As I try to put together some lessons we can pack away from the December Digging Deep study, I’m taking a long look at I Samuel 17, particularly the part where David took so much “mouth” off of his older brother, Eliab. There was young David, doing nothing more than the wishes of their aged father. He was actually there in the Valley of Elah, in the first place, to take provisions to the brothers he loved. They were the ones who were off at the army camp with all the men of war while David had been left behind to do the ordinary…the same old thing he’d been doing all of his life…just tending the sheep. It must have been at least a monotony break for David as he traveled to the battle lines to take bread, cheese and corn to his brothers and their commander. He must have been excited as he neared the camp. Leaving the carriage with its keeper, he ran on foot into the army that was already advancing and greeted his brothers. I’m sure he wanted to see his brothers and he genuinely had concern, along with their father, for their welfare as he saluted them bearing the gifts that, perhaps, he’d even helped prepare for them.
But, as the army prepared to do battle, he heard the shout of the giant Goliath, taunting the Israelites, defying their God and striking fear in the hearts of their men of war. David began to inquire of the men around him. “Who is this man…this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
But Eliab, David’s brother, who was not even a part of the conversation, overheard his inquiry and injected his own brand of angry taunting into the conversation:
And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle (vs. 28).
I don’t know what fueled this outburst from Eliab against the younger brother who had gone the distance to bring him comfort and provisions. Perhaps he was tired. Maybe he was jealous. After all, young David had already been anointed, in front of his brothers, as the next king of Israel. Whatever it was, we see some pretty hurtful attitudes in Eliab.
We see, first, that he was mad. It hurts, you know, when someone you’ve loved all of your life lashes out in anger at you. Sometimes it’s someone who does it over and over again. Eliab was full of wrath.
Second, we see a condescending spirit. “With whom did you leave those few sheep?” In 2015, the words might be “Don’t you have something better to do?” or “Who do you think you are?” or “Who asked you?”
Thirdly, we see some pretty stout (and false) accusations. Pride and evil have done a lot of damage in many a relationship, but they were not on the radar at this point in the life of David. He was simply doing what his father had asked and, in the process, he came upon a situation in which he was conscience-driven to defend the living God. It was the kind of righteousness that irked Eliab and so he came unglued and unleashed unfair criticism in anger at David, his brother and God’s anointed.
It occurs to me that there’s probably someone reading who has encountered the wrath of some family member during the recent holiday season. In fact, this kind of family problem comes to my inbox more often than I’d prefer, and it seems it comes most frequently while I’m taking down my Christmas tree. That’s because lots of families have come together during a busy (and sometimes stressful) time of year. But it’s simply very hurtful when a family member exhibits a short fuse, particularly with no just cause. It takes courage and valor to continue doing the right thing when it’s a family member who is dishing out the criticism of righteousness. But it happens all too frequently.
What’s more important than assessing the criticism of Eliab is noticing the response of David. This man after God’s own heart gives us a sterling portrait of the reaction of the godly in the face of family persecution. Here it is:
- He recognized his own innocence (verse 29).
- He remembered to look at the big picture. There was a cause (verse 29) that was bigger than the present controversy.
- He persisted in his pursuit to defeat evil (verse 30).
- He did not shrink back from gently defending his position of faith (verse 33).
- He had confidence in his choice to do the will of God (verses 34-37).
- He trusted in God above all else (verse 37).
- He took on the enemy of God without fear (verses 38-49).
- He took action in the name of the Lord (verse 45).
- He gave the glory for victory to God (verse 46).
- He was set on the spread of the news of the power of Jehovah (verses 46, 47).
In short, David just went right on doing the right thing in spite of the harsh and unjust criticism. He proved that God’s way prevails, in the end, every time.
Now, have you had a problem with a family member berating you or lashing out in anger at you without just cause? I know some of you have because you’ve shared the sorrow with me. May I suggest that you determine to be like David? Examine your purpose and be sure your actions are aligned with the Will of God. Then remember the cause for which we live and be sure your reaction is to confidently and humbly carry out the will of the Father. There may be a bit of hurt in your world between the criticism of a family member and the fall of the Goliaths in your spiritual battle. But God will claim the victory in the end.