1 Samuel 17:1-11



Sermon preached on March 22, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.


If you could go back in time and observe some events in history—what historical events would you choose to watch? If someone was a conspiracy theorist I'm sure one of their choices would be Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963, the day that President Kennedy was shot. They'd position themselves so that they'd get a good look at the grassy knoll to see if there were any shooters there.

Being a preacher, one of the things I would pick would be to go back to the 1740's and hear George Whitefield preach. Whitefield's preaching was so musical and well toned that Garrick used to say that said that Whitefield could make people weep by the his enunciation of the word, 'Mesopotamia'. (My pronunciation of some words has brought some to tears as well, tears of laughter.)

But I think my first choice would be to go back and observe much of Jesus' earthly life. Wow. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to do that?

But after that, I think my second or third choice would be the battle between David and Goliath. Wouldn't you like to see that? What a scene it must have been! It was almost unbelievable—that David would be able to defeat Goliath. Yet he did.

It's a great story and it has much to teach us. This morning we're going to look at the first part of it, the prelude to the story, where the scene is set and Goliath's might is made known.

The main thing I want you to see from our text is that

Saul and his men were dismayed and terrified when they should not have been.

Goliath came out in front of the Israelites and issued his challenge. Then he said,

"This day I defy the ranks of Israel!
Give me a man and let us fight each other."

In verse 11 we read,

"On hearing the Philistine's words,
Saul and all the Israelites
were dismayed and terrified."

The word that is translated 'dismayed' by the NIV has connotations of great fear. It sometimes has the meaning of 'broken into pieces' and when used in regard to men it portrays them as being 'all shaken', as the Revised English Bible translated it. The HSCB translates it in terms of courage, the lack thereof. It says that Saul and his men 'lost their courage'. So what we should understand from this is that they were not just a little bit dismayed, but rather that they were completely demoralized. It's like they had lost all hope and that they knew they were going to be defeated.

The second effect that Goliath had on Saul and is men was one of terror. Verse 11 also tells us that they were 'terrified'. The word that is used here is sometimes used in other places in the Bible to express great terror, the kind of terror that one feels when he is facing certain death. For example, it's in 1 Samuel 28:5 of King Saul just before he was killed fighting the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. We read,

"When Saul saw the Philistine army,
he was afraid;
terror filled his heart."

That's what Saul and his men were like before Goliath. They were quaking at the knee, like men who had no hope, like men who knew they were doomed. They were totally demoralized and so filled with fear that they were incapacitated.

I've never been so terrified that I couldn't do anything, except in a nightmare I once had. I grew up near the railway tracks and in back of our house there was a huge ravine that the railway tracks went through. It was an absolutely great place to play, we used to go from side to side and play war and pretend that we were shooting at the train. We used to have so much fun there. But I had a dream once that I was in that ravine crossing the tracks without looking and when I got in the middle of the tracks I looked and a train was barreling down on me. I tried to move my legs but it was like they were like lead and they wouldn't budge. It was the most terrifying nightmare I ever had. What a horrible feeling. I was in such danger that it totally incapacitated me. I couldn't do anything to save myself.

The effect that Goliath had on Saul and the Israelites was something like that. They were paralyzed with fear.

What's really significant about this is that

this was the very thing that God told His people not to do.

In Deuteronomy 7:17-18 Moses gave instructions to the Israelites about driving out the nations from the promised land. The land that the Philistines inhabited belonged to Israel and they were supposed to drive them out, so Moses' instructions are very applicable to Saul and his men. God said,

"You may say to yourselves,
'These nations are stronger than we are.
How can we drive them out?'
But do not be afraid of them;
remember well what the LORD your God
did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt."

God told them to trust in Him and not be afraid. Then in verse 21 of Deuteronomy 17 the very word that is translated 'terrified' in our text, referring to Saul and his men, is used by God. He said,

"Do not be terrified by them,
for the LORD your God,
who is among you,
is a great and awesome God."

