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Sunday, December 01, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "The Battle is the Lord's"

“The Battle Is the Lord’s”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
December 1, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 17:1-58

Last week, we were finally introduced to the young man who was anointed to be the replacement for disappointing King Saul.

This young man was not nearly as tall or outwardly appealing as his other 7 brothers.

But God could see something inside of him that the Lord really liked.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

And there was something good going on in the heart of this young man.

His name? David.  And he had a heart for the heart of God.

At the end of chapter 16, David’s fortunes were rising and Saul’s fortunes were falling.

Saul has had the spiritual right to the kingdom torn away from him. And worse, the Spirit of the Lord has left Saul. And a tormenting spirit has been sent on occasion to trouble him.

But the Spirit of the Lord has come upon young David. And he’s even appeared at court as a musician to sooth the troubled spirit of Saul. Saul has been very pleased with him and kept him around as an armor bearer and court musician.

We’ll find out today that this was just a temporary arrangement and has not really lasted, but it showed us that David was on the way up.

In today’s story, the army of Israel faces a great threat in the form of a giant of a man, a terrible, fierce warrior named Goliath.

And when the moment of crisis comes, out of the mouth of one of the leading characters comes this key phrase (v.47), “The Battle Is the LORD’s.”

And I want to make that the title of today’s message: “The Battle Is the Lord’s.”

Because it’s easy to forget that.

It’s easy to make all of the battles that we fight in life, foremostly, about us.

And it’s easy to think that this very familiar story, this quintessential story about the strong and the weak, is chiefly about being brave or believing in yourself or how the small can sometimes upset the large.

I mean, when we say, “It’s a David and Goliath story,” we focus on the relative sizes of the combatants, don’t we?

But, truly, at the heart of this story is this declaration, “The Battle Is the Lord’s.”

Now, this story is so familiar, I’m not even going to tell you to pretend that you don’t know what happens.

But do pay attention with me to all of the details of the story as we go, not just to who wins or who loses.

Pay special attention to what David says because I think we learn the most practical theology from David’s speeches in this chapter. Not so much what David does, as what David says, teaches us the most in 1 Samuel 17.

Let’s start in verse 1.

“Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.”

Do you see the picture in your head?

There are two armies on two hills, facing one another.

It’s the Israelites on one side and on the other, their perpetual enemies during this time period, the Philistines.

Saul had been anointed to defeat the Philistines, and at times he had gotten pretty close to it. But his half-heartedness was almost always snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

So, here they are again.

And this time, the Philistines put forth a secret weapon. V.4

“A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.”

This guy is scary. He’s danger incarnate. He’s one bad dude.

This is the moment in the movie theater when your girlfriend grabs your arm because she’s scared.

And we would all be scared if he showed up right here today threatening us.

Goliath is the very picture of intimidation.

And he’s got a mouth to go with his muscles. V.8

“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.’

Then the Philistine said, ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’”

So big old mean Goliath offers the Israelites a deal:

Your best guy against our best guy, and winner takes all.

Now, what is supposed to happen right now?

Israel needs to find their best guy. And he needs to be really, really TALL, right?

Goliath is tall. Really, really tall.

Who does Israel have that is really, really tall?

Who should get out in front of Israel and fight as a champion for Israel? V.11

“On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.”

Apparently Tall Saul isn’t going to try to take on Goliath.

Is there anyone who will?  V.12

“Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul's time he was old and well advanced in years. Jesse's three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah.

David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep at Bethlehem.”

The author of 1 Samuel re-introduces us to David. Last week, we were told the secret part of his backstory, that David had been anointed by Samuel.

We also learned in the last chapter that he had even met Saul, been Saul’s musician and armor-bearer, but that was apparently temporary or only a part-time job.

At this point, David is back with the sheep most of the time and also goes at times to the army, at least to support his brothers and maybe to put in some armor-bearing hours, as well.

Whatever the arrangement, it’s clear that David is the youngest or smallest of Jesse’s sons. He’s the runt of the litter, and the most insignificant little fellow from the little town of Bethlehem. V.16

“For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.  Now Jesse said to his son David, ‘Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.’”

Did it "just so happened" that David was sent that day to the Valley of Elah? There are no coincidences. God is providentially telling the story of the world. V.20

“Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers.

