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.” And David said, “What have I done now? “Is there not a cause?” 1 Samuel 17:28-29
Eliab the first born of eight sons of Jesse, rebuked David the youngest son, whose responsibility was to be a shepherd for his father’s sheep. The role of shepherd was traditionally given to the youngest son in those days. Although Eliab seemed to look down on the task as minor, sheep were and continue to be valuable to the culture of Israel. Eliab went on to make two accusations against his younger brother: 1. I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, and 2. for you have come down to see the battle. The truth is neither of these accusations truly represented the purpose of David’s presence — neither his natural or spiritual purpose for being there.
Both the natural and spiritual purpose can be seen in 1 Samuel 17:16-18 — And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening.
Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” Although Jesse did not know that God would use his youngest son to deliver Israel from the rising threat from the Philistines, which had persisted for 40 days when he sent David to the battle field. There was clearly a spiritual purpose which went beyond the natural food his brothers were to be nourished with. Jesse simply wanted to know that it was well with his sons who were in harms way.
Although David was the youngest, and his brother was older and more experienced in matters of war. He could not see the cause as clearly as David. Like the rest of the army of Israel, he was blinded by fear as they retreated from Goliath. But David knew he had done nothing wrong, so he asked Eliab — “What have I done now? The very tone of this question communicates that this was a familiar refrain between these brothers. It encompasses more than that single event. Have you ever asked someone; what have I done now? If you have, you know the very question transcends the moment. David was simply carrying out the instructions of his father, and yet he was accused of wrong doing and being motivated by pride. But his next question is most insightful — Is there not a cause?
David saw a cause that was bigger than any individual. The defiance of the army of the Living God could not be tolerated by a young man who had personally experienced the power of God through deliverance from a lion and a bear, as he faithfully tended to his fathers sheep. His testimony persuaded King Saul to grant him permission to take on the giant — 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.”And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!” 1 Samuel 17:36-37
What is your cause? Can you see the spiritual cause in what appears to be a natural assignment? God had a much bigger plan for David and the nation of Israel, than the burden that was on the heart of his father Jesse for his sons. It is essential that we see the cause, because there will be detractors who are close to us, who think they know what we are up to. Yet like Eliab, they miss what God is up to, because they are so focused on exercising authority over you and me. A cause exposes purpose in our lives in a moment, in an instant, as we move in obedience.
The LORD is calling you into a place of meaning and purpose in your life. He has prepared you in the things that seem small and trivial to others, just as David was asked about the few sheep in the wilderness. But David knew what God had done for him with those few sheep in the wilderness, and his testimony had the power to persuade the king. So I ask you precious people of God — Is there not a cause? Go forth and slay the giants that God has already prepared you to battle and bring down.