The battle between David and Goliath was memorable, it was thrilling. But can an event like this give us hope today? Alistair Begg answers that question as we continue our study in 1 Samuel today on Truth for Life. We'll learn how David's victory in the valley points forward to the greatest victory the world has ever known.
Alistair begins in chapter 17 with verse 40. Now by this point, there ought to be at least a tiny shiver running up the spine, the gigantic spine of this fellow. Because the incongruity between what he sees and what he hears is fantastic, isn't it? You know, I don't know what kind of voice David had.
He might have had a squeaky voice, a bit like mine—not a big, deep voice, you know. So it's like, The Lord will deliver you into my head, and I will cut off your head. It's like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No. No, because what David knows is that the battle is the Lord's. The battle is the Lord's. And that this is going to happen not to make a name for David—although it does make a name for David—but this is going to happen, notice, in order that the whole earth will know that there is a God in Israel, and in order that the assembled crowd on both sides of the mountain will know that God saves not with a sword and a spear.
I say again to you, presumably, the dialogue was unheard. From a human standpoint, the outcome was pretty straightforward. Strength and might will prevail.
It's been fun so far, but I don't know what we're going to do next. And then, in verse 48 and 49, after all this buildup, after the whole chapter has got us here, after the dialogue that has taken place, there's about sixty-three words in David's speech to Goliath, and there's thirty-six words describing what happens in the battle. And I just wrote in my notes, a knockout in the first round. The bell has barely rung for round one, the giant has taken a step forward. David has unleashed, with amazing accuracy and great speed and power, has unleashed this one stone, has hit him at the point of vulnerability, because there was no covering for his face and for his forehead.
He has targeted him there. You say, this is miraculous. Well, no, it's not miraculous at all. No, this fellow was obviously good at this. He was able to do this. He had proved this in the past. This was his machinery, if you like. He knew how to use it. Probably on weekends he practiced on different things, seeing how he could take them out in just an instant. And now, with four stones still in his bag, he nails this guy with the first one. Huge force.
Pinpoint accuracy. And he triumphs, you will notice, without a sword. Verse 50. There was no sword in the hand of David. But of course, that could not happen.
But it did happen. He had told Goliath that that was going to happen, and it probably sounded like bravado in his ears. But no, the Lord will give you into my hands, and I will strike you dead. And so you have it there, just in a phrase, in verse 50, so David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone. Incidentally, this sling, you should not think of a slingshot that you could go over to Target right now and buy a little piece of stick with a thing at the back and a little bit of leather, and you pull it back. Any thinking person says, There is no way in the world that you could get enough power and force from that to barely knock an empty Coke can off a wall, let alone kill a giant by hitting him in the forehead. No, it's because the sling was entirely different.
If you've gone—Google it, you'll see. And the way in which the thing would go could build up, it could build to a speed that could actually be as fast as a bullet out of a gun. So that's exactly what has unfolded. And as a result of the prevailing impact, the Philistines fled. Verse 51, the men of Israel then rose—verse 52—with a shout and pursued the Philistines and plundered them. And in the evening, when they all finally got back to base camp, they sat down to have something to eat, and somebody said, Let's go round the table and just ask each other, and what is it that you are thankful for?
Right? And to a man, every single one of them said, I am thankful that the giant is dead. Some may have said, I am thankful that the whole world now knows that there is a God in Israel.
Or I am thankful that now we have been reminded that our lethargy and our indolence and our fearfulness was simply a testimony to our own feebleness and was really no representation of the power and might of God. David is going to take the head of Goliath to Jerusalem. Incidentally, David does not get to Jerusalem until 2 Samuel chapter 5. And so, here you have another incident where the significance of the event takes precedence over the sequence. It is in the interest of the narrator to establish, if you like, the triumph, even though the actual event itself happens subsequently. Because at this point, Jerusalem wasn't under the control of the armies of Israel and of the God of Israel. Therefore, it would… Anyway, there you have it.
We leave it there. The same is true in verses 55–58. What I find remarkable about people when they study their Bibles is simply this. Instead of being prepared to say, Now, let's stand back from this entire book and this entire chapter and get the message that is perfectly clear—no, they want to come, set that aside, and let's have a conversation about why it was that Saul didn't know who David's father was, and who spent an entire evening wrestling over this irrelevant question and coming up with all kinds of wonderful explanations. Well, I think he had the onset of dementia. I think he was a lot older than he used to be, and so on. No, absolutely.
You don't need to do anything with that at all. First of all, verses 55 and 56 are a flashback. As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistines, well, that way already had that.
