1 Samuel 17:12-32
In his book, Lost Moon, Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell tells of a close call he once had while flying a Banshee off the aircraft carrier Shangri-La in the Sea of Japan. It was a very dark night and the problem was that when it came close to the time to land he couldn't find the carrier. He was following a homing signal but instead of leading him to the carrier it was leading him away from it. The homing signal that he was following originated on the mainland of Japan and it was broadcasting on the same frequency as the carrier's. When he realized he wasn't where he was supposed to be, Lovell turned to his knee board. Back then pilots used to have a little board that they attached to the top of their knees. On it was written all the day's communication codes. Those codes were given to the pilots just before they took off and Lovell needed some of the codes to communicate with the carrier. But the problem was that the codes were written in such tiny print that in the past Lovell had had trouble reading them in the dim light of the cockpit. So he had devised what he thought was an ingenious invention. He had collected some spare parts and made up a little light that he attached to his knee board. He could plug it into the airplane's electrical receptacle and all he had to do was flip a switch and it would give him enough light to read the knee board. This would be his first chance to try out his invention. When he flipped the switch there was a brilliant flash of light and then everything went black. He had overloaded the circuitry and it had shorted itself out. He lost every bulb in his instrument panel. He quickly got out his tiny flashlight to look over his instrument panel. He knew that he was in a lot of trouble and thought that he might have to ditch in the sea. After a few seconds he switched his flashlight off and contemplated what he was going to do. That's when he saw it. Far below, he caught a glimpse of a faint greenish glow that formed a shimmery trail in the water. The propellers of the aircraft carrier had disturbed some phosphorescent algae in the water and churned it so that it glowed faintly. Lovell followed this trail and soon found his carrier. He was saved. He said that if his cockpit lights had not have shorted out, he never would have seen the phosphorescent trail. It could only be seen in the pitch dark. The shorting out of his instrument lights had saved him. Deliverance came from a most unexpected quarter.
We see the same thing in our text. God's deliverance for Israel came from a most unexpected place. It was not at all what we might have expected. If I had heard Goliath's challenge and I was King Saul, I'd be saying,
"Okay. Who's the biggest guy we've got?"
But we don't see anything like that in our text. Note the contrast between the scene which ends in verse 11 and that which begins in verse 12. The first 11 verses are dominated by the giant Goliath. What a ferocious enemy he was. But with verse 12 everything changes. The author takes us away from the battle scene to Bethlehem, some twenty miles to the east. The author goes from talking about this giant, Goliath, to a youngster in Bethlehem. The first things he tells us about him do not lead us to expect much of him. We're told about his brothers and how three of them served with Saul. We're told that David was the 'youngest' or 'smallest' son of Jesse. (verse 14) David was not fully grown. When he first told Saul that he would go and fight Goliath, Saul said, (verse 33)
"You are not able to go out
against this Philistine and fight him;
you are only a boy…"
David was merely someone who watched his father's sheep and when he wasn't doing that, he was an errand boy for his father. When Jesse sends David to the army, he doesn't send David to fight, rather he wants him to take some supplies to his brothers and return with news on how they were. The things that Jesse asked David to do were menial, trivial tasks. Yet that small and seemingly insignificant action on Jesse's part was crucial for the deliverance of Israel. David's obedience, to his father, his leaving early in the morning, was also crucial. He arrived just in time to hear Goliath's challenge. The words in verse 23 change everything,
"and David heard it."
Young David from Bethlehem heard Goliath's words. Did anyone notice that David heard? Did anyone care? He was just an errand boy. But when David heard Goliath defy the armies of Israel something stirred in his heart and he was going to do something about it. God used him to work a great deliverance.
There are some important lessons for us here.
The first lesson we see from our text is that
your trust in God should be so great that it will not waver even if things look hopeless.
Last week we saw that Saul and his men were dismayed and terrified when they should not have been. Today we're going to look at one of the reasons why they should not have been terrified. As God's people you should never be afraid because
God's deliverance often comes from the most unlikely sources.
God's power is so great that He is never without instruments to save His people. Sometimes He uses the most improbable instruments to save to show them that no matter how bad things look, He is still able to save them. That's one of the things that young David teaches us.
