Sunday 18th July 2021

 Sam 17; 38 – 51

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield-bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!’

45 David said to the Philistine, ‘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 have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 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.’

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

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.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

When Facing a Giant 

Little David facing Goliath the giant is one of the best-known stories in the Hebrew Bible.

There is something about the little guy gaining victory over the big bully that strikes a chord in the human heart, something that resonates with our sense of fairness and the right.

Indeed, it is a common theme that has taken shape in countless novels and movies.

The story embodies the hopes of all persons who are facing an overwhelming power or force of evil that there is a way to overcome and be victorious.

But I must confess that for a long time I resisted preaching on David slaying the giant because of the violence and bloodshed involved. Christians, I believe, should be nonviolent and should work for peace whenever possible.

There is something about David lopping off the head of Goliath and then dragging it across the battlefield that doesn’t set real well with rational, compassionate Christianity.

I.                  But as we think about giants, we realize that giants come in many forms and fashions.

And squaring off with a giant doesn’t always mean the shedding of blood. We might define a giant for this morning’s purposes as any powerful or overwhelming force that oppresses, robs of life, destroys human dignity, or feeds on injustice.

Individually we face giants.

Individuals may face the giant of discrimination in the workplace, or the giant of prejudice in the community, or the giant of a debilitating or life-threatening illness.

At some point in our lives many of us, or someone we love, will face the giant of depression.

And collectively we face giants.

As a church, we face giants in our culture that seek to defy and work against the cherished principles that we stand for.

As I said, giants come in many forms and fashions.

II.               But how do we confront the giants of life?

What resources can we draw on?

There is a lot to be learned from this ancient and well-known story.

In spite of his eagerness to show off on the battlefield, David demonstrates some important qualities of leadership in this story.

May I suggest to you that the five smooth stones that David gathered from the stream can be symbolic of five “spiritual stones” that enable us to face the giants of life.

The first smooth stone is courage.

In facing Goliath with courage, David drew on his strengths and gained confidence as he remembered how he had attacked the bear and lion.

To face a giant with courage is to go forth in acting on our strengths and not trying to compensate for our weaknesses.

“Courage,” someone has said, “is fear that has said its prayers.”

 “To be this church  in this country, in this day takes courage.”

But more important, David’s courage also rested on trust in the power of the God of Israel.

Thus trust is the second smooth stone for facing a giant.

Whereas his opponent trusted in javelin, sword, spear, and armour (shall we say military strength, missiles, ?), David trusted in the deliverance of the Living God.

 David realized that there are resources beyond the technology of kingdoms.

 More and more as we go on with the Christian life we learn the absolute power of Spirit over circumstances.”

3 Trust helps us to tap into that Spirit.

Trust in God gives us hope that there is a way into the future when there seems to be no way to go.

Dr. Robert Schuller tells of listening to a prominent German psychiatrist speak on the topic of depression and how many of his patients had sat under analysis for months without any sign of recovery.

Then one day a spark would appear in their flat, dull eyes: “it was the spark of the birth of hope!”

4 Hope is the force that helps us face the giants of life and see a way when there seems to be no way.

The fourth smooth stone is truth.

As we face a giant, we best know that we are in the right, that truth is on our side.

Abraham Lincoln once told some visiting ministers that he did not worry whether God was on his side or not, “for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right,” he said.

It was, Lincoln said, “my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.” When we are absolutely, one-hundred-percent certain that we are in the right! and truth! is on our side, then we are ready to speak truth to power, as David did.

And the fifth smooth stone is honour.

Bringing honour to God’s name.

As the story tells it, David was incensed at Goliath’s mockery of the God of Israel.

 David did what he did so that the honour of God’s name might be restored. Whatever we do, whatever problem we face, it is imperative that our conduct, and response are such that God’s name is honoured, and not defamed.

What giants might we see on our horizon?

And what five smooth stones will accompany you as you face the giant down?

With the right approach, giants can be felled.

Who would have thought a few decades ago that the giant of communism and the Berlin Wall would be knocked down, or apartheid in South Africa would be defeated and many other wrongs brought down?

5 As we think about the giants of our world, what is required of us is not a passive, inactive posture.

6 No, when facing a giant, what is required is courageous action, based on trust in God, with hope that positive change is possible, as we speak truth to power and seek to bring honour to God’s name.

Courage, trust, hope, truth, and honour—

five smooth spiritual stones for facing the giants of life.—

Amen.

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