If I were say “David and…” Most people would fill in that blank with “Goliath.” That’s really not surprising. Most people know of David and Goliath. We all know what a David and Goliath matchup means, even if we’ve never cracked open up a Bible. It’s the little guy vs. the big guy. Against all odds the underdog goes in and challenges the reigning champion. It’s inspiring stuff. We all want to be a David. We all want to be brave, and confident, and competent. I especially like this this story because the short little guy wins – that’s truly inspiring for a guy of my stature. But, really, what is this story about?
You see a lot of people will say this story is about standing up to your fears. It’s about having courage against all odds. This story is a reminder that even the giant problems in your life can be conquered by you if you approach them with the right mindset. Now, is that what this story is really about? Is this a lesson about how you and I can be a David? No, this is a story about how you and I need a David. But, now how does this story go? It’s a long story – we only looked at a bit of it in our reading this morning. So, maybe just a quick recap.
During the reign of King Saul, the Israelites were dealing with their usual enemy, the Philistines. And these two opposing groups were preparing for battle and were camped opposite each other, but, before battle could be joined, we read a guy named Goliath came out and challenged the Israelites. He shouted, “Choose a man and have him come down to me. 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. Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Now, why? Why were the Israelites so afraid of this one guy?
Well, I think you know: the guy was huge. In the verses before us, you see some strange measurements, cubits and shekels. And, while we don’t have the exact precise measurements of a cubit and a shekel, we can say that, based on the measurements given in these verses, Goliath stood between 8 and 9.5 ft tall, his armor weighed 125lbs, and the tip of his spear was between 15-20 lbs. He had some other guy carry around his shield for him – probably because it was too heavy to lug around everywhere on his own. This guy was a beast, and for forty days we are told Goliath challenged the Israelites to fight him, but we read in verse 24, “whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.”
Then David shows up – he’s bringing some food for his brothers. While walking through the camp, he hears Goliath’s challenge, and then – I just love this – he finds Saul, the king, and says, verse 32, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” And then David talks about how, as a shepherd, he killed a lion and a bear, which is impressive – don’t get me wrong – but it’s no Goliath. But, notice how David said he killed those wild animals, he tells Saul, that the Lord rescued him “from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear,” and so the Lord will also rescue him from Goliath.
This is where we see a rather significant distinction between Goliath and David and note this well. Goliath – right? – he’s all about his heavy equipment, his armor, his size. This is where Goliath puts his trust. David, well, David doesn’t even want the armor that Saul offers him, instead he says, “The Lord will be with me as he always has been.”
Then these two meet, David and Goliath. David had his sling and his five smooth stones and his trust in the Lord, and Goliath his confidence and his armor. They trash talk a little. Goliath says to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” And David responds and tells Goliath that he’s gonna “cut his head off, and in this way the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel….that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.” Then the battle happens.
Goliath, we read, moved closer to attack. (By the way, we never read that he picked up his shield from his shield bearer – he must’ve never watched Star Trek, you never go into battle with your shields down). David takes one stone, and (whooshing sound. Splat!) buries it right in Goliath’s head, and that’s it. David won.
Now, here is my question. Do you think David was afraid? Do you think he maybe had second thoughts as he stood there before Goliath’s gargantuan frame? I think there had to be some fear there. I think he had to, at least in the back of his mind, be wondering if he was about to get crushed by this giant of a man. But you know what David knew? David knew that the God who had already saved him from a bear and a lion could save him from Goliath too. And if God didn’t save him from death in that moment, David still knew he was saved for heaven, because he lived in God’s grace.
You see the lesson here isn’t that you can’t have fear. The lesson here is about what you do in those moments of fear. And we all have them, fears in life. They can be Goliath size fears about things like cancer, marital problems, or what’s going on in the world, but they can also be smaller fears, a guilty conscience, a deadline at work – what do you do in those moments?
In this story – I just want it to be clear – you and I, we are not David. We might be a Goliath. We might be stubborn and full of pride with a “I can do anything I set my mind to” mindset. That might be you. I personally can’t relate to Goliath; it’s the height thing. In all seriousness, more likely, you and I are those Israelites cowering in fear. We wish we were David, but often when we try to be like David, we either end up like Goliath and are overconfident and full of ourselves, or we just fail. Sin, the world, the devil, those things eventually crush us, so what does God do for people like us. How does he save you from your fears, and your sins, and your temptations?
Well, I’ll tell you what God doesn’t do. He doesn’t give us an example or an inspiration, something or someone we can be like. Because again, maybe we want to be like David or we think we are like David, but realize, David wasn’t so great. There’s another famous story about David in the Bible, and in that story David takes another man’s wife, and has her husband, his friend, Uriah, killed. It’s the story of David and Bathsheba. So, do you really want to be like David? Probably not. So, what’s the point of David in this story?
This story it’s not so much about what David did, but what he acknowledge he could not do. Read the psalms of David sometime. There in his writing you see words inked with tears and frustration and confession. Over and over, David tells God, “I can’t do this. I can’t handle this. I am at my end. You, dear God, you alone can help me and rescue me.” In Psalm 124, David writes this, “For God alone my soul waits…He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress…For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him”
Was David the champion on that day as he stood there on behalf of the Israelites army? Absolutely, yes. But, throughout David’s life it is clear that David needed a champion of his own. What does this mean for us?
Well, in Hebrews chapter 11, the writer there begins to list the great heroes of faith. Remember Noah! Remember Moses! Remember David – all these great name that you probably know well– but then the writer to the Hebrews says this in chapter 12, “fix your eyes on Jesus.” You can remember David, but fix your eyes on Jesus, because Jesus is the true champion. Jesus was the one to whom David pointed. “His battle was the Lord’s.”
David only saved his people from physical death. David only risked his life for his people. Jesus saved us all with the cost of his life. David only went into the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus went into death and hell itself. And David needed this descendent of David, he needed Jesus, this champion who stood before a giant. He needed a champion to save him from his own sin. And, here it is, we need this David too, this Savior. You need Jesus.
Because here is the thing, what you’re not going to get out of this lesson today is a message like this: If you do these three easy steps like David, you too can conquer your fears, your sins, your temptations. No, this message from God’s Word is meant for anyone who has looked in the mirror and asked why can’t I be better? Why can’t I do better? Why do I feel like I’m constantly failing and sinning? Have you ever been a person like that? A person, like me? Who wants to lay all things at God’s feet, who wants to believe that God will handle it, but just can’t quite let go and trust? For people like you and me, a message of “try harder” or “face your fears” …well, that doesn’t work. It only brings us closer to the devil and the hell he wants to drag us to.
When we think that it is up to us, that I must do something to defeat the giants that threaten my joy, and my peace, and even my soul. Oh, for goodness sakes, it’s no wonder we keep losing; it’s no wonder we fear. That is why we need a David. A hero to save us, and to give us that victory. That’s what Jesus did for you. He won. He overcame every temptation – we saw that in our gospel lesson – and he did it for you. He suffered for you. He died for you. Now, now he lives for you, and fights for you; he is your strength, and every battle you face in life, it’s his battle too. But know this, his sacrifice has already given you the victory. David knew that and, by faith, so do you. So, fix your eyes on, on Jesus. You need him. Amen.