He Was But a Youth, But What A Youth He Was!
With thanks to George Bailey

Someone who was involved in prison ministry wrote this observation in 2000: “More than ever before in American history, we are witnessing the near-death of conscience.  An incident in an Indiana prison brought this home to me.  I stuck out my hand to shake that of a young inmate about 20, and he immediately smacked my hand away.  In many years of visiting prisons, I had never before encountered such direct and immediate hostility from a complete stranger.  For obvious reasons, prisoners are rarely cheerful, but I saw in this youth’s eyes, a chilling hardness that I had never encountered before.  And since then, I have seen this same hardness in the eyes of many more inmates, particularly younger ones.  I asked an assistant warden, who was a believer, what was happening.  ‘This place has greatly changed,’ he replied.  ‘Ten years ago, I could talk to these kids about right and wrong.  Now, they don’t even know what I’m talking about.”  He said that older prisoners were demanding protection from the newly arrived 19 and 20 year olds, an ominous reversal.  Historically, young inmates needed protection from older cons.  The horrifying truth is that now we have bred a generation with unformed consciences [who have no sensitivity towards anyone else and see violence as their only option]” (Coleson in Larson-Elshof).  This is what happens in culture where God and His Word are being left out of the picture!

But what can happen when God and His Word are in the picture?  Well, that brings us to the great text that we read today dealing with David and his battle against the Philistine giant named Goliath.  Let’s look now at 2 Sam. 17:32: “Then David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’  And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go up against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”  So we see that Saul tells David, “You are but a youth!”  But, in reality, what a youth David was!  With God on his side, and God’s Word in his heart, David had a conscience that was tuned into God’s frequency.  And when one is attuned to that frequency, mighty things can happen!  We are honoring our Seniors today, and I hope that they will be heroes in our culture, just as David was in his.  Their lives will certainly be tested by new Goliaths, giants that we may just vaguely imagine at this time, but we certainly hope that their consciences will be attuned to God’s frequency and mighty things will happen through them as well.  Let’s look at eight characteristics about David that they, and we older folks as well, can imitate.

The first characteristic is that David was a youth who believed in God.  “Beliefs are important.  This is the starting point.  One cannot achieve what he or she does not believe.  Young David achieved because he believed!  ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith’ (I John 5:4).  This was the victory that overcame in David’s world, even the victory of faith” (Bailey)!  You know, David learned early in life to believe in God.  In chapter 16:18, one of Saul’s servants gave this description of David: “Look , I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.”  David was already manifesting his belief in God to the point that others could see that the Lord was with him.  Oh, Seniors, have this kind of belief in God.  Don’t believe the liars that say: “Our world just self-evolved”, that say: “There is no universal truth anymore!”, and that say: “God is dead; He does not exist!”  Let’s have the kind of faith, perception, and understanding that David did.  “He knew that God’s finger continually touches the lives of men, that God constantly rules over the universe and the affairs of nations, [and that God’s strength is always available, no matter what the circumstances]” (Bailey).  “David believed that he could do what God enabled him to do.  He realized that without God, he was nothing” (Bailey).  We, as Christians, share this great belief with David.  Without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with the Messiah, we can do all things because He strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).  David was a youth who believed in God.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!

Next, David was a youth who saw situations as God did.  It is interesting that David was being obedient to his father when he first met Goliath.  We cannot honor our parents, as the New Testament commands in Eph. 6:4, if we disobey them.  When Israel’s soldiers heard Goliath’s challenge, they were “dreadfully afraid” (v. 24).  They saw a giant, a champion, an experienced warrior, and an obstacle to Israel ’s advancement.  Then we see that David began to ask around, “What would happen if someone challenged Goliath?”  And listen carefully to David’s words in v. 26: “And what shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel ?  For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  Did you catch what David saw?  He saw someone who was reproaching God’s nation, someone who was a pagan, someone who was speaking out against God’s armies, someone was challenging the living God!  What a contrast between the soldier’s view and David’s view.  You see, David was seeing the situation from God’s perspective!  They saw an obstacle, but David saw an opportunity!  They looked at Goliath with earthly glasses, but David looked at this foe with heavenly glasses.  Oh, brethren, too often we view our situations with earthly glasses!  Back in 1891, two men decided to begin a Bible college—one was a writer and the other was a preacher.  They agreed that it would not be a preacher training school, but a school where students would study the Bible daily as they prepared for other vocations.  The school began in 1891 with seven boys and grew to 17 the next year.  Tuition was $3 a month, for the boys who could pay.  Needless to say, David Lipscomb made his living more through  his farm and writing, and James Harding made his money through his gospel meeting work.  Both men believed strongly in God’s providence and that He would bless their efforts.  They never took money from the school!  In the third class, was a student named John Armstrong.  Armstrong later became the first president of what we know today as Harding University .  Most people of the world wouldn’t see much value in those first 25 students from Nashville just mentioned, but from those students came future elders, preachers, and Christian college administrators.  Lipscomb, Harding, and Armstrong viewed their situations as God did.  Seniors, try to view the situations that you must confront from God’s perspective!  David was a youth who saw situations as God did.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!

