Sometimes there are big surprises in sport. Sometimes those you expect to win come last. Sometimes teams like Bradford City beat Chelsea in the FA Cup. And when these sporting surprises and upsets occur, we call it a ‘giant-killing’ act. Our Bible reading this morning contains the original giant-killing act. An act by a boy named David that made him really famous. An act that advanced David’s journey to the throne of Israel.
As we look at this familiar story today, I want us to look at the difference between faith and fear. And I want us to realise that the battle between David and Goliath is a signpost, not just a story.
But before I go further, let me pray: Father, as we look at your Word this morning, help us to understand what its saying, and hear its true message. In Jesus name, Amen.
Israel invaded by Goliath the giant! (v.1-10)
1 Samuel 17 begins with an invasion. The land of Judah has been invaded by the Philistines, and the Promised Land is under attack. The people of Israel must have feared for their future and, led by king Saul, sent their army to meet the invaders.
When the two sides met, and looked at each other across the Valley of Elah. The Israelites must have been terrified by what they saw - because the Philistine army included a massive man. A giant called Goliath who was huge! The Bible tells us that Goliath was nearly 9 feet tall - taller than anyone we will have ever met. He was so big and so tall he would have been a brilliant basketball player, a terrific rugby player or a stocky centre forward in football. But Goliath’s profession was of course as a warrior, a soldier in the Philistine army.
As well as being physically strong Goliath had some strong armour and enormous weapons:
- In verses 5 to 7 we are told that Goliath had a big bronze shield, and wore armour plates like scales on his chest – he must have looked a little like a snake.
- Goliath also had a long javelin on his back, and a tall spear in his hands - with a huge heavy point on its end.
The Bible tells us that giant of a man came and shouted at the Israelite army. He taunted the Israelites and their God. He also arrogantly challenged the Israelites to a duel. If someone fought him and won, then the whole Philistine army would surrender. But if he won, Israel must give in. If Goliath won, God’s people would lose their land and God’s promises would be broken. Israel might as well have stayed as slaves in Egypt rather than travel to the Promised Land. When Goliath taunted King Saul’s army both God’s honour and Israel’s survival were at stake. Goliath was defying God’s plans for his people.
Saul’s fear and David’s faith (v.11-39)
For forty days Goliath came out and challenged someone from Israel to a fight. But the Israelites were far too terrified to fight him. Goliath looked much too big and strong. Even Saul, the king of Israel, was too scared to fight the giant.
But there was one person in Israel who had faith not fear. There was one young man who was willing to fight against Goliath. One shepherd boy who believed that God would save his people. And his name, of course, was David. As soon as David heard about Goliath, he knew he had to be stopped. And if no one else from Israel’s army would fight Goliath, then he would.
Can you imagine how surprised King Saul must have been when David came to him and volunteered to fight Goliath? Saul saw that David was only a shepherd boy, and thought he would be no match for the giant. But David insists. In verses 34 to 37 David says that he has killed wild lions and bears when they have attacked his sheep, and he can do the same with Goliath. More than that, David believes that God is with him. David knows that he has God’s Spirit within him. And David trusts that God will use him to protect his people and preserve their place in the Promised Land.
David’s faith is a great example to us today:
- Because, like David, we should trust that God keeps his promises. David believed that God would keep the Israelites in the Promised Land. And we should believe the wonderful promises that God makes to every Christian today. His promises to guide us by his written word and strengthen us by his Spirit. His promise to forgive us for Jesus’ sake. And his great promise to give us eternal life in the world to come.
- Like David we should also have confidence that God can help us in difficult situations. For example, if we are the only Christian in our family, friendship group or place of work. Or situations when we face illness, isolation or an uncertain future. We should tell ourself what David told himself on the day he encountered the giant. We should tell ourselves that God is always with us by his Holy Spirit, ready to give us the courage, stamina, and wisdom we need in the situations we face.
- And like David, we should be upset when God is mocked or ridiculed. We should share David’s passion to honour our Creator, and be passionate about sharing the good news of Christianity to a confused and needy world.
Confronted with David’s faith, King Saul eventually let him fight Goliath, and even offered him his own armour to wear. But it was too big and heavy for David. David was a shepherd not a soldier, and he wasn’t used to having a helmet, shield and sword. All he needed was five stones, a stick and a sling.
God’s victory over Goliath (v.40-50)
Goliath must have laughed when he saw little David walk towards him. He must have thought he was in for an easy victory. But he didn’t realise David had God on his side. Goliath didn’t realise that David was the person God had carefully chosen to save his people and become their king one day.
With a “whizz” and a “thud” it was all over. David used his sling to throw a stone at Goliath’s head. It flew straight through the air and hit him in the forehead, and he was dead. Thud!
The rest of the Philistine army fled, and God’s people, the people of Israel were saved. David was the hero of the day! He must have become Israel’s number 1 celebrity overnight! One day soon, in fact, he would replace Saul as Israel’s king by popular acclaim.
A signpost not just a story
David and Goliath is a great story. A story we have probably all heard many times before. But you may not know that the story of David and Goliath is also a sign-post. The battle between David and Goliath is a signpost to a bigger battle that took place one thousand years later. It’s a signpost to the battle that took place between Jesus and the forces of sin, death and evil.
You see, like David, Jesus a young man was sent by God to save and shepherd his people. Jesus was a man sent to do battle with the forces of evil on our behalf. Forces even more intimidating than Goliath the giant. For example:
- Jesus fought the devil when he tempted him in the wilderness. Jesus quoted God’s words when the devil tempted him to do wrong. He disarmed Satan with words of Scripture.
- Jesus also overcame the power of sin and the crushing weight of our guilt before God when he died on the Cross for our salvation.
- And best of all, Jesus defeated death when he rose again from the grave on Easter day.
When David defeated Goliath, the people of Israel were on the winning side. As Christians, we are on the winning side, because we share in Jesus’ victory over evil, death and decay. As Christians we enjoy the forgiveness, life and hope Jesus won for us, just as the Israelites enjoyed the spoils of David’s victory over the giant.
So next time you hear about David and Goliath, remember it’s a signpost as well as a good story. It’s a signpost to Jesus, the best saviour and the greatest hero that anyone could ever hope to have.