1 Samuel 17:32-51
Sermon preached on April 20, 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.
Today, April 19, is the one hundred and first anniversary of a great story. One hundred and one years ago today Sir Wilfred Grenfell was trapped on an ice pan in the Atlantic Ocean. Grenfell was a medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador and on April 19, 1908, Easter Sunday, he got word that a boy in a village 60 miles away needed his help. He quickly hitched up his dog sled and set off to help the boy. At one point he decided to shave many miles of his trip by taking a seven mile shortcut across a bay. The ice appeared very well packed and he felt he could make it. He was within a quarter mile of the other shore when the wind suddenly changed and started blowing offshore. The ice quickly broke apart and Grenfell's komatik sank. He cut his dogs loose and very quickly found himself drifting out to sea on a ice clamper of just a few square feet. The story of how he survived makes for great reading. (In fact, I have an audio book of it that if any of you want to borrow, just let me know.) Grenfell took certain steps to enhance that chances of his survival that remind me of the lead character of the 80's TV show MacGyver. Grenfell's narrative is an incredible story. Yet when I recently listened to the audio book of it, I noticed that there weren't many references to God in the story. There were some, but I would have expected many more from a missionary. Grenfell didn't spend much time acknowledging God's providence in his rescue and the end of the story wasn't full of expressions of gratitude to God. Now don't misunderstand me. I'm a great admirer of Grenfell and I expect that he expressed those sentiments elsewhere, but they were largely absent from the story I read. Grenfell himself may have recognized this for near the end of the story he wrote, (Adrift On An Ice Pan, p. 36)
"It is time to bring this egotistic narrative to an end."
It was an egotistical narrative, one that compares poorly with David's words before Goliath. David gave expression to some of the greatest words ever spoken regarding faith in God—giving God all the credit and glory. These are words to live by, words that show us what our faith should be like; words that show us how much we should be acknowledging God in our daily lives. David said 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."
David's speech to King Saul was the same. When he recounted the story of the lion and bear attacking the sheep he was looking after, David didn't take any credit for himself—he gave all the glory to God. He said, (verse 37)
"The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion
and the paw of the bear will deliver me
from the hand of this Philistine."
David did not ascribe his success against the bear and the lion to luck, to his quickness, to his great skill with a knife or anything like that. Rather he gave all the glory to God.
There are three great lessons for us to learn from this passage.
The first is that
in all things you are to give glory to God.
David did not think that he was a hero. He did not think that his name deserved to be remembered. He was concerned only about one thing—God's glory. His words to Goliath extol the Lord, His power to deliver and His faithfulness to Israel.
David's words were very necessary. Dale Davis writes, (1 Samuel, p. 180)
"Goliath is not merely the big goon from Philistia, Goliath's blabbering dishonors Israel's God."
Goliath represented human might and arrogance. He was supremely confident in his own abilities and he had nothing but disdain Israel and her God. He was not only opposed to God's plan of salvation for Israel but he despised it and did everything in his power to keep it from coming to pass.
David met Goliath's arrogance head-on. Every sentence of his speech to Goliath magnifies God's name. He is concerned with God's honor and glory. He wants God to be acknowledged and His fame to be spread abroad.
And that's the way it should have been. Indeed, David here gives us an example that we should be careful to follow. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:31,
"Therefore, as it is written:
'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'"
In that passage Paul summarized the teaching that God gave His Old Testament people through the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 9:23-24 Jeremiah wrote,
"This is what the LORD says:
'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,' declares the LORD."
If we are going to boast, we should boast in the Lord. That's what David did.
David gives part of the rational for this in verse 26. He said to the men of Israel,
"Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy
the armies of the living God?"
David knew that the God of Israel was the living God. David's God was not a figment of his imagination. He was not like the idols of the nations, which the psalmist described in Psalm 135:15-18,
"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear,
nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them."
In contrast to that, David knew that Israel's God was alive. He is the living God, the One who gives life and breath to all things. As the apostle Paul testified to the philosophers at Athens, (Acts 17:24-28)
"The God who made the world and everything in it
is the Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples built by hands.
And he is not served by human hands,
as if he needed anything,
because he himself gives all men
life and breath and everything else.
From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us.
'For in him we live and move and have our being.'"
God gives us everything we have. We are living our lives in His hand. This means that we should be acknowledging His love, His care and our total dependence upon Him. As the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."
We are to live God centered, God glorifying lives. And this is not just in the big things that we do, but in the everyday things as well. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31,
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God."
God is everything to us. What can you do without His help? In John 15:5 Jesus said,
"I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."
We can do nothing without God's help. He gives us the strength and ability to do the good works that we do. Indeed, in Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us,
"For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."
The good works that we do we only do because God prepared them for us. So it is quite proper that we give Him glory for the things that we do.
At the end of his manuscripts, the great composer J. S. Bach would write "S.D.G." They were the beginning letters of the Latin phrase, "To the glory of God alone." He wrote his music for the honor of God. He wanted God to be praised through his music.
If you don't give credit to God you're similar to Stacey King, who used to play basketball with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls. On the day that Jordan scored a career high 69 points, King scored 1 point. After the game he said,
"I'll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points."
What makes that so funny is that it's so ridiculous. His contribution was next to nothing and yet he was right there, taking credit that belonged to another. If we don't give God credit in everything we're even worse that King, because we can't do anything on our own. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:7,
"For who makes you different from anyone else?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?"
Christians, give God praise, honor and glory.
