Sermon: 1 Samuel 17:47
Beloved congregation of our LORD Jesus Christ,
The story of David and Goliath is one of the first children can remember.
When we read it at home from the children’s Bible, my little son sat listening with his eyes wide open.
Afterwards he would go and play in the garden with sticks and ropes –
he of course the small but brave David.
This is also a famous text to preach about.
The heroic courage of David is held as an example to the believers.
Do you have such a steadfast faith as David?
Do you trust God as much as he did?
Do you dare to confront your problems, only trusting God?
You shouldn’t get overwhelmed by your problems.
Rather, you should tell your problems how great a God you have!
Brothers and sisters, these are typical applications taken from this history.
Today, however, it is not my intention to portray David as the great example for us to follow, with the implied message that everyone of us should try and be as brave as David.
To be honest, it would make me – personally – quite discouraged.
Who says that I will be able to accomplish what David did?
I may have good intentions for my life.
But who says I will stick to them in the hour of truth?
Dear brothers and sisters, but I don’t think this is the intention of our text.
Because our text is not primarily about David, or about his faith and courage, or about him being an example to us.
Our text deals with more, much more.
I hope to explain that to you today.
I bring you the Gospel with the following theme:
Theme: The LORD secures victory through his anointed One
1 He replaces the disobedient anointed
2 He himself leads the conquest
1 He replaces the disobedient anointed
In our text it is war.
Israel against the Philistines.
The elected people of God against encroaching paganism.
Not that God’s own people were so good.
At that stage they were perhaps almost as pagan as the surrounding nations.
However, that said, fact was that God had made a beginning with them in a new direction.
He made a covenant with them, and gave them unique laws, a judicial system unknown and incomparable to anything known in heathendom.
Now the war was going on for a while already.
King Saul was in charge of the Israelites.
The armies were on the battlefield.
They were preparing for the final clash.
But then the enemy came with a different proposal.
A tactic sometimes used in martial art, namely: One for all.
Each side selects one individual to fight a duel with swords.
With the agreement in advance: The outcome will be determinative for both sides.
Was this a good proposal?
Was it made to prevent too much blood shed?
I think the Philistines didn’t worry about that.
For them it was purely tactical.
Because they had Goliath – a giant of unprecedented size.
So, this proposal would definitively suit them.
Who will be able to win from him in a duel?
Head and shoulders he was towering above the rest.
Most probably three meters long, a coat of scale armour weighing almost 60kg, bronze greaves to protect his legs, and only the spear of his shaft weighed 7kg.
The Philistines were quite convinced that this man was unbeatable.
And he himself not less.
To put it bluntly: he was extremely arrogant.
Overtly he humiliated the enemy.
Overtly he reproached their God.
So full he was of himself.
A pagan who was a bit cleverer would have done things differently.
He would perhaps try to please the god of his enemy.
He would perhaps try to bribe the prophets of the enemy’s god.
He would perhaps hire a sorcerer to win the favour of the enemy’s god – remember the way Balak did it.
But not Goliath. He could rely on his brute force.
Now we move to the other side.
The side of the Israelites.
As cowards they were hiding in their tents.
Because they didn’t have anyone matching Goliath ...
That’s what we would think.
But don’t draw that conclusion too fast.
Did they really have nobody matching Goliath?
Don’t say too quickly nobody.
What about king Saul himself?
Do you recall, when Saul was anointed as king, what was said about him? What was so typical for king Saul?
Indeed, Saul himself was a big man, head and shoulders he towered above all the other people.
1 Samuel 10:23 “as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people’”.
Indeed, Saul was God’s anointed.
But was he really God’s first choice?
God by then gave his people what they wanted.
It was to test them, to teach them a lesson.
And that very lesson is happening now.
Because what is this anointed king doing now?
What is Saul doing now in the hour of truth?
He being so big and strong, a giant himself, to whom everyone has to look up?
Does he take the lead to defend his people?
Does he stand up to face Goliath?
Will it be a duel between these two giants...?
No. Saul is frightened.
He doesn’t trust that God is in control of the battle.
And that is how we have become acquainted with Saul.
He tries to figure out his own plans.
He doesn’t trust God.
So, at this moment he is indecisive.
The people are waiting with the anointed of the LORD in their midst, but nothing is happening.
They sit and sit, 40 days long.
Goliath can say and do what he wants, and as time goes on, the Israelite army started running out of food.
But the anointed one is not taking the lead.
Even not to terminate that continuous cursing of the holy name of God.
The rest of the history is well known to us.
God arranged matters so that Jesse sent his son David with new food supplies.
