(We are currently in a series on the life of David at Chelsea Village. As I’ve written before I attempt to write a full manuscript of my sermon before preaching. Throughout this series I’ll be posting some of the sermons I think will be helpful. If you would rather listen to the sermon, you can find it here.)
If you are in some of the neighborhood watch groups on social media you know parents of young children have been in a bit of a panic. Apparently a man has been driving around in a van, offering children candy, and trying to get them to get in the van with him. For very good reasons everyone has been taking precautions, (our children only play in the front yard with one of us out there too) watching out for this van, and praying he gets caught. I bring this up at the beginning this morning because doesn’t this kind of report bring out our worst fears? Nothing can bring out your fears and anxiety like the thought of someone trying to hurt your child and you not being there to do anything about it.
We don’t just deal with legitimate fears like this either do we? Our minds can be a factory generating things to stress about, worry about, and have anxiety over. Many times our fears can be almost paralyzing, preventing us from experiencing joy or even getting decent sleep. Fear is going to take place because we live in a broken world. Because sin and death are at work in this world, we have a never-ending supply of things to fear. Not only do we have our own sins to deal with, we end up on the receiving end of misery from the sins of others. This creates more stress and fear than many times we know how to bear.
Today I want you to see how God destroys the enemy of our souls who would hold us in bondage to fear.
We will look at this today from 1 Samuel 17. Two weeks ago we looked at Samuel anointing Saul as King because the people wanted a King who would fight their battles for them. Then Saul greatly disobeyed the Lord and God rejected him from being King, so the Spirit of God left him. Then last week we read the anointing of the shepherd boy David as King. Samuel came to the household of Jesse to anoint one of his sons and King. He assumed it would be the strong, handsome oldest son; but instead it was the younger brother who was out guarding the sheep. After Samuel anointed David to be the King God’s Spirit rushed upon him.
Our passage today is one you will find familiar. As ignorant as our culture is about the content of the Bible, we still talk about David and Goliath during March Madness and every time an FCS team plays an FBS team. Unfortunately, the way we use this kind of language, and by the way it gets used in most sermons on this passage, encourages us to place ourselves into this narrative in the wrong place. Today, what we want to do is to look at some of the details of the narrative we often ignore and get to the heart of what the Lord is teaching us in this passage.
We are not going to read the entire passage this morning. We are only going to read the second half. In the first half we learn Israel’s arch enemy the Philistines have lined up and are ready to attack. King Saul and the army lined up to meet them. Israel was on one mountain and the Philistines on the other with a valley in the middle. They had a champion named Goliath who by most accounts was likely eight feet tall. While some may scoff at his size, some fossils have been found of men taller than this and even some female skeletons that we seven feet tall. He wore one-hundred forty pound armor and used a large javelin as a weapon. He called for someone to come out and fight him. If that person prevailed the Philistines would be their slaves but if he prevailed the Israelites would be the slaves of the Philistines. It was not unusual for a champion to represent the rest of the army, but no one from Israel wanted to fulfill this task. Notice how the narrator describes their response, “when Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”
Then the narrator introduces David. He even does so with a word which could be seen as providing a contrast to the reaction of Saul and the other Israelites. David’s father sent him to take some food to his brothers and their commander. While he spoke with his brothers Goliath came out and taunted them again, causing everyone to flee. David heard the words of Goliath and the men told him Saul would enrich and give his wife to whoever defeated him. David was incensed by the taunts of the Philistine and wanted to know what they were going to. His anger arose from understanding who God’s people were. He said, “who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”. David’s brothers rebuke him for being there and abandoning the sheep, but someone reported his words to Saul. That is where we will pick up this morning.
When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.
And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and 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 down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.
As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
1 Samuel 17:31-59
The Lord Wins Victory Over Israel’s Enemy Through David
The author intends for us to see the immediate contrast between Saul and David. Saul, who should lead the people, offers a reward to someone else who will. David comes out to encourage the people not to let their hearts fall and says he will go fight the Philistine. Saul attempts to dissuade him from going by appealing to his youth and lack of experience, but David offers a strong defense. Goliath may have been a man of war from his youth, but David has gotten fighting experience with lions and bears. David states his fighting experience matter of factly. If a lion or bear stole one of his sheep he would chase them down, strike them and kill them. As if that is not impressive enough, if one of them rose up against him he would catch him by the beard and kill him. Since the Lord delivered him from the clutches of a lion and a bear, he knew he would be delivered from Goliath.
