August 6, 2017 | Psalm 23 & 1 Samuel 17 • “Underdogs, Fear, and Trusting God”

“David and Goliath” photo by Bill Barber (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Psalm 23 (NIV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

I would bet you have heard this story before.

There were these two armies gathered for war. The Philistine army camped out on one hill. The Israelite army gathered on the hill across from them. There was a valley in between.

It was a showdown.

One of the soldiers stood out from the others. He was taller and meaner than the others. He wore more than 120 pounds of bronze armor. A bronze helmet. A coat of scaly bronze armor. Bronze shin guards. He carried a bronze javelin with a huge iron spear shaft.

As his armor reflected the sun he must have seemed indestructible.

Everything about him was intimidating.

The Israelite army was immobilized by fear.

Every morning and every evening Goliath pushed his way to the front of the Philistine army to insult the Israelites.

His words boomed across the valley.

“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. 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.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”  

On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul (Israel’s king) and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified (1 Samuel 17.8-11 NIV).

For forty days, two times a day, the Israelites endured Goliath’s threats. Not a single Israelite dared accept Goliath’s challenge.

The whole army (along with their king) was frozen in fear.

There was a man named Jessie who had eight sons. Jessie’s three oldest sons camped out with Israel’s troops on the hill. Jessie’s youngest son, David, spent his time running errands for his dad – delivering food to his brothers on the front lines and watching his dad’s sheep. The youngest of eight sons, David ranked lowest in the family pecking order. David, wasn’t all that intimidating. Jessie asked David to bring roasted grain and bread to his brothers, and cheese to the commander of his brother’s unit.

Early the next morning David found someone to watch his father’s sheep, loaded up the roasted grain, bread, and cheese. David arrived in the camp just as the Israelites and the Philistines were lining up on their hillsides. David left the food with the supply clerk and ran to see his brothers. As David and his brothers spoke, Goliath pushed his way through the Philistine army to make his usual morning threats.

The only thing different that morning from the other forty mornings Goliath ridiculed the Israelite army was that this time, David was on the hill to hear Goliath and see how the Israelites responded.

David watched as the Israelites saw Goliath and ran away.

David noticed their fear.

David didn’t react to Goliath the way most everyone else did. Saul and all the people in the army were distressed and scared when they saw Goliath and heard his threats. David was infuriated. He couldn’t understand how the Philistine champion could get away with insulting the army of the living God.

Saul, the King, heard David wasn’t afraid like everyone else and asked to meet David.

“David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

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.”

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, 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. 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. 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” (1 Samuel 17.32-37 NIV).

Saul started to dress the little guy up to look like a warrior. Saul gave David his tunic. He gave David a coat of armor and a bronze helmet. David strapped on a sword. He tried walking around, but David wasn’t used to all that heavy stuff. He told Saul he couldn’t face the Philistine warrior wearing armor. It was too heavy … too unfamiliar. David ditched the warrior costume and grabbed his shepherd staff, he picked up five smooth stones from the stream and put them in his shepherd’s pouch, and with his sling in hand, marched toward the Philistine.

Goliath saw this little guy marching toward him and confidently walked out to meet David.

He looked David over. A kid? This was the best Israel could do? Didn’t they realize how high the stakes were? If the Philistines won, the Israelites would become their servants. This was crazy. So much of the Israelites’ story had to do with God rescuing them from slavery … now it looked like they had given up and were marching toward slavery.

It seems like it could have been the beginning of a professional wrestling match – two wrestlers circle each other talking about how bad they are going to beat the other one … except one guy was nine feet tall, decked out with hundreds of pounds of bronze armor, holding sword, and a spear. And the other guy’s really young, a lot shorter, doesn’t have any armor, carries a stick and a handful of rocks.  And, believe it or not, the small, vulnerable, looking guy was the one making the biggest threats. David’s odds didn’t look good.

Goliath said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

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. 

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. 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” (1 Samuel 17.43-47 NIV).

There was a lot leading up to the fight, But it was over almost before it started.

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 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.

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 (1 Samuel 17.48-50 NIV).

All the build up: the descriptions, the speeches … then just one stone from the shepherd boy’s sling shot and the action was over.

Poor Goliath didn’t have a chance.

There are so many people who are afraid in this story.

The Israelite army.

Their king Saul.

I’d even go out on a limb to say Goliath was afraid – all that armor … all that bullying.

There was so much fear camped out on those hillsides.

David didn’t seem afraid.

David was courageous.

David’s courage came from faith in God.

We see David take this great stand of faith, but really it was the progression of many stands of faith that led to this one. David told King Saul that when he kept his father’s sheep sometimes he had to face lions and bears and “The LORD, who rescued [him] from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue him from the power of this Philistine.” As David faced dangerous situations protecting his father’s sheep he developed trust in God. In the past David trusted God to save him and now, when something really big and terrifying came up (it’s so weird to think of lions and bears as beginner stuff) – when something really big came up David was able continue in his habit of trusting in God.

David’s courage was shaped by his conviction that God was with him. David’s courage was shaped by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past.

There was a lot to be scared of in that valley.

There were enemy’s all around.

David didn’t fear evil. He trusted in God. And he allowed that trust to shape the ways he lived and responded to fear.