Right? So it's a flashback. So when he saw him going out, he says to Abner, he says, Whose son is this? Remember, if he wins this, he's gonna be his son-in-law.
There's a family factor here. Whose son is this? Abner says, I don't know. Saul doesn't know who David is.
There's a sort of remarkable cluelessness whereby, in his not knowing, it tells us more than the fact that he just didn't know who his family was. He's sidelined. He's out. He doesn't get it. He doesn't know.
There's worse to follow. And even when he comes back, the question still remains. Whose son are you, young man?
And David said, I'm the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite. Okay? So let me come full circle, and we'll end where we began. Somebody says, So, thank you very much for that, but I'm about to get in my car and drive back to Michigan, and I don't see what this has got to do with anything. With all due respect. And I say, Well, thank you for being so respectful. Let me try, in the closing moments, help us all with that. First of all, let's remind ourselves of a foundational verse that we've used throughout our entire study—namely, Romans 15.4—and all the things that were written in the past were written for our instruction—for our instruction, writes Paul in the first century—for the reader's instruction—so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.
So you say, Okay, I get that. So the Old Testament stories are a basis for us to, first of all, understand, to be instructed, and then to find hope. To which you reply, Yeah, but what possible hope is there for me in the fact that a fellow called David killed a giant called Goliath, you know, a couple of millennium ago? Well, hold on, that's a good question.
I want to try and answer that for you. Part of the answer is in reminding ourselves of what we say with great frequency—namely, that the Bible is a book about Jesus. That when we take our eyes off Jesus, we lose our way around the Bible. That in the Old Testament he's predicted, in the Gospels he's revealed, in the Acts he's preached, in the Epistles he's explained, and in the book of Revelation he's expected. So from Genesis all the way to Revelation, if you like, the spotlight is moving through the Scriptures in anticipation of or in retrospective gazes upon the person of the Lord Jesus. So when you come to an Old Testament story like this, the question that we're supposed to ask is not, Where am I in this story? Which is what we like to do. Most of us want to say, Well, of course, I'm like David.
I mean, I have a sling. And the answer is, No, you're like Eliab, or I am. What are you doing here?
Jealous, anger. Or you're just like the mass up on the hillside. No, no. No, the question is, Where is Jesus in this? Now, let me just finish up in this way. What we have here in this event is an extraordinary victory. I mean, a victory that has spanned the years, a victory that is such that even people who've got only a modicum of understanding of the Bible only know, like, one story in the Bible, this may actually be the story. The victory is so extraordinary.
Whether they believe it, whether they like it or not, it is there. At stake in this extraordinary victory, as we've said, is Israel's future—is the future of Israel. Because they didn't fight.
The army didn't fight. They only watched. They watched as their future hung on the shoulders of David. Their future hung on David's shoulders. David, who was chosen by God to be the man in between. David, who was only a shepherd boy. David, who was the one to declare, I come to you in the name of the Lord. I'm sure you picked up on this from Psalm 118, when it was read earlier in the service. David was the anointed, appointed servant of God. And in that respect, he was the prototype of Jesus. So, for example, when—in another very familiar story that people know, because sometimes they will go to church on this particular Sunday—when Jesus enters into Jerusalem riding on the donkey, remember? The crowds that went before him and followed him were shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
You see, they understood. The one who will come as our champion, as our Savior, is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. But that doesn't look like much. On a donkey? You mean, like, having only a sling and a stone and being outnumbered?
Exactly! So just as David stood between the armies of Israel and their defeat, so Jesus stands between us and our defeat. Where is the ultimate defeat? In death, when you've run your whole life, and you get up to the end of it, and it comes to a crashing halt. That is why death is so terrifying.
And when somebody tells me they're not terrified of death, I frankly don't believe them. The reason that death is terrifying is because it is the punishment for sin. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. You mean kind of like the gift that those armies got through David doing what he did?
Similar. The wages of sin is death. None of us is without sin. The law of God demands perfection. None of us is perfect. Therefore, we are terrified. What is there then? Who is there then to stand between us and that eventuality?
We need somebody to step forward. And the answer is that Jesus has done so. That his victory is the greatest news—the greatest news the world has ever known. Because in Jesus, the demands of the law were met by his perfect life.
The penalty of the law was dealt with in his death in the place of myself, who deserved to die. And the power of death was defeated by his resurrection as he triumphs over it. Now, it is for that reason that Paul, when he writes of these things in his letter to the Corinthians, ends his great chapter on the resurrection with thanksgiving. And what is he thankful for? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You get it? They are all up there, and their future hangs on the shoulders of the shepherd boy. We are making our way from the beginning to the end of our lives, facing the reality of death and the certainty of judgment. And we either are going, trusting in the one who has stepped forward to do for us what we couldn't do, to keep for us what we haven't kept, and to provide for us a victory that we could not achieve.