That's what David did. Indeed, we need to be careful that we don't focus on David's skill or bravery here. Indeed, the one main lesson we should learn from his here is his passion for God's glory. This is what we should imitate. Dale Davis writes, (p. 190)
"in this chapter David essentially says to Israel and to us: 'Yahweh's reputation is at stake; that matters to me; that matters enough to risk my life for it."
You should have that passion.
The second thing we see about giving all glory and honor to God has to do with the fact that
David was fearless and confident.
David not only acknowledged God—but he did it with confidence. He stood before King Saul with absolute assurance of victory. He said to Saul, (verse 32)
"Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine;
your servant will go and fight him."
He was supremely confident. He was the same way before Goliath. He said,
"This day the LORD will hand you over to me,
and I'll strike you down and cut off your head."
What a contrast between David—and King Saul and the rest of the soldiers. Verse 11 tells us that when they heard Goliath's words,
"Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified."
But not David. He was brave. He was fearless.
I ask you—which honored God—David or the rest of the Israelites? David of course. Do you see the point? David was able to shine for God because he was fearless and confident. King Saul and the rest of the Israelites were not honoring and glorifying God. They couldn't because they were afraid. Fear cancels out any effort to honor God.
David knew that God was on his side. He knew that God would deliver Goliath into his hands. David had a specific promise. He knew that he could not fail. He had been anointed by Samuel. God had promised him that he would be king over Israel.
It was the same way with Moses. He had specific promises from God and that's why he could stand before Pharaoh and not be afraid. After he left Egypt and saw the Egyptians coming after them, he said to the people, (Exodus 14:13-14)
"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."
He was brave and confident. Therefore he was able to bring much glory to God.
Now we don't have specific promises like David and Moses. But it makes no difference. We have general promises and having them should be enough to give us courage and confidence. For example, in Matthew 28:20, right after Jesus had told His disciples to go into all the nations, He said,
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
In Hebrews 13:5 we are told that God has said to us,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
If God is with us, we can be like David, like Moses. Indeed, fear is incompatible with our mission.
In so many places we are told not to be afraid. One example is John 14:27 where Jesus said,
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
In the book of Acts Paul and the other disciples were often told not to fear, not to be afraid. The general promises should be enough to give us courage and confidence like David had. If you're going to honor God, you need to be brave and fearless.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had such confidence. When King Nebuchadnezzar told them that he would throw them into the fiery furnace and that no god would be able to rescue them, they replied, (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."
How they glorified God. It was the same way with Jonathan in chapter 14. He said to his armor-bearer,
"Come, let's go over to the outpost
of those uncircumcised fellows.
Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf.
Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving,
whether by many or by few."
He didn't know that God was going to give him victory. But bravely he went forward.
So Christians, be fearless and confident when you acknowledge God. Don't be fearful.
Thirdly, if you're going to bring glory to God it means that you'll have to confront foes that come from many different directions.
In this short story we see that David had to confront opposition from three sides.
First there was family opposition.
He oldest brother Eliab despised David and rebuked him. David could have been discouraged. But he was not. He turned away and expressed his zeal for the Lord to some of the other soldiers.
Sometimes it's hard for Christians to tell family members about God. After all, they are familiar with us. They know our failings, our faults. If we try to tell them about Jesus they might mock and ridicule us and put us down. Christians, don't let that stop you from telling them about Jesus. Be holy, be passionate for God's glory even in your own family.
Secondly, there was opposition from authority.
King Saul told David that he couldn't go out against Goliath because he was only a boy and Goliath had been a fighting man since his youth. But David was determined and gave glory to God in front of Saul.
In the future it seems that Christians, if they are faithful to Jesus, are going to face opposition from authorities. If we continue to stand up against abortion, against homosexuality and other sexual sins—we are going to be accused of promoting hate. Many countries have made it a crime to witness—and tell Christians that they are not allowed to try to convert people. In the book of Acts the disciples knew all about such opposition. But they were told by God not to be afraid, (Acts 18:9) to continue to proclaim Christ, show love to all, and have weapons of righteousness in the right and the left. (2 Corinthians 6:7)
Christians, be strong and courageous. We have a duty to witness, not just to individuals, but to those in authority. (Acts 24 & 25)
Thirdly, David faced Goliath and his rage.
Sometimes unbelievers will use threats and physical violence against those who are serving Christ. Be like David. Before Goliath he was undaunted. He praised God in the face of death. He was going to stand up for God's glory even if it put his life in danger.
So Christians, acknowledge God when you accomplish something. Give Him praise, glory and honor. Stand up for God's name, God's honor. God's name is profaned all around us. Do you stand up against this great evil? Or are you afraid to take a stand? Are you afraid to tell that person that you are offended by their profaning God's name, but that there's some One who is much more offended, and that they need to stop.
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,
this passage shows us the folly of living for anything except God's glory.
Goliath as so sure of himself. He was so arrogant. If you're not a Christian, you're probably a lot like Goliath. You have confidence, not in God, but in your own ability.
But it will all be in vain. Your life is being wasted. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says,
"Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that
your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
Labor for the Lord is not in vain. But everything else is. (Ecclesiastes)
David's work in 1 Samuel 17 points to the work of Jesus. He came in weakness. He came to do battle against the enemy that was too strong for us. Like David he defeated him for us. He did it by taking our sin and dying for it. He did it by rising from the dead for us.
Put your trust in Jesus. He's you're only hope. If you remain opposed to him, like Goliath remained opposed to God—you'll perish. Go to Jesus today. Ask Him to save you.