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From the Sheep Pen to the Palace
How to Be a Giant Killer
1 Samuel 17
 
One of the great stories of the Bible is the life of King David, not just because of his successes and victories, but because of his failures and defeats. The Bible has a way of telling things like they are with cold, hard unaltered facts.  It is much more than a feel-good novel where everything always works out the way we thought it would. 
 
It peels back the veneer and lets us see its subjects in all their unvarnished reality. And that is certainly true of David.  But we need that because in the lives of these Biblical heroes we find hope and encouragement for people like us. The truth is, regardless of what we want people to think about us or what we try to portray to the folks who know us, all is not well at our house either.
 
And chances are, if the Bible contained our stories, folks would be shocked when they read them!  You know as well as I, there are some things in our lives we hope no one ever finds out about and if they did, we just might never show our face in public again. 
 
But God doesn't allow Biblical characters that privilege. Their stories, with all the failures and sins and hidden secrets were recorded for us and put in a book that will last for eternity.  And we ought to be thankful that they were.  We read and study them and have the opportunity to see God's grace and mercy and power and strength that is available. 
 
 
So to that end, we are studying the life of David, and in
particular the early years, as he rises from obscurity in the sheep pens of Israel to become her most successful King. And along the way, we are looking for what we can learn as we grow and mature in our faith as well.   
 
One of the most familiar stories of David's early life is his battle with a giant named Goliath. Most of us cut our Old Testament teeth on this story. It is the classic example of the underdog, the little man against the big bully.  And this morning I want us to look at it again in terms not only of what happened literally and historically, but also what God intended to be included spiritually for edification in our own lives.
 
Let's begin with a little bit of
 
1. The Background
 
1 Samuel 17:1-3
 
The setting of this passage is the Valley of Elah which is about fifteen miles west of Bethlehem. The valley is about one mile wide, with a ravine ten or fifteen feet deep that runs down the middle of it, caused by run-off from streams during heavy rains. The name was taken from a bush that grows there which produces a kind of oil.
 
There in the valley of Elah two armies were encamped. Now when the Bible says in verse 2 that they drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines, it doesn't mean that they were standing there with their chariots and their equipment ready to charge off across the valley. Notice, they were encamped.
 
The Philistines, the age-old enemy of Israel, were on one side, with their tents and their campfires and on the other side is Israel gathered in their campground. 
 
There they are across this mile-wide valley, staring each other down. That's the battleground for this classic confrontation. The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side and Israel sat on the mountain on the other side.
 
Now, picture that scene in your mind. That's the set-up for this classic battle.  Then, at verse 4, the focus immediately falls on 
 
2. The Challenge
 
verses 4-10, 16
 
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Goliath.  He is a nine feet, nine inches tall bully.  I've never met anyone who is 9 feet, 9 inches tall.  A couple of years ago Lia and I went to a Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game and I bought tickets right on the front row by the tunnel where the players enter and exit. 
 
Where we were sitting was off the floor by maybe three feet.  And when the players came by to give us high fives, where their hands were and where ours were was about the same place.  They were the tallest individuals I've ever been close to, but even the tallest of them is 7 feet.  Goliath has that beat by another 2 feet, 9 inches!
 
So you can imagine, when this guy comes walking out across the valley, challenging the champion of Israel to come out, how you would have felt if you'd been one of the Israeli soldiers.
Not only is his size imposing, he is dressed in full battle armor. He has a bronze helmet on his head. He is completely covered in armor. Altogether, it weighs about 175 to 200 pounds.
 
According to verse 6, he also had bronze shin guards to protect his legs and he carried a bronze javelin. The shaft of his spear was like the weaver's beam. That means it is a wooden rod about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and perhaps seven feet long. The head of his spear weighed about 15 pounds. Out in front of him is a normal sized man just to carry his shield. 
 
He is the epitome of arrogance.  Every day, twice a day, just like clockwork, for forty days, he struts of his tent and mocks the armies of Israel, daring them to send someone out to fight him one on one.
 
This was kind of old time warfare. The Greeks in particular liked to use this tactic of each army choosing the best soldier they had to go one on one with the best of their enemies army. And whoever won the battle was the victor. That is the challenge of Goliath.
 