Saul and His men should not have been shaken and terrified. To quote the instructions that God gave Joshua at the beginning of the conquest of the Promised Land, (Joshua 1:5, 9)

"No one will be able
to stand up against you
all the days of your life.
As I was with Moses,
so I will be with you;
I will never leave you nor forsake youÖ
Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified;
do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God
will be with you wherever you go."

So Saul and his men were doing the very opposite of what God had told them to do. He told them not to be afraid, not to be terrified. Yet when they saw Goliath and heard his words, they quaked before him.

According to Deuteronomy 17 the basic problem with Saul and his men at this point was a lack of faith.

They were being like the 10 spies who came back to the Israelites after looking over the Promised Land. Ten of the 12 spies came back with a bad report. They said, (Numbers 13:27-33)

"We went into the land to which you sent us,
and it does flow with milk and honey!
Here is its fruit.
But the people who live there are powerful,
and the cities are fortified and very large.
We even saw descendants of Anak there.
The Amalekites live in the Negev;
the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites
live in the hill country;
and the Canaanites live near the sea
and along the JordanÖ
'We can't attack those people;
they are stronger than we are.'
And they spread among the Israelites
a bad report about the land they had explored.
They said, 'The land we explored
devours those living in it.
All the people we saw there are of great size.
We saw the Nephilim there
(the descendants of Anak
come from the Nephilim).
We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes,
and we looked the same to them.'"

What a lack of faith. The result was devastating. We read, (Numbers 14:1-4)

"That night all the people of the community
raised their voices and wept aloud.
All the Israelites grumbled
against Moses and Aaron,
and the whole assembly said to them,
'If only we had died in Egypt!
Or in this desert!
Why is the LORD bringing us to this land
only to let us fall by the sword?
Our wives and children
will be taken as plunder.
Wouldn't it be better for us
to go back to Egypt?'
And they said to each other,
'We should choose a leader
and go back to Egypt.'"

They wouldn't listen to Joshua and Caleb who told them they could certainly do it. Joshua and Caleb said to the Israelites, (Numbers 14:7-9)

"The land we passed through
and explored is exceedingly good.
If the LORD is pleased with us,
he will lead us into that land,
a land flowing with milk and honey,
and will give it to us.
Only do not rebel against the LORD.
And do not be afraid
of the people of the land,
because we will swallow them up.
Their protection is gone,
but the LORD is with us.
Do not be afraid of them."

But rather than listen to Joshua and Caleb the Israelites talked about stoning Moses and Aaron and choosing another leader to take them back to Egypt.

The problem with Saul and his men was like that. They didn't have enough trust in God. Rather than trusting in the promises of God and believing them, they were looking at things with earthly eyes, they were thinking in terms of human possibilities.

From an earthly perspective, they seemed to have reason to fear.

Consider the might and strength of Goliath.

He was over 9 feet tall. Can you imagine?

I grew up hearing about the feats of a certain Giant MacAskill, who lived in Cape Breton in the 1800's. The 1981 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records lists him as the tallest natural giant who ever lived, the strongest man who ever lived, and the man having the largest chest measurements of any non-obese man (80 inches). He was 7 ft 9 inches tall and was known for incredible feats of strength. He routinely carried around 300 pound barrels, one under each arm. It was reported that he could lift a hundred pounds with two fingers and hold it at arms length for 10 minutes. As a bet, he once lifted a ship's anchor to chest height. The anchor weighed over 2700 pounds. Queen Victoria heard about his feats and invited him to give her a demonstration of his strength at Windsor Castle. Afterwards, she said that he was,

"the tallest, stoutest and strongest man to ever enter the palace".



Now that's one guy I wouldn't want to get angry with me.

But Goliath was a foot and a half or two feet taller than Giant MacAskill! He was over 9 feet tall. He wore 126 pounds of scale armor. (Scales recall the serpent in the Garden.) And that's not counting the armor on his legs and the or the bronze javelin slung on his back. He had a spear with a 15 pound head. Wow. And he was fierce. He defied the ranks of Israel. Remember what he said to David when he saw him? He cursed David by his gods and said,

"Come here and I'll give your flesh
to the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field."

