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It's All About God, Part Two

From Series: The Strength of Weakness

1 Samuel 17:41 (ID: 2412)

It can be easy to pass over the story of David and Goliath as simply a childhood favorite. Alistair Begg, however, teaches us that this well-known encounter is actually a reminder of God’s sovereign purposes in the midst of trials. Difficult circumstances, Scripture demonstrates, invite us to turn away from self-reliance and trust God to vindicate His name, His glory, and His people.


Sermon Transcript:

Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; [and] those he called, he also justified; [and] those he justified, he also glorified.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? [It’s] God who justifies. [Who’s] he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
[we’re] considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“No, in all these things [we’re] more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen.

Father, thank you for the wonderful assurance that you give to your children: that the Spirit invades our lives, and we cry, “Abba, Father!” You’re not just a God “up there,” but you are our Father. And we come now, Father, and ask you to give good things to us, because we know you love us and care for us. And we turn our gaze to you like expectant children, praying in Christ’s name. Amen.

Now I invite you to turn back to the Old Testament, if you would, to 1 Samuel 17. I’ve decided that I can’t go another Sunday without Goliath being dead. I just can’t live with his defiance any longer—I don’t know about you—and so I figured we must allow David to kill him off this evening, and we’ll see where we go from there as the week unfolds. So 1 Samuel 17 is where we find ourselves, and from verse 48 we have the details of this brief encounter. I’m going to deal with them as briefly as I possibly can as we look forward to the baptisms that are about to follow.

We ended this morning by noting that David’s concern for God’s honor and glory was revealed in what he anticipated happening—namely: first, that “the whole world [would] know that there is a God in Israel”;[1] secondly, that all who were watching this event, friend and foe alike, would realize that God brings about the deliverance without the equipment that men deemed to be vital; and thirdly, that the overarching awareness for the people of God would be that “the battle is the Lord’s.”[2] Now we turn to verse 48, and the talking is over, and the fighting is imminent. Back up in verse 41, already the writer has told us of the encroaching presence of Goliath; it would appear that he was moving towards him, the dialogue was taking place, and perhaps every so often he was encroaching more and more upon David’s space. But certainly in verse 48 we read that “the Philistine moved closer to attack him.” And here Goliath comes in all of his might, in all of his grandeur, in the fullness of all of his resources, and we find that unlike the armies, whose reaction to Goliath’s tauntings have always been to move into retreat, “David ran quickly toward[s] the battle line to meet him.”

Now, we’ve got to imagine that this familiarity for David was a terrific help. I mean, if some of us were to try this maneuver—with a sling, and a few stones, and getting ’em in the sling, and getting it all cranked up and ready to go—we’d say to ourselves, “I couldn’t even hit the side of a barn from twenty feet in this procedure.” But we must remember that this was his modus operandi. This was the way that he functioned. This was second nature to him in the way he would endeavor to go about his actions. And you can imagine him as he moves into the offense, as it is described here, “reaching into his bag … taking out a stone.”[3] Historians say that these stones were probably between two or three inches in diameter, and they were launched with terrific force. The speed with which a stone could fly through the air, they reckoned, was definitely akin to one of Serena Williams’s tennis serves, maybe even to Hewitt’s serve—just as fast as that, almost impossible to defend against.

And that is exactly what he does, and he knocks him out in the first round. Those who had been anticipating this, who’d been standing there for weeks and weeks and weeks completely sidelined and neutralized by their fearfulness, might have thought, “You know, now we’re gonna get a real good battle.” And here, within a moment, the stone “[hits] the Philistine on the forehead … and he fell facedown [to] the ground.”[4] And the narrator tells us in verse 50, “So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” That’s the summary statement. And “David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword … drew it from the scabbard. After he [had] killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. [And] when the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.”[5]

If we’re going to do God’s work in God’s way, then it is only going to be on account of God’s power.

And that’s how it ends: builds and builds and builds and builds, and reaches this climax which takes place in virtually an instant. And it is there we leave the story. We leave the narrative with the head of Goliath in Jerusalem, the Philistines defeated and scattered, and the fact that once again God’s strength has been shown to perfection in the context of human weakness.

You say, “Well, I think we’re getting this lesson by now. Are we gonna have another one of these?” Yes, I think so. I think maybe one, maybe two. You know, Whitfield preached, actually, from the same text to a congregation on a number of successive evenings. And the congregation came back on the second evening and said, “Why’re you preaching on the same text? You preached it last night!” He said, “If you had done what I told you last night, I would’ve preached a different text tonight. But since you haven’t, I need to preach it again.” And they came back on the Wednesday night, and he preached it again to them. And since all sermons are preached first to the preacher’s own heart, I guess you’ll know when I’ve actually settled on this issue when I stop preaching on the subject. And in the meantime, you’re just gonna have to hold your fire and learn along with me.

Remember, there has never been a time when the resources of the church in North America have been more phenomenal than they are now. But it is definitely questionable whether there is any direct correlation between our resources and our impact on the culture—causing me, at least, to ponder the question, Perhaps we’ve got it completely upside down? Maybe the emphasis ought not to be on our resources that we’ve been able to produce, but maybe our emphasis ought to be on the fact of our inadequacy, thereby looking to God alone to provide the resources for us. But, of course, until we’ve determined that that’s exactly the case, as individuals and then corporately as a group, then we will continue to rely on our own strength.

