Maybe it’s just because I’m a guy. Maybe it’s because I was raised watching boxing with my dad. Or maybe it’s entertaining to everybody. I don’t know. But I love to watch a good fight. I’m not talking about street-fighting or when some loser punches his wife. I just mean I like to watch 2 athletes box or wrestle or kick box or Karate or that MMA stuff in a ring. And the best fights are always when the underdog wins.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whole Rocky movie but isn’t that the premise behind most of them? Rocky is too young or too old or too something and he surely can’t win the big fight…but he does. I think everybody likes a story like that even if you don’t like to watch boxing. Maybe that’s why they made 6 of them and I think they made just about as many Rambo movies but that’s another sermon.
I did a little research, and you know what that means. I googled it and found out that everybody likes an underdog and it is true in every sport from boxing to tiddlywinks but it is also true in every other aspect of life. When we have a political season coming up you will hear certain politicians being referred to as the underdog.
Don’t be fooled. That is not an accident. If somebody calls them an underdog they are most likely being paid by that politician to say it because politicians know that being an underdog works heavily in your favor. Studies have shown that being labeled an underdog can make your actions seem more virtuous and your face appear more beautiful. (The Underdog Effect -Why do we love a loser? By Daniel Engber)
Being labeled an underdog gives the impression that you try harder, have more heart, more courage and more gumption. And that may or may not be true but that is how we look at underdogs. What it boils down to is that everybody likes an underdog because everybody sees themselves as an underdog.
We can all relate to being the underdog and for most of us we never seem to win anything and so we root for the underdog because we long for some kind of justice in this world. How much more so when we see the underdog as being young and pure and on the “right” team and his opponent is just a big ol’ meanie-headed jerk! Which is what makes the story of David and Goliath such a timeless classic and the perfect underdog story.
If you would like to read along with that story, turn to 1 Samuel 17. And since most of you may not have read this story in a good while, and probably haven’t turned to the book of 1 Samuel in a while, I will set the story up for you as you find your place in 1 Samuel chapter 17. The Samuels are in between the books of Ruth and 1 Kings.
I have been looking forward to preaching from this passage for a long time. It is one of my all-time favorite stories in the whole Bible. I have said many times that I grew up reading about David growing up and now it seems like we are old friends. And this story has fascinated me since before I could read it for myself. And it has continued to fascinate me as I have been studying it lately.
I called my mom just this week and said, “Mama! Did you know that Goliath was 9’6” tall??? His armor weighed 150 pounds! The head of his spear alone weighed like 16 pounds! That’s incredible!” I felt like a little kid again saying, “Mama, look at this!” I love this story! It has action, drama, suspense, an underdog and a big ol’ meanie-headed jerk. And the big ol’ meanie-headed jerk gets his big ol’ meanie head cut smooth off. How great is this?
But I’ll tell you what else it has. It has a twist in the story. Because it looks like as you read it the first time that the story is all about David and Goliath. But while this story does star those guys, the Author, the Producer, the Director and the One who made it all happen is God. This story is more about God than it is about David or Goliath. Let’s read the story and we will see on the other side why I say that.
1 Samuel starting in chapter 17. I’m not going to read the whole chapter but I will read most of it. And it’s ok. I promise it won’t take any longer than usual so just sit back, relax and enjoy “Story Time” this week.
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. 12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. 17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah[d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance[e] from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.” 20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
Now skip over to verse 32. 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 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. 36 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. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” 38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So, he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. 41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” 45 David said to the Philistine, “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. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 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.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. 51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp. 54 David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem; he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.
Isn’t that a great story? Do you believe it’s true? I hope so. I sure do. And while some scholars disagree about just how tall Goliath was – some say only 6 something while others say he may have been as much as 11 feet tall – it doesn’t matter. Again, as in all great biblical stories, critics want to pick it apart and say that there is no way this could have happened because of such and such reason. I won’t even go into the ridiculous things they said about this story. Either God did a miracle or He didn’t.
Either the story is true or it isn’t. Either the whole Bible is true or none of it is true! And when you get distracted by debating if Goliath’s helmet covered his forehead or not or if both of his legs were covered in armor or just one of them, then you miss seeing what this story is all about. I want us to see that God intervened here. I want us to see that it was God’s grace and mercy at work, not a slingshot.
I want us to specifically see that God gave David a divine encounter. God gave David divine talent. God gave David divine confidence. And then God gave David divine victory. Look again at verse 23 to see how God gave David this divine encounter. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.
Do you think it is just coincidence that David showed up when he did? Do you think it was just good luck, good karma, chance, fate or happenstance that David happened to be at the right place at the right time to hear Goliath defy Israel and God Himself? Do you think it was coincidence that it was 40 days exactly that he had been doing this when 40 days in the Bible is nearly always symbolic of trials or testing?
So often, God shows up in the Bible and brings relief at 40 days. And that is exactly what He does here with this little teenaged shepherd boy from the sticks. God brings about this divine encounter and does it in a way that only God can do. And what do we call it when God does something only God can do? That’s called a miracle. And miracles don’t happen by chance, good luck or certainly not by some made up thing called karma.
