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First Reading = 1 Samuel 16:1-13
16The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
We are continuing our series looking at the Gospel According to David. In this series we’re seeing how David demonstrates, receives, and desperately needs the grace of God – just like Jesus’ disciples. Last week we heard how David lived a life of guidance. He let God set the direction rather than asking God to help his own personal direction.
This week we are going to the most famous story of David – his battle with Goliath. But we’re not really going to talk about the battle, so here’s a spoiler alert: David wins! Instead, we’re going to focus on what David said and did leading up to the battle.
For a little context, Goliath was a giant champion of the enemy Philistine army. He challenged the Israelites to send their best warrior over to battle him in single combat. That single combat could be a proxy for whose deity was really stronger. But Goliath did not state it quite as nicely as that. He hurled insults at the Israelites and at God. But no one was confident enough to go toe-to-toe with Goliath. And it would have been toe-to-toe, because you can’t go eye-to-eye with a giant!
When David heard about this, he asked his brothers and other Israelites soldiers if anyone had the faith to battle this Philistine. His bravery and apparent faith in God’s presence got the attention of King Saul, and that’s where we pick up the story.
Main Reading = 1 Samuel 17:31-40
31When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. 32David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” 38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.
40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
Confidence in Provision
As most of you know, our older son developed seizures when he was about two-and-a-half. We were living in Pennsylvania at the time, and I vividly remember one afternoon a little after we realized that he had seizures. He loved playgrounds – still does! And on this afternoon, he was crawling around like a spider-monkey on the playground, just like normal. And I was pretty close by. I was watching him very closely. But it wasn’t like I was standing in spotter position beneath him at all times.
All of a sudden I had the very intense conviction that he was about to have a seizure, and I needed to move to a specific spot. Not where he was at the moment, but a few feet over. I’ve learned to listen to those promptings, so I quickly stepped over to that spot and raised my arms. Just then, our son had a seizure, which made him stumble forward and fall off the pretty high playground equipment. Right into my outstretched arms. I’m not making this up!
What happened there? Well I see two possibilities. Option #1. Perhaps my brain’s subconscious pattern matching saw something in our son’s face or body position that tipped me off to a potential seizure. Perhaps my brain simulated possible outcomes and realized he would stumble forward instead of backward or to the left or to the right or just plop to the ground. If that’s the case, yay subconscious brain! But, frankly, I don’t have that much confidence in my subconscious pattern matching abilities.
Which brings us to Option #2. Perhaps the Holy Spirit gave me a heads up. Perhaps God gave me a warning and a very simple set of instructions: get to this spot quickly! I think that’s actually a better and more likely explanation for what happened. I strongly believe that was a powerful, timely example of God’s provision.
Have you ever experienced God’s provision? Maybe it was a word of warning. Maybe it was a simple set of inexplicable instructions. Maybe it was a vague feeling. Maybe it was much more tangible!
In our text today, we see the transforming power of God’s provision. David says he had battled lions and bears as a shepherd protecting his flock. Think about that for a moment. Because, maybe this disqualifies me from being a good shepherd, but if I were armed with a sling and one of my flock got carted off by a lion or bear, I would tip my cap to the carnivore and move along. But David went after the lion and bear. And he said he would catch them by the jaw when they tried to attack him, which I have to believe isn’t easy or normal, and then he would beat them then and there. So there’s that.
But interestingly, he doesn’t give himself credit for these amazing feats of strength and battle prowess. And he doesn’t say, “since I can kill a lion I can kill this Philistine.” No, he says, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” David had experienced God’s provision, God’s deliverance. And that experience of God’s provision gave him confidence that this was another of those God moments. Not every moment is a God moment when it comes to provision, but David was confident that this moment was definitely on God’s radar.
That’s the power of God’s provision! When you have experienced something that can only be explained by divine intervention, and when you learn to sense God’s presence, whole new possibilities are open to you. They aren’t open to you on your schedule. These possibilities are only available when God is ready to provide. If you miraculously survive jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, you should still pack a parachute next time! Or, you know, stop jumping out of airplanes. Either one. God doesn’t work on demand, made-to-order, and always the same! But there are times when you can sense God’s presence and provision.
Have you ever experienced God’s provision in some way? How did you recognize it? Do you have the ability to discern, to notice when God is very near and very ready to act through you? David had that sense.
Wearing the Wrong Suit
And he needed that sense. He needed that confidence. Because no one else believed in him, and no one else believed that God would work through him.
But, in all fairness, David had a couple of strikes against him. We know from other texts that David played the harp for Saul when he was troubled and upset. We don’t know for sure, but it looks like David was Saul’s therapeutic harpist before his battle with Goliath.