God’s Work, God’s Way, by God’s Power

Now, let me wrap this up with a couple of comments, and then one forward-moving thought. If we’re going to do God’s work God’s way—you remember, some of you, back in 1983, that’s where we started with a series in Nehemiah called “Doing God’s Work God’s Way”—if we’re going to do God’s work in God’s way, then it is only going to be on account of God’s power. If we fail to fight in God’s way, then we will inevitably turn to depend upon human methodology. If we refuse to use the weapons that God provides, then we will be forced to turn and find others. Or, to turn that on its head, having turned to use other methods and weapons, they will need to be set aside if we are to use the methods and the weapons that God has provided for us, which are essentially two: prayer and the preaching, teaching, gossiping, communicating, sharing, sowing, telling of the Word of God. And, of course, what do people say? “Oh, you can’t be serious. I mean, you really think that you’re gonna make an impact in a city, an impact in a town, an impact in a culture, as a result of using methodology like that?” Yes.

And certainly, when we look at this story and we realize the battle that Goliath represented for David and for the people, we face a far greater battle as servants of the Lord Jesus, because we face a far greater foe than Goliath. Because we live in the context of the warfare of Ephesians 6, don’t we? Where Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against … spiritual wickedness in [the heavenly] places.”[6] And on account of that, he says, “Make sure that you clothe yourselves with the armor of God: with the helmet of salvation; and with the breastplate of righteousness; and with the shield of faith; and with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; with your feet shod with the shoes of the gospel of peace.”[7] Because you daren’t go out there unprotected.

Let me recommend another book for you in the bookstore—that is, if you haven’t picked up your own copy of Pilgrim’s Progress, tonight would be a wonderful time to pick it up. And if you get this particular edition in The Christian Library—I don’t know if they have it in there—then right around page 60 and on, you read the wonderful fight between Apollyon and [Christian]. I don’t have time to read it to you now; I wish I did. It’s a fun thing to read with your children. A little scary—probably read it in the late afternoon, rather than just before they go to sleep. Because he comes on this creature—just a just a dreadful, fearful-looking monster who

was hideous to behold … clothed with scales like a fish, and they are his pride; [and] he had wings like a dragon, and feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke; and his mouth was … the mouth of a lion. [And] when he was come up to Christian, he beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to question him.[8]

The picture is just like Goliath coming up, and looking at him, says, “You think you’re gonna come out and fight me, you ruddy-faced little cream-faced loon of a boy with sticks and stones and things? Don’t you know who I am?” That’s the way the devil comes to us. “I’m gonna huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down,” that’s what he says. And you read on, the wonderful story of how Christian resists him. And I won’t spoil it for you, I would hate to do that. But it’s good. I was reading it again just before I came in here. Oh, it’s very good. Yes, it’s good. Yeah. But we have baptism, so we move on. Alright?

That is why Paul’s great concern to remind the people of the warfare is to remind them of the resources, and to remind them in 1 Corinthians of the fact that, as we’ve seen throughout this little miniseries, “Not many mighty, not many noble,” not many influential, because “God [has] chosen … the weak … to confound the [strong],”[9] he’s chosen the ineffectual in order to be victorious over the proud and the defiant.

Christ Is Our Champion

But there is one further point of application, and with this we end this study in David and Goliath. Interestingly, what I now share with you is the work of a fellow called Professor Blaikie. Won’t mean much to you, but he was a Scottish professor in the nineteenth century. In actual fact, he is one of the fellows who signed up in approbation of Dwight L. Moody here in the portion that I just read to you. He was right there with Bonner, right alongside him, along with Alexander White from Free St George’s. And he had a massive intellect. And Blaikie wrote various theological books, and in the course of addressing the issue of David and Goliath, he made these wonderful points, which I could destroy and recreate and say them less effectually than I can by simply telling you what he said.

And this is what he said: “The self-confident boasting of the giant” and the lack of appreciation of “the unseen and [invisible] power” of the Lord’s anointed “is precisely the spirit in which opposition to [the Lord Jesus]” is seen.[10] What Blaikie is saying here is, inasmuch as the whole Bible is a book about Jesus, and inasmuch as there are pictures and hints and “architectural drawings” that point us forward to the one who is to come, Professor Blaikie says, if you stand back and look at this picture, and you see the Lord’s anointed… Remember, in chapter 16, David is anointed as king. Only his family knows. The army doesn’t know. Saul doesn’t know. But he has been anointed as the future king of his people. He is the anointed one. Therefore he steps out onto the battlefield as “the Lord’s anointed.”[11] He is despised, but still the Lord’s anointed. And the giant who opposes him has no notion that he is the Lord’s anointed, nor of the power that accompanies the Lord’s anointed. Says Blaikie, this sets us forward to realize how Jesus steps out on the field of battle as he moves towards Gethsemane.

