- Hebrews 11:32-40
- 2 Samuel 17:8-11, 32-37, 45-51
There was nothing usual about the Philistine, called Goliath, the champion. He was the go-between for his people who represented them and dictated the terms of engagement:
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.” (1 Samuel 17:8–9, NIV)
This giant was more than nine feet tall. His bronze helmet protected his head. His upper body was covered with a coat of scaled armour weighing fifty-seven kilograms. His legs were also protected by bronze armour. In other words the man’s defences gave all the appearance of being impenetrable. He was a one-man army.
He carried a large curved sword across his shoulders. His spear was “like a weaver’s beam”. Its iron head weighed more than 7.5 kilograms. A servant carried a big shield before him, providing complete protection.
Why do we battle?
Some weeks ago I told you of the rugby match between a team of our insignificant school against the champions of the big school. The pure sight of the size of our opponents made us ask ourselves, “Why are we here?” “Remember, you do it for your school,” were the words echoing in your ears. On the pavilion was draped the banner with the embroidered Crest of the school. That spurred us on.
It was a different story with Israel on the other side of the Elah valley.
This giant shouted with a chilling voice his thunderous words echoing over the valley. Shaking in their boots on the other side were the Israelite army. Saul and his men were terrified and dismayed. The Hebrew word used in verse 11 tells us that the voice of the giant made them fall apart. They were demoralised and scared stiff.
“Why do you come out and line up for battle?”
Israel’s eyes were on the Philistine giant. They took their eyes off God. They wanted to have a king like the other nations, but now that king was terrified, maybe even sitting in the shadow of his tent well behind the battle lines. So they forgot why they went up for battle.
Goliath distracted them, and they fell for it. “Are you not the servants of Saul?” (v. 8) You’re in the same boat as your shaking king, stricken with terror, in distress.
Once again the giant thundered:
“This day I defy the armies of Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:10, NIV)
He scorned and despised God’s armies. Do you remember the school yards fights where a line was drawn in the sand, and the aggressor would spit on the ground and then tread on it with a turning ankle to send the message, “So I will trample upon you!” It was only the brave who would dare to overstep that line.
That day in the Valley of Elah the people of Israel with their very eyes saw and with their very ears heard the enemy. They saw him spit on the ground as he drew the line in the sand.
In the Valley of Elah we see the important reality of which the Bible often speaks—the enemies of God and his people. What we need to understand by faith is that the enemies of God and his people are more terrifying and powerful than even the menacing giant Goliath.
All of us face an enemy, an army of enemies, as real, powerful, and terrifying as Goliath. Death wields its terrible sword and mocks us all. Sin threatens to bring us down. Satan himself seeks whom he may devour.
(Woodhouse, J. (2008). 1 Samuel: Looking for a leader (p. 309). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)
Paul further makes this statement,
having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; Christ has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:14–15, NIV)
The only threat which Satan can hold against us is not that we sinned against him; he can only accuse us for what we did against God—but that is what Christ cancelled on the cross, where He made a spectacle of Satan.
My dear friend, are you a Christian? Are you on the Lord’s side? Have you left the world’s side? Do you understand that the conflict might be fierce and the foe be strong? Are you sure you want to be the soldier in an alien land?
On what grounds and why have you come to the battle line? I am not asking; your enemy wants to know. He wants to scare you, he wants you to turn around and run?
Not for weight or glory, not for crown or palm,
enter we the army, raise the warrior-psalm
but for love that claimeth lives for whom He died
he whom Jesus is calling must be on His side.
Round his standard ranging victory is secure
For his truth unchanging make the triumph sure
If you can not sing this song, the fear of Satan will overcome you; but then the salt has become useless, and it is only good to be trampled upon. Unfortunately many Christian soldiers have put down the armour out of fear; they also believe the deception of those who keep telling them there is not really any war raging; all will be conquered by love! “Peace! Peace!”, while there is no peace—that was the message of the false prophets of all time (Micah 3:5).
