1 Samuel 17:34-37
Sermon preached on April 26, 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.
When I was a kid and played hockey there was a bit of advice that all of us young kids got—and we heard it hundreds and hundreds of time. The advice was simple,
"Keep your head up."
When you first start playing hockey and you get the puck I think one's natural reaction is to look down at the puck. You look down at it to make sure you keep it on your stick. But that's the absolute worst thing you can do. Because if you do that you'll get clobbered. A lot of hockey players love body checking and if they see someone skating with their head down, I mean, it's just the best thing in the world to them. They love creaming people like that.
So the advice to keep your head up is very good advice. But there's more than one reason for it. Keeping your head up sets everything else up. Keeping your head up will also enable you to see where your teammates are. Perhaps one of them will be wide open and if you pass it to him he'll have a good opportunity to score. If you have your head up you'll be able to see that. Having your head up also enables you to see where to shoot the puck. It enables you to see what areas of the net the goalie has covered and which ones are open. When you're moving in on the net you don't want your head to be down—you want to be looking at the goalie and the net. You only look at the puck very briefly, most of the time you use your peripheral vision to look at it. Keeping your head up is probably the best hockey advice there ever was. It's foundational and sets everything else up.
Our text is like that. It gives us invaluable advice about how we are to live and the kind of faith that we are to have in God. When King Saul doubted David's ability to fight Goliath, David said to him,
"Your servant has been
keeping his father's sheep.
When a lion or a bear came
and carried off a sheep from the flock,
I went after it,
struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.
When it turned on me,
I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear;
this uncircumcised Philistine
will be like one of them, because he has defied
the armies of the living God.
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."
The great principle we see from our text is that
you are to let God's past faithfulness give you courage in times of present trouble.
God's past acts of faithfulness to you should assure you that He will take care of you when you face future times of trouble. God's past faithfulness should give you confidence for God's faithfulness in the future. That is the principle that David used as he prepared to face Goliath. It is what you and I are to use as well.
One of the things that the Bible teaches us is that you should have great faith in God.
Weak faith is something that renders you ineffective in serving Jesus. Jesus often criticized His disciples for their lack of faith. Time and again He said to them, (Matthew's gospel has that phrase 5 times.)
"You of little faith."
An examination of those instances is very telling.
They show that a lack of faith renders people ineffective in serving Jesus.
For example, you'll remember that at one point Jesus' disciples asked Him why they could not cast a demon out of the boy. Jesus replied, (Matthew 17:20)
"Because you have so little faith."
It was simple. They couldn't serve Jesus as they should have because their faith was weak. That was the reason they couldn't help the boy. Lack of faith renders us ineffective in doing our duty.
We see this principle in our text as well. Lack of faith made Saul and the other soldiers quake before Goliath. In verse 11 we see that when Saul and the his men heard Goliath's challenge, they were dismayed and terrified. Not one of them was willing to go out and challenge Goliath. Not one of them was willing to stand up for God's honor. David was the only one that had great faith in God. He was the only one that challenged Goliath. The rest had taken their eyes off God. They were trembling in fear. It was their lack of faith that caused that. They didn't think that God could deliver them from Goliath. They did not bring God glory and honor. They were ineffective is serving God.
Lack of faith is very destructive in another way, for
it takes our eyes off God and has us forget what He is like.
It deals with things in terms of human possibilities. King Saul and the rest of the Israelites were oblivious to the great power of God and His love for them.
Remember when Peter walked on the water? He did all right at first, but when took his eyes off Jesus and saw the waves and wind, fear came on him and he began to sink. (Matthew 14:30-31) Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Then Jesus said to him,
"You of little faith. Why did you doubt?"
Weak faith is full of doubt. It doubts God's care and commitment to you. We see this in Jesus' disciples. When they were in the boat with Him and a storm came up, they were afraid they were going to perish. They woke Jesus up and said, (Mark 4:38)
"don't you care if we drown?"
They didn't trust Jesus to take care of them. After He calmed the winds and waves, Jesus said to them, (Mark 4:40)
"Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
Later, when the leaders plotted to kill Jesus, they still didn't trust Him to take care of them. In John 11:7-16 we read about how Jesus suggested that they go back to Judea. They resisted because the last time Jesus was there the Jews tried to stone Him. But Jesus told them that Lazarus was dead and he was going to Judea to wake him up. When Thomas heard this, he said to the rest of the disciples,
"Let us also go, that we may die with him."
