Appearance vs Reality
Updated: Mar 24
One of the first bible stories that we learned as children was the story of David and Goliath. We learned about how David, a shepherd boy, found himself in a showdown against a giant named Goliath, and how, miraculously, David was able to defeat Goliath with a rock and a sling. The basic lesson that this story taught us was that with God all things are possible. And that lesson has benefitted us at every step and stage of our lives.
Still there is more that can be learned from the story of David and Goliath, and as we mature in Christ, we are able to see some finer details to the story that help us to learn other lessons about a life spent with God.
One of those lessons is that there is a difference between appearance and reality. There is a difference between what things seem like and what they actually are. For instance, Goliath appeared to be unbeatable. But in reality, he was so vulnerable to David’s attack that all it took to defeat Goliath was a rock and a sling.
As God’s people, we must understand that what we see is not always what is. We see and perceive that which is physical—that which our senses can synthesize. But the spiritual realm that we cannot see, hear, or touch, is actually more real than the physical realm, because reality is determined by that which is spiritual.
Like David, we often find ourselves facing off against giants: illness, family issues, financial struggles, societal problems; all things that may appear to us to be unbeatable. But the invisible God who spoke all things into existence and sustains all things by his Spirit, declares and determines reality as he so choses. And regardless of what things appear to be, they can only really be what God declares them to be.
And so, it is important that we remember at least this one additional lesson from the story of David and Goliath: Never get distracted by what things appear to be, but rather always trust in the one who determines reality.
The showdown between David and Goliath is one feature of the heated rivalry between God’s people, the Israelites, and their most hated enemy, the Philistines. From the days of the book of Judges on into the days of 2nd Chronicles, the two nations endured centuries of fighting and the nature of that fighting was as such: When Israel was disobedient to God and was worshipping idols, the Lord would allow the Philistines to defeat them. But when Israel was loyal to God, then God would fight for Israel and defeat the Philistines in wondrous and extraordinary ways. Whether it was raising up the strong man Samson to be a one-man army, or causing an outbreak of tumors upon the Philistines, God fought for Israel. God fought for his people.
During the reign of Israel’s first King Saul, under the leadership of the prophet Samuel, there was a recommitment to God in Israel, and thus the Israelites enjoyed sustained success against the Philistine army. On one particular day, the two nations met again for battle: “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. The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them” (1 Sam. 17:2-3, NKJV).
In order to defeat God’s people, the Philistines employed a new strategy. Verses 4-7 of 1st Samuel 17 introduce us to Goliath, the Philistine’s most highly regarded warrior, and immediately we are given a picture of his sheer size and strength. Translated to our measurements, Goliath would have been about 9 feet, nine inches tall. The armor vest that he wore would have weighed almost 80 pounds. The iron tip at the end of his spear would have weighed about fifteen pounds and the spear itself, which would have been thrown, would have weighed almost 40 pounds. And on top of all this, he was a skilled and veteran warrior.
Verse eight tells us that Goliath called up to the Israelite army saying, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us. This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”
The new strategy that the Philistines came up with was that, instead of armies fighting armies, their champion Goliath would fight one Israelite soldier, and the army of the loser would have to surrender to the army of the winner.
By reducing the entire battle to a one-on-one fight, and with Goliath being twice the size of any Israelite soldier, the Philistines stacked the deck in their own favor and in their minds there was nothing the Israelites could do to overcome those odds.
But people of God, you cannot be dismayed by the adversary’s attempt to stack the deck, because the fact remains that God fights for his people. It’s not about what things appear to be. It’s about what God has declared them to be.
Unfortunately, Israel forgot this. Verse 11 tells us, “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Verse 24 reads, “Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.”
Instead of leaning on the fact that God fights for his people, the Israelites ran and hid. Now understand the situation that is unfolding: The two armies are perched on two big hills with a valley in between. Goliath has stepped out of the Philistine camp and walked down to the valley to issue his challenge up to the Israelite army. By doing this, Goliath has made himself an easy target and any number of the thousands of Israelite soldiers, armed with bows and spears, could have attacked him. Instead, they all ran and hid.
That response makes no sense. It’s illogical. And getting caught up in what things appear to be will cause us to make illogical decisions. Teens make the illogical decision to commit suicide because they think the mean actions of their peers define their own value. People abandon relationships with the man or woman God sent them because they don’t appear to be the fantasy the person had envisioned. Talented individuals quit on their dreams and pursuits because things appear to be more difficult and less rewarding than anticipated. Getting caught up in appearance will cause us to make illogical decisions and miss out on the good things of God.
So, there is the Israelite army, thousands of soldiers, taking cover on top of the hill, afraid of Goliath because he appeared to be unbeatable. And this is the scene in which the young David entered the story. Having been sent to the battlefield by his father to bring his older brothers some food, David walked up on the Israelite army just as Goliath was coming out to challenge them.
