Lent One 2011| March 13, 2011| Rev. Rolf Preus| 1 Samuel 17:40-51
Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. 1 Samuel 17:40-51
The Philistines were at war with Israel. Goliath was a soldier of the Philistines. He was a giant of a man. He stood over nine and a half feet tall. He carried a sword, a spear, and a javelin. His protective armor alone weighed well over a hundred pounds. His shield was so big it took a strong man just to carry it. He had been mocking God and God’s people for days. He offered the soldiers of Israel a deal. He would fight anyone they chose to send his way. If he lost, the Philistines would be Israel’s slaves. If he won, Israel would be the Philistines’ slaves. Nobody dared fight Goliath. They were all afraid of him. So they listened to him as he mocked God, ridiculed God’s people, and cursed Israel in the name of his false gods.
David was the armor bearer for King Saul. This put him on the front lines where he had to listen to Goliath’s taunts day after day. He witnessed contempt for God from Goliath and he witnessed cowardice on the part of his countrymen. David wasn’t a soldier. He was a shepherd. He was a boy, not yet fully grown. By human strength he could not possibly defeat Goliath. By every measurement of the senses, Goliath was the stronger man. But David didn’t trust in the strength of men. He trusted in the Lord God. When David made known his intent to face Goliath, his brothers criticized him for what they considered his insolence. Who did he think he was? They told Saul about it. We read in 1 Samuel 17:34-37,
But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 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.”
They mistook faith for arrogance. That’s a common error. When Christians stand on God’s word and refuse to move away from it they are perceived as being full of themselves. Folks confuse Christian conviction with pride. David didn’t face Goliath with pride.
David faced the enemy in God’s strength. So did the Son of David. David stood on God’s word against Goliath. Jesus stood on God’s word against the devil. David gathered five stones in preparation for battle. Jesus suffered five wounds – two in the hands, two in the feet, and one in the side – in his battle. David’s victory over Goliath was the victory of Israel over the Philistines. Jesus’ victory over the devil was the victory of his people over all the powers of hell. David entrusted himself and his cause and his battle to the Lord God of Israel. So did Jesus, the Son of David.
Whenever the New Testament refers to Jesus as the Son of David it is calling him the Christ, the anointed One. David was the greatest king of Israel. The promised Christ would assume David’s throne, but he would be far greater than his father, David. David was Jesus’ ancestor. He lived a thousand years before Jesus was born. Yet Christ’s life served as a pattern for David’s life because David was a Christian.
I know we are accustomed to using the word “Christian” to refer to people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ after Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead. In fact, the word “Christian” was first used in the city of Antioch during the ministry of Christ’s apostles. But the Christian faith has been the faith of the faithful since Adam and Eve. David is a wonderful example of a Christian who lived before the coming of Christ.
David speaks for Christians everywhere. He was used by the Holy Spirit to write most of the psalms in the Bible. The psalms are inspired by God. They also confess the faith of the Church of all ages. Watch David walk across the valley toward Goliath and call to mind the words of the Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” David wrote that psalm. The psalms go from the particular to the general back to the particular again, as God’s people of all times and places face in their own lives the same dangers and challenges to their faith.
Of course, many of David’s psalms are messianic. They refer to Christ and only to Christ. David began Psalm 22 with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But we know that David was never forsaken by God. It was Christ alone who was forsaken by God when he suffered and died for the sin of the world. David was not writing for himself when he wrote Psalm 22 and the other messianic psalms. He was writing for his Son our Savior Jesus.
David typified Christ’s battle against the devil as he did battle against Goliath. But it is Christ alone who fought the fight that won the victory for us all. David pointed to Christ. He trusted in the One to whom he pointed. And this is why we can take heart in David’s victory over Goliath. We have the same faith as David. We have the same word of God as David. We have the same Savior as David. We have the same promises.
