Jesus, David, & Goliath (First Sunday in Lent)
[Read 1 Samuel 17:40-51 – David Slays Goliath]
Jesus, David, & Goliath
One man will enter the field to do battle for the rest. One man’s victory will be victory for many.
Battle was stirring. The army of the Philistines – a great empire – stood on one side of the valley. The army of the Israelites – the people of God – stood on the other side.
Out from the ranks of the Philistines came one man, Goliath. A man of enormous stature. A warrior’s warrior. Goliath, towering over other men’s heads, made the offer. One man for all the people. Goliath will fight on behalf of the Philistines. Now, let the Israelites pick a man to fight on their behalf.
If Goliath wins, the Israelites will become slaves to the Philistines. If the chosen Israelite wins – whoever he may be – the Philistines will become their slaves. One man does battle for the rest. One man’s victory will be victory for many.
Goliath, wicked and defiant, stands strong. The Israelites, God’s chosen, are shaking in their war boots. They’re afraid. No one is volunteering. They were stricken by the terrifying size and height of this Goliath. Who did they have who could stand in battle against him?
King Saul, the King of Israel, was a tall man – he stood a head taller than all the Israelite males [1 Samuel 9:2] – but Goliath even made him look small. No Israelite was willing. Goliath stood and made his threatening offer each day, morning and evening, for forty days. [1 Samuel 17:16]
Now enters David. David is the youngest brother of eight. David is not the soldier in the family. He keeps the sheep. And David was ordered back and forth as an errand boy, a gofer, between his father and the oldest three brothers who were in Saul’s army. [1 Samuel 17:12-15]
And on this day, as he carries provisions to his brothers, David hears the threatening voice of Goliath. David hears the defiant voice, the blasphemy against God, the reproach of God’s people. And David hears the terms and parameters of the threat – one man to the battle, victory for the many.
David is appalled at Goliath’s defiance toward God. And David is appalled by the weak knees of the people of God. Are these Israelites men of God? Should they be afraid of any enemy? Do they not believe that the battle belongs to the Lord, and not to man?
David, therefore, in earnestness, says to King Saul, “Let no man's heart fail because of this Philistine.” David, though a shepherd, knows God’s power in battle. By God’s help, David, in times past, battled not men but beasts, bears and lions, which threatened the sheep.
David tells Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”The Lord will strike Goliath down by David’s hand, “for Goliath has defied the armies of the living God.” [1 Samuel 17:31-37]
And now we get to today’s portion of the reading. Goliath on one side of the valley. Tall. Wearing a coat of metal armor. Spear, sword, helmet, and shield for battle. David standing on the other side. Small. Young. Handsome in appearance. Dressed in shepherd’s clothes. Only a sling in hand with five smooth stones from the brook.
Goliath mocks David for his small appearance. Goliath curses David in the name of Philistines gods. Goliath threatens David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
David says in response to Goliath the following, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a 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 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's…”
David approaches Goliath. He slings his rock with his sling. Goliath is stricken and falls. David then approaches the body of Goliath, takes Goliath’s sword from its sheath, and cuts off the head of the enemy.
When Goliath falls, the armies of Israel are emboldened by the victory. With a shout, they rise and pursue the Philistines with vigor and plunder their camp. David then processes to Jerusalem in a proclamation of victory – a true gospel - carrying the head of the slain enemy.
David and Goliath – and now Jesus. One Man wins the victory for the many. Brothers and sisters, you and I are not David in the story. You and I are the Israelites, too long standing in fear. But we have a David.
Jesus – who is both Son of God and Son of David; David’s Son, yet David’s Lord – Jesus is the David who has fought for us. David in this event points us to Jesus. One Man has won the victory for the many. And upon seeing that victory won, we are made vigorous again.
Me, an Israelite. Jesus, my David. Who is my Goliath whom Jesus has conquered? The true Goliath is the threefold enemy of sin, death, and the devil. Evil does not come from God. Evil originates from man’s will and from the devil. And the wage of this sin is death.
“Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all” [Romans 6:9-10]. Now the ruler of this world has been cast out [John 12:31]. And death is swallowed up in victory [1 Corinthians 15:54].
These towering Goliaths – these great immovable mountains – death, the power of the devil, and sin – conquered in the fight. One Man is the Victor, and His victory is for the many.
But that worst Goliath, that most immovable mountain, is not anything standing outside of me, but instead is that defiant and godless and sin-filled nature that still stands inside of me. “That which is born of flesh is flesh” [John 3:6]. My sinful nature still clings as long as this body lives.
My sinful nature is the most frightening of the Goliaths – because it’s me – and that’s hard to come to grips with. It’s easy to point at sin out there. It’s a lot harder to point at sin in here (in myself) and admit its full sinfulness. It’s frightening to acknowledge that I am who I am. I’m supposed to be a Christian, but I find in myself that I’m a giant of a sinner. What does this mean for me?
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” [Romans 7:14-25]
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” [Romans 7:25]
David killed with a sling. Jesus won by being slain. David slew an enemy outside of him. Jesus took the Goliath of my sinful nature into Himself – into His flesh on the Cross – and there my sin died with Him, nailed to the cross. Jesus has won the victory.
All that sin which still stands in front of me inside me has all already been nailed to the cross and put to death in the body of Jesus. “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…. and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” [Isaiah 53:5-6] My sin, your sin, still clinging, but put to death that day.
Now is the vigorous pursuit. Do not stand in fear of the dark wickedness you find inside you. Don’t shrink back and let it stand. It’s been defeated. Stand up like those Israelites, after they saw Goliath fall, and pursue the remaining vestiges of sin in you to run sin down and lay it to the dust.
Sin is a defeated threat. So look inward and examine yourself with the bright light of God’s Commandments and don’t be afraid to bring your sin to light in you. Bring it to light. Confess it to God, honestly, calling it what it is, in prayer. God will apply Christ’s victory to it. He will forgive it. And He will, by the strength of the death and resurrection of Jesus, help you to do better.
Christ’s victory is once and for all and all at once. The pursuit against sin in us still goes on for a while. Soon, the victory procession will come. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord who was Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted for us. His cross and death is the saving victory for guilty sinners. Amen.