Now the challenge David witnessed was not the first challenge. It’s not the second challenge. What we learn in verse 16 is that Goliath came out to challenge Israel twice a day for 40 straight days. That means 80 times Goliath left his fellow soldiers to come down and challenge the Israelite army; 80 times he walked back unscathed; 80 times the entire Israelite army ran and hid. And not once in those 80 times did the Israelites think back to what God said in Leviticus 26, “You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.”
Eighty times Israel ran. But then came the teenager David, witnessing challenge number 81. And look at his response. Verse 26 says David turned to the cowering soldiers around him and he asked, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?”
When David saw Goliath, he called him a disgrace that needed to be removed. You see, when you trust in the one who determines reality, you develop spiritual eyes. And you see things for what they really are. The Israelite soldiers saw a giant. David saw a disgrace. The Philistine soldiers saw a champion. David saw nothing more than stain, or a pile of rubbish, or a wart—an unwanted nuisance that needed to be removed.
He wasn’t not concerned about Goliath’s size. He didn’t know or care about Goliath’s war record. It did not cross David’s mind that he himself had no armor or weaponry. And he didn’t seem to realize that he was not actually in the army, thus David had not been commanded or commissioned to fight anybody. All he knew was that if they fought, Goliath would fall, because David knew that God fights for his people.
After contemplating the benefits of being the one who removed the disgrace, David uttered a statement that further illustrates his boldness. David snarled “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of living God?”
When we encounter giants, we have to have some boldness. Some attitude. What is sickness that it should discourage us, for by his stripes we are healed. What is addiction that it should enslave us, for whom the son makes free is free indeed. What is money, or the lack thereof, that it should stop our kingdom work, cause this is the same God who said to Haggai 2:8, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.”
We have to have boldness and attitude when we run up on a giant, and in order to do that, we have to trust the one who determines reality.
But, in our study of the word of God, we see that there is more than just attitude in David’s commentary on Goliath. When he calls Goliath an uncircumcised Philistine he’s actually speaking to the spiritual reality of the situation.
In the Old Testament, circumcision was the sign of the covenant between Israel and God. In Genesis 17:10 God said to father Abraham, “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”
For David, it didn’t matter how big and strong Goliath was, because David had something that Goliath didn’t have. David had the covenant. David had a connection with God. David had the protection of God.
Goliath on the other hand was a Philistine, he wasn’t part of the covenant. He didn’t have a relationship with God. He didn’t have the connection or the protection. As Paul would say, he was without a God and without a hope in the world.
And whereas everybody else on both sides of the battlefield saw an unbeatable warrior, David saw a man without a hope in the world, facing off against the armies of the living God.
We who are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ are the armies of the living God. We are the ones who are on the battlefield for the Lord. We are the ones who storm the gates of Hell and they shall not prevail against us. We have to put on our war clothes, grab our sword and shield, and go out and fight the giants.
We have to fight against conspiracies and collusion, sexism and sexual deviancy, lying and falsifying, wannabe dictators and yes men enablers, acquittal and refusal to indict, laziness and lack of concern, materialism and waste, arrogance and utter stupidity. And we the people of God, have to stand boldly against these giants, whether they are in up in Washington, out in Hollywood, over on Main street, or even in the church.
We can’t be scared and timid, because it’s not a matter of if , but when we encounter a giant. And after one falls, there is another waiting in the wing.
So, we have to have that David mentality. We have to know that when we encounter a giant, we can fight it because God fights for us. We can fight cancer. We can fight marital issues. We can fight discrimination. We can fight against wrong, knowing that God fights for us.
Because David had the boldness and the faith to fight a giant when he was young, when he got a little older, he was able to write in Psalm 23, “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the shadow of Death I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
And as he saw more giants in his life David was able to say in Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid. When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and my foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. One thing that I have desired, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, For in the time of trouble, he shall hide me.”
And when the giants appeared to be unbeatable, David was able to say in Psalm 121, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not suffer my foot to be moved the Lord who keeps me, he will not slumber, nor will he sleep.”
And when he got old, and couldn’t fight like he used to, he still knew who to turn to for the victory, saying in Psalm 37, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.”
So, look to David as the example of trusting the one who determines reality. But if you need someone else to look to, then look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Look to Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Look at the nails in his hands and in his feet. Look at the spear that was thrust into his side. Look at the blood that poured out of his body. Look at the two the two thieves on either side of him. Look at the crowd mocking him. Look at him hang his head surrender his spirit.
But don’t get caught up in the appearance. Cause the reality is, He died to take the punishment for our sins. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).
Look to the borrowed tomb that they buried him in. But look hard enough, and see that its empty except for a rag and a folded up napkin. Because on the third day he rose to everlasting life so that all who believe on him would not perish but have eternal life with him in paradise.
The one who defeated the giants of sin and death is giving us the victory today. So, go ahead and fight the giants.
Regardless of what they appear to be, and regardless of what you appear to be in comparison, fight the giants! Because “it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, KJV).
So, Don’t get caught up in the appearance. Trust in the one who determines the reality. And go on and fight the giants. Amen