Next, David was a youth who wanted righteousness to prevail.  “David loved God, and he loved God’s people.  It hurt him to see God’s cause suffer. … He could not [stand] for the armies of God to be defied [and ridiculed by a pagan]!  None of us want to hurt the Lord’s work today, we must take a stand not to let it be hurt either!  … [Let’s not] be satisfied with just ‘standing against’ things that are wrong, but let’s eagerly ‘stand for’ all things that are right!  … We live in a world and at a time, when God’s people need to stand up and be counted!  We must not allow God’s work to suffer in any sense if we can help it.  David had this spirit.  He would not let Israel ’s God and God’s armies be ridiculed and defiled.  What could he do?  Very little, some thought.  But ‘little’ is ‘much’ if God is in it.  God has a way of multiplying our ‘little,’ doesn’t He? (Bailey)”  Remember what David told Goliath after Goliath cursed God in verse 45: “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.”  You are coming at me with weapons, but I’m coming to you in the name of the God of righteousness, and all the nations will see that His righteousness will prevail!   Someone has said, “The greatest person is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution, is he who is most fearless under menace and frowns, and who relies on truth, on virtue, and on God, is most unfaltering” (Channing).  David was a youth who wanted righteousness to prevail.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!


Next, David was a youth who risked his life for his beliefs.  Deny the providence of God and soon you’ll find yourself denying the provision of God.  “David was unafraid.  Why?  Because he knew that God was with him.  He believed that God would become his partner in the battle, and who could lose with God as his partner?  ‘If God be for us, who then can be against us’ (Romans 8:31)!  David had undaunted courage.  Later Jonathan told Saul in 1 Samuel 19:5: ‘For [David] took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great deliverance for all Israel ’” (Bailey).  You see, David not only believed, but he was willing to put his faith to work.  He not only believed that something needed to be done, but he stepped forward to do it!  Someone has said, “Faith without works God never regards, and works with faith God never rewards.”  David’s faith was practical; he didn’t just talk deliverance, he started adding five smooth stones to his shepherd’s bag and twirling his sling.  Once David began conversation with Goliath, he never hesitated or turned back.   “Why was David so willing to risk his life for the thing in which he so confidently believed?  The answer is evident: he had great love for the Lord’s cause [and great confidence that God would help him]” (Bailey).  Young people, stay in love with God and keep your confidence in Him!  Continue to build your lives upon Him!  “Be so devoted and loyal to Him that you would rather lose your life than lose your soul.  If a thing isn’t worth dying for, it isn’t worth living for” (Bailey)!  David was a youth who risked his life for his beliefs.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!

Next, David was a youth who refused to be discouraged.  David did not escape criticism for his actions, and neither will you, Seniors.  There are four people in the story who try to discourage David.  We see first of all that his oldest brother, Eliab, did.  Look at verse 28: “Why did you come down here?  And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?  I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”  With friends like this, who needs enemies?  Eliab accused David of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong motives.  But David knew that he had obeyed his father and his brother’s criticisms were unfounded.  Now look at verse 30: “Then he turned from him towards another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first one did.”  David gets the same response from others: “David, you should have just stayed home with your nice sheep.  We’re here to do a man’s job, and this is no place for a teen!”  But their words didn’t cause David to lose heart.  Someone once said, “Keep away from little people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that …” (Twain in Rowell).  Soon David was standing before King Saul, and we saw how Saul told him earlier that he was just a youth, and Goliath was an experienced warrior!  David is determined despite Saul's criticism.  Lastly, Goliath adds his insults to David as well: “Why are you coming at me with sticks?  Why I’ll clobber you, and let the birds and beasts feed on your flesh!”  These were scathing words to intimidate and poke fun at David.  But despite all these criticisms, “David managed to deal with them and did so without being arrogant or smart aleck” (Bailey).  Paul once said in 1 Corinthians 16:9: “For a great an effective door has been opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”  Young people, undoubtedly, God is going to open some great doors for you in the future, but be warned, there will be adversaries as well.  Refuse to be discouraged by them: “Through prayerful effort, grim energy, and resolute courage, move on to better things” (T. Roosevelt)!  David was a youth who refused to be discouraged.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!