Why did God give David this divine encounter with Goliath? Was it to show how strong David was or how brave he was? Or to prove he should be king while putting Saul in his place? Was it because nobody else was able to defeat Goliath? No. In fact, I am confident that if David had not been obedient to what God told him to do that God could just have easily have used any other man, woman, child or tree on the battlefield to do the job.
God would have found somebody else to do it and David would have had to suffer the consequences of disobedience while the other was blessed for his obedience. And either way, God gets the ultimate glory, not the person. And I will tell you why I am so confident in saying that in a minute but we see in our next point that God gave David divine talent. He gave him the divine encounter with Goliath and now we see in verses 34-37 that God also gave David divine talent.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 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. 36 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. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
Now, when I say that God gave David divine talent, I, of course, do not mean that God gave David the talent to be divine or to be god-like but that the talent was a divine gift. And it was obviously a God-given gift that David had to be able to kill a much more powerful enemy. This is not Samson who had great strength. God had given David the talent and the ability to think straight under pressure, to be able to move quickly and to do what was necessary to kill a lion and a bear.
Now, don’t you wish you had that kind of talent? And if you do…why? Because what possible good would it ever do you? When would the ability to kill a lion and a bear be of any use? What about the ability to use a slingshot? Wooo, there’s a talent! Big deal, right? Don’t you know David must have practiced with that slingshot a thousand times, wondering what good it would ever do in the scheme of things?
I bet he prayed, “God give me some real talent. Sure, I’m good with this stupid slingshot but I want a real talent that will help me in life.” Doesn’t that sound ridiculous now? How God must have smiled to hear a prayer like that from David! And how He must smile when He hears a prayer like that from you! Because He knows what you don’t know; that He is going to give you a divine encounter with somebody and He is going to use you to bring about change in their life because He has gifted you with the talent that person needs.
And you can choose to use your so-called “insignificant” divine talent to pray or to read or to use the internet or ride a motorcycle or use a slingshot to God’s glory and be blessed by it or God will find somebody else and bless them while you suffer the consequences of squandering your divine talents. Phillips Brooks once said, “It is almost as presumptuous to think you can do nothing as to think you can do everything.”
God hasn’t called any of us to do everything. But He has called all of us to do something and He has provided the talents and abilities to do it for every one of us. And when that divine encounter comes for you and you have the opportunity to use your divine talent, you can have divine confidence like David did. Let’s look at verses 45-47 to see that.
David said to the Philistine, “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. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 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.”
That’s big talk for a little boy! How does a guy like David get that kind of divine confidence? Because if it were me looking across the field at Goliath the warrior I think I would have remembered the verse that says, “Be still and know that He is God.” Instead, it says that David ran toward him. Did you see that in verse 48? David picked up 5 stones and took off running toward Goliath. And maybe it’s just because I’m such a big fan of David’s that I think he picked up 5 stones because Goliath had 4 brothers behind him. But I don’t know that.
How do you know when to “Be still and know that He is God” and when to run toward the warrior? Because both take divine, God-given confidence; not confidence in yourself, but that God is going to do what He said He would do. And that is where that confidence comes from. It comes from knowing what God says and believing it.
And for David, we know he was taught the scriptures and I believe it was a scripture like is found in Deuteronomy 20:1-4 that gave him his divine confidence. Let me read that to you. This is a passage that David would have been familiar with, I’m sure. It says, “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Now, as much as I would love to claim that verse, I can’t. It is not a promise to everyone in the world. It was given to the children of Israel and as a child of Israel, David could claim that verse and I believe he did, (or one similar to it) knowing that God was the One going with them to fight and that it was God that was going to bring about the victory.
David shows up on the battlefield, hears Goliath and thinks, “It’s not that he is so big that I can’t win. He is so big I can’t miss because God is going to do the fighting.” And while we can’t claim that particular verse and say that every enemy we are going to come across is going to be defeated, we do have thousands of other promises from God in His Word that we can hang on to because we know what it says and we believe it!
When God says He will never leave us; that He is our shield, our rock, our fortress, that His name is a mighty tower; when He says He will give us rest, He will give us a full and abundant life, He will give wisdom, forgive sins and not forsake His people for His great name's sake then we can have confidence in that to the point that we know without a doubt that He will use our divine encounters with our divine talents to give us that divine confidence which will ultimately result in divine victory.
Let’s look how that worked out for David in verses 50-51. He has divine victory. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. 51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
All the “Rocky’s” 1-6 can’t compare with that! Some people might think this is not as big of a miracle as parting the Red Sea was but have you ever tried to use a slingshot? Especially one like David had? This was no small miracle. In fact, because of that one kill, the ladies back home made up a song that went, “Saul has killed his thousands but David his tens of thousands!”
David had only killed one guy but the ramifications of that were bigger than just Goliath. It changed everything for David and for all of the people around him as well. God loved them so much He wanted to give them victory. And God could have just done it. God could have struck Goliath down with a heart attack. But as we saw last week and we see again here, God allows us to be a part of His plan.
When we take advantage of our divine encounters and use our divine talents, He gives us divine confidence based on His promises. And He does it to bring us to divine victory through Him and for Him when we are followers of Him.