And he lays out the conditions in
 
verses 9-10
 
But there was no response from Israel.  Why? Because of what we read in
 
verse 11
 
 
 
 
Saul and his men are shaking in their sandals. I don't know who's idea it was to come down to the valley of Elah to begin with, but when all this is over, if anybody is left, somebody's going to be demoted!
 
Remember, they have assembled their to defend their land against these invading Philistines.  Where they are camped is in the land of Judah.  They have no choice but to draw the ranks together and do what they can to defend themselves. 
 
But they apparently never anticipated an enemy like Goliath.  And for forty days, they challenged every morning and every evening and nobody dares to respond to the challenge.
 
Then, at verse 12, the writer reintroduces us to David.  Just so we're clear, he reminds us this is the David we've met earlier who is the youngest son of Jesse, the man with eight sons who lives over in Bethlehem.
We also discover in this text that of those eight sons, the oldest three are camped with Saul down at the valley of Elah.
 
In verse 15 we discover that every so often, David has been traveling back and forth from home to the battlefield.  He's got the responsibility of taking care of his father's sheep, but when he got a chance, he'd go down to the valley and see what was going on. 
 
Now remember, he has already been anointed as the coming king. But for now, he is the resident musician for the king. Whenever this evil spirit would come upon him, David would play his harp and calm him down. But his day job was tending sheep.
 
 
One day, according to verses 17-18, in the middle of this standoff with Goliath, Jesse tells David to run down to the valley, take some snacks to your brothers and bring me a report of how things are going.  
 
And in the following verses, we see
 
3. The Hero
 
Now I find verse 19 to be a little humorous!
 
verse 19
 
That's a joke! They weren't really fighting! They might have called themselves an army and they might have practiced and drilled some military maneuvers, but what they were doing was not fighting.
 
They'd get up every morning and put on their armor and march around and call in line and stand at attention, but anytime they'd look out there and see old Goliath, someone would yell, "There he comes again!" 
 
And when old Goliath would come down off that other mountain and give them a challenge, they would run for cover!  Jesse might have thought his boys were fighting, but they were hunkered down, trembling, in fear for their lives!
 
But on this day, everything is about to change.  David gets up early to do what his daddy told him to do.  He's got some rye bread and barley and whole grain wheat.  He's got some Roquefort and limburger and all these dainty little cheeses.  probably has them in a basket with a little linen napkin to keep the flies out!
 
And when he gets there, he gives the supplies to the person in charge and goes to find his brothers.  We pick up the story at
 
verse 23
 
Get the picture? David is visiting with his brothers, trying to catch up on the news and how's the battle going and Daddy says hi, and as they are visiting, this loud mouth, arrogant Philistine giant just keeps yelling! 
 
Now apparently, up to this point, David has never heard this arrogant Philistine mocking God and daring his brothers to fight, but on this day, he witnesses it all. And just like when you're at a ball game or WalMart and some loud mouth just keeps yelling, at first you try to ignore it. But this guy won't go away!  And to make matters worse, notice
 
verse 24
 
And David stands there, slack jawed watching all of this happen and he can't believe what he's seeing!
 
The first one the nation should have looked to was King Saul. He should have been the man to take the challenge. After all, he was a pretty good-sized man himself. The Bible says he was head and shoulders over everybody around him. He should have been the man leading the fight against Goliath, but Saul isn't there.
 
Instead, he has offered a little "incentive plan" with three rewards. 
 
verse 25
The man who is able to take down Goliath will be
 
- get rich
-get married, and
-get tax exemption for this family
 
And all you've got to do to qualify is kill Goliath!
 
Well, notice how David responds.
 
verse 26
 
He isn't nearly as interested in the incentive plan as he is concerned about the honor of God. After all, this guy is out there taunting the God of Israel and no one is willing to stand up against him!
 
And notice, he references "the armies of the living God.” Not “the armies of Saul” or “the armies of Israel.” That makes all the difference in the world. The soldiers are saying, “Do you see that guy? He’s like a mountain out there. You wouldn’t last five seconds.” David, don’t you see him? Yes, David sees him. But he also sees something else that nobody in the army of Israel had seen. David saw that Goliath was not only defying Israel, he was defying Israel’s God.
 
