1 SAMUEL 17:1-54
Series: Kingdom & Exile - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 27, 2017
The title of today’s message is… Courage.
The legendary John Wayne said: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
On August 7th - 1974 - a young 24-year old Frenchman by the name of Philippe Petit caught the attention of New Yorkers by wire-walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. 1,350 feet up. 200 feet between the towers. Swaying in the wind. No net. Nothing to keep him from falling. 45 minutes walking back and forth.
Anyone see the movie “The Walk”? Same guy.
Courage or insanity? Palm sweating stuff.
There are times in our lives that we are called on to have the courage of Daniel. Standing for God - unwavering in our faith. Courageous in facing the stuff of life. Courageous in whatever gets thrown against us. Even a den of lions.
Way too often our courage seems more like the Cowardly Lion of Oz.
We’ve been following God - who deeply loves each one of us - God at work in and through the lives of people - relentlessly working to restore our relationship with Him that’s been broken by sin. All of what points to Jesus’ work on the cross. Which is encouraging.
We’ve come to the part of history where God initiates the Kingdom in Israel and the line of David that leads to Jesus.
Let’s be clear. God’s Kingdom is where and when God’s authority extends to. Meaning there is no where or when that God is not sovereign - The Potentate of His creation - in complete control and authority. Which is great mind blowing theology and a great study for another time.
What’s important for us to grab onto today - when God initiates the Kingdom of Israel - in one very real sense He’s taking all of that Divine sovereign Kingdomness and bringing it - in a very real God is with us sense - bringing His kingdom into what’s going on with His people.
When Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is as close as your hand” - which is really close - what we’re looking at with David points to that coming and gives us an understanding of what it means to live in God’s kingdom today.
Are we kind of together on that? How encouraging it is to realize the nearness of God and all of His Divine authority and sovereignty - to realize His nearness in the reality of where we live life.
David is an example to us of what that looks like in real time.
In the last couple Sundays we saw the contrast between Saul’s heart - Saul who is all about… Saul. And David is all about… God.
Saul - in many ways - mirrors where we do life today. People seeking after themselves. Which can end up looking pretty ugly.
Saul being all about Saul cost him the kingdom and was disastrous to his relationship with God. Saul pursuing what’s good for Saul destroys his relationship with his son and family. Saul focused on Saul costs him his own sanity and life.
David is all about… God. Seeking God’s heart. Surrendering His life to the will of God. Serving God. Leading others towards God. Giving glory to God.
David gets it that life is about God.
That doesn’t mean David is perfect. Which is helpful for us to keep in mind. David has his issues like we’ve got our own issues.
But in David we see what it means to live loved by God as citizens of God’s Kingdom.
This morning - coming to 1 Samuel 17 - we’re going to come to what is probably the most famous battle in the Old Testament - maybe in history. A battle that was fought in the Valley of Elah. That was not fought between two armies but two people - David and... Goliath. What is a hugely courage inspiring moment for us in the life of David.
Anyone ever hear of this battle before? Pretty familiar. Let’s walk through this together.
There are three parts to this battle that we want to focus on. Part One is What David Saw.
1 Samuel 17 - starting at verse 1: Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And 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.
Looking at the map. The Valley of Elah is about 15 miles southwest of Bethlehem. The town of Socoh is on the east end of the valley. Azekah is on the west end.
This is what that looks like today. Its a wide valley - runs mostly east and west. This is the view from Socoh looking west.
Imagine the Philistines camped on the north side of the valley - on the hills to the right - and Saul and Israel camped on the other side - on the hills to the left. Below them is this valley with this stream - which is where David picked up his five stones.
Real people in real places meaning this really happened.
Let’s pause there and put that into measurements we can process.
Six cubits and a span works out to about 9 feet 9 inches - toes to head. Then there’s reach - which is maybe another couple of feet. That’s about 12 feet bottom to top. What would have been Goliath’s height fully stretched out. Point being Goliath was one tall enormous dude.
And then he’s wearing what we could call a coat of mail - underwear that went from shoulder to knee - made out of ringlets of bronze - which weighed somewhere between 175 and 200 pounds.
And he’s wearing a bronze helmet - bronze leggings to protect his shins. And he’s carrying a bronze javelin - a spear - the pointy end of which weighs 20 to 25 pounds. All that is about 250 to 300 pounds of stuff.
Imagine how beefed up this guy was just to carry all that - let alone being able to use it effectively in combat. Goliath is kinda like this mountain covered in armor. Pretty intimidating.
Then there was a shield-bearer than went ahead of him. The shield-bearer bore the… shield. Which was about the size of a grown man - about the size of a door. Which the shield-bearer bore in front of Goliath to protect him from arrows and stuff. Rocks… maybe.