So let’s put this in modern terms. Imagine that the heavyweight boxing champion, Tyson Fury, challenged the world to come and fight his 273 pounds of muscle and lifelong training. And imagine the person who stepped forward to fight him was a bit scrawny and a bit young. And you ask this erstwhile fighter for his qualifications before stepping into the right against Tyson Fury. And he replies, “Well, I grew up on a farm. And in my spare time I also write soothing elevator music.” How would you bet on that fight? Tyson Fury, heavyweight champion, against the elevator music farmer boy. That was David!
So King Saul and David’s brothers and everyone else had legitimate reasons for doubting David’s ability. Nevertheless, Saul endorsed him for the battle after their little interview. Maybe Saul was desperate for someone – anyone – to fight Goliath so he wouldn’t have to. Maybe Saul sensed the presence of the Lord. We don’t know.
But we do know that Saul tried to get David to wear the king’s own armor. Was he trying to help David? What’s going on here?
I have a theory, but it’s only a theory. It’s worth what you paid for it! My theory is that Saul did, in fact, realize that God was going to work through David. God had worked through Saul several times in the past, and I think he saw the hand of the Lord upon David. But we know from other texts that Saul was very jealous, and very self-centered. He wanted the glory himself! Stay with me here! So my theory is that Saul sensed that David would somehow win this battle. And if he wore Saul’s very distinctive armor, the Philistines would think it was Saul who had killed their champion. They would be afraid of Saul! After all, who else would have worn the distinctive armor of the king?!?
Saul’s move here reminds me of Patroclus and Achilles from the Iliad. Achilles refuses to fight against the Trojans, but Patroclus puts on Achilles’ armor and leads the troops into battle. The troops believe they are being led by their legendary leader Achilles, until Patroclus dies at the hands of Hector and the ruse is revealed.
But David had the confidence to say to Saul, “This won’t work. This isn’t me. I’m not used to this. I have to do it my way, because that’s how God has delivered me in the past.”
He could not have won the battle if he were wearing the wrong suit. He could not have won the battle if he had tried to fit the expectations of the king. He could not have won the battle if he had tried to be someone other than himself.
Have you ever felt pressure to be someone else? Have you ever felt the pressure to conform to someone else’s expectations?
I have had the privilege of working with many leaders and interns over the years, and one of them was about to give their first large group talk. This person wasn’t confidence in their abilities yet. And they said, “But I can’t say it the way you would say it!” To which I replied, “That’s fabulous! Because you need to say it the way you would say it!”
I went on to explain that anyone else trying to be me would be a poor imitation. But if I tried to be someone else, I would also be a poor imitation. We are built by God in particular ways. Some are built to wear armor. Some are built to wear a tunic. Some are built to wield a sword. Some are built to use their sling. Some are built to speak fluently, others to write, others to simply act! Some are built to rush in first, others to contemplate and plan.
David had two big secrets to his success at this point in his life. #1 he had experienced God’s provision and knew how to sense God’s presence. #2 he knew who he was and how God had designed him and he leaned into that design instead of outside expectations.
So how can we gain some of that Godly perspective? How can we gain some of that sense of calling that David had in abundance?
If you aren’t sure where God has been present in your life, let me share one tool we used in the “My Gospel” class earlier this year. I encouraged people to break their life into sections and consider the presence of God. “When I was a child, where was God? What did I think then, and what do I see now?” “When I was in middle school and high school, where was God? What did I think then, and what do I see now?” “When I was a young adult, where was God?” You get the idea. Break your life into chronological chunks, and try to see where God was present and where God was providing for you in some way. That’s a way to heighten your awareness of God’s presence and provision.
Here’s another tool to heighten your awareness of God’s presence and provision. Get a piece of paper, and on one side write down ten high points from your life. On the other side write ten hard times from your life. Looking at those ten high points and ten hard times, where do you see the presence and provision of God? It’s often in the hard times where we notice God.
If you aren’t sure how God designed you, what kind of armor to wear, we have an online assessment for spiritual gifts on our website – fpcl.org/gifts. The basic idea is to consider how God has wired you to serve – that’s your spiritual DNA. Then add to your spiritual DNA the ways you have seen God show up in your life – those are your God moments. And then add in your personality and passions. Your particular, designed sweet spot from God is when you are serving in a way that brings you life instead of draining you, when you are placing yourself in a position for God to work in you and through you, when you are doing something you are deeply passionate about, and when you are doing it in a way that resonates with your personality rather than swimming upstream. The online assessment has some of that, and you can email me if you want the rest! The key is that you want to learn when to say yes, and more importantly when to say no! If you don’t know when to say “no,” you don’t know yourself well enough yet!
Sisters and brothers, David had experienced God’s provision and he knew how to sense God’s presence. That was one major part of his sense of calling and purpose in life. David also knew who he was and how God had designed him. That allowed him to say yes to fighting lions and bears and Goliaths, and say no to wearing the king’s ill-fitting armor. How can you use these tools to better sense the presence of God in your past and in your present? And how can you use these tools to better understand how God has designed you to say yes to some things and no to others? That would give you, like David, a much stronger sense of calling. Amen.