As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.”

One commentator that I read this week said that this might have been the first time that young David ever heard anyone defy the Lord.

And it leaves a big impression on him. V.24

“When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. [Why did they line up every day if they knew this was going to happen?] Now the Israelites had been saying, ‘Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father's family from taxes in Israel.’

[But why won’t the king do it himself?]

David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’”

Those are the first words that David speaks in the Bible.

And they are a good first speech!

David sees something that the whole rest of Israel is missing.

This is not just some big bad warrior. This is an enemy of God.

Who does he think he is?

He’s a disgrace!

Who does this uncircumcised (meaning: outsider, out of the covenant with God, unbeliever) Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?

And note that word “living.”  That becomes one of David’s key phrases to describe God.  Moses and Joshua said it, too, but David picks it up and uses it in key places.

David’s God is not Dagon. Remember Dagon? Fallen on his face before the ark of the LORD?!

That’s Goliath’s god. He’s dead!

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’”

“And what is the reward for removing this trash?”

Goliath isn’t the only one that can trash-talk!

Now, here’s our first point for today. #1 out of 3.

“The Battle Is the Lord’s”

#1. SO WE NEED TO SEE IT THAT WAY.

David can see what others cannot.

He sees with the eyes of faith.
He sees with the heart of faith.

David is theological first and practical second.

David has the right perspective.

Everyone else sees a giant of a man.

David sees an enemy of God.

Do you see what I’m saying?

This passage is not teaching us “how to deal with the ‘Goliaths’ in our lives” if we think that the “Goliath’s in our lives” are the problems of life that are just too big for us to handle.

It is teaching us to how to deal with the “Goliaths in our lives” if the “Goliaths in our lives” are those people, things, ideas, and temptations that stand in opposition to God and His purposes.

Goliath was defying God.

He was a picture of demonic activity.

He was a picture of Satanic opposition.

I think Goliath could, right now, stand for all of the times when Satan assails us, when the world attacks us, when our flesh rises up to tempt us.

Goliath is a picture of defying God.

And David got that.

He could see it with the eyes of faith.

Last week, we learned that “man looks at the outward appearance,” and Goliath’s outward appearance was formidable!

But David’s perspective was like God’s perspective. He could see not only how big Goliath was but how big His God was and how insulted and affronted His God was by Goliath’s big mouth.

So, David was able to say something like, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

The Battle is the Lord’s.

How often do we need to remind ourselves of that?

How often do we need to our perspectives to be changed?

We may be in the battle, but the battle is not ours. The battle is the Lord’s.

‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” v.27

“They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, ‘This is what will be done for the man who kills him.’ When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’ ‘Now what have I done?’ said David. ‘Can't I even speak?’”

There is clearly no love lost between these two brothers. They are really in different generations even though they have the same father. One is the oldest of 8 and the other is the youngest.

And I was really struck by verse 28 where Eliab claims to know what is in David’s heart and that it is wicked.

That’s the exact opposite of what God sees and says about David’s heart!

And that’s not what comes out David’s mouth!

Eliab has it all wrong. He can’t see.  V.30

“He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. [Let’s see what all of the chatter is about all of a sudden.]

David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’

Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.’

[David is old enough to be called a warrior (chapter 16, verse 18) but not old enough to join the army–so he’s younger than 20. Perhaps a teenager.]

But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.

The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’”

Here’s point #2, also from David’s speech.

The Battle Is the Lord’s:

#2. SO WE NEED TO REMEMBER HOW HE’S WON IN THE PAST.

David gives Saul a great answer.

He says basically that Goliath is not much worse than a bear or a lion, and he’s killed those before.

Goliath is just a brute beast.  Big and ferocious, sure, but I’m not worried.

And here’s why. V.37 again.

“The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’”

The battle is the Lord’s.

And He’s beat my enemies before, so I can trust Him.

God has been faithful to fight my battles before, so I can trust Him to be faithful again.

Don’t we all need that reminder?

How many times has God come through for us and yet do we trust Him now with today’s battle?

Or do we take it back on ourselves?

That’s one of the reasons why we give testimonies, isn’t it?

This was David’s testimony.

“The LORD delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.”