Last week I quoted from Deuteronomy 7:17-18 where Moses gave then instructions about not being afraid when the faced enemies in the Promised Land. He said,
"But do not be afraid of them;
remember well what the LORD your God
did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt."
You'll remember what God did to the Egyptians. His final act of judgment against them is a lot like the situation in our text.
After the Israelites left Egypt their situation seemed dire. Pharaoh changed his mind and came after them. They had camped near the Red Sea. On the one side the Israelites were boxed in by the sea, on the other side the Egyptians were closing in on them. The situation looked hopeless. They said to Moses, (Exodus 14:11-12)
"Was it because there were
no graves in Egypt that
you brought us to the desert to die?
What have you done to us
by bringing us out of Egypt?
Didn't we say to you in Egypt,
'Leave us alone;
let us serve the Egyptians'?
It would have been better for us
to serve the Egyptians
than to die in the desert!"
To them, it seemed like there was no way that they could be saved. But Moses said to the people, (verses 13-14)
"Do not be afraid.
Stand firm and you will see
the deliverance the LORD
will bring you today.
The Egyptians you see today
you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you;
you need only to be still."
That's when God the thick cloud came between them and the Egyptians and the Egyptians couldn't find them. After that God caused a great wind to open the Red Sea and the Israelites were able to go across on dry ground with walls of water on their left and right. When the Egyptians tried to follow the water collapsed on them and they were all drowned.
Who would have thought that the Red Sea would be instrumental in saving the Israelites? When they first saw it the Israelites thought it was a negative thing. They thought it was blocking their way and preventing them from escaping for the Egyptians. But rather than it being a negative thing, the Red Sea became instrumental in their deliverance. God's deliverances often comes from unexpected places, sometimes from the most unlikely places.
We see the same thing when the famine came upon that part of the world during the time of Jacob. Remember how dark things seemed for Jacob and his sons when the famine was severe in the land? His sons had gone to Egypt and the man in charge had been very harsh with them. He even kept Simeon in prison and didn't allow him to return with them. Jacob's sons told their father that unless Benjamin went down with them the second time, they wouldn't get any food. Not only that, but their silver had been returned. How bleak things seemed for Jacob. You'll remember what he said. (Genesis 42:36)
"You have deprived me of my children.
Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more,
and now you want to take Benjamin.
Everything is against me!"
He asked his sons why they brought this trouble on him by telling the man that they had another brother. Jacob's last recorded words to them before they left were,
"As for me, if I am bereaved,
I am bereaved."
Where was deliverance going to come from? It was going to come from the very man who had been so harsh to Jacob's sons. It was going to come from Joseph. Can you imagine how Jacob felt when his sons came back from the second trip to Egypt and said, (Genesis 45:26)
"Joseph is still alive!
In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt."
Jacob was stunned and he didn't believe them. And it's no wonder. He thought that Joseph was dead. He had seen the blood on his coat of many colors. Yet they told him that Joseph was alive and the ruler of all Egypt. How unbelievable. Yet that's how God can deliver.
We see the same principle taught in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image and everyone was supposed to bow down before it. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused, the king threatened them with the fiery furnace. But they said (Daniel 3:16-18)
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need
to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it,
and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
But even if he does not, we want you to know,
O king, that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up."
What faith they had.
But who would have thought that the fire in the furnace would turn out to be the instrument God used to exalt Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Nebuchadnezzar's eyes? But that's what God used. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. But they were not destroyed. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked, he saw four men walking around in the fire and one of them looked like the son of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar was amazed. He said, (Daniel 3:26-30)
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,
servants of the Most High God,
come out! Come here!"
He then said,
"Praise be to the God of Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego,
who has sent his angel
and rescued his servants!
They trusted in him
and defied the king's command
and were willing to give up their lives
rather than serve or worship
any god except their own God.
Therefore I decree that the people
of any nation or language
who say anything
against the God of Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces
and their houses
be turned into piles of rubble,
for no other god can save in this way."
Then King Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
So I ask you, do you know what King Nebuchadnezzar knew—that no other god can save in this way? The very thing that threatened them God used to exalt them in Nebuchadnezzar's eyes and to give them positions of great honor.
God's power is so great that He is never without the means to save His people. Sometimes He uses the most improbable instruments to save to show them that no matter how bad things look, He is still able to save them.