Just thinking about what that would have been like. This huge tall imposing man - shield borne in front of him - wearing this imposing body armor. A person would have to be a total dweeb to go up against Goliath. Insane... or hugely courageous.
Verse 8: He [Goliath] 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 you can find one] 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 [which we all know I will], then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”
A common tactic back then was to choose a representative from each army that would fight it out one-on-one and whoever won, his army won. Whoever lost, his army lost.
The idea behind that was a question of who’s god or gods were greater. Assumption being that if our man won then everyone knew that our god was greater. Meaning that for sure we’d end up winning anyway because our greater god would make that happen.
So let’s just skip all the blood shed people getting hacked to pieces and people getting dead - and solve the whole thing man to man - or giant to man as the case may be - and the losers get to be servants of the winners.
Point being that Goliath is calling out the God of Israel and God’s army - and ultimately the faith that God’s people have in God. Put up or shut up.
Goliath is on the Philistine side of the valley shouting. He didn’t just shout this at Israel once and then that was it. Goliath did this for 40 straight days. Imagine hearing this challenge for 40 straight days - and no one takes him up on it. Doesn’t hurt the cause of the Philistine gods that they’ve got mountain man Goliath as their spokesperson.
Verse 11: When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
Dismayed translates a Hebrew word that means they were broken - shattered - confused with no idea of what to do. Afraid - has the idea of being… afraid - fear - terror.
We all encounter giants. Yes? They don’t just show up once and leave us alone. They come morning and night - over and over - relentlessly trying to intimidate us. We loose sleep over giants. A person - a pressure - a worry - some fear that just keeps nagging at us - wearing us down - day after day - night after night - challenging us across our own personal Valley of Elah. Giants that break us down - confuse us - bring fear to our hearts. Rob us of courage.
We’re together? Ultimately this isn’t about giants. Its about God.
Point being that David - at this point - is probably about 13 to 15 years old. So while his older brothers are off with Saul at the Valley of Elah David is in the hills near Bethlehem pasteurizing his father’s sheep.
David is where? Bethlehem - city of David.
Meaning David may not have known a whole lot about what was going on at Elah. He doesn’t seem to know anything about Goliath. What he does know is that his three oldest brothers are off fighting in Saul’s army.
Going on - down at verse 17: And Jesse said to David his son, “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 if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”
Verse 20: And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army.
Bethlehem is how far from the Valley of Elah? About 10 to 15 miles. Probably this is a two day journey there and back. Take the food. Make sure your brothers are okay. Come back with the latest news. Period. Point being that David is not going to there to fight.
So, what would that have been like? To come over the top of the mountain and there’s the valley - two armies spread out on the hills - arrayed for battle - the sight of armor - the sounds of warriors - the battle cry. Can you imagine a 15 year old seeing all that for the first time? A tad scary. But definitely a rush. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
Verse 22: And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, behold, 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 - same challenge he’s shouted for the last 40 days - only on this day - David heard him.
Grab the moment. David and his three brothers talking. There’s this shout from the valley. Suddenly everyone is silent - on edge - fearful. 41 days into this - they’ve all heard this before. David hasn’t.
If you give a giant a cookie…
I don’t know how to finish that. But, it isn’t good.
If we’re avoiding that conversation we know we need to have or hanging on or rationalizing some addiction or issue we need to deal with. If we tolerate our Goliaths - try to ignore them - avoid them - they don’t go away. They just keep coming. They move into our homes - our lives - they take over. We end up living anxious with fear and despair.
There’s David hearing this - seeing this - staring down at Goliath - this mountain with armor - standing in defiance of God and God’s people. What David saw was the army of the living God demoralized by a giant they should never have hesitated to kill.
The way to deal with a Goliath is to kill it.
Part Two is What David Did.
Verse 26: And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach - the shameful humiliating disgrace - from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”
Back up to verse 25 - Saul had come up with an incentive plan: Take out Goliath and as a reward you got the king’s daughter as a wife and tax free riches. Which was a really good deal. The riches part. The daughter ended up being kind of royal pain. Pun intended.
Saul could have led his people into battle. Saul - remember - was taller than anyone else - a strapping specimen of a man. The people’s choice for king. Saul could have taken on Goliath himself. But he was a coward. A coward with a plan to get someone else killed.
Why? Because Saul is all about… Saul. His heart isn’t focused on God. Saul is focused on Goliath and saving his own skin. He’s intimidated by Goliath just like everyone else.
Notice that - not only does no one point out to Saul that Saul could take on Goliath - but notice that no one takes up Saul on his offer. Reality being that nothing this world has to offer is going to generate the kind of courage needed to take on Goliath.