What a formidable enemy.

Yet they should not have been afraid.

They should have believed the promises of God. They should have remembered what God did to the Egyptians. They should have remembered how God delivered the city of Jericho into their hands. They should have remember God's words to Joshua— be strong and courageous.

But perhaps most important of all,
they should have remembered Abraham's faith. How different they were from Abraham. Romans 4:18-21 tells us about Abraham's belief in God's promises.

"Against all hope,
Abraham in hope believed
and so became the father of many nations,
just as it had been said to him,
So shall your offspring be.
Without weakening in his faith,
he faced the fact that his body
was as good as dead—
since he was about a hundred years old—
and that Sarah's womb was also dead.
Yet he did not waver through unbelief
regarding the promise of God,
but was strengthened in his faith
and gave glory to God,
being fully persuaded
that God had power
to do what he had promised."

Saul and His men should not have been afraid. It should have been Goliath who was afraid. Remember Hannah's prayer at the beginning of 1 Samuel. She said, (1 Samuel 2:10)

"those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed."

Psalm 2 that teaches us the same thing. It speaks about the kings of the earth taking their stand, and the rulers gathering together against the Lord and against His Anointed One. But what can they do. It says that in response, (verse 4)

"The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them."

The Psalm ends with the words, (verses 10-12)

"Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him."

Goliath defied the ranks of Israel. By defying them he had defied God. Because of that David knew that God was going to destroy the mighty Goliath deliver the Philistines into the hand of Israel.

Think about it. At the beginning I talked about going back in time and watching this whole scene.

Imagine if you went back in time and got to watch lead up to the battle and hear Goliath's challenge, would you be dismayed and terrified like Saul and his army?

No, of course not. You'd have no fear at all. You'd be thrilled. You'd be amazed. As everything unfolded you'd get more excited and more excited. You would know that this was going to be David's finest hour. You would know that this was going to be decisive moment in Israel's history. You would know that God's deliverance was going to be glorious. You wouldn't be afraid at all. You'd just be waiting for Goliath to fall. And you'd marvel at God's deliverance.

That's the kind of faith that you're to have all the time! God's promises are true. They will certainly be fulfilled. That's the way that you should view them. It's interesting in this regard that there was a literary technique that some of the Old Testament prophets used in their writing that showed how certain God's prophecies were. It's called the 'prophetic perfect'. They would actually use the past tense to refer to future events. So certain were these events of coming to pass that they could refer to them as if they had already taken place.

That's the kind of faith you are to have in God's promises.

The implications of this are great.

First, as a church,

We must not be afraid as we go out with the good news of Jesus Christ.

The society we live in is very intolerant of Christianity. We have formidable enemies. But we should not be afraid. As Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7,

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power,
of love and of self-discipline."

We should go out in confidence, being bold and fearless. We have great promises from God. God has said to us, (Hebrews 13:5)

"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

Now this does not mean that we are going to win every battle. Nor does it mean that we are not going to suffer. No. Tradition has it that every one of the apostles except John died a martyr's death. We also know that Stephen was stoned to death. (Acts 7:59-60) So I'm not saying that we won't suffer or even appear to be defeated. No. What enemies the church is going to face. Revelation 13 is telling here.