David couldn’t even walk in the armor of an Israelite soldier. He had no experience as a soldier. He had fought a bear and won. He had fought a lion and won. He didn’t consider his prowess as a fighter the cause of his victories. He gave all the credit to God.
The pouch that David carried as a shepherd’s bag was used to carry lambs that had wandered from the fold. The stones he put in that bag were each a bit bigger than a baseball. They weren’t pebbles. They were more like small missiles. After putting one of them in his sling and swinging his sling around his head and letting the stone fly out of the sling the stone would travel at about one hundred miles an hour. It was a deadly weapon.
There was only one limitation to using this weapon. David couldn’t miss. If he hit Goliath in the arm David was dead. If he hit Goliath in the leg David was dead. If he wounded Goliath but left him standing or limping David was dead. The only way David could avoid being killed was to kill Goliath on the first throw. And the only way to do that was to hit him in the forehead. He couldn’t miss and live.
David didn’t miss. He didn’t miss because God guided his throw. David was fighting God’s cause. God upheld him. He never left him. David didn’t stand alone. He stood in the might of God. That’s why he didn’t miss. He didn’t rely on his own skill, bravery, strength, or experience. He relied on the same promise God had given to Joshua, “I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage.”
A Christian who stands on God’s word cannot fall and cannot fail. The reason we fall into sin is because we lose courage. We cave into weak and selfish desires. We’re afraid of doing without. We’re afraid of facing opposition. We’re afraid of losing something precious to us. So we set aside what is true and right for the sake of what is convenient and safe.
We need faith. But faith doesn’t come from within. It comes from without. You don’t get faith by considering yourself and your own devotion to God and how much you love God and want to please him and do what is right. You get faith by looking outside of yourself to Christ. David looked to Christ. He saw the victory of Christ. He claimed it as his own. That’s how we do spiritual battle.
Mockers of the faith will appear to be victorious in this life. Like Goliath, they will boast of their strength. They will claim that the Christian faith is for weaklings. Oh, perhaps not in so many words, but they will define spirituality in such a way that they appear to be so much stronger than those of us who rely on nothing good in ourselves but claim Christ as our only righteousness before God. Christianity is always being remodeled to fit into the prevailing religion of the flesh, that is, the religion that trusts in human achievement, human ingenuity, human wisdom, and human strength.
We stand with David. We claim no powers of our own. We claim no great wisdom or cleverness. We claim only Christ. He went up against the devil’s temptations. He faced the temptations we face. He faced the temptations we have given in to. He faced them with a singularity of purpose from which he refused to veer either to the left or the right. He knew what was right and he did what was right and in him right overcame wrong.
This is the righteousness that covers us. This is the robe of righteousness we wear. This is our coat of armor. No enemy can pierce it. It is ours. It is ours through faith and faith alone. We look only to Christ and see his innocence and claim it as our own for it is ours. He lived for us. He obeyed for us. He won the battle for us.
In him and through him we are ready to do battle. We cannot fail. If God’s word teaches it we will confess it no matter what anyone says about it. We won’t shrink from making the good confession. If the Holy Scriptures are under attack and their truthfulness questioned, we will confess our confidence in God’s word. If someone suggests that there is another way to heaven than through faith in Jesus the Savior of sinners, we will confess Jesus as the only way to heaven. If God’s standards of behavior are questioned we will affirm them clearly and without embarrassment. Whatever he says we will confess as truth and whatever he promises we will claim as ours. We will stand up to the mockers by standing on what God says. We have nothing to fear from anyone. Christ has won the battle for us.
Nothing a Christian says receives greater derision these days that our claim to know the truth about God. If we make dogmatic claims we are likened to Muslim terrorists, as if religious conviction is the source of all evil in this world. Standing for God’s truth and confessing it and refusing to back away from it may be obnoxious in the sight of the cynical Goliaths. They may appear to have all the power and prestige. But appearances are deceiving. David walked off the field alive. Goliath was dead. We who confess the Christian truth in the face of all lies stand with David. And we stand. Amen