Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:1-58
Author: Rev. Bruce Persenaire
Dear Brothers and Sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ,
For children who get to hear the stories of the Bible this one is always a favorite. We can understand why. It has action. True, it gets to be a little bit gory at the end but it pits the big guy against the little guy. The underdog wins. It is no surprise that this story would rank right up there as one of the all time favorite stories.
As we take a closer look at this story this morning I want to do just two things with it. I want first to look at this story through the eyes of the world. In this story both the Philistines and the Israelites to some extent represent the world’s view of the story. So do Goliath and Saul. So from the perspectives of the Philistines and of Israel, of Goliath and Saul, I want to look at this story through the eyes of the world.
And then, after we have spent some time looking at this story through the eyes of the world, I would then like to look at this story through the eyes of David. His eyes were much different than those of the other characters who make up this story. He saw the events of this story through the eyes of God.
When we have finished looking at the details of this story from those two different perspectives, I then want to spend just a little bit of time asking you how you see your world and what eyes you see your world through, the world’s or, through God’s eyes.
So lets look at these events through worldly the worldly eyes of the Philistines and the Israelites as well as Goliath and Saul.
What we see then as we look at the events described for us here in I Samuel 17 is two nations pitted against each other. Philistia inhabits the territory of land west of Israel. Since it is west of Israel on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea it cannot expand its territory westward in that direction. It must look east for more land. To the east then is Israel, occupying the fertile Jordan River valley. These two nations have been at war with each other off and on now for a few hundred years. Neither one has been able to completely dominate or eliminate the other. It has been a battle than has seen both sides rise and wane in their attempts to gain more territory and dominance in the region, depending, for the most part, on the ability of their leader. At least that is how it is seen from the perspective of the world. And this battle is no different. In our Scripture passage for this morning we see that the Philistines have entered into Israelite territory, in particular they have entered the territory belonging to Judah, but coming very close to and encroaching on the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. They are there looking to increase their territory and also to place the Israelites in subjection to themselves. The Philistines are feeling pretty confident about their chances against the Israelites. And the reason for their confidence lies in a champion that has risen, quite literally, among them. His name is Goliath, a name that has ever since then always been associated with someone who is tall and large in stature. With Goliath as their champion, the Philistines feel quite invincible. With Goliath as their champion, the Philistines feel as if their gods are now smiling favorably upon them, and will give them victory and dominance over the people of Israel and their god. That is how the army of the Philistines see it.
Sad to say, that is also how the army of the Israelites saw it too. Goliath has had the desired effect on the army of Israel. Israel has allowed themselves to be intimidated by this champion, named Goliath. And no wonder. Look at the details we are given about Goliath. He stands over nine feet tall. This guy is two feet taller than Shaquille O’Neal. This guy would not even have to jump in order to put a basketball into the basket. All he would have to do is reach up and slam it home. He is no skinny giant either. This guy is built. He is strong. He has to be strong. Look at the armor that he wears. The coat of armor that he wears to protect his chest and back weighs 125 pounds. The point of the spear that he threw weighed 15 pounds all by itself. So, judging from the description that you have of this guy, this is not a guy that you want to meet in a dark alley at night. This is not the kind of guy that you want to kick sand in his face and say to him, as the governor of the state of California likes to say to his enemies, “Girly man.” There is good reason why no one in the army of Israel was willing to step forward and say, “I will take this guy up on his offer and fight him.” He was huge and intimidating. And the Philistines used him well to gain the psychological advantage in this battle with Israel.
But now, I must tell you something about Saul, Israel’s king. I need to tell you what the Bible says about him. In order to do that I need you to turn back in your Bibles to the ninth chapter of I Samuel. The first thing I want you to notice about Saul is where he is from. Verse 1 of chapter nine tells us that Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. This battle is taking place very close to the territory that has been assigned to the tribe of Benjamin. This is Saul’s home turf. Saul’s home is being endangered.
Next, notice how Saul is described in that ninth chapter. The first thing we are told about Saul is that he is “a man of standing.” Then, in verse two, we are told that he is “impressive” and a man who is “without equal.” One of the reasons he is considered to be a man of standing, and impressive, and one who is without equal in Israel is because he is at least a head taller than any of the other men in Israel. So, you could say, that Saul too is a giant. Not just because of his height, but also because of his stature.
Now what do we find Israel’s giant doing when challenged by the Philistines’ giant? Verse 11 of our Scripture passage says, “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Dismayed and terrified. The giant of Israel was dismayed and terrified of the giant from Philistia. But you can understand why. Saul was probably at least 2-3 feet shorter than Goliath; and, was probably outmatched by over a hundred pounds of muscle. Not even the promise of great wealth, the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage, and a lifetime exemption from taxes could entice anyone to come forward to take on Goliath in the duel that he demanded. No one stands a chance against him.
Enter David. Now before we look at David through the eyes of God, let us first look at him through the eyes of man, or the world, or even through Goliath. David is young. Probably between the age of 16 to 18. He is not filled out yet as a man, but is still growing in height and in stature. We know this to be true because the armor that is given David does not fit, not only because it is Saul’s, but because he swims in it. He has not yet, physically, fully developed. From the world’s perspective, David is small, even a runt. And, by his brothers, David is seen as a nuisance and even obnoxious. By Saul, David is seen as a fool. David is seen as a boy who doesn’t know what he is talking about. He is seen as a boy who is naive and whose naivete has made him outgrow his britches. In other words, he is a dreamer. But Saul won’t deny the boy his dream. In Saul’s way of thinking, it is better than nothing.