"And the dragon stood
on the shore of the sea.
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea.
He had ten horns and seven heads,
with ten crowns on his horns,
and on each head a blasphemous name.
The beast I saw resembled a leopard,
but had feet like those of a bear
and a mouth like that of a lion.
The dragon gave the beast his power
and his throne and great authority.
One of the heads of the beast
seemed to have had a fatal wound,
but the fatal wound had been healed.
The whole world was astonished
and followed the beast.
Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast,
and they also worshiped the beast
and asked,
'Who is like the beast?
Who can make war against him?'
The beast was given a mouth
to utter proud words and blasphemies
and to exercise his authority
for forty-two months.
He opened his mouth to blaspheme God,
and to slander his name
and his dwelling place
and those who live in heaven.
He was given power to make war
against the saints and to conquer them.
And he was given authority
over every tribe, people, language and nation.
All inhabitants of the earth
will worship the beast
—all whose names have not been written
in the book of life belonging to the Lamb
that was slain from the creation of the world.
He who has an ear, let him hear.
If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance
and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
Then I saw another beast,
coming out of the earth.
He had two horns like a lamb,
but he spoke like a dragon.
He exercised all the authority
of the first beast on his behalf,
and made the earth and its inhabitants
worship the first beast,
whose fatal wound had been healed.
And he performed great and miraculous signs,
even causing fire to come down
from heaven to earth in full view of men.
Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast,
he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.
He ordered them to set up an image
in honor of the beast who was wounded
by the sword and yet lived.
He was given power to give breath
to the image of the first beast,
so that it could speak and cause
all who refused to worship
the image to be killed.
He also forced everyone, small and great,
rich and poor, free and slave,
to receive a mark on his right hand
or on his forehead,
so that no one could buy or sell
unless he had the mark,
which is the name of the beast
or the number of his name."

What enemies the church faces. But we must not be afraid. God is working in and through His church. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said to Peter,

"And I tell you that you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades
will not overcome it."

Ephesians 1:19-23 speaks about God's 'incomparably great power for us who believe.' It says,

"That power is like the working
of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church,
which is his body, the fullness of him
who fills everything in every way."

We should not be afraid as we go out with the gospel. In Matthew 28 Jesus gave the Great Commission and told us to go out and make disciples. At the end of it He said,

"And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."

We must be bold. More than anything else the world needs to gospel of Jesus Christ. We must go and boldly tell others about Jesus.

This also means that

as an individual you should not be afraid and you face your trials.

What are your threats? What are your fears? What is the Goliath in your life? Is it the threat of some great sickness? Is it the fact that others have disappointed you? Is it the fact that you have no prospect for marriage? Is it financial hardship? Is it divorce? Is it loneliness? Is it the prospect of years in jail?

You must not be dismayed. You must not be terrified. You are here to live for Jesus. Some of the fruits of the Spirit in this regard are joy, peace, patience, self-control. You are to exhibit them even in the face of trials. You are here to shine for Jesus, to be a good witness for Him no matter what happens to you. You are to have confidence as you face trials. As we read in 1 Peter 1:3-9,

"In his great mercy he has given us
new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish,
spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,
who through faith
are shielded by God's power
until the coming of the salvation
that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief
in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith
—of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire
—may be proved genuine
and may result in praise,
glory and honor
when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him,
you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and are filled
with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the goal of your faith,
the salvation of your souls."

The last thing we should understand from our text is that

you need a hero to save you.

Goliath's challenge to Israel was that instead of the whole armies fighting, two heroes would fight and decide the outcome.

Your situation is like that. The Bible teaches us that when Adam sinned, sin came upon all men. (Romans 5:12, 18) When Adam sinned we all lost. We are unable to save ourselves. What a formidable enemy Adam's children face. It's much worse than a mere Goliath. We face our sins, and they alone are enough to undo us. We face our sinful nature, which ensures that we will sin. We face Satan, who hates us and wants to destroy us. We also face all his helpers. On your own, you're lost.

But thankfully, there was someone else able to fight for us, Jesus Christ, the second Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) He was able to defeat our great enemy and save us. In Romans 5: 18-19 the apostle Paul compared the work of the first Adam and contrasted it with the work of the second Adam.

"Consequently, just as the result
of one trespass
was condemnation for all men,
so also the result of one act of righteousness
was justification that brings life for all men.
For just as through the disobedience
of the one man the many were made sinners,
so also through the obedience of the one man
the many will be made righteous."

We can only be saved by Jesus. As we read in John 3:16

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

In order to be saved you need to trust in Jesus. Ask Him to save you today.