking like this, I should meet with encouragement rather than reproof: for in all that I do, in fighting the Lord’s battles, I do only what is the duty of every living man, whether he be old or young, and whether he be rich or poor.
I ask too, “Is there not a cause” for all that I have done? Does not the great enemy of God and man carry, as it were, all before him? Is there not a want of bold and intrepid soldiers to face him? Do not even the armies of God’s Israel need to be encouraged by some bright example? Does not the king of Israel, by “exceeding great and precious promises,” call us to the conflict? and will not the honour that he will award to us be a rich recompence for our utmost exertions? As for David, he might have been preserved, though all his brethren had perished: but who shall live, if he forbear to fight the good fight of faith? Surely, if God’s honour be impugned; if his enemies triumph; if we, in our very baptism, engaged ourselves to be soldiers of Jesus Christ, and to fight under his banners; if there be no safety for us but in fighting; and if eternal happiness depend on our maintaining the conflict till we have gained the victory; then “is there a cause” for our most strenuous efforts; and all blame must attach, not to us, who fight, but to those who decline, and discountenance, the combat.]


Let none be discouraged from engaging in the service of Christ—

[You must expect to “endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” and that your greatest foes will be those of your own household. You know that a martial spirit is infused with care into the minds of those who enlist into the armies of an earthly prince: and shall not the same pervade those who have undertaken to fight the Lord’s battles? I say then to all of you, Offer yourselves as volunteers in His service: fear no danger to which you may be exposed: and rely altogether upon Him who has called you to this warfare. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might:” and fear not but that you shall be “more than conquerors, through Him who loved you.”]


In maintaining your steadfastness, look well to your own spirit—

[Persons do harm when they vindicate themselves in an unbecoming temper and spirit. We are to “instruct in meekness them that oppose themselves.” “A soft answer turneth away wrath [Note: Proverbs 15:1.]:” and “he who ruleth well his own spirit, is greater than he who taketh a city [Note: Proverbs 25:28.].” It is impossible not to admire the spirit of David on this occasion: let it be transfused into your minds; and, “instead of being overcome of evil, learn, under the most trying circumstances, to overcome evil with good.”]

Verses 45-46


1 Samuel 17:45-46. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand.

THAT God acts in a sovereign way in the distribution of his favours is a truth to which proud man is very averse: yet does it meet us in every part of the Holy Scriptures. We have seen it in the elevation of Saul to the regal office: it appears also in the selection of David, whom Samuel was ordered to anoint as successor to the throne [Note: 1 Samuel 16:1-13.]. We behold it now again in raising up David, whilst yet a youth untrained to war, to slay Goliath, from whom all the army of Israel fled. It might rather have been expected that Jonathan, who had already shewn a most extraordinary valour, should stand forth as a champion on this occasion; or at least that some valiant man should have been found in the camp to espouse his country’s cause: but God had ordained that David should possess the throne of Saul; and by this means he began to educate, as it were, the youth for his destined office.

In the words before us we have David’s address to his antagonist just on the commencement of his engagement with him: and from them we shall be led to notice,


The character of the combatants—

In Goliath we behold a proud, self-confident blasphemer—
[He was of gigantic stature, (above eleven feet in height, or, at the lowest possible computation, ten,) and possessed strength in proportion to his size. His armour was such as would have almost borne down a man of moderate strength [Note: ver. 4–7.]: and, clad in this, he deemed himself invulnerable and irresistible. Hence, whilst he stalked in proud defiance between the two hostile armies, he, in mind and spirit, presumed to defy even God himself.

Characters of this description are by no means uncommon in the world: for, though we behold not in these days men of such extraordinary bulk, we behold the same pride of heart in multitudes around us, who, glorying in their own bodily or intellectual powers, use them only as instruments of aggrandizing themselves, and of insulting God [Note: Psalms 12:3-4; Psalms 73:6-9.].]

David, on the contrary, was humbly dependent on God alone—
[Being sent by his father to visit his brethren, he came to them in the ranks just at the time that this proud blasphemer was challenging the hosts of Israel. Filled with indignation at his impiety, and desirous to vindicate the honour of his God, he manifested a wish to accept the challenge: and, when reproved by his eldest brother, he meekly but firmly persisted in his purpose, saying, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause [Note: ver. 29.]?”

On being brought to Saul, and warned of his incompetency to contend with such a mighty and experienced warrior, he shewed at once what his true motives were, and in whom his confidence was placed. He had before experienced the protection of Heaven, in two conflicts with a lion and a bear, which he had slain, when they rose up against him; and he doubted not but that God would crown him with similar success in his conflict with this uncircumcised Philistine [Note: ver. 33–36.].

