14th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Samuel 17:41-50
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ. What is anxiety? Well, according to the dictionary it is a feeling of worry, nervousness, unease typically over some imminent event or something with an uncontrollable outcome. It involves concern, apprehension, and fear. It often gnaws on minds and causes physical problems like ulcers, restlessness, stress, headaches, lack of sleep, and makes people irritable. But perhaps the better question is what causes it? What causes a person to feel anxiety? What worries or troubles you? What keeps you from moving forward confidently in life? At times each of us is faced with something that seems insurmountable that threatens to fill us with anxiety. For the disciples, it was small boat in a very big storm. It was surrounded by mountainous waves that filled them with fear and anxiety. For King Saul and the Israelite soldiers, it was the mighty Philistine army with their giant hero Goliath. But in the end, whatever causes you or me to be filled with anxiety is finally thinking that either God is not capable or God does not care. Either God does not have the power or capability to do what we need or He doesn’t care about us. Both of which are lies, untrue, false.
And we see it in this text. This is likely one of the most famous accounts in the Old Testament. It would be easy to breeze over this account and think the main point is “good little man whips big bad man,” but there’s far more here than that. So what’s going on? Well, we’re at the time in Israel’s history when they were being ruled by their first king, Saul. Saul had a good start but soon turned away from God and His Word and then his world began to crumble. There’s a big lesson there for each of us: whenever we turn away from God and His Word our world will eventually crumble somehow. The Philistines were an arch enemy of the Israelites, a foreign people whom they had failed to drive out of the Promised Land and became a continual scourge for the Israelites. Perhaps the Philistines had heard about Saul’s mental and emotional struggles and launched an attack against Israel. They marched into Israel and were not too far from Bethlehem, David’s hometown. The Israelite army met them and they drew battle lines on the opposite side of a valley.
The Philistines had one warrior who was over 9 feet tall. His armor weighed around 125 pounds, the head of his spear weighed 15 pounds, and he used a shield bearer to carry his shield into battle for him. To all human judgment the chances of victory seemed to be on the side of the sword and the spear. He also had a “humane” way to deal with the war. The Israelites could pick one guy who would fight him one on one and the winner would take all. Instead of the whole armies going to battle whichever representative won the other side would become their slaves. Well, none of the Israelites wanted anything to do with this one-on-one challenge. Instead, they were terrified, including King Saul – who, as king, was supposed to lead the people and fight their battles. But remember, they were God’s chosen people, God promised them this land, God promised to be with them, God promised to bring a Savior into the world through them, and this guy was mocking and ridiculing God’s honor. So what was the real problem? Either God is not capable or God does not care. No one was willing.
No one, that is, until David showed up. David was bringing a care package from his father to his older brothers when he heard Goliath mocking the Israelites and the Lord God. He asked about this Goliath guy and eventually was brought to king Saul. Then David, probably in his late teens, offered to take on Goliath’s challenge. Why? Because, he often had to fend off wild animals from his the sheep he shepherded and “the LORD who delivered me from the pau of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (37). Did you notice where David placed his confidence? It wasn’t in himself, it wasn’t in his superior strength, it wasn’t in his abilities, it wasn’t in his weapons, it was in the LORD. The LORD who was on the Israelites side, hence on David’s side.
So off David goes into battle armed with a sling and five smooth stones. Goliath sees him and he’s enraged. “Am I dog, that you come at me with sticks?” “Come here and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.” If anyone had confidence in himself, it was Goliath. David’s response is key: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me…all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” It wasn’t David’s battle, it wasn’t Goliath’s battle, it wasn’t the Philistines’ battle, it wasn’t Israel’s battle, it was the LORD’s battle. He is the LORD – David’s Savior God of free and faithful love.
Then David rushed Goliath slung the stone, hit Goliath in the forehead, Goliath fell and David finished him off with his own sword, the Israelites were re-energized and routed the Philistines. It was a huge victory for Israel.
We, like those Israelites, can easily fall into anxiety when we face things in life and conclude: either God is not capable of helping or God does not care, both of which are lies. But when we believe either we’re easy victims of worry and fear. Goliath was certainly an enemy of the Israelites, but all he could attack was the body. We face battles every day. Battles against Satan, battles against the vices of this world, battles against our own fears, our own worries, our own anxiety, our own self-confidence, our own pride. Each of us faces time and again insurmountable odds, insurmountable obstacles, insurmountable giants. And each can fill our hearts and our souls with worry and anxiety, each can make us question whether or not God is capable, whether or not God cares, each can skew our perspective and focus us not on God but on ourselves and what we need to do in order to help ourselves. By ourselves we’re no match for the battles our souls face every day.
We need a leader, we need a leader greater than David. And in Jesus we have such a leader. He went into battle, the most important battle ever waged, the battle against Satan and every temptation, he went into war against Goliath of Golgotha taking upon Himself the sin of every human being- yours and mine included- dying on the cross for every time you and I have been worried, nervous, anxious, and afraid. Then in a glorious display of triumph and victory he rose from the dead showing that our hero, our leader, our Lord is BOTH capable of doing anything AND He does care about us more than we will every fathom. He cares about us enough to win eternal life for us and give it to us as a free gift!
So where does confidence come from for life? What’s the answer to worry and anxiety? Worry and anxiety happen when we lose our focus, lose our perspective, we take our trust off of God and place it something else. It’s amazing how much we want to be like David, the underdog who goes into a seemingly insurmountable battle with essentially only trust in God, we want to be like him, but how often do we live like Goliath? We do so when we put our trust in “spear and sword.” When we find or security in life in our careers, in our savings accounts, in our health, in our homes, in stuff, but stuff can’t save us. Stuff can’t free us from worry and anxiety because it IS incapable and it doesn’t care about us.
So what’s the answer to worry and anxiety? With David look to your faithful, saving Lord. Look to Jesus and you’re reminded that the Lord who loved you enough to send His Son for your salvation is not going to abandon you ever. Look to Jesus and you’re reminded that God’s wisdom is far greater to anything this world can come up with and so whatever giant you’re facing is an opportunity to trust in Him. Look to Jesus, and you’re reminded of God’s power – power to change circumstances and help you through the worst of circumstances. Look to Jesus, and you’re reminded that even if you’re facing death itself, this life isn’t it and because Jesus lives you will live eternally in heaven.
So, who are you doing to be? An Israelite soldier who faces life’s troubles questioning whether God is capable or God cares? Facing life with resignation, fear and worry? A Goliath who trusts in stuff that WILL fail? Or a David, who faces battles, troubles, and insurmountable objects with joy and confidence because you look not to yourself, not to stuff, but to your faithful Lord and Savior who IS capable of anything and has shown time and again that He DOES care about you and your salvation? Be a David, trust in your Savior, for the battle- every battle- is the LORD’s. Amen.