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The One Between (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 14, 2023 4:00 am

The One Between (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 14, 2023 4:00 am

Having Goliath in their army gave the Philistines great confidence; he was huge, mighty, and heavily armored. Israel didn’t seem to stand a chance. But on Truth For Life, Alistair Begg points out how weakness can triumph over strength in God’s economy.


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When it's a champion you're looking for, it's Goliath.

That you'd like to have on your team. The Philistines must have been thrilled. Goliath was huge. He was mighty.

He was heavily armored. By all appearances Israel didn't stand a chance against him. But today on Truth for Life we'll discover how weakness can triumph over strength in God's economy.

Alistair Begg is teaching a message titled, The One Between. First Samuel chapter 17 and verse 1. Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle, and they were gathered at Socah, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socah and Azekah in Ephes-damim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and encamped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines.

And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail. And the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders.

The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shieldbearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "'Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul?

Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.' And the Philistines said, "'I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man that we may fight together.' When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Amen." Well, we are now clearly beyond the halfway mark in our studies in 1 Samuel. If we know very little about 1 Samuel, we probably know this chapter. It is one of the great stories, not only of the Bible, but it is a great story in itself. It's the record of a dramatic encounter between a giant and a shepherd boy. And even just as stated in those terms immediately perks up some of the ears of people and, not least of all, some of the little people. Some of us, depending on our background, may come to this as essentially a blank slate. The only thing you know about David and Goliath, you read in Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book of the same name.

And that's good, that's fine. This will help you as you think about what he said in that book. Others of you, like me, have known this story from infancy. And it's questionable who has the greater challenge—i.e., the person who really knows nothing about it and comes to the text, or the person like myself who thinks they know everything about it when they come to the text. Arguably, the latter is the greater challenge, because I grew up singing only a boy named David, only a little sling, only a boy named David, but he could pray and sing. That seems to me an attempt at poetry right there.

There's not a lot there. Only a boy named David, only a rippling brook, only a boy named David, and five little stones he took. And one little stone went in the sling, and the sling went round and round. And one little stone went in the sling, and the sling went round and round, and round and round and round and round and round and round and round. And one little stone flew through the air, and the giant fell to the ground. I remember the round, round, round seven times, because it gave us the opportunity just to be a complete nuisance to all the people standing around us, because you were allowed to swing your hands, and so I would make sure I swung them as effectively as I could, and usually was sent to another corner of the classroom for the balance of the time. But that is of no surprise to you.

You know that I've spent a lot of my time in the corner. The story hasn't only captured the imagination of children. It has tested the minds of theologians. It tests the minds and abilities of those who are going to teach this particular passage. I have found it particularly daunting. Once again, it becomes obvious to me that the passages that are harder to understand often yield to one's study easier than the ones that we have been familiar with for so long. Some of us have suffered from sermons that were preached by well-meaning pastors who preached, actually, truths but not out of the passage, not out of 1 Samuel 17. And you may well have heard sermons like Dealing with the Giants in Your Life and The Five Stones of David and so on, where the minister told you that the stones in his slaying stood for certain things—for example, obedience, prayer, fellowship, worship, and witnessing—which even as a boy, I thought, that is bizarre.

I mean, where…? And I look at the text again, I say, there's nothing in there about the stones, and furthermore, he only used one stone. If you want to have a conversation, why did he choose five? I think probably he was a humble boy. He recognized, if I miss it the first time, I'd at least have got four more shots.

Intensely practical. But of course, if you are from the school that has interpreted it allegorically, then you will regard that as a dreadful abuse of a text. Gladwell actually, in his book, admits that his obsession with David and Goliath and with the story itself is not only because it fascinated him but because he was convinced that he knew what it was about until he went back and reread it, and then he said, I didn't know what it was about at all. Quotes, I didn't understand it at all. Judging by his conclusions, I think, if I can say so respectfully, he still has a way to go.

And some of us do too. If we're going to understand this story to be a call for us to see David as a hero, whose courage we are then supposed to imitate in fighting against our individual Goliaths, then actually we need to think again. Because the message of this story is not that we are called to be like David, but rather that we have in Jesus a David, a king who triumphs in the valley of battle. Now, with that said, I find it important when I'm studying particularly these Old Testament stories and the familiar ones to keep in mind that there are levels of our understanding. I won't belabor this, but let me just suggest to you that when you read a story like this, at the ground level, there is, if you like, the personal history that is involved in it.

This is a real David shepherd boy, this is a real king, this is a real period in time, and this is a real confrontation involving their personal history. And the story is being recounted for us. On the first-floor level, the history that is being dealt with there is, if you like, the national history. It is the history of God's purposes for his people, that he has chosen these people, he has brought them out of Egypt, he has brought them into this place, and so on. So what is happening at the level of the personal history of these individuals is directly related to what is going on in terms of God's purpose for the nation of Israel.