David looks at life differently. Israel saw Goliath—that brazen giant—as an immovable object. David saw him from God’s point-of-view. “He’s blocking the way of God. Let’s go get him.” David was no match for Goliath but when that uncircumcised Philistine took on God, he got in over his head. This is not braggadocio or big talk. No, it’s entirely different. This is a man who sees Goliath from above.
 
It’s like looking down at Shaquille O’Neal from the top of the Sears Tower. At ground level, you look up at him. From the top floor, you need binoculars to find him. It’s all a matter of perspective. David’s screen was filled with God and therefore everything else was whittled down to proper size. He saw Goliath but he also saw God. And that made all the difference.
 
But before he goes after Goliath, he’s got to convince
 
4.  The Doubters
 
The first one is his older brother Eliab who questions David’s motives. 
 
verse 28
 
Did you ever notice how many times in the Bible the older brother is just kind of ugly?  I want to tell you older siblings something:  you need to watch your attitude!
 
Eliab’s problem is two-fold. First, he’s a jerk. Second, he’s a coward. He can’t stand the thought that his kid brother could do something he couldn’t do. David answered in the words of younger brothers and sisters everywhere: “Now what have I done?” (verse 31).
 
But still he wasn’t ready to go fight Goliath. Word comes to Saul that at last a man has been found. When Saul finds out it’s David, he can’t believe it. David in his eyes is just a kid. No chance in the world he could beat Goliath. He tells David, “You are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”
 
 
 
David’s answer is classic.
 
verses 36-37
 
Behind these brave words lies an important truth: Every giant in your path is also in God’s path if you are going in God’s direction. “Hey, God, guess what? We’ve got another giant.” “Good. Let’s go get him.” If you are in the will of God, the giants who fight you are actually fighting God. That’s why God sends giants in our path on a regular basis: First, to see if we will run or fight. Second, to allow us an opportunity to honor our God.
 
So with a half-hearted wish for good luck and his own armor, Saul finally agrees to let David have a shot at Goliath.  But Saul is an earthly minded man who knows very little about the power and presence of God.  He's still depending on human stuff! 
 
verses 38-39
 
If it hadn't been so serious, it might have been funny to watch David trying to maneuver in this oversized armor!  He can't even move! Remember, he's just talked about running down ad lion and a bear to protect his sheep, and now King Saul wants to shackle him in armor!
 
And David says, "This won't work! I can't do this. This stuff ain't going to work."
 
Listen: you can't fight your spiritual battles in somebody else's armor. There comes a time in our lives when momma or daddy or brother or sister, or spiritual friend cannot fight our battles.
 
There comes a time in the loneliness of the battle of facing a giant when nobody can go in there with you except Jesus Christ, Himself, and when He goes with you, that's enough.
 
Others may encourage you and cheer you one.  They can pray and be there for you. But there are times in our lives when we fight battles and there's nobody there but the Lord.  David said, ''I can't go to fight with your armor. I haven't tried it. I know what I can do and what God's done with me. And that's enough.
 
Finally, the time comes for
 
5.  The Battle
 
Now get this picture:  The armies are gathered on either side of the valley.  For forty days, Goliath has been taunting the Israelites.  Finally, word comes that he has drawn an opponent! 
 
And by the way, notice a subtle detail revealed through this text:
 
in verse 8, when we first read of Goliath's challenge, it is for "a man" to come down in the valley and fight.
Here's Goliath on one side of this valley and here's Israel on the other. He comes to the edge of the valley and says, ''Let your man come down to me.''
 
But then notice what happens in
 
verse 25
 
"Who is this man who has "come up"? 
 
 
He started out issuing a challenge for someone to "come down" and meet him. But by the fortieth day he was crossing the valley and coming right up to them! He's right up in their face daring them to come out and fight! He's ready to take on the whole army!
 
So, David responds to the challenge. 
 
verses 40-41
 
Off he goes into battle with his staff and sling. As he heads down the slope, he pauses at the creek bed to pick up five smooth stones. We’ve tended to romanticize this part of the story but the sling in David’s day was a deadly weapon — like an early version of the Israeli Uzi. And David’s got a five-round clip.
 
While studying for this sermon I learned that these stones were not pebbles or small rocks. One authority said they were usually round, smooth stones slightly larger than a baseball.  In the hands of an expert slinger, the stones were like a Nolan Ryan fastball. They would leave the sling at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour.
 
