Preacher: Chibuzo Petty
Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:45-51
Date: August, 28, 2022
The book of Samuel gets its name from the Biblical character Samuel. Some of you may remember the story of Samuel’s birth from Sunday School or a previous sermon. As a recap: Elkanah had two wives – Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. Elkanah would give a double portion to Hannah. For obvious reasons, Peninnah didn’t take too kindly to this. Hannah wept and wouldn’t eat. She eventually went to a priest, named Eli, and offered her future son to the Lord if he would bless her with one. She conceived and named her son Samuel for she said “I have asked for him from the Lord.”
Samuel later establishes the monarchy in Israel when he anoints Saul and then David. The section of 1 Samuel that we are reading today is the fourth part of 1 Samuel that tells the story of Saul and David.
Specifically, today’s text deals with the battle at the Valley of Elah between David and Goliath. It’s a story you’ve likely heard many, many times, but I hope this morning you will be able to see it in a new light.
So let me give you an overview of the story and then we’ll dive into today’s text. While Saul is yet king, God reveals to Samuel that he is anointing David to become king. David, though he is still very young, becomes a member of Saul’s court as a musician. Once God anoints David, his spirit departs from Saul. This story of David and Goliath is not simply an interesting story about David’s youth. It sets the stage for Saul’s jealousy which leads to his eventual attempted murder of David. The Israelites are in danger due to a fierce challenge from the Philistines – namely their giant Goliath. Saul, whose job it is to accept this challenge, declines out of fear. In fact, the entire crowd of Israelites who gathered were terrified and fled. David volunteers to fight Goliath. He is told he can’t for various reasons – he doesn’t fit their image of a warrior. Eventually, he is given armor and a sword which David refuses. He, then, goes to meet Goliath who disdainfully yells to David: “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
v 45 comes in between two verses referencing having one’s body left out for scavenger animals. Scripture, in multiple places, says that this is worse than death itself. So, please try to understand the severity. In the midst of this, David says: “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 Israel’s armies, whom you have defied.” David makes multiple things clear in just this one verse: The battle is the Lord’s. It wasn’t really Saul’s to begin with, nor is it David’s now. Since the battle is not an ordinary battle between human opponents but is a battle for God’s honor, the fact that David and Goliath are seemingly mismatched is important. It shows even more clearly and profoundly the glory of God in Goliath’s defeat. God is a different type of warrior. Everyone believes David to be doomed for pretty obvious, and I also think frankly pretty reasonable reasons. But, we can’t put God in a box. God shows time and time again that he is not always who we think he is. He defies our expectations. This is perhaps most clear in the story of Jesus – which we’ll have more on later.
v 46 continues this theme of the battle being the Lord’s as David exclaims that it will be God who delivers Goliath. We see, too, the second reference to having one’s body left out for scavenger animals, as mentioned earlier. This time, though, David says it will be a sign to the entire world of the existence and power of Israel’s God.
v 47 again makes clear that the battle is the Lord’s and that God defies our expectations.David has essentially said the same thing three verses in a row… Maybe that means what he is saying is important! Right?
v 48 shows, again, how David volunteers for this fight. In some ways, he even seems eager.
vv 49-51 tell us that David kills Goliath with only a sling and a stone, takes Goliath’s own sword and cuts his head off with it, causing the rest of the Philistines to run away in fear and trembling. This is a very peculiar set of verses and we miss out on that quite a bit based on the English translations. In the
Hebrew, it says that David kills Goliath with the sling and stone and then that David kills Goliath with Goliath’s own sword. David kills Goliath… and then David kills Goliath. David kills Goliath twice. Almost all English translations try to “fix” this oddity by rendering it in a way that either has David killing Goliath with the sling and stone and then cutting off his head after he’s already dead for good measure – like what I read – or by having Goliath fall to the ground incapacitated allowing David to then kill him with his own sword. The latter being the most troublesome, I think, because it is in direct conflict with what is said multiple times in the passage about how God wins his battles. In either case, it is a really interesting and peculiar set of verses. The important thing, though, for us here, is that God does, indeed, deliver Goliath just as David trusted.
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? The same story you’ve heard before. Maybe even dozens of times. Except for the whole David killing Goliath twice thing, you’re probably thinking to yourself – wow I don’t really feel like I learned anything new today. Well, here’s where that likely new revelation comes. For most of us, we’ve heard this story over and over. And each time, we’re asked to identify with David. We put ourselves in David’s shoes. Even as I was preparing this sermon and I looked through various commentaries and study bibles that’s what almost all of them said. We are David. With God’s help, we can slay the giants in our lives. If we step out in faith and are courageous like David, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
I’m calling shenanigans on this interpretation! I just don’t see it in the text. In fact, the text seems to pretty clearly be saying something else entirely. The battle is the Lord’s. The battle is the Lord’s. The battle is the Lord’s. Now I’m not saying that we don’t have the ability to overcome the odds when we have faith in Jesus. There are plenty of verses that suggest that – just not this one. What’s more, it’s dangerous to get in that sort of mindset all the time. Often, Christians act like they can do anything, that their troubles will all be behind them once they trust in God. That’s hogwash. Or rather, many Christians will pray for certain things. It seems on the surface that God isn’t answering their prayers because things didn’t get better or they didn’t get what they wanted. So, they will try to reconcile this by saying that whatever happens is God’s will. I hear that all the time. I see it on Facebook, the news, I’ve heard dozens of people in this church say that. People will say that everything happens for a reason or that God has a plan. Well yes, God has a plan, but everything that happens isn’t necessarily a part of that plan. To say that everything that happens is God’s will seems completely ludicrous to me.