Next, David was a youth who behaved himself wisely.  King Saul tried giving David his armor, but it was so bulky that David wisely shed it!  David knew he could weld a sling very accurately, so he capitalized on that strength!  After this battle, we saw in our reading how David wisely makes a covenant with Jonathan, and we also see how David does not go around tooting his own horn over his victory!   In 18:5, 14, and 30, the text says three times that David behaved himself wisely.  How we need young people with this great asset.  Like David, they recognize authority, they know their own strengths and talents, they chose their friends carefully, and they remain humble.  This habit of David was something that he continued later in his life.  Perhaps his determination in Psalm 101:2-4 should became an ideal for all of us as well: “I will behave wisely in a perfect way.  Oh, when will You come to me?  I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.  I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it will not cling to me.  A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.”  Let's make behaving wisely a priority in our lives.  David was a youth who behaved himself wisely.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!


Next, David was a youth who trusted in God's help.  Why was David so confident that he could face Goliath?  He told Saul in verses 36-37: “‘Your servant has killed both lion and bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’  Moreover David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!’”  Sometimes we might ask, “What could a backwoods shepherd know?”  Well, David had learned while on the job that God was his Strength and his Deliverer!  What a great lesson the school of experience had taught David!  David had seen God's deliverance twice from danger in the past, so he trusted God to deliver Him in this situation as well.  Have we developed such a trusting relationship with God?  Notice what David tells Goliath as he confronts him in verse 47: “Then all the assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword or spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hands.”  David knew that his strength was in the God of Israel, and he trusted that God would give him the victory not only over Goliath but also over the rest of the Philistines!  There was a congregation which was struggling to pay off its mortgage.  A real estate agent prayed to God for his help and promised that if God would give Him a sale, he would give all the commission to the church.  On Monday, he got a call from a farmer who wanted to sale his land.  Within two minutes after he hung up the phone, he got a call from a man wanting to buy a farm.  His sale was made almost immediately, and the agent kept his word.  His commission was the exact amount needed to pay off the mortgage!  Are we trusting in God's help?  David was a youth who trusted in God's help.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!

Lastly, David was a youth who handled success well. “When success turns a man's head, it [often] leaves him looking in the wrong direction.  Success did not turn David's head, though he was a great success.  He had faced [a tense situation], and he had received great honors, but his spirit didn't change” (Bailey).  We don't see David riding all over the country singing his own praises.  In fact, we see David returning to his job as the court musician and continuing to serve the king (18:12).  Perhaps David remained humble because he knew that it was really God who had guided and delivered him!  Someone has advised: “When you get to the top of mountain, don’t say: ‘Look what I did!’  Pause for a moment, look at the scene that surrounds you, and then confess: ‘Awesome, just look at what God has done!’”  David knew that Samuel had anointed him as king, but only God knew when he should be established.  David waited patiently on the Lord's timing and never sought evil against Saul.  Seniors, if you are successful in life, follow David's example: don't get the big head, keep doing your job well, and let the Lord continue to guide your steps.  David was a youth who handled success well.  He was but a youth, but what a youth he was!

Verse 50 affirms: “So David prevailed over the Philistine ...”  David prevailed in other battles as well.  He prevailed in life too!  How could he keep from doing so?  He prevailed because of his great faith and devotion to doing God's will.  Listen to this tribute concerning David found in 1 Kings 15:5: “David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”  David did so well throughout his life because he did so well earlier in his life: he believed in God, he saw situations as God did, he wanted righteousness to prevail, he risked his life for his beliefs, he refused to be discouraged, he behaved wisely, he trusted in God's help, and he handled success well.  Like David, may our consciences be formed by God's Word, and may God Himself help us in all our battles!  Seniors, may it be said of you: “They were but youths, but what youths they were!”   As you each go out to face the Goliaths of your future, may the words of Psalm 199:9ff go with you: “How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed to Your word.  With my whole heart I have sought You.  Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  Blessed are You, O Lord!  Teach me Your statues.”