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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

The Living God (1 Samuel 17)


    You know what I really like? I really like when you hear a song a dozen times and it’s a great song, but on the 13th listen, you connect with it in a deeper way that really speaks to you and you never listen to the song the same way again. Or a good book, that you can read several times, but the next time you read it, you really connect with a character that you never really cared about before.
    I particularly love it when this happens with Scripture. I’m sure many of you have experienced this. With very familiar passages, it can sometimes be a challenge to see how there can be anything new we can learn or glean. We can sometimes read a familiar passage and think that we’ve learned all that we can from that passage. But every now and then, even the most familiar of stories can surprise us.
    I found today’s passage surprising. It’s very familiar, perhaps one of the most familiar stories throughout the entire Bible. Songs have been written about it, and it’s become sort of a pop-culture reference for tackling what seems to be the impossible in our lives. Of course, I’m talking about the story of David and Goliath.
    We’ve talked about why Saul fell out of favor with Samuel and how he became non-dependent upon God which caused God to reject him. We’ve talked about David being chosen by God because he loved the Lord, because the Lord was with Him. We’ve talked about how David took the gifts and talents he was given by God and grew them to be able to offer God the best he could.
    Today we’ll talk about David’s view of God, and what his view of God led him to do. It’s something I never realized until rereading this passage this last few weeks. I hope this morning, we’ll get a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective on this timeless story.
    We’ll be in 1 Samuel 17 this morning. I invite you to join me in your Bible. To set the scene, the Philistines continue to be a thorn in Israel’s side. They gathered their armies for battle on one side of the valley of Elah, with Saul and the Israelite armies gathered for battle on the other side of the valley. If they followed through with the full-on battle they were gathered for, it would have been a scene of complete and utter carnage and destruction. Both sides would lose a lot of men. Neither side could afford to lose the amount of men that would be lost in such a battle.
    The solution was a historically common one. The best warrior from the Philistine army would come out from the masses and would take on the best warrior from the Israelite army. This was common enough, but there was something unique about the champion, the best warrior from the Philistine army. We all know about Goliath’s uniqueness. We’re told in 1 Samuel 17:4 that Goliath was six cubits and a span. This means that Goliath was about 9 1/2-10 feet tall.
    Have you ever seen pictures of really tall basketball players standing next to people of average height? The average height of basketball players is 6’7”, but the tallest reach above 7’5”. Yet, when you put them next to people of average height, they make those normal people look like dwarves. Can you imagine someone 9 1/2 feel tall? It would make even the tallest basketball players look like children.
    So, we can see why when Goliath stepped out from the front lines, not one single man from Saul’s Israelite army dared to step forward to face the man who earned the title “giant”.
    Goliath stepped out in his armor, a bronze helmet, scale-armor that covered his body, made of bronze, bronze greaves on his legs, and a bronze javelin. We’re told that the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron, making the head of his spear weigh about 15 pounds! He was outfitted in absolutely the best armor that money could buy, and the best weapon to get the job of defeating enemies done.
    The best armor that could be made to protect him physically. This armor, coupled with the height of his stature gave Goliath overwhelming confidence to do what he did and to say what he said to the Israelite army.
    1 Samuel 17:8-10, “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” Again the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.”
    Saul and the Israelites were shaking in their boots. Verse 11 tells us that they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Hmm. Verse 16 tells us that Goliath came forward morning and evening for forty days to issue this challenge. Forty days this man-to-man challenge went out, and forty days it went unanswered.
    Remember Jesse, David’s father? David was the youngest of eight sons. Jesse’s three older sons were sent out with the armies of Israel. As the youngest, David would go back and forth from service to Saul to Jesse’s house to tend the sheep. He’s still in humble service. Even though he has been given a position in the king’s court and is the only one able to soothe Saul’s illness when it gets bad, David is still a humble servant. He hasn’t let his position go to his head. He’s even still humbling himself to serve his father as his father’s shepherd, even though he surely could have used his position in court to do something greater.
    After the forty days, Jesse told David to take grain and loaves of bread to the camp to his three older brothers. He told David to take cheese to their commander, and then to bring back news of how his brothers were doing to Jesse.
    David gets up the next day and takes all these supplies and goes to the army, and as he was talking with his brothers, Goliath came out and started issuing his challenge again, saying the same words he did every day, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us. I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.”