Look also at how David looked to Goliath. After 40 or more days of going out every morning and every night challenging anyone in Israel to a match, finally someone shows up to take up his challenge. But who is this that challenges the giant, the hero, Goliath? It is no more than a boy. A kid with a big mouth. I kind of picture Goliath as this bull mastiff, a breed of dog that was used by the ancients to take down mean bulls in a ring. Some of these dogs weigh as much as 200 pounds. And then there is David. David, I liken to a little Chihuahua. A dog that is all bark, but the moment you take a step toward it, they are more likely to have an accident and run away. If they should be so foolish as to attack you, then they are easily taken care. That is how David must have looked to Goliath. That is how the world would have seen this contest.
But now, now let us look at this contest from God and David’s perspective. The first thing that would not have set well in heaven was the fact that these people even existed anymore, let alone that they dare to set foot on the land that God had promised to His people Israel. A few hundred years ago God had given His people the command to drive out all the Canaanites, among them these Philistines. So what are they even doing here? Why do they exist? As David has put it, why are these uncircumcised heathens allowed to set foot on Israelite ground? This is holy ground. This ground belongs to the Lord. Why is someone so vile and so despicable as these Philistines allowed to set foot here?
That offense is compounded by what their champion says. He curses God. He diminishes God. He talks of his stone and wooden and lifeless gods as having more power and more stature than God, the living God, the omnipotent God. How can anyone in Israel allow this offense to even be spoken, let alone stand? To David’s way of thinking, this is not just about territory, this is about honor. This is about the truth. Why is no one standing up for the truth? Why is no one taking up the Lord’s cause? Doesn’t anyone know that when you fight for the Lord, you fight with the Almighty God, the one who created the universe and upholds it by His hand, that you go in His strength and in His might? What is Goliath to God? Goliath is less than a Chihuahua to God. That is how David views the world. David sees it properly so. David sees the world in terms of right and wrong. David sees the world in terms of good and evil. David sees the world in terms of black and white. And this Goliath, this so-called champion, is wrong. He is evil. That is the world through David’s eyes.
So, what was Goliath to David? What was Goliath to God? When you see the world properly, Goliath is nothing. But now, let me ask you, how do you see the world? Who is presently barking at you, and causing you to become dismayed, even terrified? Allow me, for just a few moments, to put whatever is giving you reason to be dismayed or terrified into its proper perspective. For our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ also once faced some pretty formidable champions of this world. Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, He once faced the principalities and powers of this dark world; He faced Satan and all of his hosts; they all came together to do battle against Him while He walked this earth and especially on the cross. Did our Lord and Saviour think that enemy too formidable an opponent? Did our Lord and Saviour run away from him and hide? Of course not! Our Lord and Saviour took on Satan and all of his hosts and He defeated them, He routed them. What about death, then? Now that is a pretty formidable opponent. Not many, hardly any, have gone to battle with death and won. Maybe for a moment they did, but all have succumbed to its powers, and lost. Was death an opponent that Christ could not defeat? You know the answer to that, don’t you? The song of Easter is that He lives! Death was no match for our Saviour. Then how about sin, or hell. Even though Jesus never sinned, He was made sin. And even though Jesus never did anything to deserve hell, He was made to go to hell for our sins. But was sin and hell a match for Him and His powers? Not at all. Even sin and hell’s bonds were broken, forever, for all those who look to Jesus for their salvation. So, what is it that you face that brings you dismay, or terrifies you, that can compare to Satan and all of his hosts? What is it that you face that is worse than death? What is it that gives you sadness and heartache that can compare to what sin and hell can bring? Don’t you know, that Jesus has slain these mortal enemies of ours so that we can live, right now, victoriously? Don’t you know that Jesus died on the cross to share with us such a joy and happiness that cannot ever be diminished. If you have Jesus, then you have it all! Don’t you?
So how do you look at your world? Do you see it the way David sees it? Do you see it in terms of right and wrong; good and evil? When you go home this afternoon and you click on that television set; or tune in that radio, what kind of world will you see? And how will you discern that world when it invades your living rooms and your automobiles? Are you willing to take a stand? Are you willing, like David, to take those giants of the media and claim them for Jesus Christ? Are you willing, at least, to take on that sin that so easily enslaves you and trips you up and in Jesus’ name say to it, whatever it may be, “No more! Never again! In Jesus’ name you shall no longer has mastery over me.” My friends, we have one who is greater than David to stand with us and for us against all the giants that we confront and that may terrify us. We have Jesus. Remember what the Bible says, “Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” Do I need to run through that verse and identify the two “he’s” found in it? Greater is He, meaning Jesus, who is in me; than he, meaning Satan, who is in the world. That is who we have to fight with us and for us. But you need to see the world through the right kind of eyes. You need to see the world through eyes like the kind David had. You need to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. Are those the eyes with which you see your world? Do you have Jesus living in you? Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Saviour? Has His presence in your life changed the way you look at this world and all that you face in it? Are the eyes of David, and Jesus, the eyes through which you see your world?
Suggested song to be sung before the sermon: #559 “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”
Suggested song to be sung after the sermon: #555 “Lead On, O King Eternal