1 Samuel 17 – David and Goliath
I. People love the story of David and Goliath. The image of the young, little guy going up against the warrior at the peak of his power stirs our imaginations. In this story we discover the little guy is not without resources. He has what it takes to be the hero.
Illus: Remember that the heroes in the movie E.T. were children who used the resources of children to understand E.T. in ways that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not. Then, the movie ended with that great escape scene – kids using bicycles to escape the government’s siege.
This was a David and Goliath moment!
[Illus:] Some of you are too young to remember, but since it began in 1976, Apple Computer trailed Microsoft miserably in sales and capitalization. Apple has been the David; Microsoft a Goliath.
In April of this year, Apple Computer, for the first time, earned a quarterly profit greater than Microsoft. In just the past twelve months the market capitalization of Apple exceeded Microsoft for the first time. From their beginnings, Microsoft has been the Goliath of the computer world able to run over or buy out its competition. All this time, Apple has been the little guy. It has taken this long, but Apple finally has the products that people want to buy. It appears that Apple is the David that has finally won over the computer world.
We love the idea of the underdog who is willing to go up against the big, entrenched powerhouses. We have all known little guys who used skill and luck to win against all the odds.
In a way, the story of David and Goliath has become a paradigm for tiny Israel as it goes up against the much larger and more populous nations around it. This story is woven into the psyche of that nation. Because they are small in number; the people of Israel have to be smarter, quicker, more daring if they are going to succeed. And, against all odds, the nation of Israel has managed to do just that.
[Illus:] Remember the Raid at Entebbe? In July 1976 an Air France airliner bound for Israel, carrying 248 passengers was hijacked by members of the PLO and flown to Entebbe, Uganda. Shortly after landing, all non-Israeli passengers, except one French citizen, were released. The standoff went on for many days until a special forces team from Israel flew down, landed at Entebbe, attacked the hijackers and rescued the passengers. Little Israel, against hostile nations, great distances and terrible odds, pulled off the raid that set their people free. It was masterful. It was David and Goliath all over again.
Watch the way Israel works in the world. Despite their small size, they use David’s cunning in dealing with larger, better equipped enemies. They are good at it.
[APPLIC:] At a human level, we can all take encouragement from young David. We might be smaller and weaker than our adversaries. But, if we are smarter and willing to take risks, we might just beat the stronger, better established competition. All kinds of disadvantaged people have taken encouragement from this story:
+small companies competing against bigger ones;
+unknown candidates running against long-time favorites;
+or even oppressed minorities striving for equal rights.
The Davids have to be quicker and willing to take risks, but the evidence is that they just might win the day.
Let those among us who yearn to see a sidelined minority step forward to take its place find encouragement in this story. Pin it up alongside your mirror where you dress in the morning. Commit this story to memory.
III. Still, there is more to this story than the hope that the little guy might beat the bigger competition. David did not go up against Goliath merely claiming to be quicker and smarter than his opponent. He went up against Goliath convinced that this was God’s battle, not just his alone.
Instead, this is a story mainly about God. As Bruce Birch said in the New Interpreters Bible Commentary on 1st Samuel:
The truth in this story is that God is ultimately in opposition to arrogant and self-serving power and its violence. *Trust in God* nurtures hope that there is a way into the future where there seems no way, that there may be a chink in the impregnable armor, that a well-placed stone of opposition can bring down seemingly impregnable systems of oppression that loom as armored giants (2).
What David *said* at the battle with Goliath is just as important as what he did there. You see, Goliath wanted to set the terms of the battle. He wanted Israel to send out one champion to engage him in battle; the winner would take the day. Further, he wanted to use the weapons of his choosing: the spear, the sword, the armor, and the shield were his weapons of choice.
David, on the other hand, stepped forward to speak out for God.
45 David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 The LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."
Let every little guy who fights for the oppressed find the voice to speak for God. What we fight for is not just ourselves but is for the God who calls us to freedom. It is not just to right our own wrongs; we fight so that all those who are oppressed can know justice. On that day when David fought against Goliath, the courage and the great principles of the little guy made this a victory not just for himself but for his whole nation.
[EX:] When this nation was nothing more than a colony of the British Empire, patriots who came before us fought for this nation’s independence. They did not fight for themselves only; they fought for liberty and self-determination. They fought for generations that they would never see. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
[APPLIC:] In 2012, the David’s who will stand up against oppression, who will speak out against injustice, who will work for Kingdom that God would build – those Davids are among us and our generation. If the coming generations are to receive a better world when they are born, it will come because we have challenged the giants in the name of God.
IV. And, there is more. Years later, the Apostle Paul will pick up one of the great themes from this story in his own understanding of the work of Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
We love the David and Goliath stories when we get to be the David who wins. But, the truth is that the underdog David usually does not win. In Jesus, God takes the form of the *little guy* - the one who catches the fury of this world insisting on its own terms. It was the world’s fury that took Jesus to the cross, where it held him until he died. Think about it: in Christ, God did not come as the little guy who was quicker and more agile. The powers of might and oppression worked their evil to the very end.
Only then, when Christ was sealed in a borrowed tomb, God stepped forward, opened the tomb, and raised Christ from the dead. Thus, the ancient rule of *might makes right* is broken and Christ alone stands victorious. Instead of throwing the knockout blow, God in Christ uses humility and weakness to work a salvation for the entire world.
The truth is:
+few of us get to be the victorious David in our battles with the Goliaths of this world;
+most of us will have to see our battles through to their bitter end.
Does this mean that we somehow failed? Does this mean that God was not with us in our battles? Not at all. Christ also absorbed all the destruction and hatred this world can dish out. The world had every reason to believe that it had defeated the upstart Christ from Nazareth. But, when the world had spent its fury and claimed the victory, God raised Christ from the dead to declare that death does not have the last word over us. Like Christ, we may have to walk through the humiliation of defeat; the world may put an end to our dreams. But, in Christ our lives have not been spent for nothing. In Christ, we have worked and fought eternity’s battles. In Christ, our lives have already been counted as precious.
1. Peterson, Eugene. Living into God's Story
2. Birch, Bruce. New Interpreters Bible Commentary on 1st Samuel.