And then, if you like, if that's the first floor, on the second floor, at the other level of meaning, is the whole matter of redemptive history—i.e., what does this have to do with God's plan from all of eternity to put together a people that are his very own, from every tribe and nation and language and people and tongue? Those are the levels that we have in mind when we come to the text. At least, I hope that that will be helpful to you as you read the story.

Incidentally, when you take those three levels, if you reject one of them or superimpose one of them over the other two, then you do despite to the other two. And so all three pieces of the puzzle are necessary. Well, that by way of introduction to the text itself.

Familiar material, as we say. The Philistines, who are here at the beginning of the chapter, were, as we know, a perennial problem for Israel. Saul, in his anointing way back in chapter 8 and 9, had been appointed in large measure to save God's people from the hand of the Philistines. You remember when the people had chosen a king for themselves? They said, We want him to be a king so that we can be like the other nations. We want a big, strong warrior who will triumph in this way.

We want, if you like, a champion. And as we have rehearsed the story, we've discovered that Saul in this respect had failed miserably, that his kingdom had collapsed. He had rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord had rejected him as king of Israel. In the last chapter, in our last couple of studies, we have been taken, as it were, behind the curtains into what is a kind of secret anointing, a kind of clandestine event involving only a few people, the anointing of this shepherd boy David in the midst of his brothers, as verse 13 of chapter 16 tells us. And he has been anointed privately, and the public emergence of him is now before us in this chapter.

He has been anointed to take the place of Saul, whose kingdom has collapsed. Now, with that, again, by way of background, we realize that here in the opening verses, the battle lines are drawn. Now, the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. The event is taking place about approximately twelve miles to the west of Bethlehem. Some of you will have been here. If you have been to this area, if you've visited Israel, if you've had a good tour guide, you will have been here.

You will have been in the Valley of Elah. And if the tour guide was any help to you at all, they would have explained that here, where you stand, is the very context in which the historical battle that took place between David and Goliath unfolded. The Philistines, we're told, were encamped on the southern side of the valley, we're told, between Soka and Azekah.

Now, the significance of the geography here is it's not there as filler. In fact, you will notice that it says, And they were gathered at Soka, which belongs to Judah. In other words, the writer is pointing out to the reader that the Philistines are actually encroaching now on the territory of Israel itself.

The gains that Joshua had made are being eroded as a result of their continual aggression. And it is there that they find themselves. The Israelites camped to the north. And in the heart of the valley, a brook, which in the wintertime runs freely and which in the summertime is dry. The brook of Elah. And when we discover that David is going to go to this rippling brook to take up stones, surely it is a reference to that very place. Once again reminding us, especially young people who often will come to a story like this and have it in their minds that somehow or another this is a fiction, that somehow or another this is just a drama that has been created out of somebody's mind.

And I want to say to you, young people, don't immediately succumb to that kind of thinking, but listen carefully and read properly. And realize that with the battle lines drawn, if either of the armies were to make an advance on the other, then for them to come down one side would immediately make them vulnerable to the army on the other side, who would have an advantage as a result of their territory and their height. And so, it's stalemate. And that is what is described for us. Setting up, verse 4, which reads, And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. I like this verse. You say, Well, thanks for sharing that.

But no, I mean, I don't think it goes like this. And there came out of the camp of the Philistines… No, no, no, it's just, And there came out of the camp of the Philistines… Sorry, this is just grandchildren time, right? And there came out of the camp a giant, and he was over nine feet tall. Really? Yeah. You mean he was bigger than Shaquille O'Neal? Oh, yeah. But Shaquille O'Neal had size twenty-two shoes. I know.

But he's bigger than him. Wow! Yeah, wow is right. That's what we're supposed to be saying at this point, at verse 4.

Wow! And then, when the storyteller gives us the armor, again, this is not filler. You don't often have such detail in the record of warfare even in the Old Testament. But you see, this is being written in such a way that those who enjoy the story will enjoy the story. It seems so obvious. And yet it often isn't.

We want to move immediately past all these things. Why are we being told this? Why are we being told that he was over nine feet tall and that his armor weighed some one hundred and twenty-five pounds? A hundred and twenty-five pounds of armor! Now, if you do free weights—and clearly I don't—but if you do free weights and you take two twenty-pound weights in your hands, even if you're pretty strong, it's a significant weight. That's forty pounds. If you multiply that by three, you get a hundred and twenty pounds.