Have you been thinking about sharing a testimony of Christ at Christmastime in the next few weeks?

“The LORD delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.”

I know that He can do it again.

And He can deliver me from the paw of this Philistine.

The world, the flesh, the devil. He can deliver me.

And Saul has to accept that. V.37

“Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you.’ Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 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.”

They were probably way too big knowing how tall Saul was.

David says, “I don’t need them anyway.”  V.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.

Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him.

[This isn’t going to enhance his reputation! “Today, our foremost champion Goliath killed a young boy who stood no chance against him.”]

He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.

‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I'll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!’”

[Now, it’s David’s turn again to make a speech. Listenly closely.]

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.

This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.

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.’”

Just press “pause” for one second before we see how this battle goes.

David says, “The Battle is the Lord’s” therefore:

#3. SO WE NEED TO TRUST IN HIS NAME, NO MATTER WHAT.

Here’s where we get to see a little bit of what God saw in David.

David had heart for the heart of God.

Even as he goes into battle, the point is not, “I’ve got a slingshot, and I’m really good with it.”

No. It’s “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.’”

David is not the point of the story of David and Goliath.

The LORD is the point of the story of David and Goliath.

Yes, we are called to be brave like David is.

But we are not called to “believe in ourselves.”

We are called to believe the LORD and trust in His name. V.45 again.

“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.”

The name of the God is what is important to David.

The fame of God’s name is what David cares about here. V.46

“...the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.”

He’s the “living God.”

Do others know that you and I have a living God?

Is that what we care about?

So often, we want God to fight our battles so that the battles will go away.

But David wanted God to fight his battle so that He would get glory from the victory.

Do you see the difference?

The world, the flesh, and the devil come at us with sword and spear and javelin, and they are huge and intimidating.

But we have a weapon much greater than any the world, the flesh, or the devil would throw at us.

And it’s not a slingshot.

It’s the name of the LORD Almighty.

Greater is He that is you than He that is in the world!

The battle is the Lord’s!

We need to trust in His name, no matter what.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Is the world, the flesh, and the devil taunting you from the frontlines?

Are you tempted to look at how big and intimidating Goliath is?

Or are you able, like David, to see that the battle is the Lord’s, and to remember how He’s won previous battles for you, and to trust in His name, no matter what?

That’s what David did, and look what happened. V.48

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

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 facedown on the ground.

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.

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.”

Just what David said would happen. V.52

“Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp. David took the Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine's weapons in his own tent.

As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, ‘Abner, whose son is that young man?’ Abner replied, ‘As surely as you live, O king, I don't know.’ The king said, ‘Find out whose son this young man is.’ As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine's head. ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ Saul asked him. David said, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.’”

And that gets us set up for next week.

I don’t know exactly why Saul doesn’t know who David is. Perhaps it’s been some time since he was a court musician. Perhaps he doesn’t recognize him anymore.

“Remind me who this is!” Or perhaps he’s just spiritually blind.

And there is David still holding the Philistine’s head. Not normally depicted in the flannelgraph versions of this story!

And David says, “I’m the son of your servant Jesse” from the little town of Bethlehem.

And his life has changed now forever.

Why?

Because David saw with the eyes of faith whose the battle was.
And He remembered how God had won battles for him before.
And he trusted in the name of the LORD His God, no matter what was before him.

And we can do the same.

...

One of the things I love doing when reading about the life of David is to compare his life with the life of His greatest descendent, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Great David’s Greatest Son.

Also born in the little town of Bethlehem.

Also despised and rejected by those who should know better.

The Pharisees were “Eliabs” to Jesus.

“I know why you’re here. You’ve got a wicked heart!”

And King Jesus also defeated a great enemy by trusting in the name of the LORD.

Matthew 27–“In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'’”

Jesus did entrust Himself to God. And He was vindicated.

All of our sins were paid for, and then God raised Him from the dead.

The Goliath of our God-denying sins was defeated.

And the Battle was the Lord’s.

That great victory is what we celebrate at this table.

Not five smooth stones, but this bread and this cup, symbolizing the victory of our champion over sin and death.

If you are a faith-follower of Great David’s Greatest Son, King Jesus, then you are invited to eat and drink in celebration with us.

***

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