Selected portions of 1 Samuel 17
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. (This is around 9 ½ feet.)
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as his father, Jesse, had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
No one wanted this fight. It was unwinnable.
That was the feeling that permeated the Israelite camp there in Sokoh. Who could honestly stand up to this Philistine champion standing over nine and a half feet tall? His armor weighed in at 125 pounds, not a pack and his supplies, but just his coat of armor. The iron tip of this giant’s spear was 15 pounds. Imagine being pierced by that. Well, all of those Israelite soldiers were imagining it, and they didn’t want any part of Goliath.
So they just sat there, listening to his relentless taunts that came every morning and every night for forty days. “Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us…I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let’s fight each other.” Hope was nowhere to be found…
What are the Goliaths in your life? What are those giant problems that stress you out and taunt you every day and night? What are those things that remove the smile from your face and hope from your heart? We all have them. Is it your career that takes all your attention so you can barely enjoy anything else? Is it a relationship – trying to stay patient with disobedient children, trying to listen to and encourage friends, trying to avoid a bully at all costs, trying to keep a struggling marriage going when it would be a lot easier to give up? These kinds of relationships can take all your energy, so you have nothing left to give. Is it an illness that won’t let up? We know these kinds of things aren’t easy. And the fact that you cannot avoid these types of things in this world only adds more pressure.
No one in the Israelite army wanted to face Goliath…until a young shepherd was sent by his father to check on his older brothers. You can tell from his supply list that David wasn’t supposed to fight. He had some grain, ten loaves of bread, and some cheese. But when David heard those taunts, he couldn’t help himself. “Who does this Philistine think he is? I don’t care if he’s 50 feet tall, he can’t talk about us and our God that way. Let no one lose heart…[I] will go and fight him!”
Was this youthful tenacity or arrogance? Was this inexperienced stupidity? Maybe, but maybe not. I mean, David did have some skill in combat, you could say. This shepherd had taken on and taken out a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. That’s pretty impressive. But every once in a while you hear a story of someone doing that, like the runner in Colorado who killed a mountain line with his bare hands.
Sometimes doesn’t that same thought come into your mind? “I can do this. I’ve done it before when the circumstances didn’t look great. I have done some pretty impressive things, too. Maybe these Goliaths don’t have to be so giant and so scary. Maybe I can figure out a solution and handle this problem myself.”
That was not the thought of David’s older brothers, who got pretty irritated that little bro was running his mouth in the camp. The soldiers didn’t really care what he did as long as they didn’t have to go. When Saul, the king/commander of the Israelite army, heard about David, he wasn’t that impressed either. “You are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
There’s a reason we call certain matchups in sports a David verses Goliath. All the stats and all the logic make it quite clear that there’s only one outcome to expect. But as we all know, sometimes a great team has a bad game and a marginal team has a great game to cause a huge upset.
But that’s in sports. This was real. This was a trained, giant, killing machine, champion verses a shepherd. This was one on one with life and death on the line. And David was going to have to face him. It wasn’t going to work to shout back to Goliath, “Well, oh yeah, we have a shepherd over here who has killed a lion and a bear with his own two hands. How about that?” That wasn’t going to do that job. The rules were laid out. One man represents the Philistines and one man represents the Israelites. Winner takes all.
So, David went out to meet him, one on one with the fate of the whole nation resting on his shoulders. It wasn’t because he had that youthful arrogance or that inexperienced stupidity. David went out to meet him not because of the combat skills that he picked up from protecting his sheep. David went out to meet Goliath because…well, I’ll let him tell you, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head… All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
David went out to meet Goliath with a sling and a stone knowing full well that the battle is the Lord’s. David, the shepherd went out and defeated Goliath, the trained, giant, killing machine champion because the Lord doesn’t lose. Goliath did have one thing right. With David’s triumph the whole Israelite army, which had been a bunch of scared losers, got to enjoy it. One man’s work meant victory for them all.
Our fiercest enemy was calling us out and taunting us, too. Losing a career is irritating, losing a relationship that you once cherished is more than saddening, losing days being laid up with an illness is frustrating. Those things are troubling. And they happen because we live in a sinful world and we have sinful lives that are not and will never be perfect. But you can deal with them as hard as they are. That’s why none of those things are the real Goliath in your life. What the army of Israel saw in Goliath was certain death. Anybody who went out to meet him wasn’t going to last. And whether you know it, whether you want to admit it or not, we all have that Goliath ominously and oppressively starring us down.
Sin makes this a world where nothing lasts forever. Sin makes us people who have been separated from God and have to face death. Sin makes us live just like the army of Israel. We are dismayed and terrified. We hear death calling out to us with its defiant sneer: “Bring me anyone and I will show you what happens in this fight.”
David could fight Goliath for Israel, but he couldn’t fight death for all the world. But do you remember what he said? The battle is the Lord’s. The Lord God loves you so much that he came here for you. See David had this one descendant who came to earth, born of a woman, to fight for us. He could take on this Goliath for us because he came from heaven to do this one thing.
But he couldn’t just call out his credentials to his opponent. “Oh yeah, well I come from eternity. I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the Light that shines in the darkness. I am the one who made everything. I am the all-powerful.” He had to face off with his enemy, and when the enemy, when the trained, giant, killing machine champion is death, then in order to face this enemy head on Jesus had to die.
Death and hell are the punishments for sin and so Jesus faced off with death for you. He suffered hell for you. He put his perfect life on the line for a world full of sinners. He paid the price for your sins and mine. And so the laid Jesus in a tomb. What else do you do with someone who is dead?
It seemed like death had won the inevitable victory. But just like Goliath didn’t know who he was dealing with, death didn’t know what hit it. The morning when the women went out to the tomb, they were a lot like the army of Israel. They were dismayed and terrified. Hope was nowhere to be found… But the women forgot what David had said all those years ago: “The battle is the Lord’s.” They forgot what Jesus had said, that he “must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raise again.” The battle was over. Jesus had done it. And that’s what the angels said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” The empty tomb showed them and us:
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
One man went to battle for all of us and when the Lord is in the battle, he doesn’t lose. It may have looked like a David verses Goliath matchup, but remember what the Lord did there in Sokoh? With a little sling and a stone, the giant fell dead. And the whole Israelite nation got to enjoy the victory over the Philistines. They were not dismayed or terrified anymore. His victory meant peace. It meant joy. It meant safety.
Jesus didn’t look like he had much. He was rejected and taunted. He was bloodied and brutalized. He was crucified. He died. It didn’t seem like he had the right stuff for battle, not even a little bit. But he faced all of that for you. Sin, death, and hell didn’t stand a chance against God’s Son, our Savior.
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! And his life now means our victory.
What does that victory mean for you? It means you still might have problems, you still might have sickness, you still might have some relationships that don’t work out. But those things are not Goliath, and they don’t need to overcome you. Death was the undefeated champion in this world because of sin, claiming victory after victory for generations. But then Jesus came and changed all that. His victory means our sins are paid for. His victory means death has been defeated. His victory means heaven is open. His victory means you do not need to be dismayed or terrified anymore. His victory means peace with God. It means joy. It means safety in God’s arms forever.
That is what little Beckett was given this morning through baptism. Baptism isn’t what we do for God, it’s what he does for us. God makes a promise that the power of his Word connected to something simple like normal water gives people Jesus’ victory. The Bible says, “Baptism…saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” See, that’s Jesus’ power. That’s his victory.
My friends, there is new life in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a life where sin no longer convicts us; it’s a life where Satan no longer controls us; it’s a life where death no longer contains us. His life is our victory. CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! Alleluia. Amen.