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David & Goliath

Last Sunday I told you half of the story of David & Goliath – which really ended up being more like the story of Saul and Goliath. Because by all accounts, that’s how the story should have played out!

David never should even been at the battlefield. Saul should have defeated Goliath weeks before David even showed up. As the king of Israel, it was Saul’s responsibility to lead the Israelites into battle. It was his job to courageously face the enemy and lead his men to victory.

But as it happened, Saul did none of that. As the Philistine giant Goliath strutted in front of the Israelite army both day and night for 40 days, boasting and taunting and mocking them, Saul did nothing but offer a reward to anyone who had the courage to do the task that he should have done. It seems both he and all the Israelites were paralyzed with fear.

I was reading in the book of Deuteronomy this week – and in chapter 20, Moses lays out instructions for what to do when the the Israelites went to war and I just want to read a few of those verses for you this morning. This is Deuteronomy 20, verse 1-4

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! 2 When you prepare for battle, the priest must come forward to speak to the troops. 3 He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. 4 For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’

Deuteronomy 20:1-4

Even before they entered the Promised Land, Moses assured the Israelites that God’s presence and power would be with them as they faced their enemies – even when the enemy armies were far greater and stronger than their own. But It certainly seems like the Israelites had missed this memo from Moses because as Goliath mocked and taunted them, and challenged them to come and fight, it says in 1 Samuel 17:11…

11 When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken. 

1 Samuel 17:11

Both Saul and all of the army were paralyzed with fear. And interestingly, Deuteronomy 20 addresses that issue as well. If you jump down just a few verses from what we just read, it says:

8 “Then the officers will also say, ‘Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.’ Deuteronomy 20:8

It seems like Saul missed that memo too! Fear is contagious – and it’s the last thing you want spreading through your troops before a battle! But Saul certain had done nothing to put an end to the fear that was running rampant throughout his camp.

Fortunately, David had not been in the camp very long. He had only just arrived to bring some supplies from his father and to get a report on how everything was going. And as we’re going to see today, David’s courage was just as contagious as Saul’s fear!

You’ll remember from last week that when David heard Goliath’s defiant and boastful taunts, he wasn’t filled with fear – but was filled instead with indignation that this pagan Philistine would dare to mock the armies of the Living God! He couldn’t believe that the King had offered a huge reward to kill Goliath, but yet no one had done a thing to put an end to the giant’s defiance!

And that’s about where we left off last week. As David is going around asking different soldiers about the King’s reward and the fact that no one has dared to claim it, the King gets word about all of David’s questioning and he calls him in for a chat. And so that’s where we’ll pick up the story today – with David going to talk to King Saul about this giant problem… 

1 Samuel chapter 17, continuing now at verse 31.

31 Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.

32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

1 Samuel 17:31-32

Boy, David doesn’t beat around the bush, does he? He just gets right to the point! And we have to appreciate just how outlandish this statement is. David is not even old enough to enlist in the army. He’s a shepherd – not a solider. As we read last week, his job is to delivery bread and cheese to the real soldiers. 

Goliath on the other hand, is a professional killer – and he’s really good at his job. He’s never lost a fight yet. He is a literal giant and wears more protective armour than what David could likely even carry. 

There is not a single man in the entire Isrealite army who will is willing to fight him. Saul isn’t. David’s older brother’s aren’t. No one is. Not even with the offer of a huge reward on the table.

And yet David, the cheese delivery guy, comes up to the king and says, “Don’t worry about this Philistine, I’ll go fight him!”

Is he crazy? Is he delusional?  Is he just a clueless teenager who really doesn’t understand the situation?

Or on the other hand, maybe David does understands the situation – perhaps even a little better than anyone else? David may not understand the intricacies of war quite yet, but as we’re going to see, he sure seems to have a pretty good understanding of who God is and what God can do.

But of course, to Saul, who is still gripped with fear, David comes across as a foolish lad – a boy who’s ambition is greater than his understanding of reality! And that’s why we read in verse 33.

33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:33

And Saul’s got a good point. The odds are incredibly stacked in Goliath’s favour. I mean, realistically, how could a shepherd boy ever expect to defeat a professional warrior in hand-to-hand combat?

Well, it might not be as far fetched as you might think. We read in verse 34…

34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

1 Samuel 17:34-37

Wow. Suddenly, this helpless little shepherd boy doesn’t seem quite so little or helpless anymore. I mean, if he’s gone up against both lions and bears in hand-to-hand combat (or hand-to-claw combat), that’s pretty impressive! David’s got to have some pretty good strength and some pretty good skills and some pretty good courage to grab the jaw of a lion or bear and club it to death. But that’s exactly what He’s done in the past – and more than once, it sounds like. 

Maybe David does have a chance against Goliath. David seems to think so. In fact, in David’s mind, it’s already a done deal! He says with confidence, “I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

David’s confidence isn’t merely in his own track record, but his confidence is ultimately in God’s track record. He doesn’t talk about how his own strength and courage won the day, but how God rescued him. And David has absolutely confidence that the Lord who rescued him from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue him from this Philistine!

Again, what a contrast to Saul who has forgotten all about God’s promises, he’s forgotten all about what God has done for him in the past, and has been paralyzed with fear.

But like fear, courage is contagious too! And David’s courage and his confidence in the Lord seems to be rubbing off a little bit on Saul because we read in the next verse:

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 

1 Samuel 17:37-39

And of course, this decision not to wear Saul’s armour makes perfect sense. David was used to wrestling with bears and lions – he needed to be quick and agile. For him to go into battle now for the first time ever wearing heavy armour would put him at a severe disadvantage. We’ll see in few moments that David never even took the sword with him as his weapon, because again, that’s not the weapon that he had become skilled with. While Saul and the other soldiers may have thought David was crazy to go into battle without a sword or armour, in fact, David would have been crazy if he had gone into battle with all that stuff weighing him down.

