The Bible, in every version, says David picked up five smooth stones. The Hebrew word means literally 5 (chamesh or chamishshah). I wanted to make sure it wasn't that he simply plunged his hand into the water a grabbed a handful and somewhere along the way someone decided that was five.
Not only that, it says he CHOSE five smooth stones. He was looking for certain qualities of the stone, obviously their smoothness ... maybe he tested their weight in his hand ... their size ... perhaps he was looking for a certain density.
We tell this story over and over. Brave young David, filled with faith in God. Just a kid, fresh from his father's flocks, bringing lunch. Seasoned soldiers knees are knocking together and he saunters up and chides them for not trusting God. We want our children to be brave and have faith.
But, are we doing them a disservice when we portray David's faith? It is clear that he had a strong faith in God ... stronger than the king, stronger than the entire army. Of course he was brave. He definitely had a swagger about him, taunting his brothers and approaching the king.
He knew God was for Israel. He never doubted that. He had seen God's protection in the past and was sure. But he wasn't so sure as to demand of God exactly how to deliver the army. And I think he was probably at least a little bit scared. Being brave means being scared to do something and doing it anyways.
I don't believe having faith means telling God what to do, and David didn't do that. He went forward knowing that this giant, this army, was nyah-nyahing in the face of a mighty God. He went forward trusting that the God who had saved him from the bear and the lion, even helped him rescue a lamb from its mouth, would protect him.
Yet he didn't boast in his abilities. He boasted in God. And he didn't decide how God was going to kill Goliath. He knew he had an ability with a sling. He picked good stones. He didn't grab one random stone and say "God's going to use this single rock to smite you!" He went prepared. How many stones might it take? I better take a few. Maybe he always took five? Maybe the other four nudging his thigh as he prepared his throw were a comfortable weight. Maybe he has missed so many times in practice he is as aware of the possibility of failure as he is of success.
Maybe he didn't trust the Philistines to lay down their arms and expected a full battle to rage when their champion fell.
When Saul offered his armor, David tried it on and tried to walk in it. He didn't refuse it from the start. When we are being faithful, if we start to do something that isn't part of God's plan, that might lessen the glory He will receive, He is awesomely capable of removing it.
And when Goliath did fall ... David didn't clap the dust from his hands and saunter away. He cut off the giant's head with his own heavy sword. He made sure the job was done.
The Bible doesn't give us an answer as to why five stones. But I find it a comfort that if the enemy tries to whisper that if I had faith I would just need one stone, I can just tell him I am not going to tell God how many stones to use.