David and Goliath
1 Samuel 17:1-54
Any time a little guy takes on a big corporation it’s called ‘a David and Goliath story.’ Any time a 2nd division football club beats a Premiere League team it’s called ‘giant killing.’
Everyone thinks they know what David and Goliath is about. It’s about the underdog gritting their teeth and pulling off a surprising victory. It’s an inspirational tale for anyone up against the odds: if they toughen up and never lose faith, they’ll triumph in the end, right?
That’s certainly how the vast majority of sermons on this subject go. A quick internet search of the sermon titles offered for this passage yielded the following summaries:
- 7 Principles for facing Goliaths in your spiritual life
- How to face a giant
- Handling the giant fears
- The secret to slaying giants
- Principles of victory
- The faith that conquers
- Kill the giant or be killed
- Frozen by fear
- Success in our spiritual battles
- Pebble power
Such an approach assumes that we ought to put ourselves in David’s shoes. We’re meant to be inspired by David’s courage and to imitate his path to success. It’s the Bible as motivational pep-talk. It’s the kind of Christian encouragement that says: “Do it like David” or “Do it for David”.
But this approach is a complete misunderstanding of the story, of the Bible and of the gospel itself. It turns Christianity on its head. Because if there’s one thing we’ll learn about this story it is not “Do it for David”. Instead: “David did it for you!”
The whole point of the story is that there are only two fighters – everyone else is a spectator.
The Philistine’s champion was called Goliath. Dressed in scale armour he would have looked very serpentine. He is the head of the house of the wicked. And he is over 9 foot tall. Not natural! He’s a supernatural enemy who taunts the people of God day and night (v16). He pictures for us the devil who, Revelation 12 tells us, accuses us day and night.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, “Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us”. And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together”. (1 Samuel 17:8-10)
Notice the kind of warfare Goliath is setting up for us. The battle is not determined by the rank and file of Israel. The battle is determined by these two champions who will fight on behalf of their armies. The soldiers can do nothing to affect the end result. It would not help the champions in the slightest if, behind them, there were an army of motivated go-getters. It would not hinder them in the slightest if their compatriots were a despondent mass of no-hopers. The Israelite army could have its own cheerleading squad, shouting the most inspiring chants known to man. Or they could be asleep. It doesn’t matter. The outcome of this battle has nothing to do with Israel’s strength, or nerve, or willingness or faithfulness. All that matters is the victory of their champion. If their champion wins, the whole nation wins.
This is just as well, because the Israelite soldiers were completely unwilling, absolutely despondent and totally faithless.
Here is how the chapter continues:
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. (v11)
Saul the King was meant to lead Israel in victory. He actually leads them in cowardice. He is a rejected King who cannot deliver his people.
But that’s not the end. The second King, David, will win where the first King fails. He will be their champion and win the battle for them.
This whole chapter screams – You didn’t do it for David, you wouldn’t do it for David and you couldn’t do it for David. But David did it for you.
And David, as we’ve seen, is a messiah (a christ) who was anointed King in the previous chapter. He pictures for us Jesus, our Messiah, our Christ, our Champion.
He steps into the breach as God’s choice. He faces down our mortal enemy. In utter weakness (bearing just a slingshot against a heavily armed giant!) but in total dependence on the LORD, he wins the battle. It’s the ultimate Giant-killing!
And what then happens to the troops? These troops that were cowering from the enemy are now transformed. They look and see their champion who conquered in their name. And what do they do?
the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines (v52)
They look, they shout, they advance. All on the back of David’s victory.
So friends, if we’re not shouting for joy or advancing along in the Christian life, why that might be? Well imagine a joyless, despondent Israelite on the day that David beat Goliath. What would be the problem?
It must be this: the soldier just hasn’t seen the victory. Or they don’t understand their connection to David. But if they know their connection and they see His triumph they don’t need to be told to feel joyful and to advance. Seeing will be believing and believing will move them to action.
If we’re not shouting or advancing in the Christian life, there’s one thing we need to do. Look! Look to our Champion, Jesus who conquered Satan on that cross. In apparent weakness He won the victory and He did it for us.
Don’t grit your teeth and advance anyway. Don’t look to your own strength. Don’t “do it like Jesus” or even “Do it for Jesus.” No. Look again at Jesus and realize He has done it and He’s done it for you. Look at Christ.
Your champion has won the battle. He won it for you when you were weak, faithless, sinful and cowering in fear. Without a calorie of our own effort, our Champion has won the day.
Now shout. Now advance. And to Him be the glory!
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