David had five stones, a sling, and a shepherd's staff. They were his arsenal for going face to face with the Philistine warrior Goliath. Of course, he didn't need all of them to deal with Goliath. According to the text of 1 Samuel David only needed the sling and one stone to do the job (see 1 Samuel 17: 50). That's the thing about arsenals. The best equipped combatants don't always advance to the winner's circle in this life. Many of us, like Goliath, possess impressive armaments to deal with the many challenges and obstacles we face everyday. Having them is one thing. Knowing how to use them is another. And, that's an important lesson we can learn from this shepherd boy David.
Yes, Goliath's arsenal was substantial, that is, if size matters. According to the text Goliath was physically imposing, standing "six cubits and a span" (1 Samuel 17: 4). Doing the math on his height means that he was somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 feet and 9 inches tall. There's no reference point about David's height. That he had been armor-bearer to King Saul (see 1 Samuel 16: 21) may imply an that he was larger in stature. However, it must be remembered that God had instructed Samuel to anoint a king from the household of Jesse with this specific instruction---
Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected
him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the
Lord looks on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7, ESV
So, yes, David was "ruddy and handsome in appearance" (1 Samuel 17:42, ESV) but not necessarily tall or strong.
Goliath's arsenal was more than his physical size. The texts reveal that he wore a bronze helmet, a coat of mail weighing 5000 shekels (this coat is metallic links worn on the upper body), bronze armor on his legs, a javelin of bronze, and a spear that resembled a weaver's beam with a spear-head weighing 600 shekels of iron. There was also a shield bearer who stood in front of him (see 1 Samuel 17: 5-7, ESV, for these descriptive details). Evidently his arsenal terrified the Israeli army. He taunted them for forty days, and they were dismayed and greatly afraid" (1 Samuel 17: 11, ESV).
Again, there's this thing about arsenals. We're somewhat obsessed about having the right stuff for life these days. In our culture arsenals involve much more than weapons. Sure, owning firearms, having licenses to carry them, installing security systems, and being trained in personal self-defense are in vogue these days. Even more, we have boastful resumes, educational credentials, influential people in our contact lists, significant accomplishments, fortune, fame, possessions, positions, and much more to represent our personal stature and standing. As if all of this alone could insure victory in every life challenge.
But, it's a lesson from this shepherd boy we must acknowledge and employ: impressive weaponry doesn't guarantee success. It's a strong biblical theme as well. The Apostle Paul wrote about it to the Corinthian believers---
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy
2 Corinthians 10:4, ESV
Earlier, Solomon had written "Wisdom is better than weapons of war..." (Ecclesiastes 9:18, ESV). Even at his early age, King David had brought wisdom to the contest with Goliath. Solomon had also reminded every generation that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" (Proverbs 9:10, ESV). Young shepherd boy David revered the Lord God and brought wisdom and knowledge to the warfare in the Valley of Elah.
There was a fleeting thought about adding muscle to David's meager arsenal. "Then Saul clothed David with his armor" (1 Samuel 17:38, ESV). The king of Israel gave his bronze helmet, coat of mail, and sword to David, battle wear fit for a king. They were not, however, the military apparel of a shepherd and were discarded. His victory over Goliath that day didn't herald a vast arsenal or even skilled military tactics. "So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone..." (1 Samuel 17:50, ESV). He only needed one stone in his arsenal. One stone.
Goliath isn't mentioned by name in David's later writing, the Psalms. But, there are echoes of that day in the Valley of Elah throughout his poems and hymns of praise to God. The opening of Psalm 27, among many others, inspires and encourages me---
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my
life, of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27: 1, ESV
How can courage and confidence, fearlessness and strength be stockpiled in our personal arsenal? It's a lesson taught by David many years later, but perhaps learned in the valley that day. In a time of great trial under the threat of this same King Saul, David was distressed. This historian wrote, "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6, ESV).
He only needed one stone that day. One stone. You see, the Lord was his strength. And, that's a lesson all of us should learn from this shepherd boy.