They attempted to put Saul’s armor on David and it simply did not work. This emphasized the size difference between Saul and David, but also David was not trained to use the armor anyway. This detail contrasts the heavily-armored Goliath with unprotected David. Instead he simply pulled out his sling and picked up five smooth stones. Now the sling is not as wimpy of a weapon as you might think. In Judges 20 we read about a garrison of seven hundred left-handed men who could all hit a hair with a sling. Many estimate the rock could come out of the sling at as much as 100MPH. At the same time the sling seems like a puny weapon compared to Goliath with his large sword, javelin, and intimidating armor. Goliath sees the contrast and mocks David’s appearance and weaponry.
I hope you all do not mind but one of the undercurrents I want to hit on at different places throughout this series is the picture of manhood in the David narrative. We do not want to hold up David as the ultimate example of what it means to be a man. Our ultimate example is Jesus, but we do get glimpses of authentic manhood in David’s life. In particular I love how David forces us to abandon our misconceptions about manhood and emotions. In a second we’re going to look at his courage, but he also wrote poetry and played the harp. He keeps us from thinking a true man is just a guy who likes MMA, guns, and belches a lot; but at the same time he shows us a man has courage and takes responsibility and initiative.
The language surrounding this fight is expressly theological. Goliath curses David “by his gods.” One of Goliath’s gods would have been Dagon. The last time we saw Dagon he was lying prostrate before the ark of the covenant with no head, arms, or legs. He was nothing more than an impotent stump before the presence of the one true God and had to be picked up by men in the ultimate insult to this “god.” David may not have the weapons or experience of David, but what does he say? “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” David recognizes this battle does not belong to him, but ultimately to the Lord. He believes through him the Lord will win this battle to deliver his people. Then he even tells Goliath what is about to happen to him. Through the Lord’s deliverance David will kill Goliath and cut off his head. David does not say there will be a fair fight and he will kill Goliath as he dies. No, David knew he would stand victoriously over Goliath and the route would be so thorough he could complete it by the removal of Goliath’s head. David’s victory over Goliath will not ultimately be about David’s wits or bravery, but a testimony to awaken everyone to know who the Lord truly is.
Goliath began to come toward David and David ran toward Goliath with his sling. “And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.” I love how little embellishment we find in this description. What embellishment do you need? Sometimes just the bare facts of the are astonishing enough.
Just to put an exclamation point on the overwhelming nature of his victory, David took Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head. Cutting off the head was the ultimate example of your victory in battle and served as warning to anyone else who would fight you. This is why one of the Babylonian kings would pile skulls at the entrance to a conquered city. “If you fight us this will be your end.”
Next, look what happens to the Philistine army. They see their headless champion lying in a heap and they run for the hills. Then the Israelite army rose with a shout to give chase to the Philistine army. Now can I ask a question? Have you seen anything in this yet to suggest the Israelite army was brave enough to chase down the Philistines? Of course not. They were stuck for forty days scared to death of facing Goliath. Once they saw their champion defeat their taunting enemy they were empowered and knew the victory was theirs. They chased them before coming back and plundering their camp. The victory was decisive.
There are a couple of things I think are worth noting before we begin asking what we learn from this passage. First we need to see something in chapter 16. Samuel anoints David to be King and the Spirit rushed upon David. Then in the next verse the Spirit departs from Saul. We see the evidence for this in the battle with Goliath. Saul, who the people wanted to be King to fight their battles for them, sat scared like everyone else while David bravely fought Goliath with very little battle equipment. Through this we see Saul not acting like the King and David playing the part of the King who would fight the battles for them. Furthermore we see after David defeated Goliath that the battle was not completely over, but it might as well have been. Goliath’s downfall was public and humiliating.
The Lord Wins Victory Over Our Enemy Through Christ
We need to discuss one important issue this morning. When you read the Old Testament you should be asking “how does this passage point me to Jesus” and “how should this Old Testament passage change me as a Christian.” We know this is an appropriate venture because after Jesus’ resurrection he walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened the Old Testament to show them all of the things spoken in it concerning himself. Also when Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 he spoke of Timothy from childhood learning the sacred writings which made him wise for salvation in Jesus Christ. From this Paul reminds Timothy that all Scripture has been inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness so that we may be adequate and equipped for every good work. Through reading the Old Testament we learn about the work Jesus came to do and what it looks like to live a life which brings him glory.
As an aside, if you are not familiar with the Old Testament and want to understand its basic story I’d like to make a recommendation to you I saw this week at The Gospel Coalition. You can read eleven of the thirty-nine Old Testament books and get the basic story of the Old Testament. Then the other books all work off of this basic story. Remember the Bible is not a collection of sayings. It tells the story of how God redeems his people through Christ with wisdom books, prophets, and letters expounding the message of this story and the God it reveals. You can get this basic story by reading the following books of the Bible- Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah. You can access the article here.
