It’s that time of year when we get back into routines. Many of us have been on vacation at some point in the last month, everyone’s been trying to get in one last summer fling, we’ve been on the “summer” time clock. But now the children are heading back to school, so parents are getting everyone on a bedtime schedule again, working out the morning schedule, and getting the personal taxi schedule worked out. And so we in this church are going to get back on a good schedule too.
So we’re going to do so by getting back into the Bible by studying the life of one of the best know characters from the Old Testament, one of history’s most famous kings. Today, we are starting a brand-new series called “David.” That’s right, just “David.” We’re keeping it simple. Besides, the name David is a very strong name.
Did you know that the name David means beloved? But at the same time, it is known as a masculine name of Biblical Hebrew origin, as King David is a figure of central importance in the Christian, Judaism, and Islamic religious traditions. So the name has deep Biblical roots.
So what do you think of when you hear the name King David? Humble shepherd. Mighty warrior. Gifted poet. Flawed man. Legendary leader. How about Giant-slayer or Reluctant hero, as we’re going to talk about today. The last one anyone would think could be a hero since he was just a young teenage boy, a young shepherd boy who defeats a giant with a simple slingshot and stone.
David’s story takes place in the 11th century BC in a very, very violent time. In fact, it’s really almost impossible for us to get our minds and our hearts around the kind of world that David lived in, or that anyone lived in ancient times.
Especially, when it comes to ancient warfare. When it comes to ancient warfare, here’s what we do, we glamorize it, we fictionalize it, we romanticize it, we do all kinds of things, and Hollywood has helped us with movies like Braveheart or Gladiator.
But even on Hollywood’s best day, there’s no way to take us into the world of ancient warfare because you have to smell it, and you have to fear it. And it’s something that most of us, fortunately, will never even have to get close to because we see it from a drone, we see it from a helicopter, we see it through the lens of a camera.
But in those days, you saw warfare over the edge of your own shield with your stomach in your throat. In modern warfare, we kill from a distance. In ancient warfare, you killed at arm’s length. You actually looked into the eyes of your opponent. You smelled their breath. You were so close that you saw the terror and fear in their eyes.
The worst thing you could possibly see in ancient warfare was calmness in your opponent’s eyes, because then you knew you were gazing into the eyes of a professional killer, a veteran. And unless you too were a veteran, the odds of you walking away alive were very, very slim.
And if you made it out of the battle, only after your strong adrenaline rush subsided, did you know if and where you were wounded. You would have to try to figure out if the blood on you was yours or your opponent’s because you would be covered in blood when fighting that close.
And if it was your blood and you were actually able to stop the bleeding, the chances are you would die of some sort of infection. In fact, in ancient times, men often fought almost completely naked because although they didn’t understand germs, they did understand that if a puncture wound took part of your clothing into the wound, you would lose a leg, you would lose an arm, perhaps you would lose your life.
And if your brother to the left or to the right lost their courage and turned and ran, you would most certainly die on the battlefield. And before anyone could come and rescue your body, or bury you, the birds and wild animals would be there to prey upon your flesh.
Isn’t that like the greatest introduction to a sermon you’ve ever heard in your whole life.
Let’s dive into David’s story.
We’re introduced here to him as a young boy, somewhere around the age of 15. If you grew up in the church or have been around the church for a while, you likely know this story.
1 Samuel 17:1-4, 7-11
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah…. 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.
That’s about nine and half feet tall.
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.
This was not like a throwing javelin. This was a killing, stabbing spear. It was about six feet long and on the end, the steel weighed about 15 pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him, and Goliath, no doubt because of his height, would stand in the second rank, and he could reach over the first rank of his own army and kill.
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?
Saul was the King of Israel, in fact Israel’s first King. We’ll get more into that in a moment.
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 (King Saul) and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
Goliath came out day after day, twice a day, and for weeks. Israel needed a champion, so they looked to their King, for two reasons. One, because he was the king, and that’s who they should be able to look up to, and two, King Saul was the tallest man in Israel. When he was chosen as king, one of the reasons he was chosen, he was handsome and he was head-and-shoulders higher, taller than everybody else. Because when a giant walks into the valley and challenges the armies of Israel, the king looked a whole lot more intimidating. So he was good match for Goliath.