Saul would have lent him his own armour for the combat: but David found it only an encumbrance; and therefore went forth unarmed, except with a sling, and five stones in his shepherd’s bag, confiding, not in any human means, but in the strength of the living God. Hence when Goliath scorned his youthful appearance, and derided his preparations for the conflict, David replied in the words of our text, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.”
How striking was this contrast! how exemplary the conduct of David! and how illustrative of the spirit in which the true Christian goes forth against his spiritual enemies, and prepares to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil!]
The close of our text leads us to notice,


The issue of the conflict—

According to all human expectations it must be decided in favour of Goliath—
[There was, as it should appear, no room for competition between the combatants; the one a youth, a shepherd, unused to war, and destitute, as we may say, either of defensive or offensive armour; and the other, a man of immense strength, trained to war from his very youth, and armed with all that the ingenuity of man could furnish: his armour altogether impenetrable to the stones, with which alone the youth was prepared to oppose him.]
But his strength was weakness, when opposed to the God of Israel—
[The first stone which David cast at him, was directed by an unerring arm, and an almighty power: it pierced the forehead of Goliath, and in a moment realized the youth’s prediction. Thus was the proud boaster “delivered into David’s hand;” and David, unprovided with any sword of his own, took the sword of his adversary, and with it cut off his head. And no sooner did the Philistines behold their champion dead, than they fled from Israel with terror, and yielded themselves an easy prey to their pursuers.]
We forbear to suggest the various reflections naturally arising in the mind from this event, because God himself has told us,


The design of the dispensation—

It was intended,


For the instruction of the world—

[Men in general think but little of God; and because they do not see him, they are ready to suppose that he does not interfere in the affairs of men. They imagine that they may set at nought his authority, and pour contempt on his people, with impunity: and, if left, like Goliath, to prosper for a season, their presumption is proportionally increased [Note: Ecclesiastes 8:11.]. But God is no unconcerned spectator of his creatures’ conduct: he marks down every thing in the book of his remembrance; and will vindicate his own honour at the appointed season; perhaps in that moment, when his adversary conceives himself most secure.

Think of this, ye who abuse your strength to the purposes of criminal indulgence, and who vaunt of your excesses in wine or debauchery of any kind. Think of this also, ye who oppose and deride religion. Remember whom it is that you are insulting. Goliath thought that he was defying Israel; but his defiance was in reality hurled against Jehovah himself. So you, though probably unconscious of it, are in reality fighting against God himself. And “will you continue to provoke HIM to jealousy? Are you stronger than he?” “Will you be strong in the day that he shall deal with you? or will you thunder with a voice like his?” Ah, cease from this mad warfare, and cast down the weapons of your rebellion, and humble yourselves, while yet the sword of vengeance is unsheathed. Behold Goliath prostrate on the ground, a monument of human folly, and human weakness! Behold him placed for a monument to all succeeding ages, that “God resisteth the proud;” and that “him who walks in pride, He is able to abase!” God delivered him into David’s hand on purpose that “all the earth might know that there is a God in Israel [Note: ver. 46.].”]


For the consolation of God’s Israel—

[Great and mighty are the enemies of God’s people; and most unequal is the contest in which they are engaged. They may well say, “We have no power or might against this great company that cometh against us.” But in this dispensation God has especially provided for their encouragement: he gave success to David, that “all the assembly of his people might know, that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s [Note: ver. 47.].” In HIM must be our trust: in his strength must we go forth against our enemies: we must “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” We must arm ourselves with the weapons which he has provided; and though they appear to the eye of sense to be as useless as a sling and stone, yet shall they be made effectual through his power. Let us “take hope as our helmet, righteousness as our breast-plate, truth for our girdle, the Gospel of peace for our greaves, faith for our shield, and the word of God for our sword,” and we need not fear either men or devils; for “He that is in us, is greater than he that is in the world,” and “we shall be made more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Gird yourselves then to the battle, expecting “God to perfect his own strength in your weakness.” Whoever, whether of friends or enemies, may attempt to divert you from your purpose, go forward: and remember, that as the eyes of both the hostile armies were fixed on David and Goliath, so is there “a cloud of witnesses” anxiously observing you [Note: Hebrews 12:1.]. O, “quit yourselves like men,” and soon you shall have cause to say, “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 17". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.