Back to getting to Jesus from the Old Testament, a man named Sidney Greidanus wrote my favorite book on this topic, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and shares seven ways to get to Jesus from the Old Testament. (I combine two of them.) You can do this by themes running throughout the Bible’s narrative which all culminate in Jesus. There is typology, which is a person, place, thing, or event which points to something larger than itself and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. You can also get to Jesus by way of promise and fulfillment. You can also do this by way of analogy or contrast. Analogy would be “this is like that” and contrast is “this is not like that.” Finally we get to Jesus from the Old Testament by way of New Testament reference. As you read through the New Testament, pay attention to allusions and quotations from the Old Testament. Then read the Old Testament passage and see how the apostles understood them.
To understand how we get to Jesus from this passage, we must dispense with the way we typically read it. Be honest, most of the time when you read this passage you are encouraged to read it with you playing the part of David and Goliath represents all of your problems. Rather than reading the Bible with Christ as the hero, people who should be preaching to you about Jesus’ work encourage you to place yourself at the center of the story. This plays wonderfully with self-centered 21st century Americans, but most of what plays well with us keeps us in bondage to our sins and fears while also encouraging us to treat Jesus like an add-on who is cheering for you to do your best.
One way we talk about the Christian life actually kills the power for living the Chrisitan life. Home Depot once had the slogan, “You Can Do It. We Can Help.” I’m afraid the slogan we have often adopted for the Christian life could be summarized with a similar slogan, “You Can Do It. God Can Help.” Through sermons, Christian books, and “Christian” movies we imbibe the notion that God simply wants to make us a better version of who we already are. We already have the strength. We are almost there, but we need a little push from God to get us over the hump. Often the way we speak about the David and Goliath narrative. “Just look at David. He was brave and faced down Goliath. God helped him kill Goliath. Now you can be like David and kill the giants in your life with God’s help.”
So, let’s first ask who we should identify with in this passage and who we can identify with Jesus. As you look at your most besetting sins, weaknesses, and fears, do you need just a little bit of a push? Or, do you stand in need of total and complete strength from someone else? Think about it for a second, when you look at this narrative you are not David! We are the Israelite army, paralyzed with fear and inability as the enemy of our souls taunts us and holds us captive. The Israelite army, including their supposed King, stood on the sidelines and literally ran for the hills when Goliath came out. When you read this narrative you should more closely identify with the Israelite army than David. When did the Israelite army finally have the courage to fight against their enemy? This only happened after their anointed King filled with God’s Spirit won the battle for them. Only after the battle was won did they charge.
When we see David in this passage we should not first of all see him as our example for how to face our giants. Now there is no doubt here that David is a great example of courage for us, but first and foremost we need to see how David’s victory points forward to the victory of Christ. After all, Genesis 3 promised there would be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, but the seed of the woman would ultimately crush David’s head. A leader who would fight for God’s people and lead them into a place of rest becomes a major theme after this. We see it with Noah, Moses, Joshua, David, and the other kings. No king brings the people into ultimate rest and delivers them from their enemies. Then we meet Jesus. What we see in Jesus is the one who redeems us and delivers us from our greatest enemies- Satan, sin, and death. Just listen to the following passages and hear how Jesus, through his death defeated our greatest enemies.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Do you see what these passages teach us about the work Jesus came to do and how David’s defeat of Goliath points us to this. In Colossians 2 Paul warns the people not to be taken captive by empty philosophy. Instead we should realize Jesus died to set us free from bondage to sin by sacrificing himself and in doing so he disarmed the rulers and authorities. This would be the spiritual rulers and authorities of the prince of the power of the air as he calls him in Ephesians. Jesus defeated Satan in his death and in doing so broke the power Satan has to hold us in bondage through sin and the fear of death.
This was even more clear in Hebrews 2 wasn’t it? Jesus took part in flesh as we have so he might destroy the one who has the power of death. Then Jesus delivers us from the fear of death and now comes to our aid when we experience temptation. Jesus, our Spirit-filled King, led us into battle by defeating Satan for us. Satan may prowl about like a roaring lion, but Jesus has delivered his fatal blow and he roams as a defeated foe. When Jesus returns again it will be to deal the final blow to Satan, sin, and death. We were held captive by sin and the fear of death because of the great enemy of our souls and Jesus victoriously won the battle for us. While Satan may have scoffed as Jesus died, his defeat was announced in power when Jesus rose from the grave. We know Jesus dealt this definitive blow to our worst enemy because he put it to death by his own death and raised victoriously over it.
The thing I can’t get away from when I think about how this should transform our Christian lives is the Israelite army charging after David’s decisive victory. Think about the disciples before and after the death of Jesus and gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter denied Jesus when confronted by a small girl. After the resurrection and the filling of the Holy Spirit, a crowd mocks the disciples then Peter stands up a preaches the Gospel to them. After you read the Gospels you don’t expect this to be his response do you? What is the difference? Jesus died, rose again, sits at the right hand of God in heaven, and the Holy Spirit fills his people so we can be set free from our bondage to fear and wage war against our sins.