David’s brothers, young men, were in military service, and the custom was that everyone had to take care of his own weapons as well as his own food supplies.
And that his how David arrived on the scene.
He also heard the shouting of Goliath, cursing God’s holy Name.
And then the Spirit of the LORD awakens him.
He accepts Saul’s proposition: whoever dares to fight against Goliath, will be rewarded richly.
He will even be allowed to marry Saul’s daughter the princess.
Between brackets, brothers and sisters, this is of course the worst of all. Saul the anointed, the biggest, a giant himself, is too scared, and with nice promises and bribes to others he himself is running away from his duty ...
Nevertheless, God led it that David accepted the offer.
David, not too big a guy, too small and clumsy to use Saul’s sophisticated armour.
But the Spirit of God awakens in him a courage that won’t back for anything.
He is highly upset about how Goliath is defaming his God, as well as his God’s armies.
This could not be tolerated.
The first point of this sermon is: the LORD replaces the disobedient anointed.
He is faithful to his covenant.
Although Saul is disappointing, God does not disappoint.
He takes care of a new anointed.
It is important to realise that this is happening here.
As a matter of fact, this has already happened.
You can read it in the previous chapter – 1 Samuel 16 – where God sent Samuel to anoint David as king.
God in essence had already replaced Saul.
But here – in chapter 17 – he makes sure that it becomes public.
That it becomes clear to his people – a newly anointed one comes to the fore.
This is the context of this part of the book of Samuel.
How God grants a newly anointed one to his people.
After these events the people realised it.
Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands (1 Samuel 18:7).
God replaces the disobedient anointed.
It is important to emphasize this word: disobedient.
Because that was the difference between Saul and David.
The difference between obedient and disobedient.
David wasn’t better, bigger, stronger, or whatsoever.
To the contrary, Saul was the giant in all respects.
But David was obedient.
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the voice of the LORD?” (1 Sam 15:22)
Obedience to God’s commandments makes one walk a straight path.
Even if the road seems to be impassable.
Obedient trust upon the LORD opens the future.
And this is what David – probably to his own astonishment – realised.
It is the LORD who secures the victory.
(Theme: The LORD secures victory through the One He anointed)
(1He replaces the disobedient anointed)
2 He leads the conquest
It is well known what David did to Goliath.
How a small stone from his sling hit him.
How he beheaded the giant with his own sword.
I just want to emphasize again: This wasn’t because David was such a hero.
David could not have imagined it, but all the years that he obediently had to look after his father’s sheep in the field, practising with his sling, sometimes protecting the sheep against danger, God used all of this as an in-service training for this decisive day.
But also, the fact that Goliath’s helmet was such that there was an opening, so that the stone could penetrate Goliath’s head.
All of this wasn’t coincidental, but God’s guidance.
As our text says: the battle is the LORD’s.
Everyone should acknowledge that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves.
Does He save with a sling? Yes, indeed in this case it was the little stone from the sling that did it, proverbially the last drop in the bucket.
But ultimately, it’s all about the anointed who was appointed by the LORD, the anointed who obediently took up his duty.
That is how the LORD secured victory.
Dear brothers and sisters, we often tend to stop with the story here.
David hits Goliath.
David beheaded Goliath.
Victory for David!
Many children’s Bibles stop here, at this climax.
But, dear congregation, the Bible continues.
Because there is an even higher climax.
From verse 51 we read: When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron – that is: deep into their own land.
This is the greater climax.
The second point of the sermon is: He leads the conquest.
This is what we see happening here.
The moment that Goliath fell, the whole atmosphere changed.
All of a sudden, the armies of Israel took heart.
Where they were hiding away in their tents until this moment, with a scared Saul not daring to take the lead, now suddenly, they jump up, ready to fight.
So, what was the cause behind this total change of mood?
It was the fact that the LORD has replaced the old anointed and granted his people a new leader.
An obedient one, trusting Him.
One who dares to take the lead.
One who doesn’t try and bribe others because he is too scared himself.
But one who is prepared to show the way forward.
He went to bear the brunt, and thereafter it wasn’t difficult anymore to follow.
After 40 days the men jumped up to pursue the enemy.
Why not frightened anymore?
Because now they were convinced of the victory!
In essence victory was accomplished already since Goliath was beheaded. Now it was only a matter of – we would say – the finishing touches.
Full of courage the frightened Philistines were pursued deep into their own territory.
This is what is meant with the second point of the sermon: the LORD leads the conquest.
The victory belongs to the LORD.
He takes care of it.
We only must follow.
We only must follow his Anointed.
I started this sermon with the remark that it is not my intention to exhibit David as THE example for us.
