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Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning, we have heard one of the most familiar stories from the Bible, the battle of David and Goliath. It’s significance as a piece of world literature is great. It has become a metaphor for adventure, business and life. Indeed, the very phrase “David and Goliath” has taken on popular, contemporary meaning, denoting any underdog situation, or contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much bigger, stronger adversary.
Even Sunday School children take joy in the story. After all who is the greatest babysitter mentioned in the Bible? David – he rocked Goliath to sleep. Or, why was Goliath so surprised when David hit him with a slingshot? The thought had never entered his head before. Or, If Goliath is resurrected, would you like to tell him the joke about David and Goliath? No, he already fell for it once.
Yes, David and Goliath is the quintessential underdog story. But what does the lesson really tell us about Israel’s first kings? Surprisingly, it is just as much about King Saul, as it is about the shepherd and the giant. For ultimately, the story is a lesson about the nature of kingly faith.
Last week, we heard the story of the tall, dark and handsome King Saul. The aging prophet Samuel had anointed Saul to appease the ancient Israelites who pleaded for a king so that they could be like all the other nations, and who would defeat their enemies. King Saul was successful for a while, and then came the battle with the Amalekites when he chose to spare the Amalekite king. Samuel was angry and God was angry. In fact, God was so disappointed with Saul that he regretted ever anointing him king. This led God to devising a plan with Samuel to anoint the young shepherd boy David from Bethlehem, the youngest son of Jesse to be the future king.
No sooner had David been anointed by Samuel, then we read that the spirit of the Lord left Saul, and that instead he was tormented by spirit of evil. The diagnoses of Saul’s court physicians was depression, or what Victorian writers would describe as melancholia. They recommended that the king find a gifted harp player whose music could console the king. A musician was quickly identified- a young shepherd boy from Bethlehem named David, the youngest son of Jesse. He was brought to live in the palace to comfort the king- and when David played his harp, Saul’s depression disappeared.
Then enter the Philistines, the dreaded enemy of the Israelites and their blowhard cheerleader, Goliath. The Israelites and Philistines were encamped between two hills preparing for a big battle. David’s three older brothers were a part of the army facing off against the Philistines, so one day Jesse sent his youngest son David from Bethlehem to bring food supplies to his brothers on the front line. When he arrived, he heard the Philistine Goliath challenging any Israelite to come out and fight him. All the soldiers were reluctant to take up the battle. Goliath was a giant of a man. According to scripture he was over nine feet tall and loaded with heavy armor. His appearance struck terror into the Israelite soldiers. For forty days, in the morning and in the evening, Goliath trampled up and down the line taunting the Israelites. When David saw their fear in the faces of the Israelites he was horrified and alarmed. David had a simple, confident faith. He believed that with the Lord on his side he could not be defeated in any challenge. He believed that the kingdom of Israel could not be defeated since the Lord was on its side. The young David was quick to take up the challenge of fighting the Goliath. The soldiers thought it was fool hearty that a scrawny shepherd boy would even think of fighting a giant. But they took him to King Saul to get his permission. Saul too was reluctant, after all this was the servant who offered comfort in the dark hours of depression, but David convinced him. He told the king of his experiences as a shepherd when he would have to fight off bears and other wild animals.
King Saul finally consented to let David fight the giant. He even wanted to help David by letting him wear his armor. But to David the armor of Saul was too large and too heavy. Instead David went to meet the giant with his sling. On the way he picked up five smooth stones from a river bed. When Goliath saw David coming to meet him he was astonished. The giant said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” He cursed David and laughed at him.
Goliath’s threats, however, did not scare David. He responded to the giant, “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.” Goliath thought he was invincible. As they came together for the battle, David took a stone and put it in his sling. He slung the stone at the giant, hitting him on the forehead. We are told that the stone sank into the giant’s forehead, he fell to the ground, and David ran to him, took the Goliath’s sword and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw what happened, they panicked and fled. The Israelites followed after and defeated them. David was suddenly a hero.
So what was David’s secret weapon? Certainly, it wasn’t the sling. This wasn’t a child’s toy, after all. Slings were used in battle for centuries and they were precise and lethal. Some might argue that his greatest weapon was his naïve, overconfidence. Indeed, David was a bit of dare devil, but if he was completely self-assured, he might have taken only one flat stone from the watery brook instead of five. Nor can we say that David’s intentions were completely pure. The reward offered for defeating Goliath was enticing. No, I rather suspect that David’s secret weapon was his faith. He believed that God was greater than any giant in the world.
The young shepherd boy was becoming the king that Saul could never be. While Saul listened to the voice of the crowds, and followed the guidance of the poll takers, David refused to be frightened by the appearance and presence of giants of this world. Goliath had all the modern equipment, the size, and the social media to influence the soldiers and king’s palace. According to the eyes of the world, David did not stand a chance of winning. But David refused to listen to the pervasive voices, choosing instead to believe and confess that God has ultimate power- even over the giants of this world. That can be your gift of faith as well.
My friends, what giants are still holding you back or holding you down? Self-esteem, financial resources, prejudice, emptiness, substance abuse, fear, anxiety. David was not perfect, but he enjoyed a perfect confidence, courageously trusting that God could and would defeat the giants of the world. Some battles do take time, but with confidence and trust in God, he can and will make all things possible. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.