You see, we aren’t really empowered for what we should do until we remember what he has already done. So often we beat ourselves over the head with “you should” and don’t stop to tell ourselves “he already did.” Because of Jesus, you already have at your disposal every resource you need to live the Christian life. You don’t need some deeper experience or second blessing. You’ve been declared right by God, adopted by God, reconciled to God, forgiven by God, and filled with God’s Spirit. You have all you need because of what has already been done for you. So now that the victory has already been won, walk by faith and obedience filled with God’s Spirit.
So let’s talk about our fears for a second. We all know what it’s like to wrestle with fear. We can particularly be paralyzed by fear about the future. The writer of Hebrews specifically mentioned the fear of death held us in lifelong slavery. Death reminds us we live in a broken world, and the possibilities of bad things that can happen in this broken world can bind us in fear. I love how the Bible blatantly acknowledges our fear. Jesus’ death sets us free from fear and the sovereignty of God reminds us God holds the future so we ultimately have nothing to fear. The problem is reminding ourselves we have nothing to fear. For the Christian, we know our ultimate future and we know God works all things together for good, but we so often fail to remember this practically. When you face your greatest fears in the middle of the night, preach to yourself. Remind yourself of what Jesus has done, remind yourself of the love of your heavenly Father, and remember the Spirit who gives you comfort and courage.
We also must remember when facing our fears and anxieties that we do not face them alone. In Philippians 4 Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything to present our requests to God and he gives us his peace in exchange. Peter says we should cast our anxieties on him because he cares for us. Your shoulders are not broad enough and you are not strong enough to carry your burdens alone, but God’s shoulders are infinitely broad and he is infinitely strong enough for you to unload every one of your cares on him.
In addition we should be carrying each other’s burdens. You do not have to go like David into the battle alone. You get to be the Israelite army charging together behind our great champion. There are two things I want us to cultivate. First is that I do not want you carrying your burdens by yourself. Pray, and find another Christian to talk with and pray with you. And the second is this, when another brother or sister unloads their burdens on you, let both your words and manner towards them be informed by the Gospel. Don’t tell them just to get over it or say everything will be okay. Remind them of the Gospel and the God who loves them. Then remind them you love them too. And whatever you do, don’t run away when things get difficult helping them. God does not run away from us. Within the bounds of legitimate boundaries, we don’t run either. Since we believe in grace, we want to build and model a culture of grace.
In addition this passages teaches us about how we fight against our sins. We all have besetting sins with which we still wrestle. The battle against our sins is ongoing and never-ending. How do we fight against our sins and persevere in the battle to grow as Christians? We realize the war has already been won. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, sin has already been defeated and I am a slave to it no longer. You do not have to be a slave to your desires, the sins of your past, or the generational sins of your family. When we trust in Christ, we are united with him and we now by repentance and faith put our sins to death. When you experience temptation, you remind yourself this is not who you are and you run from it. Wage war against the sins in your flesh confident you will experience final victory against the enemy who has held you down.
Here is another place where the church helps us in the battle against the sins of our flesh. Find another person and invite them in to know what your struggles are. This may mean you need to let them know about relational issues you are facing or temptations you are wrestling with. Get them to pray with you, give you counsel, and help you be accountable. Accountability is not about another person beating you with a whip; it’s another person helping you where you struggle. This could be them asking you questions from time to time or you sending them a Covenant Eyes report. In addition, other Christians can encourage us. They can keep us motivated and moving in our fight against sin. The way I think about how we should help each other in difficulty is we should challenge each other and encourage each other. We all need both.
Lastly we see through this passage how Christ has defeated death. Death is our greatest enemy and our greatest fear. The effects of death are all around us and our declining bodies are evidence of its reality. Reading the story of David and Goliath points us forward to Christ’s victory over death which holds us captive. Now we practically escape the fear of death by remembering we have a great hope. Christ defeated death in his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. One day he is coming again to deliver the final blow. We will reign with him forever as his people. We don’t fear death because it is the gateway to paradise for those who believe.
We even see something about how a person becomes a Christian from David and Goliath. David points us to the work of Jesus because David did not go out as an example for the other people to see how they should fight the battle. This was champion warfare and each participant represented their army. David went out as the representative of his people and won the battle on their behalf. This points us forward to the work of Jesus because Jesus, in his death represented his people. He did not die as an example of how we could be better people, but took our sins upon himself. Through his death he crushed sin and death. Now, we don’t have to work really hard to be better people. NO! We must first have faith in the one who won the battle for us. If you have not trusted in Christ, I don’t want you to hear today that Jesus is a great add on to help you be a better person. Jesus gave his life for you so you can be free. Trust in him today and experience the freedom and forgiveness he offers.