And the Israelites had placed their hope in their king as they should have done. And by placing their hope in their king, they waited for the king to come out of his tent and to challenge Goliath. That’s where their hope laid. And this is where our story begins to intersect with the story from the Old Testament. Because here’s what’s true of you and what’s true of me, we place our hope in what we depend on, it’s just what we do.
We place our hope in who we depend on. And when the person that we place our hope in disappoints us, oftentimes the measure of our hope becomes the measure of our dissatisfaction or the measure of our anger. Certainly, it is the measure of our disappointment.
This is why you, and this is why I have the potential to resent our parents more than anyone else. Because our hope was, or perhaps still is, in them. You never placed much hope in that couple living across the street did you? Your parents could make you so mad, but you were always polite to the neighbors, which made your parents so angry.
This is true of you who are parents, right? You have a son or a daughter that’s driving you crazy, and when they’re with friends, they’re so polite. And you’re thinking, “I knew that was in you. Why can’t you do that at home?” Or somebody brings your son or daughter back and say, “They are such a gentleman. She’s so respectful.” And you look to make sure they brought the right kid home. You know, what is that, right?
It’s the nature of wherever we place our hope, that is where our trust is. And wherever we place our trust, that’s where our hope is. That’s who we depend upon.
Saul, in the story, by size and position is the best match for the giant, Goliath. But Saul is noticeably missing. Day after day, Goliath is calling them out. Saul should have been the guy to go. But he didn’t. His credibility slipped away as each day passed with no response. And as his credibility disappeared, so did the army’s hope.
Now the thing is, God wanted Israel. And this standoff between the armies of Israel and the armies of the Philistines, really just illustrated the fact that God never really wanted Israel to have a noticeably missing king to begin with.
Cause God wanted Israel to look to him to be The King. Because God knew, as we all know, that wherever you place your hope, that’s where you place your trust. And God wanted Israel to place their hope and trust in Him. In fact, about 400 years before this event, God established Israel as a nation of laws that was administered by judges. That God would be the King, God would give the law, and the judges would administer the law.
That’s how the nation was to go. And this is so amazing, especially if you’re a bit skeptical about the Bible, or new to Christianity. This put Israel ahead of everybody else, really in the world by thousands and thousands of years. This was amazing because the model that they had seen and come from in Egypt where they were for 400 years, was the model that every other nation was following which was a nation with a king.
They’d just left Egypt. Egypt had a pharaoh (a king). And so eventually, as they looked around, they said we don’t have one, they decided that they knew what was best and that they too needed a king. This was the 11th Century BC. (My oh my, how we repeat our sins.) They complained to their leading authority, who was a prophet named Samuel, who was their communicator to God. God gave messages to the prophet, and the prophet gave them to the people. He was the go-to person since there was no king. This was really just a few years before the incident with Goliath. And here’s what happened.
1 Samuel 8:1, 3-7, 9
1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.
So as judges. Samuel knew he was old and didn’t have many years left on earth and needed to replace himself, so he replaced himself with his sons. Makes sense. Right? But…
3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
That is, they were corrupt. And yet they were the judges.
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
Doesn’t sound like they asked politely. Not like they said, “Would you please ask God to give us a king.” Or “What do you think of this idea, Samuel?” No they demanded, “now appoint a king to lead us, like everyone else has. Like all the cool kids have.”
But here was the thing they forgot. And here’s what so complicates the story of the Old Testament. And unfortunately, continues to complicate sometimes things for the church today. God established Israel for a very, very specific purpose. And the purpose for which God established Israel went way beyond Israel.
Many, many years before this, God had made a promise to a man named Abraham. And he said, “Abraham, through your descendants, I’m going to bless, not just you, not just your family, not just your nation, I’m going to bless the entire world. One will come from you through which the entire world will be blessed.”
So God had a very, very specific purpose. A very specific agenda for Israel. And God wanted Israel to be unlike any other nation, so that in their success, and in their wealth, and through all the things that would happen in Israel, the surrounding nations would look at Israel and say, “Woah! Who is their God?”
They wouldn’t look to a king of Israel and credit him with the success. They would be forced to ask, “Who is this God? Who is this unique God that protects the borders of the land, that causes their crops to grow, that causes their babies to be born and live long lives? Who is their God?” And through the nation of Israel, God would in fact bless the world. And eventually, there would be a king, but only one. He would be The King.
The story continues.
