FACING THE GIANT I Samuel 17:41-47 July 8, 2012 David is about to face a giant. And as soon as we realize there is going to be a battle we all want to get right to the point – Who Wins?!!? But in David’s case there is a whole lot more to learn from this story than just who wins. David’s story with the giant teaches us not just who wins but: What we need to know in order to face giants!
It all begins back in Chapter 17 on the far eastern border of Judah. The Philistines – the great tribes of men from the northeast, who are migrating into Mesopotamia from across the Great Sea – have assembled for battle. They have armed their men and definitely crossed the border into Israel, claiming a portion of Israel’s territory for themselves. And Saul has assembled an army to meet them and drive them back across the border. But something has gone wrong. The Israelite army is just sitting there. They have assembled in the Valley of Elah to battle the Philistines and push them out of their land, but they aren’t moving. They have given in to fear, to hopelessness, to desperation. For Forty Days they have sat there – not moving – not acting. In essence: they have allowed their fear of the Philistines to defeat them in battle before they ever draw their weapons. They have no vision. The first lesson we learn from David’s story of facing the giant is the importance of vision. Without vision we are incapacitated – immobilized – unable to act. Without vision, the Book of Psalms says – “without vision the people perish.”
Why do people perish without vision? We stop believing there is any hope for change. We give up – we give in. We start to think “What’s the point? Why even try?” We take one look at the opposing army and we give up before we ever even start. • the marriage has dissolved into angry nights and bitter days • the moody adolescent only communicates by slamming the door • the health problem means we can’t do what we used to do • the death of the person we hold most dear completely shatters our world. And without vision we won’t even try to rebuild. We give in to fatalism – this is all there is – nothing can be done – get used to it. But our God is not a God of fatalism.
Our God is a God of new beginnings and changed lives. Our God is a God of second chances and realized potential. Nothing is impossible when it is in the hands of God. Not even death defeats our God. So we dare to have hope. We dare to have vision. We have to dare to believe that tomorrow will be a better day and we start working to make it so.
Helen Keller, who was born blind and deaf, but who changed history with her teacher Anne Sullivan was asked once if there was anything worse than being blind. “Oh, yes” she replied. “There is definitely something worse than being blind.” “It is being able to see but not having any vision.” Without vision – the people perish.
But out in the Valley of Elah our story continues. In this place where the Israelites have come to a standstill, a challenge is issued. And we get a good look at Goliath – the biggest Philistine of them all. For eight verses the scripture of I Samuel describes His height – his helmet – his armor – his weapons of bronze – his angry challenging words.. And we understand loud and clear we are facing death. This giant brings death and the second lesson we learn from David’s battle with Goliath is that when we face a giant, we are going to have to have faith, not fear. Faith – not fear. Faith that power of God is stronger than the power of death. You see there are some things in this life worth dying for. • risking our life to save someone else’s • risking our safety to preach the gospel in dangerous situations • risking our health to take care of someone with a dangerous contagious disease
“No greater love hath anyone than this, that they lay down their life for a friend” Jesus said. And how do we get that faith instead of our natural self-defensive fear.? We remember that we have already died. At baptism we died and were buried in the watery grave and the power of God raised us to new life. So we need not fear death – we have already died. We are already living the promise of life after death. Human death is just the next step home to God. All the giants we face ultimately threaten us by fear – the fear of losing a job – the fear of growing older and losing independence, mobility – the fear of the medical report that confirms cancer. From the bully on the playground to the man kicking down the door with a gun, the intent of the giant is the same – fear. But we have faith, and faith trumps fear every time. You may kill my body with that gun, but you cannot touch my soul. Cancer may rob me of my strength and my vitality, but it cannot take from me the love of my family – the love of my church – and the love of my God. The years passing by may take from me my ability to walk without a cane, but they cannot take the strength from my spirit. Faith – not fear – is what it takes to face the giant.
President Clinton tells of his first meeting with Nelson Mandela, the leader of South Africa who was imprisoned for twenty seven years before he was released and saw victory for his country. “When you were released from prison, Mr. Mandela, I woke my daughter at 3:00 a.m. to see the historic moment when you were escorted from your cell block to the prison gate. But when the camera focused on your face I have never seen such anger, such hatred in any man as I saw in you then.” Nelson Mandela answered. “I’m surprised you saw that and I regret the camera recorded my anger. As I walked across the courtyard that day I thought to myself, they have taken everything from me that matters. My cause is dead; my family is gone; my friends have been killed and now they are releasing me. But there’s noting left for me. But then I heard another voice – a stronger voice: Nelson! For twenty seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always free in your spirit! Don’t let them make you a free man, only to put your spirit in prison!”
You can imprison my body, but you can’t touch my soul. That’s what it means to have faith – not fear.
The armies have gathered. Goliath the giant is strutting across the battlefield. And his challenge is a oneon-one fight. One Israelite to represent the Israelite army – Goliath to represent the Philistines. The winner claims complete victory for his whole army. The third lesson of David’s fight with the giant is sometimes we have the courage to stand alone. You see, there are some battles nobody can fight for us. Some giants we have no choice but face ourselves. • Taking the test. • Making the decision to be the better person in the conflicts we face • Controlling our temper at the game • Watching our words and refusing to say hurtful, hateful things that tear other people down • Standing up for what we believe in even when our friends disagree • Doing what is right even when we think no one is watching and there is no chance of getting caught. Eleanor Roosevelt once said: Never forget you are one of a kind. Never forget one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, that’s the only thing that ever has made a difference. So be that one person. Goliath was a massive man with bronze armor and a spear. David was not full grown with a slingshot and five stones, but he had vision – he had faith, not fear – and he had courage to stand alone. And so the battle begins. Now we are back to where we started this morning. So who won the battle? I Samuel 17:48-51 (And thus the Israelites chased them from their land.) Vision – faith, not fear – courage to stand alone!! Thanks be to God, Amen