David’s basic question is, “Why hasn’t someone taken this guy out?”
“What shall be done for the man” - put another way is, “I will be that man.”
David isn’t impressed or intimidated by Goliath. David has courage.
Verse 31: 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.”
God looks at the what? The heart. Saul doesn’t get that. Saul is about Saul. Which means Saul’s looking at appearances. He’s seeing a giant - a seasoned warrior. He’s seeing a kid - a young teenager who should be home taking care of sheep.
But David has a heart after God’s own heart. David’s heart is in sync with God’s heart. Which means he’s learned to look at Goliath the way God sees Goliath. If God is the all powerful - sovereign - The Potentate of His Creation - if God is on my side - I can’t lose. Compared to God, who’s Goliath?
Verse 37: David - the teenager - 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.”
A huge source of courage is remembering what God has already done.
A Chuck Swindoll quote: “So often, when facing our own giants, we forget what we ought to remember and we remember what we out to forget. We remember our defeats and we forget the victories. Most of us can recite the failures of our lives in vivid detail, but we’re hard-pressed to name the specific, remarkable victories God has pulled off in our past.” (1)
David: “If God gave me power over a lion and a bear God will give me victory over this Philistine. Just let me at him.”
We know how this comes down. Yes? Saul loads David down with his own armor. Puts his chain mail underwear on him. Puts his bronze helmet on David. Gives him his sword. What an honor - to go into battle wearing the kings own armor.
David tries to walk with all that on him. Which doesn’t go well. Finally David tells Saul, “I can’t go into battle with these. I don’t have any experience with this stuff. Its just not working for me.”
Verse 40: Then he [David] 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.
Two takeaways from what David did:
First: David goes with what he knows.
Have you ever asked yourself - why five stones? Why not just one? If David is really trusting God he only needs one stone.
Bottom line is… we don’t know why he chose five. Its easy for us to look back and see that it only took one stone. But what if David missed on the first try. What if it had taken more than one stone to knock Goliath out? David’s got chutzpah. But he’s not stupid. David goes prepared for battle.
He takes the weapons of a shepherd - his staff and sling shot - what he’s trained to use. David never allows the conflict to force him to abandon what was a proven path to victory. What God has blessed in the past.
Its a great picture isn’t it? David - in the middle of the valley - down by the stream - his sling and his staff - choosing stones - ready to do battle. A moment of solitude in the midst of great conflict.
Goliath is watching this. Both armies are watching this. The odds are overwhelmingly running against David. There isn’t a guy in either army that’s betting on David. His own people are expecting him to get creamed.
Let’s be careful here. When David’s been out with the sheep he’s been doing a whole lot more than entertaining sheep with his harp and learning how to pick flies off a rock with a sling shot.
In the solitude of the mountains - under the stars - in the cold of winter and in the burning heat of summer - he’s been trained by God - learning patience and character - to be a godly man when its just him and God - when people aren’t looking - even in the mundane things of life. He’s been out there with God - learning to hear God’s voice - to follow God - to trust God.
He’s experienced God in the reality of where he’s lived his life. Learned to rely on God while he defended his sheep when he’s up against lions and bears. He’s ready - prepared by God - with courage that comes from knowing God - from a heart that’s been shaped by God
David is seeing Goliath as God sees Goliath. He’s learned that God is greater and more powerful than anything David could possibly come up against.
David doesn’t need the king’s armor. He has no clue what to do with all that anyway. He’s going to get tripped up and messed up and probably dead if he tries to go into battle with all that. David doesn’t need the fickle support of God’s people.
What David needs is God. David chooses to engage Goliath with courage he’s learned from God - THE sovereign ruler of THE Kingdom.
So, it probably isn’t too far off the mark to think that - while David’s choosing stones - in the solitude of that moment by the stream - as David’s choosing stones David is talking to God. David stripped down to his shepherd’s clothes - armed with his simple shepherd’s weapons - trusting God for what will happen.
When it comes to the battles of life - the stuff we all go through - one size does not fit all. Each of us is a unique work of God in progress. Whether that’s in the routine of being a mother or a father or a student or working at some mundane job - like tending sheep. God is already working in us to work through us in the circumstances of our life - even when we come up against giants. Hold on to that.
Be who God has led you to be and God will use you. Trust that God will bring the victory.
We don’t have to be eloquent or strong or handsome or clever or brilliant or have all the answers to be blessed by God. Faith is obeying God - trusting God - when we have no clue what comes next. In that simplicity of trust - in our weakness God brings glory to His name - He wins the battle. God waits for us to trust Him so that he can empower us to do battle with giants.