It’s easy for us to say things like that when our lives are filled with privilege. We’ll say things like: I missed my turn going home and since I was already going out of my way I decided I’d just go to the store a day early. I ended up getting in on the last day of a huge sale. God is so good. Really? God allows for the rape and murder of children but he supernaturally caused you to miss a turn which led to you saving $25… Really?
Before I knew Jesus I did a lot of terrible things. I also had a lot of terrible things done to me. I’ve had people say that God put me through those things in order that I could minister better and more authentically. Really? I mean certainly I can, indeed, minister differently and perhaps even more effectively because of my past, but that doesn’t mean that God caused me to sin or that he caused others to sin against me. I’m not saying it can’t happen. Look at the story of Job. But why are we so quick to give explanations and answers like these? We can’t explain everything that happens in life. Life is hard and it’s messy. And, that’s ok. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. If everything that happens on earth is God’s will, why would Jesus ask us to pray such a redundant prayer?
Could you get a raise by putting your faith in Jesus? Sure.
Could you beat cancer by putting your faith in Jesus? Sure.
Could someone in this room become president by putting their faith in Jesus? Sure. But, just because it is possible, doesn’t mean it will happen.
People pray to be healed and still die.
Children pray to rescued from horrific situations and they are not made free until the cross Jordan.
Can we overcome seemingly insurmountable odds? Sure. But we don’t always. In fact, our trust in God is almost never so great that we would even think to volunteer for such a terrifying task as David did. That’s why, my brothers and sisters, we are not David.
First off, the Bible isn’t about us. A lot of people say that the Bible is God’s love letter to us. Ok. I can dig. So, the Bible is to us. It’s for us. But still, it’s not about us. It’s about him. More specifically it is about Jesus. If we view this passage as if it is about us, if we are David, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Sure, sometimes we can go face our battles with just a sling, a stone, and our faith. Sometimes, by God’s grace, we prevail. Sometimes, though, we are crushed. Depression, addiction, adultery, the loss of a job, the loss of a child… Sometimes we, again, by God’s grace, defeat – or get through – these difficult situations. Other times, though, they win. We set ourselves up for disappointment because we put ourselves in David’s place – the place of a King. That’s the place of Jesus! He’s the King with a capital k!
Goliath doesn’t represent the trials and tribulations we face in this life. Goliath represents the devil, sin, and death. When we face Goliath all that happens is separation from God. If we could defeat Goliath we could save ourselves. We wouldn’t need a savior. But, Jesus is the only one who can defeat the devil, sin, and death. Jesus beats Goliath! Jesus is David! Everyone counts out David. No one things he’s capable of victory. People mocked and laughed and jeered at Jesus just the same. They made fun of his hometown. They made fun of his family profession. They scoffed at him for his relationships with those deemed inferior. Even as he showed up for battle, the Jews and the Romans jeered at him. He was given a crown of thorn! David was offered armor and a shield just as Jesus could have used his infinite power to defeat his enemies. God, though, defies our expectations! The people saw David going out for battle against the enormous Goliath, believing him to be like a lamb heading out for the slaughter.
That’s exactly what Jesus did! Jesus is the Lamb. We aren’t saved because of our ability to fight these battles. We’re saved by the blood of the Lamb! And his blood is sufficient. Amen? Amen.
David goes out to defend his people, the Israelites. He goes out and faces the monster on their behalf. This is what Jesus does! Christ is victorious! Jesus is David! And just as David never takes the credit for winning the battle and gives all the honor and glory and praise to God, so, too, does Jesus humbly give the glory to the Father. If we are to be found anywhere in this passage, then we are the helpless Israelites who are petrified. Who cower in fear. Who flea. We can’t defeat Goliath.
The Good News for us today, though, is that we don’t have to defeat Goliath. Goliath is already dead! The devil has been defeated! Death has died! Somebody, turn to your neighbor and say, Goliath is dead!
Revelation 20:1-2, 13-14 reminds us…
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. …13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
Praise be to God! Right? Hallelu Yah! We know how the war ends. We know who is victorious. God is good all the time; and all the time he is good. Cast your burdens unto HaShem for he, alone, can sustain you. Rest our hope in what God has already proclaimed. Remember, on the cross Jesus said, “it is finished!” Praise be to God! Hallelu Yah! Hallelu Yah! Hallelu Yah! Goliath is dead! The devil has been defeated! Death has died! Hallelu Yah! God is good all the time; and all the time he is good!
Let us pray…(extemporaneous)
Be sent with these words from Scripture:
Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
and disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
and you will never again fear disaster.
On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be
“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Go! Love God. Love neighbors. Make disciples. Go in peace – to love and serve the Lord. Amen? Amen.