To be honest, it makes me feel inferior.
Will I be able to accomplish what David did?
Am I a hero in faith?
Dear congregation, perhaps we apply this history in the wrong way when we try to measure ourselves with David.
I think it is more correct to compare ourselves not to David, but to the armies, to the soldiers.
We are frightened, we have little faith.
But the moment when God is doing something great, we jump up.
The LORD leads the victory.
His anointed will bear the brunt, and thereafter we only have to follow.
We wage our spiritual battle not in a desperate way, as if the outcome is still undecided.
Victory has already been secured.
We fight from victory.
God has done great things and we follow.
We are privileged to be his soldiers, busy with the finishing touches.
Dear congregation, I have explained that it is not the purpose of the chapter to propagate David as the big hero.
The emphasis is rather on the fact that the LORD is busy to give a new anointed king to his people, an obedient one.
Anointed, that means specially appointed by God to lead his people.
But let us not fix our eyes on David.
Because although David compared quite well to Saul – he was obedient, his heart was open and sincere before God, and that wasn’t the case with Saul. Nevertheless, David also had many shortcomings.
As anointed king he in the end was also disappointing.
This is how it goes with all humans, the longer you know them, the more you realise their mistakes, their weaknesses, their shortcomings...
David was no exception.
He was a leader, an anointed, who led the people on the path of the LORD, but he also had serious misdemeanours. Sins.
Think of the episode with Bathsheba.
And the episode when he counted the people.
Think of all the conflicts within his own family.
An imperfect anointed indeed.
When one reads the Old Testament, it is clear that God sent many anointed ones to his people – kings, prophets, priests ...
But at the end of the day all of them were disappointing.
The Old Testament only illustrates to us what the New Testament begins with.
That the perfect anointed, the ultimate leader, wasn’t David, or Solomon, or Hezekiah, or Josiah, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah.
They were all but shadows of Jesus Christ.
He is God’s perfect Anointed, his own Son.
He was sent to replace all those disobedient and imperfect anointed ones. He is the only leader that will not disappoint.
In the decisive battle He was to one to bear the brunt.
He was the first to conquer death.
He was to first to be resurrected from the grave, not to die again.
His heroic deeds made God’s children take heart again.
To return to the history of David and Goliath, when we apply it, don’t compare yourself to David.
That’s not the intention of this chapter.
David is portrayed here as the new anointed, the obedient anointed.
If we want to compare, then Jesus Christ must be compared to David.
He is the newly anointed appointed by God.
And He even surpasses David by far, in obedience, in bravery.
As the armies looked up to David and marvelled at him after Goliath was beheaded, so we look up to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
In the battle against sin, the devil, and his whole empire, He has taken the lead.
He has obtained the decisive victory on Golgotha.
And we can pursue the enemy now, knowing that victory has already been secured.
Christ surpasses David by far.
And to be honest, we as soldiers also surpass the Israelite armies by far. Because we are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and we have the armour of God, the sword of the Word of God.
And we fight having our starting point in the victory already obtained by Christ.
Just as Goliath was beheaded, so today the battle is not undecided.
Although we may feel like a minority.
Although secular society seems to get away unpunished with their apostasy.
This won’t be for ever.
We know that victory has been obtained.
We are busy with the finishing touches.
Christ is completing his victory; we are privileged to be involved.
Things cannot go wrong anymore.
Do you live with that conviction?
Indeed, what an encouragement, things cannot go wrong anymore!
So, all in all this chapter doesn’t have to lead to feelings of inferiority.
The purpose of this chapter is to make us joyful and confident.
In verse 52 we read: the men of Israel pursued the Philistines with shouts of joy.
They weren’t afraid anymore.
Today we can rejoice in the victory of Christ.
The spiritual battle has been decided.
Death, where is your sting?
In Christ we are more than conquerors.
So, keep on concentrating on this – matters are not undecided.
Nowhere in the world.
It is your calling to continue your life, obedient to God’s Anointed One.
Go the way Christ shows you, obey his commandments.
Don’t try and be a hero in faith in your own strength, that is demotivating. Expect blessing from God in the concrete way of obedience to his will.
Don’t think that way is impassable.
Christ has paved it.
If He wants you to go in that direction, then go.
Obedience to God’s Anointed, that will bring you to your destination.
And remember – you may rejoice.
Compared to what Christ has achieved, our problems are definitively surmountable.
In Philippians 4:13 we read: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
He has already taken care of everything.
Let the whole world know that the LORD does not save by sword or spear, for the battle is the LORD’s.
Votum & Salutation
Scripture reading: 1 Samuel 17
Text: 1 Samuel 17:47