Life of David: Facing our Giants

Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:41-50
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
September 25, 2016

This past April, our RUCC book group read the book, The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks.  The Secret Chord is a historical novel based on the life of King David.  One of the members of the book group made the comment that she did not know much about King David.  It was then that I decided to plan a sermon series for this fall on the life and times of David. It’s a fitting time to study David’s life for in two short months we will begin Advent and David was a key ancestor in Jesus’ family tree.

David, personally, is one of my favorite characters in the Bible.  God called David “a man after my (God’s) own heart.”  No one else received that title – not Abraham or Moses or Joseph.  One author writes this,

One might read David’s story and wonder what God saw in him.  The man fell as often as he stood, stumbled as often as he conquered.  He stared down Goliath; yet ogled at Bathsheba.  He could lead armies but couldn’t manage a family.  Raging David.  Weeping David.  God-hungry David.  A man after God’s own heart.  In David’s good moments, no one was better.  In his bad moments, could one be worse?  The heart that God loved was a checkered one. (Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, p.7)

Yes, we need David’s story.  I need David’s story.  If God can make a miracle out of David, maybe God can do the same for me, for us. It is from that hope that I begin a 5 week sermon series on the life of King David.  I have so much material that I could make it a 5 month sermon series; after all, 66 chapters of scripture are dedicated to David, more than anyone else in the Bible, other than Jesus.  But I will limit myself to five weeks.

This morning we encounter David as a young boy.  The Philistines and the Israelites arrange their forces on opposite sides of the valley of Elah.  This makes it very risky for either army to begin and attack.  By descending one slope, crossing the valley floor and wading its stream and climbing up the other, the attackers will make themselves very vulnerable.  So the result is a stalemate; neither army dares to leave its position.  And so Goliath provides a solution.  Following a popular Near Eastern custom, Goliath boastfully challenges anyone in Israel to a one on one confrontation.  This will cut down significantly on the amount of bloodshed.  The encounter will decide the battle between the Philistines and the Israelites.  

Goliath was a giant – 9 feet, 9 inches tall.  One youth minister described Goliath in these terms, “He stood almost ten feet tall in his stocking feet.  He wore a 76 inch belt and his throat was so big he could swallow a Big Mac, large fries, cherry pie and large coke all at once.  He never wore deodorant.  It took an entire can of spray for each underarm and he realized pretty quickly how expensive it could be!  He is a nightmare!” Yes, he is the Philistines weapon of mass destruction!

Scripture tells us that Saul, the King of the Israelites was “terrified” by this giant monster, Goliath.  Actually, the Hebrew literally translates into “it caused his limbs to shake and it caused his bowels to turn to water.”  In other words, the brave King Saul was really scared.  There was no way he was taking on Goliath.

Scripture says that “For forty days, twice a day, morning and even, the Philistine giant strutted in front of the Israelite army” (1 Sam 17:16)   The number 40 is very significant in the Bible.  For forty days the rain flooded the earth in the time of Noah.  For forty years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert.  For 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert.    Yes, the number 40 means a time of challenge and so for 40 days, Goliath taunts the Israelites, morning and night.  And finally on the forty-first day, David appears.  Yes, 12 year old David, maybe half the size of Goliath with peach fuzz on his face feels that he is the man for the job.  Now David is the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons.  The Hebrew word scripture uses is haqqaton  — it implies more than age, it suggests rank.  It means more than the youngest brother; it means the little brother, the runt of the litter.  

In one corner of the boxing ring, we have (play “Eye of the Tiger”)….Goliath.  In the other corner, we have (play “ Brahms Lullaby”)… a baby of sorts, pre-pubescent David, who isn’t even shaving yet.  Goliath can hardly believe his eyes.  He scoffs at the skinny, scrawny kid, names him Twiggy.   “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?”  It is the toothpick vs the tornado.  The toy poodle taking on the Doberman.  While the Philistines roll on the ground laughing hysterically at the sight before them, David takes one smooth stone and a sling shot (play “Chariots of Fire”) and rocks Goliath to sleep.  (Bad joke)

The truth of the matter is that Goliaths still roam our world today.   We may not face physical giants, but we most certainly face mental and emotional giants, health giants, physical giants.   And like Goliath who taunted the Israelites for 40 mornings and 40 nights, so, too, our Goliaths do the same.  Maybe your Goliath is your first thought in the morning and the last worry of the night.  There are two lessons I believe that we can learn from David.

First, there are medical experts who believe that Goliath had a serious medical condition.  The name of that medical condition is acromegaly – a disease caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland.  The tumor causes an overproduction of human growth hormone, which would explain Goliath’s extraordinary size.   The tallest recorded person in history also suffered from this disease.  One of the common side effects of acromegaly is vision problems because the pituitary tumors grow to the point where they compress the nerves leading to the eyes.  “Why was Goliath led onto the valley floor by an attendant?  Because the attendant was his visual guide.  Why does he say to David, ‘Come to me’ because he cannot locate David otherwise.  Why does he say, ‘Am I dog that you come to me with sticks?’ David has only one stick – his shepherd staff – yet, Goliath sees two” (Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath, p. 14).

I do not know if this theory is correct, but if it is, perhaps, Goliath is not as dangerous as he looks.  Too often, we fear our giants.  We toss and turn at night; we obsess over our problems; we make mountains out of molehills.  The average person spends 6.5 years of their worrying – that amounts to 2 hours and 15 minutes of worry every day.  We worry about our work, our finances, our relationships, terrorism, health, eating too much, being late for an appointment, what other people think of us, hair loss, to name a few.  Yet, 85% of what people worry about never happened.  Twelve percent of the worries were exaggerated or misperceived.  For example, “You are sitting on an airplane and the pilot says, ‘We are headed for some turbulence.’”  Automatically, we may think of the worst-case scenario, “Oh no!  We are going to die.”  So, 85% of our worries never happen, 12% are over exaggerated, which means that 97% of our worries really have little basis. So the next time that you find yourself tossing and turning at 3 a.m., remind yourself that there is a 97% chance that what you are worrying about will never come to fruition.  To emphasize that point, there was a study done in which older people were asked, “When you look back on your life, what is it that you regret most?”  The person conducting the survey expected to hear about an affair, or a shrewd business deal or an addiction.  But no, the number 1 regret was worry.  They wish they hadn’t spent so much time worrying in life (The Legacy Project, April 2013).  In other words, we believe our Goliaths are much more dangerous than they really are.

The worriers in our midst may say, “But what about the 3% of worries that do have legitimacy?”  What do we do with those concerns? That brings me to the second observation in this passage.  David believes that he has something more powerful than size or weapons, he has the power of God in his life.  Working with sheep, David discovered that the Lord was his Shepherd.  In the pastures, David had been immersed in the closeness and greatness of God. If you notice in Sam 17, David references God nine times. He references Goliath only two times.  That is, God-thoughts outnumber Goliath-thoughts by nine to two.  In other words, a key strategy in facing our Goliaths is to spend four times as much energy focusing on the power of God rather than wallowing in the shadow of our giants.  It’s time to stop looking at the size of our problem and begin to look at the power of our God.

As I conclude today’s sermon, I would like to leave you with one more song.  It’s called “I Hope You Dance” by Leann Womack.  Leann wrote this song for her daughter.  The words say this:

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance

Never settle for the path of least resistance

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance

And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance. . . I hope you dance.

*Many of the descriptions about Goliath and David come from Max Lucado’s book, Facing Your Giants.