By this time David is coming near Goliath. Behind his shoulder, the whole army is watching. “Go get him David. You can do it.” As he walked, Goliath got bigger and bigger and bigger. On the other side, somebody spots David and the Philistines start laughing. Another fellow starts taking bets on how long it will take Goliath to break him in two.
 
 
 
 
But before they could fight, there was one more thing they had to do. In single combat, the fighters would first yell at each other, sort of an Old Testament version of trash talking. So Goliath says to David, “Come on over here and I’ll feed you to the birds and the beasts.”
 
And in one of the greatest statements of faith in all the Bible, listen to how David answers back.
 
verses 45-47
 
David is saying, “I come to you in the name of all that my God is. And Goliath, you need to be warned that my God is bigger than you and he’s gonna lay you in the dirt."
 
And with that, David suddenly starts to run. As he runs, he puts a stone in his sling and cocks his arm. He knows how to run, load and fire, all in one motion.
 
The stone came in right between the eyes and lodged in his forehead. Goliath never knew what hit him. Such a thing had never entered his mind before. One moment he’s watching David run, the next everything goes black. And with a mighty crash he falls to the ground.  He is literally stoned out of his mind!
 
Verse 50
 
One other little detail. David had promised to cut off his head but he didn’t have a sword. So he borrows Goliath’s and starts hacking away.
 
 
 
Meanwhile, the soldiers on both sides can’t believe what they’ve just seen. From the north end of the valley, the men of Israel are cheering, whooping, hollering.
 
On the other side, sheer panic sets in. Here come the Israelis. There go the Philistines. It was a slaughter. The road back to Gath was littered with dead Philistines. Then the Jews went back to the battlefield and plundered their tents.
 
It was the most one-sided duel in history and Israel’s greatest military victory, all because one man saw life from God’s perspective. A whole nation saved, revived, and energized because a young shepherd dared to see life from the top down.
 
David arrived at the battlefield early in the morning as a shepherd boy and by sundown, he is a national hero. For that one act of bravery, he was enshrined forever in history. Never again would he be overlooked. Never again would he be taken for granted.
 
So let's think about 
 
6. The Application
 
What do we learn from the story of David and Goliath?  I want to ask and answer three questions to help us think about that and then we’re through.
 
The first is this: What would qualify as a giant today?
 
Sometimes we will find ourselves in situations similar to the one in which David found himself—in a valley, alone, facing a giant.
But it’s not likely that we will find ourselves up against a literal giant like Goliath. How, then, does this story fit our lives?  We talked about that a little bit as we began, but let's get more specific. 
 
The point to remember is the one David made in verse 26, again in verse 36, and again in verse 45: In defying the armies of Israel, Goliath was actually defying the God of Israel. What appeared to be a purely military conflict turns out to be a spiritual conflict as well.
 
We may face exactly that kind of conflict today. In fact, there are numerous warnings in the New Testament to expect opposition from the world, the flesh and the devil.
 
Consider Acts 14:22, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” I Peter 5:8 warns us to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
 
Remember Paul’s sober words in II Timothy 3:12, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
 
We need not think of persecution in a narrow or limited sense. The whole Christian life is one battle after another and most of us will face a whole army of giants before the story is fully told.
 
So to answer the basic question, a giant is any situation in our path which blocks the way God wants us to go.
It might be a person who opposes us or it might be a combination of circumstances which when taken together block us from doing what God wants done.
 
And in that sense, many of us face a giant right now. It may be an impossible situation at work or at home. It may be a financial difficulty or a broken relationship. It may be a task before you that you know you can’t handle. It may be a dream that seems unreachable. Giants by definition are enormous, threatening, intimidating. They fill the screen until we can see nothing else.
 
The truth is, we all have some giants in our lives.  Now your giants may be different from mine, but all of us deal with some things that appear to be bigger than us. It may be a disappointment that robs you of your joy or never seems to go away. It may be the job promotion you didn't get. It may be a child that just didn't come up to your expectation. It may be the challenge that's in front of you and you're saying, ''Lord, I don't know if I can handle that or not!''
 
It may be a decision that looks so awesome that you're afraid to even think about doing what God may be saying to you. It may be some addiction or temptation the devil uses, but just mark it down big: Just as David did, all of us will face some giants that want to block us from being where God wants us to be. 
 
