First Reading 1 Samuel 17:1-23, 32-54
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Gospel Reading Mark 4:35-41
Sermon: “David and Goliath: My God is Bigger than Your God!”
Ladies and Gentlemen – come one, come all to witness an epic battle between good and evil. In this corner, we have the reigning champion – Goliath of Gath! The pride of the Philistine army, 9 feet tall and carrying a magnificent steel sword and huge spear. . He is experienced, want to talk about brute strength and superior weaponry? He is just plain terror! In the challengers corner we have David, youngest son of ol’ Jesse’s 8 boys. He’s just a teenager but with a lot of heart and a lot of faith. Trained as a shepherd and straight from the sheep pastures near Bethlehem! (I hear he refused King Saul’s armor and is just carrying a sling and some rocks?!? Ladies, you may want to avert your eyes this isn’t gonna be very pretty.)
Seriously folks, Israel faced many enemies during its early years in the promised land, but few caused them as much trouble as the Philistines. They lived in 5 cities on the SW coastal plain of Israel – in the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. They are mentioned as being in the land at the time of Abraham; They came into conflict with Isaac over grazing rights when they filled in his water wells for a time. The book of Joshua lists their lands as unconquered during the possession of the bulk of the promised land. The book of Judges says this about them: Judges 3:1-4 NLT  “These are the nations that the LORD left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan.  He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle.” They filled that role very well indeed.
Many of the OT stories we know best concern these Philistines. The story of Sampson and Deliah concerns Israel’s struggles with the Philistines. We heard about them again when Samuel was a young man and they captured the Ark of the Covenant for a time. Certainly today’s story is among the most famous, but they will continue to figure in Israel’s history occasionally though out the time of the Kings. As we will hear in a couple of weeks, David even joined them for a short time while he was on the run from Saul.
We are not really sure where they originally came from. Genesis and Jeremiah both say they were originally Caphorites – that is from the Island of Crete. In the time of Saul, they held a monopoly on the manufacture and maintenance of iron weapons as is recorded in 1 Samuel 13:19-22 NLT  There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews.  So whenever the Israelites needed to sharpen their plowshares, picks, axes, or sickles, they had to take them to a Philistine blacksmith. “ They would charge exorbitant fees to sharpen weapons so that we are told at this time, none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan.
This is the setting for our Story today. I have gone into this detail so that you would know that they were a long standing, well equipped and bitter enemy of Israel. Goliath himself seems to be one of the last of a race of giants that gets mentioned occasionally in the Old Testament. He takes the role of the super villain in our story. He is big, mean, deadly, and extremely profane. He represents, all that Israel is to overcome – he uses the names of his gods to curse Israel and king Saul and continues to do so daily as these armies confront each other. To this day, to call someone a philistine is to insult them as crude and proud of their disdain of culture or intellectual pursuits.
On the other hand, David is a sympathetic and wonderfully instructive character in the Old Testament. He was the best King Israel was to ever have from several perspectives. We owe a large chunk of the book of Psalms to his artistry and his passion to worship his God. God’s covenant promises to him and his house all point to their fulfillment in Jesus our Lord, who from a human perspective is descended from his family line. We will spend several weeks in and around his rich story to learn all that we can from his remarkable life.
Here, at the first, we already have evidence of his extraordinary faith. Last week, we heard how Samuel was sent to secretly anoint him as Israel’s future king, since Saul had disobeyed God’s command twice. David and Saul’s lives are going to be tightly intertwined for years, though it will be painful for both of them. As he enters the battlefield, nobody has much hope in him. Dad is just using him as a courier to deliver some grain, bread and cheese to his brothers and their captain and then bring back word of how his older brothers are doing in the war with the Philistines. He has apparently made several trips already. His brothers don’t think much of him either. They hear him talking to some of the troops about the lavish reward that Saul has promised to anyone who anyone who kills Goliath. (No taxes for the entire family and one of Saul’s daughters for a wife) They think he is just a little brat trying to get a look at the battle.
Well, I said no one paid him much attention but that is not quite true, King Saul heard that someone was asking about the reward and sent for him. Imagine his surprise when he finds out he is only a boy. David has brave words: “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”  But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock,  I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!  The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”
It is a measure of how desperate and ashamed Saul was that he actually agreed to let David fight on his behalf. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!” In a scene that is sadly comical, Saul dresses the young man up in his armor and sword (one of the only two steel swords they had by the way), but David finds he can’t really move around much with all that weight strapped on him, so he takes it all off and sets out with only his shepherds bag with 5 stones and a sling, along with his shepherds staff, but most important of all he carried his absolute faith in his God. But that was in his heart where no one could see. No wonder Goliath laughed him scorn.
He must have looked ridiculous walking out to battle in only a shepherds cloak.
David replies to Goliath’s taunts with his own confident statement: “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies-the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!  And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!”
There is the lesson I want you to remember – David trusts in God, not in appearances and not in military hardware. As it is stated so many times in scripture, when One is in the will of God, the practical odds do not matter. Just as when the disciple were caught in the storm and were so frightened, once Jesus spoke, the storm was over.
David is victorious with a single stone. The Philistines are dismayed by the astounding defeat of their champion and tried to run back. Well the whole quivering Israelite army suddenly found their courage and chased the Philistines all the way back to their fortified cities. Leaving a trail of bodies all along the way. David keeps Goliaths armor and enters a new phase of his life in service of Saul. Naturally Saul investigates the boys family to see if he is from some powerful clan, but no. he is simply the youngest son of a family from the little village of Bethlehem.
Now Saul has already lost God’s favor and his Spiritual support. He is having troubles with depression and anxiety attacks. So David begins to serve Saul by playing soothing music on his harp. And that’s how David begans. Already secretly anointed by Samuel, the young man now gets to learn in the Kings court how to be a better king. His music helps Saul, and he becomes Saul’s armor bearer as well. Saul sends word to Jesse that David is to stay with him permanently. Saul at least at first is delighted with David and David becomes very close friends with Saul’s son Johnathan. We will focus on their outstanding friendship next week. It was so strong that it prevailed over many difficulties that would normally have made their bond impossible. Saul began to give David more tasks to do – which he always performed very well. He eventually appointed him commander in the army to everyone approval. David was one of those leaders that people are naturally down to. He was open, direct and extremely faithful to his colleagues and his God. Faithful to God and faithful to others. These characteristics marked the young David’s life. They are characteristic we should remember and emulate all our days.
As we will see in the coming weeks, David was not perfect by any means, but he never lost his passion for God and God stood by him even in his darkest days.