By wearing Saul’s armour and fighting Saul’s way, David would have lost his unique advantage. As we’re about to see, it was David unique skill with a slingshot that enabled him to win the day.

And maybe even that can be a bit of an encouragement to us. So often, we compare ourselves to someone else and we think that we’d be so much better if we could just be like them. If only we had their skills or their talents – or if we could do things they way they do them.

But we forget that God didn’t make us to be them. God made them to them, but God made you to be you! God made you different from everyone else for a reason – and we would be foolish to lose our uniqueness just to look and act like everyone else. Our uniqueness is our advantage. It’s the gift that God has given us to do the things that God created us to do – whatever those things may be.

In Romans chapter 12, we read all about the body of Christ, and how we all have different gifts and abilities, but we all contribute to the whole by using our unique gifts. Romans 12:4 says…

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:4-8

In other words, use your uniqueness to do whatever God has created you to do. Don’t worry about trying to do the things that someone else is gifted to do – don’t try to wear their amour or swing their sword – you’ll just end up looking foolish and probably hurt yourself in the process! But in the strength of God, do the things that you do best for the glory of God, and God will use your uniqueness in some incredible ways!

And that’s exactly what David did. He took off Saul’s armour and determined to fight this battle with the tools and the skills that God had given him. We read in verse 40:

40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

41 Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. 43 “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. 44 “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

1 Samuel 17:40-44

As you might imagine, David was not exactly the kind of challenger that Goliath was expecting. Goliath was expecting to fight the Israelites’ champion! The best of the best. The biggest, strongest, toughest warrior they had! But instead, out comes this young boy, who’s too young to even be in the army, and all Goliath can see in his hand is a stick – his shepherd’s staff.

What an insult! It’s like the Israelites weren’t taking him seriously at all! 

And so Goliath is livid! He’s cursing David and he says he’s going to feed David’s dead body to the wild animals!

But of course, David is not intimidated at all. In fact, I get the sense that he’s a bit worked up himself. Look at how he responds:

45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

And in this bold, faith-filled statement from David, we are again reminded that this is not the story of a little boy defeating a giant. This is the story of God making his greatness known to both the Israelites and the Philistines alike. You see, the real giant was on the Israelites side! The God of the universe was going to humble the Philistines and defeat Goliath – and it would be no trouble at all! To God, defeating Goliath was a piece of cake! In fact, God was going to do it through the hand of a young boy who didn’t even have a sword!

David understood that this battle didn’t depend on his own strength and abilities – but it depended solely on the strength and abilities of God. And with God fighting for him, how could he possible lose? This battle was the Lord’s and God wins every time.

And so we read in verse 48:

48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. 51 Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head. 

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Then the Israelite army returned and plundered the deserted Philistine camp. 1 Samuel 17:48-53

What a complete upset! The day began with the Philistine’s boasting in the strength of their champion and the Israelites trembling in fear! But through the faith of David, God completely turned things around. Now the Philistines were the ones running fear and the Israelites were the ones who could boast in the strength of their God.

But of course, I guess they could have done that all along. The Israelites could have been boasting in the strength of their God from the beginning. After all, this certainly wasn’t the first time God had come through for them and saved them from their enemies. But I guess they had just forgotten about the power and the goodness of God, and needed the faith of David to remind them.

Because, in reality, as far as winning the battle goes, God didn’t even really need David. He could have just struck Goliath dead without having to lift a finger! But God chose to use David – fearless, faithful David, to display His power and to remind the Israelites once again that they could trust that God is strong, that God is good, and that God takes good care of his children.

And God does the same thing today. I don’t know how many giants He kills these days, but I know he continues to use weak, but faith-filled people to display his greatness and to remind us of his faithfulness and kindness towards us.

Paul talks about this in a few of his letters. He talks about his own weakness – his own thorn in the flesh and how God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you – my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God loves to use the weak things of this world to display his strength. He loves to use weak, but faithful people, to display his goodness.

We tend to be so quick, like to Israelites, to forget about God’s goodness and his faithfulness. We get ourselves into certain situations and we panic! We tremble with fear when we see the big scary giants in front of us – whatever those giants may be.

But we forget that there is a far greater giant on our side! We have an all-powerful, all-knowing, God of the universe who loves us more than we can even imagine! And sometimes, we just need a David to remind us of that.

Maybe that’s you today. Maybe you need that reminder that there is a wonderful, loving giant on your side who can easily defeat any little giant that you might be facing today. Maybe you need that memo from Moses in Deuteronomy 20. Remember?

“Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. 4 For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” Deuteronomy 20:3b-4

Maybe that’s the encouragement that you need this morning. 

Or maybe, you’re on the other side of that equation. Maybe you can be that encouragement for someone else today. Maybe you can be that David for someone else? Maybe you’re weaker, smaller, a-less-than-ideal candidate for the task ahead, but you know the faithfulness and the power of God. And maybe God wants to display his power and his goodness through you! 

You might not be as talented or skilled or as gifted as someone else, but God didn’t make you to be someone else. He made you to be you! He wants you to use your uniqueness to do what He’s called you to do, so that He can display his power and his goodness through you.

Remember, faith and courage are just about as contagious as fear and doubt. So maybe God will use your faith to encourage some else to put their faith in Him too. We never know how God will use our difficult situation for his glory. Our job is simply to remain faithful – to trust in the Lord, and to allow Him to bring about the victory.

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