The Power of Life and Death

Eliab was fuming. First, the old prophet Samuel had shown up in their village and the rumor had been that he was there to find Israel’s next king. Then Samuel had met with their father Jesse, and he had looked at Eliab and his brothers like sheep going to market. When he spotted David there was a noticeable change in Samuel’s demeanor and he had anointed him with oil.

Right after that David had gone to work for King Saul as an armor bearer and now here he was at the battle front asking the soldiers questions about the monster Goliath. The armies of Israel and the Philistines were facing each other on opposite sides of the Elah Valley. They had been in a standoff for 40 days and other than being terrified of Goliath, everything seemed to be fine. That is until David had shown up.

From the very start David had run out to the battle lines and as soon as he had seen the champion he had begun to ask, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” and he wanted to know was there a reward for removing “this disgrace from Israel” (1 Samuel 17:26).

In anger and maybe a little jealousy, Eliab had said, “Why have you come down here? … I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down just to watch the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28). To his credit though, David had not responded in anger, but had calmly said, “Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak?” (1 Samuel 17: 29).

The Bible compares our tongues to the small rudder that steers a big ship or to a small spark that can set a huge forest on fire. In fact, it says our tongues can set the whole course of our lives on fire! David had no idea that his conversation with his older brother and the other events that unfolded that day would set him on a path that would change the course of his life, the nation of Israel and eventually the world. He could have responded in anger and in a huff, gone back home, but he didn’t.

As a shepherd, David had been tested in many situations and his oldest brother was not going to get him rattled. David went out and challenged Goliath and with one stone, and “in the name of the Lord Almighty” (1 Samuel 17:45), his actions helped rout the Philistine army, they glorified God, and it positioned him for greatness.

As the Bible shows, how we respond and even what we say in any given situation can set the course of our day and even our lives. In fact, the Bible says that our tongues have “the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21) and it reveals a formula that points to how we should react at any time.

The Bible says for us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Then when anger does come our way the Bible tells us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

David was “slow” to get angry and he responded with a “gentle answer.” As we grow as Believers, it is important that we not just “listen to the word” but to also “do what it says” (James 1:22). Endeavor to do God’s will everyday by staying calm and watching what you say and do. When we respond correctly and follow God’s directives as David did, we will see Godly change in our lives and the impact of those changes in other people’s lives as well.