They had no idea Who they were dealing with. They were with the king of glory, the Author of life, the One who could raise Lazarus from the dead, the One who had a plan to save sinners, the One who had a plan for them to be His witnesses. Yet they thought that He didn't care for them, that He was going to let them drown. How could they be good witnesses for Jesus if they didn't even know that? The lack of faith that the disciples had in Jesus was absolutely incredible.
Just before that Jesus hand told them that He was the Good Shepherd who was absolutely committed to them. (John 10)
One of the things that we Christians need to be convinced of is that God cares about us and that He will take care of us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He loves us so much that He died for us. He rose again for us. We need to trust Him. He has us in His hand and nothing can harm us. As we read in 1 John 5:18-19,
"We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin;
the one who was born of God keeps him safe,
and the evil one cannot harm him."
Lack of faith forgets what God is like. It forgets God's commitment to His people.
Lack of faith also makes it so that we don't understand situations like we should.
I assume you all know about Miss California's answer to the question about gay marriage. Some have said that she lost the Miss USA title because of her answer to the question about gay marriage. They're talking about how foolish she was.
She stood up for what was right. Her answer wasn't perfect, she stumbled a little at first. But she recovered nicely and gave a biblical answer. Was she foolish? Should she have bit her tongue and gave the judge the answer he wanted to hear? That's what a lot of people are saying. They say that if she had done that she'd be Miss USA and would be getting ready to tour America.
Was she foolish? No. She did the right thing. She understood the situation correctly. It's much better to please God than men. She knew that and she stood firm.
It's weak faith that misunderstands things. We see that in King Saul and all the Israelite soldiers. They totally misread the situation with Goliath. They saw it as a reason to get dismayed and afraid. David saw it differently. Because he had great faith in God, he saw it correctly. He saw Goliath's taunts as an insult to God. He saw that God's glory was at stake. He was going to do everything he could to magnify God's name and bring Him glory. He said to Goliath, (verses 46-47)
"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."
He saw that God's honor was at stake. He saw that there was more to this than two armies fighting. God was going to deliver Israel in such a way that everyone would know that God was the true God and that He could deliver His people even through the efforts of a little boy.
But if you have little faith, you won't see situations that way. You'll see them as things to be fearful about or situations to compromise your principles. Weak faith makes it so that you don't understand situations as you should.
So it's vitally important that you Christians have great faith in God. When it comes time to face your Goliaths—you need to be prepared.
What Goliath will you face in the future? Will it be cancer or some other horrific health problem? Will it be betrayal, where someone very close to you will let you down? Will it be the tragic loss of a spouse or child? Will it be financial loss, loss of your job or business?
How will you respond? Will your faith be shown to be great or will it be shown to be little?
If you're going to stand, you need to have great faith.
The question is:
What can help us have great faith, that can cement it in our hearts?
There are two of things in our text that are helpful in this regard.
First, consider David himself. When King Saul questions David's ability to go out and face Goliath, David told Saul about two of God's past deliverances. He told him the stories of when he was watching his father's flock and how he saved the sheep from the lion and the bear. David acknowledged God in that and gave him all the glory. He said,
"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."
The great principle that we see from this as that
God's past acts of faithfulness to you are to strengthen your faith.
Faith does not operate in a vacuum. Every day of your life God has been good to you, giving you tokens of His love and mercy. As Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:22-23,
"Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Every day you have experienced God's faithfulness. Doesn't that tell you something. It should. It should assure your heart that God will continue to be faithful, that He will continue to look after you. He is leading you to glory. He is preparing a place for you. (John 14) Do you think He will stop? Absolutely not. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6,
"being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Just before he died, Joshua said to the Israelites, (Joshua 23:14)
"Now I am about to go the way of all the earth.
You know with all your heart and soul
that not one of all the good promises
the LORD your God gave you has failed.
Every promise has been fulfilled;
not one has failed."
Every promise of God will be fulfilled. He knew that God was faithful.
It was the same with Abraham. He knew about God's faithfulness. He had experienced it. When he was 99 years old and Sarah was 89, he was told that Sarah was going to give birth to the child who was going to be his heir. He believed God and Isaac was born. What faithfulness God showed. The Bible speaks about that in Romans 4:18f. God proved His faithfulness to Abraham.
