November 13, 2022

  “Courage Like David’s”

(Excerpts from 1Samuel 17)

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. Saul and the Israelites gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah and formed ranks against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was four cubits and a span.  He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants, but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah named Jesse, who had eight sons. The three eldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle; the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

Jesse said to his son David, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them.”Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel were in the valley of Elah fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.  All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid. The Israelites said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel.  David said to the men who stood by him, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father, and whenever a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down and kill it.Your servant has killed both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.”David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”

 So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Then David took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the wadi and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.  The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth. 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 wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and 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 very 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 Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear, for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.  So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him.  Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. The troops of Israel and Judah rose up 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.

     Christian Rock artists of the band Casting Crowns have a new hit called “Nobody.”  One of the verses has a line of lyrics that I heard and immediately wished I had thought of myself.  The song is generally about how God often uses unlikely people to accomplish God’s good purposes in the world.  The line says, “Moses had stage fright, and David brought a rock to a sword fight” a rock to a sword fight.  That verse paints such a vivid picture of our Old Testament lesson for today from 1Samuel. David, a young man scholars place at age from 14-19 at the time, brought rock to a sword fight…a sword fight against a giant Philistine warrior named Goliath.  David had the courage of his convictions, a belief that God not only could, but would bring a victory to the Israelites against the Philistine army.  Let us now turn to our story to learn just how God used the courage of David to accomplish it.

     The Philistine army gathered to battle against the army of King Saul and the Israelites.  There was a soldier in the Philistine army, a physical giant among men, who came out of the camp and taunted Israel’s army.  The giant’s name was Goliath, of Gath.  Goliath challenged the Israelite army to send forth a man to fight him, and the winner’s nation would rule over the defeated nation.  Israel’s army cowered in fear of Goliath, this taunting giant of a man.

     David was a young shepherd, who tended his father’s sheep.  He had three older brothers who had followed Saul to the battlefront.  David went back and forth from the battle site with provisions for them, as his father, Jesse, would direct him.  Once, while he was bringing provisions, he heard the taunts of Goliath against the Israelite army.  David began to inquire about the battle, and word of his inquiry was brought to King Saul.  Seeing that David was still so young and small, Saul would have prevented him from fighting the giant Philistine soldier, Goliath.  But, David told Saul that as a shepherd he had protected his sheep from lions and bears that preyed upon them.  David felt sure that he could battle and defeat Goliath, and his strong sense of self-confidence convinced Saul to let him go to battle against Goliath.

     So, David chose five smooth stones, and he placed them in his bag as he went out to the battleground to face Goliath.  So, church, here’s the visual I shared with you earlier-David brought five rocks, smooth stones actually, to a sword fight against a giant Philistine soldier armed to the teeth with a bronze helmet, a heavy coat of mail, and a giant bronze javelin spear.  Seeing the small boy before him, Goliath jeered at him, cursing his gods, and threatening to kill him and make him the food of the birds of the air and the animals of the field.  David stood firm, declaring that victory would be in the name of the God of Israel; and that he, young David, would kill Goliath and feed him to the birds and beasts.  As Goliath came near to David, David ran quickly up to him, took a stone from his bag, and slung it, hitting Goliath in his forehead.  The scriptures inform us that the stone actually lodged in Goliath’s forehead, and he dropped like a shot-and was dead.  David, a young shepherd, had indeed defeated Goliath the giant Philistine, and in so doing the army of the Israelite’s became the victors over the army of the Philistines.  That is how young and courageous David brought a rock to a sword fight, defeating a huge and mighty opponent to claim victory for the people of Israel.  This is truly one of the greatest, and most famous, Old Testament Bible stories.

     God works in mysterious ways God’s wonders to perform among us. And…God can use our best intentions and plans to bring about God’s purposes.  I say this to you today, because I had a plan in mind for our Old Testament Bible story series, and God has used it to accomplish God’s will for this series.  My plan was to offer these great Old Testament stories as a means of attracting the interest of our folks and to bring us back together in ministry and mission this fall after our restful summer season.  God also had some other plans in mind.  You see, the Spirit led me to develop my Old Testament messages on the character attributes of the heroes in our stories.  We began with the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  We then learned about the obedience of Noah to the will and word of the Lord.  Last week we shared about the wisdom of the prophet Deborah that led the Israelites to victory over King Jabin of Canaan; and today we were reminded of the great courage of young David, as he battled Goliath the giant, winning a victory for Israel over the army of the Philistines. Those messages came to you under my inspiration…or did they?  You see, each week the stories of the lives and missions of our heroes have also led us to an understanding of God’s plan and mission for Christians living in the world today.  We discovered that our faith in God, and our obedience to God’s will, manifest themselves in very real ways in our time, just as they did the time of each of our Old Testament heroes.  Our witness, our victory today is a victory over the powers of darkness prevailing in our present time.  We have recently discussed our need to be advocates for those who suffer the injuries of injustice based on racial, cultural, gender, wealth, status, and religious differences. Today’s story about David’s victory over the giant Philistine, Goliath, is not only about the hero of a battle proven victory.  The story of David and Goliath is also the story of a moral victory won against a huge taunting bully.  David could not overcome Goliath in a battle of hand-to-hand combat, but with his courage, his wit, his speed and dexterity, and with the uncommon weapon of a sling shot, David was able prove out the adage, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

     Seriously, friends, bullying is a major problem for many young people today who are struggling to navigate through life with differences from their peers.  Many of these differences are the ones we have already shared together, such as differences in race, religion, gender identity, ethnicity, economic and social standing, and physical ability and attributes.  These can tend to be even more greatly exaggerated when an in-group deploys them as weapons against an outsider.  The problem today is compounded by the anonymity afforded for acts of bullying by cell phones and social media sites.  Under the cloak of anonymity these modes of communication provide, young folks have been made to feel inferior, and have been goaded into unspeakable acts of self-harm.  This harm can take many forms; depression, eating disorders, drug use, and perhaps the most horrific, acts of suicide to stop the pain, guilt, or terror of life’s current circumstance for the victims of bullying.  If you think that bullying isn’t that big of a problem folks…think again. Bullying in America is the second highest cause of suicide among our youth and young adults.  I speak a vital truth today, church-this should not be.  No young person, who has a whole life of promise ahead of them, should be made to feel useless, helpless, or hopeless; and least of all because they are different than their peers.  Christians, we are called to spread the light and love we have received in Christ Jesus to all of God’s people in need.  This includes our youth, who are buckling under the weight of the heavy burdens of bullying. Let us stand with and for those who cannot stand firm on their own.  May our acts of courage through love be their light of hope in the darkness, their comfort in times of loneliness and pain, their guide to a place of the peace that passes human understanding, and their sharing in the grace-filled moments that make their life current bearable, and marvelous new life possible.  Amen.