There is a second critical question:
 
Why does God put giants in our path?
 
Primarily because men grow up on the battlefield and we will never grow up until we dare to go out and face Goliath head on.
There is nothing like war to turn a boy into a man. As long as we turn tail and run when the giant rears his ugly head, we’ll have to face him tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. He won’t go away until we stand up and fight him. Whenever we stand up to a giant and fight him in the name of the Lord, mighty miracles begin to take place.
 
God wants us to grow up and we can’t until we go out and fight in the name of the Lord of Hosts. Though it may sound strange to say it, giants are absolutely necessary for our spiritual growth. As long as we cower in the rocks instead of going down into the valley to face the giant in our path, we can never become all that God intended us to be.
 
There is one final question to consider:
 
What lesson was God trying to teach David?
 
You might say it many ways but at the heart it was the lesson of faith. David had to learn what faith in God could do. Naked faith. Unarmed faith. Faith plus nothing and minus nothing. Faith in God’s power in the face of impossible odds.
 
This truth comes into focus if we ask what might seem like an obvious question: At what point did Goliath die? When did David kill him? You say, “Easy. When he cut off his head.” No, not really. “When the stone hit him.” No, not even then. Go back a little bit. Was it when he picked up the five smooth stones? No. Was it when he told Goliath what he was going to do? No, but you’re close. Was it when he refused to wear Saul’s armor? No, but you’ve passed over it.
 
Between those two events something critical happened. Look at
 
1 Samuel 17:40
 
When David took that first step, Goliath was just as good as dead. He just didn't know it yet! David won the victory with that first step. The rest is history. David possessed Goliath’s head while it was still attached to Goliath’s shoulders. Goliath never had a chance. He was just a paper giant.
 
Many years ago I heard a definition of faith that has never left me. It goes like this: “Faith is belief plus unbelief and acting on the belief part.”
 
Did David know something the other men of Israel didn’t know? No, he didn’t. They also knew God was great and mighty and powerful. They knew he was the Lord of Hosts. It wasn’t a matter of knowledge. Any one of them could have killed Goliath if they had been willing to take that first step in the name of the Lord.
King Saul could have had the accolades and victory of that day if only he had been a man of faith. 
 
But the difference between David and the other soldiers was not that he had faith and they had doubts. Or that they had doubts and he had none. The difference is this: David acted on his belief and ignored his doubts while they acted on their doubts and ignored their belief.
 
Understand, faith is not believing something.  It is acting on what we say we belief.  It's not really faith until it is put into action. 
 
 
Don't tell me you're a man or woman of faith if you don't do anything to demonstrate that faith.  That's exactly what James called a dead faith.
 
Faith is not waiting for 100% assurance. Faith is not waiting until all your doubts are gone. If you wait for that, you’ll wait forever. Faith is seeing the giant, understanding the odds, believing that God wants him dead, and then taking that first step. If you can do that, the rest is easy.
 
Now apply this truth to your own life. What giants stand in your way today? Name them. Write them down. Think about how the giants of circumstance and opposition have combined to keep you enslaved to fear and sometimes have driven you almost to the brink of despair.
 
How much longer will you hide in the rocks of fear? When are you going to step into the valley and face the giant eyeball to eyeball? But the giant is big, you say. True, that’s why they call him a giant. He’s fearful. I’m sure he is. I might get hurt if I stand up against him. That’s true. There are always a thousand reasons to run away when Goliath stands before you.
 
But whenever you are tired of running, the Lord stands ready to walk into the valley with you. Sooner or later you’ve got to peek over the top of the ridge, look into the valley and take that first step forward. It won’t be easy and there are no guarantees. But you’ll never know until you take your heart in your hands and step forward by faith.
 
Faith is not talking about the giant, analyzing the giant, or praying about the giant. Big talk will never slay Goliath.
Faith is taking that first step—knees knocking, hands shaking—with fear and trembling going into the valley in the name of the Lord of Hosts. You take that first step not because you think you can do it but because you know you can’t. Therefore, you know that if the giant is defeated, it is because God has done it through you.
 
The reason this story is in the Bible is because there are still giants in the land and God is looking for some Davids.
 
Let's pray.
 
 
 
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