Now, if that's the case, what should your faith in God be like? It should be like that of David. There's nothing like his words to Goliath, (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
"You come against me
with sword and spear and javelin,
but I come against you
in the name of the LORD Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have defied.
This day the LORD will hand you over to me,
and I'll strike you down and cut off your head.
Today I will give the carcasses
of the Philistine army to the birds of the air
and the beasts of the earth,
and the whole world will know
that there is a God in Israel.
All those gathered here will know that
it is not by sword or spear
that the LORD saves;
for the battle is the LORD'S,
and he will give all of you into our hands."
Your faith ought to be like that. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. All power has been given to Him. No matter how things look, you should never stop trusting God. No matter how bad things look, your faith and obedience should be firm. If God's deliverance can come from the most unexpected places—you should trust God always. You should never be alarmed or fearful. Your trust in God should be so strong that you will have great courage no matter what obstacles you face. This is what Psalm 46 teaches us. We read,
"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall
into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake
with their surgingÖ
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress."
John Woodhouse writes, (1 Samuel, p. 313)
"Even as we are intimidated by whatever threatens us, we are called to put our trust in the God of the unexpected. God can be trusted, but he will act in ways that takes us all by surprise. Who would think that the massive problems of the world and the troubles of human life have their ultimate solution in the execution of an innocent man in a.d. 33 outside Jerusalem and the preaching of the news about him to the nations of the world? God is the God of the unexpected."
For those of you who are not Christians, what you should see from our text is that
this is the pattern with Jesus as well.
With Jesus deliverance came from a most unexpected place. When Jesus went back to his hometown and taught in the synagogue, the people were amazed. They said, (Matthew 13:55-57)
"'Isn't this the carpenter's son?
Isn't his mother's name Mary,
and aren't his brothers James,
Joseph, Simon and Judas?
Aren't all his sisters with us?
Where then did this man get all these things?'
And they took offense at him."
If you're not a Christian you're doing the same thing. You're rejecting your only hope for salvation. In Matthew 21:42 Matthew quoted from Psalm 118:22
"The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes?"
Jesus is the chief cornerstone. He is the foundation of our salvation. We are saved by trusting in Him. Don't reject him. Just like Israel was nothing with David, so we are nothing without Jesus. But with Him, we have life, we have salvation, we have eternal life. Trust in Him now.
Don't be like David's oldest brother Eliab. Eliab looked at David and all he could see was a presumptuous young rascal who had come to see the battle. He totally misread the situation. He despised David. How foolish.
Don't make an even worse mistake. Don't despise Jesus. Go to Him and find life in Him.
Lastly, for those who are Christians, our text shows you that
you should not discount the little things that God calls you to do.
David took good care of his father's sheep. David obeyed his father when he asked him to take supplies to his brothers and find out how they were doing. He began his journey by rising early and setting out to do what his father asked him. It was those things that laid the foundation for the greater things that he would do for the Lord.
Many people want to do great things for the Lord. There's nothing wrong with that. But the way to be first is to put yourself last and serve others. If you are faithful in the little things God will use you for bigger things. In the Parable of the Talents, the master said to the servants who had been faithful in the little things. (Matthew 25:21)
good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things."
Faithfulness in little things, in mundane things, in seemingly insignificant things is very important.
What has God called you to? Right now are there only little things, mundane things in front of you? Do them with all your heart. Comfort those who are going through hard times. Encourage those who are disheartened. Spur them on to love and good deeds. Speak a kind word. Help those in need. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:42,
"if anyone gives even a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones
because he is my disciple,
I tell you the truth,
he will certainly not lose his reward."
God does not judge as man judges. In Mark 12:41-44 we read,
"Jesus sat down opposite the place
where the offerings were put
and watched the crowd putting their money
into the temple treasury.
Many rich people threw in large amounts.
But a poor widow came and put in
two very small copper coins,
worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him,
'I tell you the truth,
this poor widow has put more
into the treasury than all the others.
They all gave out of their wealth;
but she, out of her poverty,
put in everything—all she had to live on.'"
The way to greatness in the kingdom of God is to be faithful in the little things that God calls us to do. Do them with all your heart.