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel;
I’m not sure the word displeased really covers how Samuel felt. Just put yourself in his shoes. He answers to the BIG guy, God. If he goes against God, how’s that going to go? If he just pleases the people, how’s that going to go? So instead of strangling the people in his frustration with them, like he likely felt like doing…..he instead did the best thing he could do, he prayed.
6….so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, (don’t take it personal Samuel) but they have rejected me as their king. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them…..
Because when you sin there are consequences. And here are the consequences.
9 but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
In other words, let the people know this isn’t going to be as easy as they think. This isn’t going to be as simple as they think. If you have a king, the king is going to tax you. He’s going to take a percentage of your crops. He’s going to take a percentage of your herds. He’s going to draft your sons. He’s going to force your daughters to serve him. He’s going to claim the best land. And yet, in spite of all the warnings, the elders insisted, “We want a king.”
But the interesting thing about the nation’s insistence, is that it set the stage for one of the most detailed narrative accounts in all of ancient literature. It set the stage for the story of King David, Israel’s second king, and as we’re going to see, Israel’s greatest King. He was Israel’s greatest king not because he was a perfect man or a perfect king. No, he was far from it. He was Israel’s greatest king because as we’ll see, there was something in him that was reluctant. There was something in him that was extraordinarily confident. But there was also something in him that was extraordinarily humble.
And unlike the average king or the typical king, David actually loved the law. Now, kings typically did not love laws. Kings loved to be the law. In fact, when a king broke the law, they would often adjust the law to fit him. And yet throughout his reign, we discover that David actually loved the law, even when the law condemned him.
And instead of changing the law or adjusting the law, David allowed himself to be broken over God’s law. Throughout the literature and songs that he wrote, he declares that he loves God’s law because he believed in the fact that Israel’s law was given to them by God.
And that conviction, and this is a big take away for many of us, that conviction provided him with extraordinary clarity as king. Throughout his imperfect reign, David was never confused about the identity of Israel’s true King. He was never confused about his limited role. And in spite of his popularity, in spite of his success, and in spite of his extraordinary power, he was never, ever confused about where that all came from.
For many of us, that’s not the case. Success confuses the best of us. A little bit of success and the next thing you know, we’re sitting on the throne of our lives. And once we are on the throne of our lives, we place our hope in us…because we place our hope in the one we depend on.
David, the King of Israel, never made that mistake. In fact, we catch a glimpse of this extraordinary perspective when he was about a 15-year-old shepherd boy trying to stay out of the way of his older brothers who fought for King Saul.
So back to the story. On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were terrified. And while this is going on, 15-year-old David, couldn’t even drive himself to the battlefield, shows up with a care package from home. And like any curious young man or teenager, he makes his way to the front of the lines because something is going on and he wants to find out what, and he hears Goliath’s taunts. It’s the same taunts that he gives twice a day. This had been going on for a month.
And David responds. But instead of being dismayed and terrified, David is offended. He hears that Saul is looking for a champion to fight Goliath and he begins to ask questions. And even the questions that David asks as a 15-year-old boy allow us to see that he saw with a clarity that no one else in Saul’s army had.
1 Samuel 17:26, 36-37
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?
These men of war looking at this teenage boy say, ” What do you mean what will be done, and who are you to ask? What do you mean remove this disgrace from Israel? We haven’t really seen it that way. All we’ve seen is a nine-and-a-half-foot tall giant with extraordinary experience. He is a veteran of many battles. Our King, who we expected to go and fight this giant because he is our giant, is nowhere to be found.”
And then, David says this,
26 “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
Nobody asked that question. Nobody saw it this way. Uncircumcised Philistine. That meant that Goliath was outside the covenant of God. That Goliath was outside the protection of God. That Goliath and the Philistines were trying to take land from a nation, land that had been promised by God.
David’s asking, “Who does he think he is? And why in the world hasn’t somebody done something about this?”
Wow! The word gets back to King Saul that someone is actually talking about going down there and fighting this giant. That there’s somebody, I’m sure thinking someone in the army, who’s finally raised their hand and volunteered for what undoubtedly would be his last day on the planet. So he calls this guy in.
And when it’s David that walks in, Saul’s immediately disappointed. He’s no soldier. He’s merely a shepherd boy, the younger brother of three of Saul’s veteran soldiers.
Saul dismisses David, and David says, “Wait, before you let me go, I understand I’m just a shepherd. I understand I have no military experience. It’s true. But I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats. And when a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, instead of doing what most shepherds do, which is protect the rest of the flock and say, “Dad, we lost one,” I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth.