So essentially, it issues a call, doesn't it? The whole story finally says to us, Well, I need to seriously think about whether I have understood this story at all. I've tended to think of it as just a bit like Malcolm Gladwell, Against All Odds, and what a wonderful testimony it is that David, although he was weak, triumphed, and, even though I'm weak, I can triumph too. No! No, no, no, no, no, no.
No. It is a call to acknowledge that we are so weak, that we are so powerless, that we find in Jesus not an example but a Savior. Actually, I think it issues a call to those of us who have already enlisted in the army to get off the sidelines, to charge down the hill, to plunder the camp, to proclaim the victory. There's a wonderful opportunity at this point in history, isn't there, for the church to be the church? It says, Stand up, stand up for Jesus.
That was, what, the nineteenth century, maybe even earlier. Stand up, stand up from Jesus. From victory unto victory his army shall he lead.
What do you mean? Like, from one victory to another? Like, their victory?
No! From victory. What victory? The victory of David in the valley meant the victory of the armies who were the beneficiaries of his triumph.
The victory of Christ in his death and resurrection is the basis for the victory of those who are united with Christ in his death and in his resurrection, who are then able to go out into a world that is fractured and broken and afraid to death of death, to say, In Jesus there is a champion. You need not fear this. You need not try your best to fix everything.
You need not try and convince yourself that all will be well in the end. You need simply to acknowledge that he has done what we might never do. We can go to our friends who, like the gods of the Babylonian, are carrying their gods around with them. They're all the gods of the new age, and what I'm doing and how I'm doing, and look inside yourself and find yourself. Press your friends kindly. Say to them, Hey, how are you doing with that toppling God you have?
How is that working for you? Does it give you peace? Do you have confidence that if you would die tonight, that on the strength of your toppling God you would have an answer at the bar of God's judgment?
And if they're honest, they will say, Absolutely not. Then say, Well, I love to tell you about the God who doesn't topple, about the living God, about the God of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob, about the God who has been faithful for a thousand generations. That's the story. That's the victory. I wish we could sing this song, but we don't know it, so I'll just have to sing it for you. That was a joke. But I am immensely grateful, as I've said before, for the songs that came to me as a boy in Scotland from this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
I mean, an unbelievable amount, and I didn't know where they all came from. But here's another one. This was written by a fellow called William F. Sherwin, who was born in Buckland, Massachusetts, on the fourteenth of March 1826. Sound the battle cry! See the foe is nigh!
Raise the standard high for the Lord! Gird your armor on! Stand firm, everyone!
Rest your cause upon his holy word! Rouse then, soldiers! Rally round the banner! Ready, steady, pass the word along! Onward, forward!
Shout the loud hosanna! Christ is captain of the mighty throng! And that, my friends, is the ultimate reason to get down on your knees and say, Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever said to him, Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul? Thank you, Lord, for making me whole? Thank you, Lord, for giving to me your great salvation, so rich and free.
You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alistair returns in just a minute to close with prayer. Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions by people who are new to following Jesus, or even by those who have been Christians for a long time, is, How can I know for sure that I'm truly saved and going to heaven? There's a book called Assurance, Resting in God's Salvation, where you'll find clear answers to this question and to more. This is a 31-day devotional that draws directly from the Bible, presenting daily scripture readings for you to meditate on.
These are passages that tackle some of the most common doubts or fears or uncertainties that folks wrestle with about the question of our eternal destiny. The book Assurance, Resting in God's Salvation, is a source of great comfort if you've just put your trust in Jesus. So request a copy of the book today when you give a donation to Truth for Life.
Click the image you see in our app or visit our website truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. God our Father, we thank you that just as the army of Israel had reason to say, we are thankful that David stepped forward as our champion. So as we look upon the cross of Christ and the triumph of his resurrection, coming to him in childlike trust, we are able to say thank you for the wonder of your grace. The battle has been accomplished in Jesus.
The moves of the opposition continue on a daily basis. And so, we take up the fight for the time that we have in our earthly pilgrimage. We take it up as others have left it to us. And if Christ does not return in due course, then others will take it out from us. Help us, Lord, not to fail in the battle. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
I'm Bob Lapine, we're glad you've joined us today. In 1 Samuel, the rejected king, Saul, and the anointed king, David, are about to collide. Only one kingdom can survive. What will be the deciding factor? You'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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