Apr 29, 2018

“Another One Bites the Dust” 4-29-18

I Samuel 17:32-52
April 29, 2018

Today we are going to look at a story in the bible that has influenced not only our faith, but our culture.  The mention of David and Goliath has become parabolic or metaphoric for a match or fight in which the opponents seem terribly mismatched, and yet in which the weaker, smaller side wins.  The most recent David vs Goliath victor in our time would be the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Today we are looking at the real story from the bible and hope to make a few corrections in some old assumptions along the way.
Once again we see Israel and King Saul going up against the Philistines.  This time the Philistines have a new chief warrior, he is named Goliath and he seems to have been descended from a tribe of big people or giants that had previously inhabited parts of Palestine.
He is described as being 6 cubits and a span in height.  A cubit is 18 inches and a span is 9 inches, so he was described as being 9’9” tall.  That is a big guy, even today.
Because of his size he was able to carry lots of armor and oversize weapons.  His armor is described as weighing about 125 pounds, and the head of his spear weighed 16 pounds.
He was not only their chief warrior; he was also their chief intimidator and hurler of insults. 
At the time, King Saul and Israel’s army were encamped against the Philistine army.  The encampments were located across a valley from each other about a three hours walk West of Bethlehem.
For forty days, each morning and evening, Goliath would come to the front of the Philistine camp and challenge the Israelites to a fight.  He insulted them and their God and suggested that they send just one warrior to fight him. With this fight, a battle could be avoided.  The army of the loser would surrender to the army of the winner. 
Now, the way the passage develops, it appears that neither side was really prepared to surrender if their champion lost.   As you know, the philistine would lose, but his army did not surrender, they fled.  And in sending the young man David out to fight, I cannot imagine that Saul was seriously considering surrendering if David Lost.
David was not a full time member of the army of Israel at that time. Three of his older brothers were serving in the army with Saul, but David was dividing his time between serving Saul as musician and tending to the family sheep in Bethlehem.  As he traveled to the army, he would take provisions for this brothers and their unit.
On his last visit to them at this location, David arrived just as Goliath was offering his challenge and disparaging the army of Israel.
David’s thoughts about this seemed to be in two streams.  First of all, he was indignant for Israel and the God they served.  This pagan giant was insulting Israel and all they stood for.  David was not going to let this philistine, giant or not, get away with this.
And it also seems that he was seeking a reward.  David had heard that Saul had promised that the one who defeated Goliath would receive wealth, and be given the king’s daughter in marriage, and that his family would not be taxed from then on.
David went to Saul and offered to fight Goliath.  Saul said he could not because he was just a boy and Goliath was a giant and a seasoned warrior.
David then gave his qualifications.  As a shepherd he had killed both lions and bears that had attacked his sheep. 
Now, I wonder if every Shepherd had faced such attacks on their flock.  I assume that not every shepherd did, and I wonder if David ever complained about the dangers he faced as the family shepherd.
A few weeks ago, we looked at chapter 16 and saw how, after being anointed to be the next king; David was employed as Saul’s musician, which enabled him to observe the duties and workings of the king and the royal court.
That would have been part of his training to be king, but so would his encounters with bears and lions as he tended his sheep.  He developed confidence in facing obstacles, threats and opponents. 
But I wonder how he had felt as he faced the lions and bears.  I doubt that he saw them as preparations to face a giant or as preparations for being the King of Israel.  Sometimes we need to see the trials we face and have faced as God preparing us for something in his plan for us.
As a dispatcher of bears and lions, David was given permission to face Goliath.  He was also given Saul’s armor and weapons, but David refused them.  He was not used to them and did not intend to face Goliath in hand to hand combat.  That was a losing proposition for sure.
So, he took his sling, and as he crossed the brook, he gathered 5 smooth stones as ammunition.
Now at this point, I want to clear up a misconception.  David’s weapon of choice was not an elastic or rubber band slingshot like the one Dennis the Menace used to keep in the back pocket of his coveralls.
The weapon David chose was an accepted and dangerous weapon.  It was a sling, consisting of two strings, ropes or tendons, with a leather or cloth patch or pocket between them.  One would hold the ends of both lines in one hand, put a stone in the pocket, then swing it over one’s head and release one of the lines so the stone would be propelled toward a target or an enemy.
In the time of David, armies were equipped with soldiers who knew how to use these weapons and who hardly ever missed their targets.
So David went out to face the well-armed Goliath with no armor and a sling and 5 stones.  His target was the forehead or upper face of goliath.  Goliath had a shield being held by another man in front of him and he was wearing a helmet, so the only exposed part of the giant was his face and lower forehead.
Goliath feigned being insulted by David’s presence.  Such a youth with sling could run off dogs, but if Israel thought he was a dog, they were greatly mistaken.  He beckoned David to come to him and he would carve him up and serve him to the birds and animals.
In response, David issued to Goliath what may be one of the greatest speeches recorded in the Bible.  Vs 45-47
He Said, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
Well, you know the end.  David ran toward Goliath, gathering momentum and swinging his sling in perfect coordination, and sent the first stone directly to the only uncovered flesh of Goliath.  He knocked him out and down, and then cut his head off with his own sword.
The Philistines fled and many were cut down in their retreat by the pursuing Israelites.
David, of course was the hero of the day, but he had already given credit to God for the victory.  Because although he did have a good weapon, He had gone against Goliath in the name of the lord.
As have so many after him.
Over the years of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ, Christians have experimented in using military weapons to advance the cause of God.  The Crusades were examples as was the forced evangelization of some of the Native American Tribes.  Most of those attempts failed.
But others, perhaps more in the spirit of David, went up against great powers with only their bodies and the word of God preached and read.  Many have been successful.  But worldly success in these matters is not the real goal.  The goal is to save people into the kingdom of God.
Today we honor some folks who have gone into the world in the spirit of David.  We honor Leonard who was arrested once in China for assisting the underground church and now from Indonesia continues to assist those who are oppressed by the Chinese government.  He and they oppose that great power in the name of a greater power, Almighty God and his victorious Son, Jesus the Messiah.
Tom Overton labors against organized criminals of many nations, who traffic in human beings for profit.  He is only one man, taking his message around the world, but he goes in the name of Almighty God.
The Hurst’s labor against tribal structures and economic powers to evangelize the poor of Bolivia.  They too have gone in the Name of the Lord with the message of God’s love and Salvation.
Andrew Brunson and Zhang Kai are facing giants that have imprisoned them, but they are there in the Name of the Almighty God.
And through your prayers and offerings to the Deacons, you have assisted all of the above.  And in the end, Our side wins.
May Glory and Praise be offered up to God from everywhere forever, Amen.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906