And a hundred and twenty pounds is still not the weight of his armor that he's got on top of him. And his spear, we're told, was like a weaver's beam. Now, the point is simply this—that the average hand couldn't hold the spear, because the diameter of the thing was such he couldn't get your hands around it. Now, what is the storyteller doing? Building the picture. Creating the situation so that the reader is brought along with it. And so, having appeared and having been described—and incidentally, how would you have liked his job as the armor-bearer to walk in front of him with a shield? The shield was like the equivalent of a bedroom door.

That's how big a thing was and much heavier than that, so the armor-bearer had to be pretty good himself. Go ahead. Okay, I'm going.

Yes, I will. Okay, and behind you comes the giant. It's quite a picture. I'm very impressed with that man, whoever he was.

I really am, especially when he had to go in front. It's just as well that David was as accurate as he was. So what we have is the description of an impenetrable fortress on two legs. If there was a weak spot—and there was a weak spot—it was in the absence of protection for the face. Because unlike Sir Lancelot and that period of time, where, you know, the shield comes down, like on a motorbike helmet, there was nothing like that. Now, the Philistines had these helmets, and they had feathers on them as an indication of their almost perception of invulnerability.

We've got this covered, and we can identify ourselves in this way, because look at who we are. So not only is he described for us so that we can get a picture of him, but then he speaks for us, and we have the record of what he said. Verse 8. He taunts and challenges Israel. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "'Why have you come out to draw up for battle?'" That was a very good question, wasn't it? "'Why have you actually come out here to draw up for battle?'" That was the question that some of the soldiers in the camp of Israel must have been asking themselves.

You know, every morning we get up, put the shoes on and everything, and then out we come, and we just stand there. "'Why have you come out here? If you're not planning on fighting, why do you even show up?'" You know, just in passing.

If we're very clear that the story is not about finding ourselves in the story as David, he was the hero, and we want to be the hero too, setting that aside, if we want to find ourselves anywhere, then I think the church can find itself as a rather neutralized bunch of soldiers standing around holding weapons, and the world is going, Why don't you guys fight? Why don't you actually say something? Why don't you do something? Don't you have a man?

Don't you have someone? And that's exactly what is happening to them. And then he says, Am I not a Philistine? Well, of course they knew he was a Philistine. What he's basically saying is, I am the Philistine. I am the embodiment of those who oppose you. Look at me, dressed to kill, ready for battle, and look at you. Look at you.

Are you not servants of Saul? And what he's really saying is simple. Surely you can put on a better show than this, can't you?

Don't you have something? So he says, Here's my challenge. Choose a man for yourselves. Choose a man for yourselves. Choose somebody who will come and stand in between. That's actually what the word champion means—the man in the between. The man in the between. So he says, What you need is a man who will be the man in the between. And then, if he comes down, then we'll settle the matter.

Now, this ought to ring bells for those of us who have been studying along the way. Because among, again, the ranks of the army, there surely would be some of them who, in response to this challenge, Choose for yourselves a man, would have nudged one another and said, We tried that. And how did that plan go? Because that's exactly what they had done. Remember, they had chosen for themselves a king. And who was it they had chosen? They had chosen Saul, who stood head and shoulders above all the other people, who was handsome, who was apparently dynamic and influential. And after their choice, they had to dig him out of the baggage room. But he seemed to be the best shot. Now he is conspicuous once again by his absence. We chose a man. He's back here with us—somewhere back here.

Yeah. What had happened? The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul. Verse 14 of chapter 16.

There was no fight left in him. You see, God is not in need of the big, tall, handsome quarterback. The advance of his church is not that he picks out amongst the cheerleaders from school. They have a place.

Some have a significant place. But the story of God's redemptive purpose is not a story of might triumphing over might, but it is a story of weakness triumphing over strength. And it is that which is being set up here in the battle lines, in the emergence of the Philistine, and in his cries of defiance.

You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alistair is walking us through the story of David and Goliath, and we'll hear more on Monday. If you're benefiting from these encouraging lessons in our study of 1 Samuel, you might want to own Alistair's teaching through the entire books of 1 and 2 Samuel on a USB. As you might guess, the series is titled, A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel. It contains more than a hundred sermons, and you can purchase it for our cost of just $5.

Shipping is free in the United States. Look for the USB in the app or online at slash store. And if you have not yet requested a copy of the book, Man of Sorrows, King of Glory, you'll want to do that today. We're only offering this book through the weekend. This is a wonderful book that packs a lot of rich theology in just a few pages. Request the book, Man of Sorrows, King of Glory, when you give a donation online at slash donate, or call us at 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you're able to worship with your local church this weekend. Join us Monday as we'll learn how God used a sandwich-bearing shepherd as his chosen champion. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-14 05:04:30 / 2023-04-14 05:13:17 / 9

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