Later when Abraham as told to sacrifice Isaac, his heir, the child of promise, he didn't waver. As we read in Hebrews 11:17-19,
"By faith Abraham, when God tested him,
offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
He who had received the promises
was about to sacrifice his one and only son,
even though God had said to him,
It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.
Abraham reasoned that
God could raise the dead,
and figuratively speaking,
he did receive Isaac back from death."
God's past faithfulness with Abraham helped him. Like David, I'm sure that Abraham, when he was told to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, thought back to God's past faithfulness and drew strength from it.
This is a principle that we ought to use. God tells us to use it. In Exodus 19:3-5 God said to Moses,
"This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob
and what you are to tell the people of Israel:
'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,
and how I carried you on eagles' wings
and brought you to myself.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,
then out of all nations
you will be my treasured possession."
They were to call to mind God's past faithfulness. You are to call to mind God's past acts of faithfulness to you. They are to strengthen your faith in God in the present.
Now for those who are younger, who haven't had many conscious experiences of God's great deliverances—what you should also understand, is that although past experiences of God's faithfulness are great and wonderful in giving us courage in trials, there is a greater truth that lies behind them. David mentions this as well in his speech to King Saul. David said,
"The LORD who delivered me
from the paw of the lion
and the paw of the bearÖ"
David referred to God by His name, 'LORD' or "Yahweh".
(In the NIV, whenever you seen the name LORD, using all capital letters, that indicates that it's translating the Hebrew word, Yahweh. Whenever the NIV uses 'Lord', regular case, that indicates that it's translating the Hebrew word Adonai, another Hebrew word that also means 'Lord', but whose essential meaning is that of 'Ruler'.) The name, 'Yahweh', on the other hand, the word that David used before Saul, refers to God as the faithful One, the One who is committed to His people. This name was first revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Moses was reluctant to go to Egypt and lead the people out and he said to God, (Exodus 3:13)
"Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
'The God of your fathers
has sent me to you,' and they ask me,
'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
"I AM WHO I AM.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
'I AM has sent me to you.'
God also said to Moses,
Say to the Israelites,
'The LORD, the God of your fathers—
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob
—has sent me to you.'
This is my name forever, the name by which I am
to be remembered from generation to generation."
Herman Bavinck writes that this name, (The Doctrine of God, p. 105)
“signifies that he who now calls Moses is about to deliver Israel is the same God who had appeared to the fathers. He is that he is, the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Bavinck expounds the explanation of the name Yahweh, He will be that he will be, (p. 105)
“he will be what he has been for the patriarchs, what his is now, and what he will remain: for his people he will be everything. The One who appears to Moses is not a new or a strange God, but is the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable the Immutable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, the One who never leaves or forsakes his people but ever seeks his own and ever saves them, who is unchangeable in his grace, in his love, in his succor, who will be what he is, since he ever remaineth himself.”
In other words, when David used this name for God in his speech to Saul he was calling to mind, not only God's past acts of faithfulness, but the fact that God is the faithful One, the One who can always be relied upon, the One who will never abandon His people. He is not only faithful through one individual's life, but He is faithful throughout the ages. As the writer to the Hebrews wrote, (Hebrews 13:8)
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday
and today and forever."
God can be relied upon, and He will never prove unfaithful. As we read in Psalm 33:4,
"For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does."
God is reliable. Our God is not Someone who will be there for you one day and not the next. You can always trust God. In Psalm 37:25 David wrote,
"I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread."
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 the apostle Paul wrote,
"May God himself, the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit,
soul and body be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful
and he will do it."
God never deserts His people. In 2 Timothy 4:16-17 Paul wrote,
"At my first defense,
no one came to my support,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them.
But the Lord stood at my side
and gave me strength,
so that through me the message
might be fully proclaimed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was delivered
from the lion's mouth."
Lastly, for those of you who aren't Christians.
This passage shows you that you need Jesus.
One day you're going to meet your Goliath and you're not going to be able to defeat him. Your Goliath will be Satan and his desire to cast you into hell. Remember Goliath's attitude toward David and what he wanted to happen to David. He despised David and, (verses 43-44)
"cursed David by his gods.
'Come here', he said,
'and I'll give your flesh
to the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field!'"
Satan will have that attitude toward you and he will want to destroy and have you cast into the lake of fire forever and ever. You're going to be lost unless you go to Jesus.
You're in great danger. Your way of escape is at hand. Jesus is here, right now, offering you deliverance. Tomorrow may be too late. Go to Him now.