What did David do? How did David prepare for battle? He put all of himself - and his family and nation - into the hands of God - took what God had prepared him with and trusted God to lead him forward.
Part Three is What David Experienced.
Verse 41: 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 - literally despised him - thought he was worthless - 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?” [That little puny shepherd’s staff thing you have there] 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.”
Ever been cursed at? By someone who was really good at it and thought you were lower than dirt? Doesn’t feel good.
This is a pagan Philistine cursing. “Excuse my French” probably doesn’t cover it. He’s going down a long list of gods. Because this is about my gods verses your God. You are vulture food.
Verse 45: 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.”
In David’s day armies had three basic divisions: Cavalry that was armored men on horses - or chariots if the terrain allowed for it. Second was infantry - foot soldiers. Guys with armor and helmets and swords and things for close in fighting. Think Goliath. Third was the artillery - guys with slings and arrows and flying projectiles - long distance weapons. Think David.
Everyone knew that artillery could take out cavalry and cavalry could take out infantry and infantry if it could get close enough could take out artillery. Its been compared to rock, paper, scissors. Scissors beats paper every time.
Everyone knew that so everyone played by the rules otherwise there might be chaos and they might end up dead.
Goliath - think infantry - is on the playing field - playing by the rules against David who isn’t playing by the rules. Meaning that while Goliath is out there swearing at David he’s expected David - the pipsqueak teenybopper with a stick - to come to him and get creamed when they lock up.
But David’s not following Goliath’s battle plan. David’s not following Saul’s battle plan. He’s not interested in what the two armies think of him or even his own brothers.
David - heart in sync with God’s - David is following God’s battle plan. He’s out there in the name of the Lord of hosts - the God of the armies of Israel. The sovereign potentate of all creation.
Where are David’s eyes? His eyes are fixed on God. This is about God - God’s reputation - God’s honor. God’s the God with the... plan. God’s the one who’s proven Himself to David - to us - over and over and over again.
David’s eyes aren’t on the giant. Intimidation has nothing to do with what’s going on in his heart. This isn’t about swords and spears and javelins and worldly rewards - this is about God. That all the earth will know - including Israel - that there is a God in Israel.
That’s the bottom line of the courageous heart - verse 47: “For the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you into our hand.”
Verse 49: 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.
Doesn’t need it. The battle is… the Lord’s.
We know how this ends. Right? The Philistines take one look at Goliath lying there and they start running. God’s army takes off after them and a lot of Philistines get dead.
Then notice - verse 54: And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.
Jerusalem at the time was controlled by the Jebusites - not Israel. David probably didn’t just take Goliath’s head there. He put it on display. Its a way of putting the Jebusites on notice: “Its only a matter of time until you’re next.”
What is a testimony to God Who is victorious.
Some commentators think that the tent is David’s tent - back in Bethlehem. David keeping Goliath’s armor for his trophy collection. Which could be all about David.
Some commentators think that the tent is Goliath’s. All of which would have been part of David’s share of the plunder. Again - what could be all about David.
David displaying Goliath’s armor so worshippers coming there would have seen the testimony of God Who is victorious.
What did David experience? God’s victory. To God alone be the glory.
In the Old Testament God - through His prophets - through visual images and physical objects - God reminds His people over and over and over again what He’s done for them.
God goes to great lengths to record the history of His people so we’ll see that He is the omnipotent God who is always victorious - who is always worthy of trust.
Which is why being reminded one more time of what happened on Day 41 in the Valley of Elah is so important for us.
When we experience God’s victories in our lives - God moments - we need to hang on to those. To remember them. Maybe in a journal. Maybe margin notes in our Bible. Maybe photos. Whatever it takes. Because we’ll need to remember what God did the next time we come up against a Goliath in our lives.
Remember the victories. Because they remind us that God loves us and is there beyond the end of our strength and the victory is His.
One courage inspiring truth for us to take home with us. The battle is the Lord’s. Can we say that together, “The battle is the Lord’s.” Share that with the person next to you. “The battle is the Lord’s”
Hang on to that. What we come up against in life isn’t about the giants - as intimidating as they may be - as overwhelming. As lonely as all that may seem.
The hard stuff of life gives us opportunities to see people and circumstances with Gods’ heart - from the perspective of God Who’s working His plan of redemption - Who is sovereign over all of everything and desires to use us for His glory.
Opportunities that when we turn to Him - on our knees in prayer - in God’s word - seeking out God - focused on God - serving Him and seeking His glory alone - letting Him lead us forward in battle - we begin to experience the amazing reality - at the heart level - that the all powerful God who is greater than anything really is right there with us in the battle.
1. Charles Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.