Secondly, “The contempt [that was] shown for … David, the undisguised scorn at the [idea] that” this boy could bring about any deliverance, “has its counterpart in the feeling towards [Jesus] and His Gospel to which the Apostle[s]” refer.[12] It’s the same thing: “We preach Christ crucified, foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews.”[13] People listen to this gospel, and they say, “You can’t be serious about this.” It’s the same thing.

Thirdly, he says, “The calm self-possession of David, the choice of … suitable means, and the [complete] reliance [upon] Jehovah which enabled him to conquer, were all exemplified, in … higher measure, in the … victor[y] of Jesus.”[14] Isn’t that the amazing thing when in the Garden of Gethsemane they come to arrest him? He’s completely calm, he’s got it under control. He’s told the people, he’s said, “Listen, you’re not gonna take my life from me. No one takes my life from me. I have the power to lay it down, I have the power to take it again.[15] I could call legions of angels and vanquish all of you right now.[16] Is it me you’re looking for?[17] Well then, let us go.”

If we simply stop with the lesson about our own weakness and the power that God makes available, we miss this wonderful foreshadowing.

And, “The sword of Goliath turned against himself,” says Blaikie, is a picture of how Christ turns Satan’s weapon against him: “‘Through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, and delivered them who all their [lives] were [held in] bondage.’”[18]

Fifthly, “The representative character of David, fighting, not for himself alone but [for] the whole nation, was analogous to the representative character of Christ.”[19] He goes forward bearing the sins of many people. He was dying victoriously for his people. Consequently, “The shout,” says Blaikie, “that burst from the ranks of Israel” at the triumph of their champion “foreshadow[s] the joy of [the] redeemed,”[20] now partially and then ultimately: “Now is salvation come, and strength, and the kingdom of God.”[21]

So in other words: if we simply stop with the lesson about our own weakness and the power that God makes available, we miss this wonderful foreshadowing. And as the folks in the armies who had done nothing—who had done nothing—to bring about the victory they enjoyed ran out into the streets and declared to everyone, “We’re victorious, we’re victorious! We won, we won!” people might justifiably have said, “What do you mean you won? You didn’t do anything! You just stood there like a bunch of doolies! You did nothing at all.” “Oh, no, but our champion! Our champion has created victory for us.”

Surely he has borne our sins
and carried our sorrows.
Yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God.
He had no beauty that we should behold him,
no likeness that we would be attracted to him.
He grew up before us like a root out of a dry ground. [22]

And he leads us in the train of his triumph[23]. So as a boy in Scotland at the age of nine, they taught me to sing,

On the vict’ry side,
On the vict’ry side;
No fear can haunt me,
No foe can daunt me,
On the victory side.

On the vict’ry side,
With Christ within,
The fight we’ll win,
On the vict’ry side.

And I didn’t know all that that meant, but I sang it out in my little soprano nine-year-old voice, and as best as I knew what it meant, I gave it my all. And in the providence and mercy of God, in the ensuing forty-four years I have learned, and I learn on a daily basis, the amazing wonder that Christ my champion leads me in the train of his triumph. And

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of [my] guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there,
Who made an end [to] all my sin.[24]

And I tell him, “Don’t you talk to me, smutty-face. You talk to my champion. You talk to Jesus. Because I am his, and he is mine, forever and forever.”

That’s the story of David and Goliath.

Let’s pray together:

Father, how we bless you that Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree. How we thank you that he took on the powers of darkness and hell and sin and defeated them in the first round. How we thank you that he leads us in the train of his triumph and humbles us, day in and day out, in the awareness that we are entirely dependent upon him for the victory that he has achieved and into which he has allowed us to enter by grace, through faith.

May something of that triumph and that victory pervade the balance of our time together now, so that we may walk into a new week humbly and confidently, reminding ourselves over and over again that it wasn’t by sword or by might—indeed, it wasn’t by anything that our hands could’ve done—but that all of our victory is in the work of Christ.

Hear our prayers, and let our cry come to you. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.


[1] 1 Samuel 17:46 (NIV 1984).

[2] 1 Samuel 17:47 (NIV 1984).

[3] 1 Samuel 17:49 (NIV 1984).

[4] 1 Samuel 17:49 (NIV 1984).

[5] 1 Samuel 17:51 (NIV 1984).

[6] Ephesians 6:12 (KJV).

[7] Ephesians 6:11–17 (paraphrased).

[8] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Penguin Classics (1678; repr., New York: Penguin, 1987), 51.

[9] 1 Corinthians 1:26–27 (KJV).

[10] W. G. Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, The Expositor’s Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1888), 289.

[11] 1 Samuel 16:6 (NIV 1984).

[12] Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 290.

[13] 1 Corinthians 1:23 (paraphrased).

[14] Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 290.

[15] John 10:18 (paraphrased).

[16] Matthew 26:53 (paraphrased).

[17] John 18:4 (paraphrased).

[18] Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 290.

[19] Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 290.

[20] Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 290.

[21] Revelation 12:10 (paraphrased).

[22] Isaiah 53:2–4 (paraphrased).

[23] 2 Corinthians 2:14 (paraphrased).

[24] Charitie Lees Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).

Thankfulness: A Mark of Grace
17:42