The Voice of David’s Brother, Eliab

1 Samuel 17:28 (NKJV) 28  Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “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.”

We have been looking at one of the most famous incidents in the Bible, as a type of the battles we fight in our Christian walk.  1 Peter 5:8 makes it clear that we have an adversary called the devil.  This adversary’s primary goal is to oppose what the Lord wants to accomplish through the body of Christ.  His secondary goal is to steal, kill and/or destroy in the lives of God’s children.  He does this in order to take us out of the fight against darkness and simply to hurt our Father because he hates him.

Goliath is the roaring lion in every battle we fight.  The roar is meant to intimidate us so we either do not fight or we fight in such a way that we will inevitably lose.  Last time we looked at the Israelite Army.  They had all they needed to defeat the Philistines.  They succumbed to Goliath’s intimidation to the point they were too afraid to fight.  They were so focused on the size of Goliath that they forgot how big their God was.  When David defeated Goliath, he did it on the strength of Israel’s covenant with God.  That is why he called Goliath uncircumcised.  Circumcision was the sign of the covenant.  David’s defeat of Goliath did not really change the odds.  It changed the focus of the Israelite army from Goliath’s size to the power of the God of their covenant.

Today I want to look at another character in this story.  His name is Eliab and he is David’s brother.  David came to the battle location because he was sent by his father.  His mission was to bring some food for his brothers and the men in their unit.  His father also wanted to know how his sons were doing.  When he got there, he observed the daily taunt of Goliath.  When he heard the soldiers talking about this situation and what the one who kills Goliath would get, this was his response.

1 Samuel 17:26 (NKJV) 26  Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “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?”

I do not see anything wrong with that response.  David knew his covenant and knew that the size of the giant was irrelevant in light of it.  To his mind, defeating the giant was no problem, so he asked about the posted reward.  His response was not about how great he was, but about how great God is.  We read his brother’s response above.  Let us look at Eliab’s list of accusations against David.

The first thing he did was question David’s motive for being at the front.  He accuses David of being proud and of just wanting to see the battle.  The truth was, David was there because he was sent by his father.  What he saw at the battle was a result of his being where he should be according to his authority.  Eliab’s judgement of Davids motives proceeded from a false assumption.

Second, he accused David of neglecting his job.  The truth is that David made sure his responsibilities with his father’s sheep were covered.  The 20th verse tells us that “David rose early and left the sheep with a keeper.”  He did not neglect his responsibilities at home.

So once again Eliab’s response to David was based on an assumption that was not correct.  I think we can see something more in what Eliab said to David.  He asks David “Who did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness with?”  I do not know how many sheep Jesse had, but It seems he was a man of some influence.  David was over that part of his father’s business.  I doubt “few sheep” was an accurate description of David’s responsibility at home.

What was really at the heart of Eliab’s accusation?  He was angry because David was willing to do what he was not.  All of Israel’s army was terrified of Goliath.  David was not.  That put pressure on Eliab.  He was not willing to fight Goliath, but his little brother was.  I think it is also telling that David says to Eliab, “What have I done now?”  It would seem that David was regularly willing to do by faith what others were too intimidated to do. 

The voice of Eliab is one we will often hear when we choose to believe God when others will not.  We may rise up in faith over one of the promises of God.  We may rise up in faith to walk in holiness and righteousness.  We may rise up in faith declaring that Jesus has made us the righteousness of God in Christ.  We may choose to commit ourselves to grow in the Lord, to serve in the church, to pray, fast and study the Word of God.  We may choose to accept the evidence of the truth of God’s word above all else.  When we do, we will often hear the accusations of Eliab. 

We may here, “You are proud.  You think you are better than everyone else.”  It is pride to not do the things above.  When we choose the way of the flesh or the way of everyone else, we are rejecting the wisdom and the word of God.  That is proud.  It is not prideful to say, “I am going to believe in God and walk in his ways.”  It is prideful to say I can do anything because of my strength.  It is not prideful to believe and therefore say, “I can do all things through Christ.”  It is not prideful to say, “Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world.”  It is not prideful to say, “If God is for me who can be against me.”  That is what David was doing.

When we choose to be better Christians or when we choose to stand in faith there will always be voices saying, “Who do you think you are?”  Sometimes they come from without.  Some people do not like it when someone rises up and says, “I am going farther in God than where I am now.”  Often the voices come from within.  Our own failures or weaknesses condemn us.  We must remember that if we are truly believing in what the Word of God says, our weaknesses are not at issue.  We are depending on God’s strength.

Whether the voices are from without or from within, we need to listen to the voice of God instead.  We must not be arrogant towards those who may not understand.  We also must not be intimidated by those who may not be willing to take the risk.  Our job is not to condemn others, but it is also not to allow others to discourage us because they may not be willing or capable to do what we know we must do. 

I think the tactic of the enemy can be boiled down to one thought that comes out when Eliab speaks of Davids “few sheep.”  I am hearing Eliab say to his brother, “Go back to your small, insignificant life.  If we cannot defeat this giant, you certainly cannot.” 

Let me make this statement and I want you to hear it clearly.  You do not have a small life.  No life lived by faith in God is small.  You can do whatever God says you can do.  Your contribution may look small in the eyes of man, but it is not small in the eyes of God.  When you choose to be better in your walk with God, that is not thinking more highly of yourself than you should.  That is submission to God and his Word.  Nothing less than that will do. 

Do not let the Eliab’s in your life convince you to turn back.  Do not let the same voices in your own heart keep you from rising up in faith.  Where would Israel have been if David had listened to Eliab.  History may have been written very differently.  You may feel your walk of faith in God does not matter like David’s, but at the time, David was just a young man.  You count in the battle between darkness and light.  Your faith counts.  Your life counts.  Do not back down because of those who do not understand.

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