    David heard the words and spoke to the men who were with him, verse 26, “Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”
    Oh boy. David gets it. Who is this man, giant or no, that he should taunt the armies of the living God? Who is he?
    He knows something that Saul and the rest of Israel has forgotten.
    You see, Israel acted up to this point as if God was irrelevant to their battle. They went out to meet the Philistines on the battle field, and not once does the Bible mention that they sought the will of the Lord in this battle. Not once does the Bible mention that they prayed or asked God to be with them. Saul continues in his pattern of just doing whatever he wants without depending on God for anything, and he has led Israel to do the same.
    They have left God out of the battle entirely. They acted as if God could do nothing for them, could do nothing through them. And if that’s true, if God was irrelevant to the battle then they had no hope. No wonder they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Even the king, even Saul was terrified.
    But David identified that they were supposed to be the armies of the living God! What does that mean? What difference does it make that they serve a living God instead of a mythological god?
    Living means He is ALIVE, ACTIVE, and POWERFUL. Those are your first three blanks in your bulletin today. He is alive, active, and powerful. He’s not dead, He’s not fake or made up. He’s not off in a corner sleeping. He’s not engaged in more important things. He’s not irrelevant and there’s nothing He can’t do. The Israelites forgot that, but David didn’t. He knows exactly the kind of God the Lord is, the Lord he serves.
    David stands firm on his confidence in the Lord, and word gets around to Saul that David has it in his mind that he’s going to be the one to take down Goliath. Saul calls David to him and basically tells David that there’s no way he’s going to be able to take down Goliath because David is a young man, inexperienced, whereas Goliath is a seasoned warrior, preparing for battle since he was a youth.
    David says to Saul, “Look, I may be a shepherd but when bears or lions came to attack my sheep, I took them down. This Philistine, he’s nothing! And he will be like one the animals I killed because he taunted the armies of the Living God.” And then, 1 Samuel 17:37, “And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”
    Saul tries to give David his armor, but David refuses. He hasn’t been battle-tested in Saul’s armor and isn’t confident in it. David went before Goliath with his shepherd’s crook in hand, and five smooth stones in his bag, along with a sling.
    Goliath saw him coming and starts to taunt David, you know the typical war trash-talk. “I’m going to rip you apart, the birds and beasts will eat your flesh.” Really nice stuff.
    I absolutely love David’s response to Goliath, because it shows the depths of David’s dependence upon God, but it also shows how David understands who God is and how big God is!
    1 Samuel 17:45-47, “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and 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 taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
    David’s answer to Goliath’s taunt tells us that David believes that God is the one who will defeat Goliath. God will use David, but it will be God’s power, the living God who is alive and active. David knows that apart from being on the same side as the living God, he doesn’t stand a chance. For David, it’s unthinkable to go to battle apart from the living, alive, active, powerful God.
    For David, this belief in a living God goes deeper than faith, David doesn’t just believe that God is alive and active and powerful, he acts on it. That’s your last bulletin blank, David ACTS on it!
    We know the rest of the story: David took that first stone and slung it and it struck Goliath on his forehead and actually sank into his forehead, and he fell to the ground dead. David cut Goliath’s head off, just as he had promised. And all of this was done for God’s glory, so all the people would know how BIG the God of the Israelites is!
    We serve the same living God. He’s not irrelevant…He is alive and active and powerful! We believe this, oh, yes! But do we believe it like David did?
    Do we believe that God is alive and active and powerful in our every day lives and act on it? Do we act on it when tragic death grips our family and we’re brought to our knees in grief? Do we act on it when the doctor says the word “cancer”? Do we act on it when we lose our job of fifteen years? Do we act on it when our vision starts to go? Do we act on it when our prodigal child is still a lost lamb?
    When your Goliath comes taunting, do you have the David-like faith to tell your Goliath that he is nothing but animal fodder because your God is the living God? You might not…yet.
    This week’s questions were put together with this in mind. I want you to use the questions this week to figure out what it looks like in your life to have David’s faith in God and to act on it!

1. What does serving a living God mean to you personally? How does that affect your daily faith and actions?

2. Do you live as though you serve a living God, who is bigger than your problems, who is in control, who is alive and active and powerful? If not, what are some specific ways you can change your actions to act on this truth?

3. Spend time meditating on Ephesians 6:10-18, the Armor of God. How can this armor become alive for us each and every day? How does God use this armor to protect us?

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