If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! Look, I’m not scared to take this giant down because the Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”
Absolutely no confusion for David. He just sees it in a way that no one else saw it.
He had extraordinary clarity, and the clarity was simply this, an enemy of God’s people is an enemy of God. Goliath isn’t simply defying this army, Goliath is defying God.
And David’s clarity would carry with him his entire life. He reigned for 40 years as King, but as a teenager, somehow he had wrapped his mind around the fact that the man or woman who’s hope is in the Lord, need not fear, even when there is something to be afraid of.
And so he said, “King Saul, pick me, pick me. Let me do what no man in your army is willing to do. Basically, King Saul, let me do what you as king are unwilling to do yourself.
The fascinating thing is this. Later as David became king, he would write poems, psalms, and songs. So we don’t only have the narrative of this story, what David did and what David said. Through the psalms, we get inside of his mind. We get inside of his emotions. We understand how he thought.
And later on, he would document this incredible perspective, and he would write these words.
1 In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.
Where’s your trust David? Is it in your talent? Your power? Your ability? In your influence as King? No. It’s in the Lord.
This was the posture that God desired for the entire nation, but they just couldn’t get that. They wanted a king. But in their second king, they found a man who understood the perspective that God wanted the entire nation to maintain. And in this king, we discover the perspective that our Heavenly Father wants us to maintain throughout our lives as well.
He says this,
3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.
And then he writes something that kings don’t write, that kings don’t generally embrace.It’s so unusual,he writes,
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
So this 15 years old boy, clear eyed, confident and yet in some strange way, humble, makes his way down to the Valley of Elah. We can only imagine what happened on both sides. As the Philistines recognized, “It’s a boy with no armor. Is this a joke?” And no doubt, the laughing just broke out all along those lines.
Meanwhile, we can imagine the soldiers who were fighting for King Saul thought, “It’s a boy who’s going to represent the armies of Israel, yet if we lose, we become the servants of the Philistines. And King Saul has allowed this?”
So Goliath repeats his threats, walks out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, arrogant and sarcastically says, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick? Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!”
David waits and then looks at Goliath and he says, “You come to me with a sword and a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. So let me tell you what’s about to happen. Today, the Lord will conquer you, and I will strike you down, and then, I will feed the carcasses of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole earth will know that there is a God in Israel. And this assembly will know who is Lord. For this battle is the Lord’s, and Goliath, He will deliver you into my hands.”
And then David killed him, with a sling and stone. And instantly, he became the most popular person in the nation of Israel, and the most feared man among the Philistines. Then the Philistines made a tragic decision. They turned and ran, and the slaughter lasted all day long, and the Israelites enriched themselves on the plunder from the Philistine camp.
David had simply done what King Saul failed to do because David saw something that the king could not see.
And so it is with those whose hope is in the Lord. They see clearly, they act confidently, but they walk humbly. They recognize that they can’t control the outcomes because there are too many variables outside of their control. So instead, they lean against the One who has the whole world and all the variables in His hands.
And they declare with David every morning, “In you Lord my God, I put my trust, my hope is in you all day long.” This is a powerful statement, and is the theme for this entire series. So let just say this together.
“In you Lord my God, I put my trust, my hope is in you all day long.”
- Imagine waking up tomorrow and making that declaration before you even get out of bed.
- Imagine driving to work and there’s things you are not looking forward to, yet you make that statement.
- Imagine in the midst of your greatest success, when all eyes are on you and you are the smartest person in the room, and you whisper under your breath what David must’ve whispered under his breath a thousand times, “Oh Lord my God, in you I put my trust, my hope is in you, not in me, all day long.”
- And in those moments, when it looks like the world has turned against you and that Goliath will take you down, whisper under your breath, “In you Lord my God, I put my trust, my hope is in you all day long.”
That was David, an imperfect King and imperfect man but who never throughout his reign, turned his back on the law of God. He learned to place his hope in the Lord.
David, as we’re going to discover, was in fact Israel’s greatest king because as king, he never confused himself with The King. His hope, even as king, was in the Lord, but in his early years, he did struggle with this a bit. Which we’ll pick this story up right there, next week.
So when this world feels heavy, let’s do what Samuel did and go to the Lord in prayer, and let’s do what David did and say, “In you Lord my God, I put my trust, my hope is in you all day long.”