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The First Congregational Church, Columbus Ohio
Sunday, June 18, 2006
A sermon delivered by The Rev. Timothy Ahrens

Dedicated to Lincoln Taylor Glaros on his baptismal day, to Ron Buford, David Harsh and the "God is Still Speaking" Church, to all fathers on Father's Day 2006, to all "Davids" in their battles with all Goliaths, to the clergy and laity of The Episcopal Church and always to the glory of God!
One God, One Sling, One Stone
I Samuel 17:32-50; Mark 4:35-41

Introduction: When I was a student at Yale Divinity School, Dr. Brevard Childs, one of America's finest Old Testament professors once said to my Introduction to O.T. class: "You will waste too much of your time trying to be funny, relevant, and liked by the people in the pews. Just give them the word of God. That is what they came for. That is what they are hungering for."

Today, I offer you the story of David and Goliath, the final section of which I will read. I pray that you are inspired to apply God's powerful word in your life. I pray that you become David in this generation. God knows we need a David in this generation because God knows we need God in this generation!

Bullies and heroes. Devils and Angels. Challenges to faith and freedom saved by the pure in heart and unobtrusive saviors. In each generation, every person and nation is challenged to discover who they really are, to whom they belong, and whom they will worship and serve.

In David's generation, Israel's very existence was threatened by the Philistines. The Philistines had come to Canaan from the eastern Mediterranean islands about the same time as the Israelites, around 1200 BC. From Asia Minor to Egypt, this fierce and battle hungry people held the coastline and created conflict and trouble for Israel. Over the years, they forged superior weapons and had used them to their advantage, winning most military battles with those they encountered. All this happened before the Philistines had their secret weapon - Goliath.

Goliath was 6' 9" and a mighty warrior. Armed with a helmet, a coat of mail, greaves, javelin and a spear, his armor was matched only by his bombast. He was absolutely sure of himself. He never lost a battle. He was so intimidating that the text from I Samuel 17 does not even bother to use words like, "strong" "fierce" or "bold" in describing this mammoth battle machine. That is simply understood. The narrative is so vivid that both reader and the Israelite troops are "dismayed and greatly afraid" (vs. 11) before the Philistine. As the story opens, Goliath challenges one warrior from King Saul's army to a battle between two men. While this one-on-one battle approach was not common in the middle east of this time, it was very common in the Greco-Roman world. When the challenge comes to the army of Israel, they are frozen by fear.

But, one enters the battlefield who is not afraid. His name is David. The eighth son of a remote family, Jesse's youngest boy. He is a shepherd. He comes to the battlefield to bringing food for the troops. He has not come to fight. He comes as one who is loyal to King Saul and unencumbered by fear or by weapons and gear. He is innocent, honest, and unashamed to speak of his faith in the "Living God." David has been anointed by God for greatness. He is a young man of undaunted courage. He believes that no battle may be engaged without the rule of the Living God to guide the steps of the warrior. As I Samuel 13:14 tells us, David is one "after Yahweh's own heart."

As Goliath taunts and mocks Israel's army, David asks why God's army lets the taunts go unchallenged and the mockery goes unanswered. While the army asks, "Have you ever seen anything like this? This man openly and defiantly challenges Israel." ( 17:24-25), David asks, "What is in it for the man who kills the Philistine and gets rid of this ugly blot on Israel's name?"( 17:26). David believes there is a "Living God" in Israel and that God must never be mocked. Like Hannah, David believes that our God "gives life and gives death. Blessed be our Lord!" For life and death, David praises God!

Standing in the midst of a cowardly army, led by a cowardly King, David looks around and decides he is Israel's only hope. He tells King Saul he will battle Goliath. Saul says "no way" to David's first offer. But, Saul is confronted with a young man who truly believes in the dream of "God and country." Young though he is, David is the only man in this defeatist camp who speaks of and worships "the living God." He is surrounded by an army of God chosen ones - none of whom believe in God's power to overcome the enemy!