Choose your man!
Let me tell you about another hero. He captures the minds of millions of people, adults and children alike. He possesses the ability to fly under his own power, incredible strength and near impossibility to be harmed by anyone. His eyes can emit bursts of heat, while vision ranges from the microscopic to the telescopic. His vision is also capable of a broader spectrum than human eyes, able to see x-rays and radio waves. He can hear faint sounds amongst a bustle of noises by concentrating. His lungs are capable of holding air for long periods of time in environments without oxygen, and the ability to compress this air and exhale it in a freezing capacity.
In many ways, he is the most human of us all. But when he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. After all, he is the protector of Earth, living and working as a normal man. When disaster necessitates it he would tear his normal work clothes off him, only to reveal his true colours. He is your man in times of need. You can rely on him. His enemy should not pick a barney with him. And he only does good things. He is the legend, Superman! Would our enemy stand against him?
Our chapter shifts to a newcomer on the scene. He was the youngest of his brothers, small in stature, ruddy, but handsome. His was there on his father’s command. With him he had roasted grain and bread. He arrived when Goliath thundered another warning across the valley. The armies of Saul were shuddering with fear and ran for shelter. He left the proviant with his side-kick and ran closer. His eldest brother belittled him for even being there, but he did not give up. In the end he was right in the presence of the king.
“Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (1 Samuel 17:32, NIV)
Don’t be silly, you need protection; you need armour.
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. (1 Samuel 17:36, NIV)
Notice the perspective of David: no uncircumcised (heathen who oppose God) has the right to disparage the people of God. God made a promise to Abraham, whomsoever curses him and his descendants, God will curse. (Genesis 12:3)
Goliath regarded the Israelites as the men of Saul; and so did the Israelites. David saw himself as a man belonging to the family of the God of Armies (God of Hosts).
With only five stones from the brook, David approached Goliath and his shield bearer. The giant despised him. David saw the spear, the javelin and the shield, but by faith he saw God Almighty and said to the Philistine,
I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45, NIV)
Don’t mess with Almighty God.
“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 17:47, NIV)
David took the initiative; he ran up to the giant. The giant fell because of the stone, and David finished him off with his own sword. There was nothing magical about the stones in his bag; it was not his skilful swinging of the sling; it was God’s power at work.
The man of God’s choosing
Let’s go back to the challenge of Goliath. “Choose your man.” The Israelites did not even move a finger to do so. But one chapter back (and we will go there in time) God made a move.
In Bethlehem Ephrathah, the place where also Samuel’s ancestors came from, was a man with eight sons. God had sent Samuel to him because “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (16:1) David was not the eldest, not the tallest, not the smartest—like his father and the others he was insignificant in the big scheme of things. From the Psalms he wrote, and from his testimony before Saul we understand that his wholeheartedly trusted God. This is a man of God’s choosing.
And David was a forerunner of our Saviour, the Man of God’s choosing. Christ was despised and derided, and even Pilate scoffingly presented to Him as “your man” (John 19:5). With his face marred by blood running from the crown of thorns, and gaping wounds on his back because of the flogging, they mocked Him as king as they hanged a purple robe around Him. Our Lord declared to Pilate, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
Then they crucified Him. And so He achieved victory of Satan, sin, hell and death.
You might hear the hellish taunt of Satan when you enter the battle under the banner of Christ, but then you have to tell him boldly, “I chose the Chosen One who forgave me and gave me his righteousness. I’m not strong, but He is. Every knee shall bow before Him and acknowledge that He is Lord. And you, father of the lie, will spend all eternity bound up in the pit. Mess with me, and you have to deal with the Son of God.” You might shiver saying words to this effect, but the Holy Spirit of God will be with you till the end. That’s Christ’s promise.
Have you chosen Him to be your King?
The king is dead; long live the King!
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 15 October 2017