Youthful nerve and passionate faith make an unassailable combination. Saul cannot and will not stop this young shepherd boy. So Saul asks how David will fight this battle. Without hesitating, David asserts that as a shepherd he killed lions and bears with his sling and stones and most importantly, God's powerhas always delivered him from death's jaws. With a sling and stone, David saved his flock. Now, with a sling and five smooth stones, David will defeat Goliath through the same power of God! With his whole heart, he believes God will deliver him in the face of the Philistine because he absolutely believes in God's power to deliver people.

He has no doubt in the old stories of Yahweh's delivery service because he has firsthand data concerning bears and lions. As such, why would God not deliver David from Goliath? David's courageous faith finally gives Saul the courage to speak God's name! Saul sends David to battle with this blessing: "Go! And GOD help you." ( 17:37).

After 40 verses, the protagonists finally meet. The dramatic suspense has built. Goliath - the bully he is - is offended that Israel has sent a boy to battle. He openly ridicules David and curses him by the name of his gods. He does what all bullies do. He taunts David - half inviting and half intimidating him - thus conducting his own form of psychological warfare.

"Come on," Goliath sneers, "I'll make road kill of you for the buzzards. I'll turn you into a tasty morsel for field mice" (vs. 44).

David is offended once again! He bears witness to God! God will not be mocked. God will win this battle. Moreover, David's words guarantee that God receives all the glory for what is to come.

He responds, "You come at me with sword and spear and battle ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel's troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me. I'm about to kill you . . . and the whole earth will know that there's an extraordinary God in Israel . . . The battle belongs to God and he is handing you to us on a platter!" (vs. 45-47).

The verbal confrontation ends. Goliath lowers his helmet, braces his armor, sets his javelin and spear and runs at David. David readies his sling and stone (he only will need one!) and runs toward the battling beast. Headlong they charge. Stopping just before the giant, setting himself, winding up, and sending the stone flying toward Goliath - with one shot - David hits the Philistine in the forehead there embedding the stone deeply. Goliath dies as he crashes to the ground. David cuts off his head. The battle is finished. David has defeated Goliath with One God, one sling, and one stone. God prevails. To God be the glory!

Thousands of years have passed. There are still Goliaths in this world. There are still those who believe their size, their wealth, their power, their name, their Television shows, their popularity, their prestige allow them to do anything they want, step on anyone they want at anytime they want to, at any cost to anyone in their path. They mock people, But, more significantly they mock God. They take advantage of people and the earth which we must share.

Some of these Goliaths wear the mantle of God and abuse the name of God. Some of them claim to speak for God. But, as we know, God is capable of speaking for Himself! God is still speaking! While it is poor form to mock people, it is unforgivable to mock God. God must never be mocked!

Goliaths are easy to see because of their size, arrogance, and often because of their mean-spirits. But, the Davids of this world are harder to see because of their small stature, their kind hearts, and their gentle spirits. But, there are Davids in our world, too!

I ask you: where are the "Davids" of this world? Who will step forward - unafraid and unencumbered - to fight for God? Who will set themselves in the breach of faithlessness and fear to say, with David, "My God will not be mocked!" Who will enter the battle in our generation with only a sling and a stone - and nothing less than the power of the living God to "get rid of the ugly blot" as David did in his times?

Perhaps you are the one. You see, I believe each one of us has a sling and stone to fight for the cause of justice and righteousness. Our sling may be paper and our stone a pen. We may be teachers where our sling is the classroom and our stone a way to peace in a bloody and violent world. Wherever you go in the days ahead, go unafraid. Go unencumbered by heavy gear or expectations. God in the power of the living God to change the world. Do not be afraid. Stand. An where should you stand? Stand on the promises of God.

The God of Abraham and Sarah; of Isaac and Rebekah, of David and Jesus - both from the branch of Jesse's family tree - our God - will guide us to victory in all the seemingly insurmountable battles of our lives. Against all odds, our God prevails. When you believe this and live and act true to your belief, you shall live in the light of living God and you shall overcome. Amen.

(Material drawn from Walter Brueggemann's commentory on 1st and 2nd Samuel)

Copyright 2006, The First Congregational Church