Then David—remember, this is the kid who used to play music for the sheep— then David ran and stood over Goliath. He grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him. Then he cut off his head… When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they ran away…
Lord have mercy.
This is not a story that ends with David looking into Goliath’s eyes and realizing— Hey! We both know what it is to be misunderstood. Whaddya say we try to be friends? Um… No. There’s no reconciliation for the Israelites and Philistines. There’s no singing Kumbaya. If it were up to me, I wish there were, but that’s not how this story goes.
This is a story of violence. Specifically, it’s a story where the LORD our God triumphs, where the violence of the people of God prevails over the violence of the Philistines. And I can believe, the point isn’t the violence. It’s that God wins.
Even more, what matters is exactly *how* God wins.
Today we’re continuing the summer series, Stories of Courage. In the scripture Ron read, we meet David who’s a child, and a shepherd, and a poet, and Jesse’s youngest son whom nobody ever heard of. But here he is in the court of the king, and the king is trying to put his own armor on this child! And while that’s a lovely idea, it doesn’t work. The armor doesn’t fit. Now the king is afraid. All the Israelites are terrified.
For more than a month, the military mascot for the Philistines had been going out to the top of the mountain and taunting the Israelites who where camping on the opposite hill. As you might know, Goliath was an actual giant. He was an expert warrior. Even though he had all this going on, it is also the case that Goliath was armed to the teeth.
Come and fight me! thundered the giant through the metal. We’ll leave the armies out of it, just send one man to fight me, and whoever wins, wins. Then you just know he laughed the laugh of every storybook villain. The Israelites could smell his swagger from across the valley.
Now if you were hearing this story back in its beginning, you would have known that God has promised to deliver the Israelites. We know God’s going to win. Surely the LORD will raise up an even taller giant, who’s an even better fighter, who’s wearing all the body armor, loaded down with even more weapons.
Ha! You think you’re so big Goliath. Just wait til you see the guy the LORD’s going to send…
In the meantime, all the Israelites were afraid of Goliath —even the king. Every day, the giant came out and taunted the people. And every day, the Israelites wrung their hands and worried, until one day. David was bringing food to his brothers in the army camp, and that’s when he heard what Goliath was saying. David noticed how everyone was scared.
Probably David was afraid too. I mean, he’s not a robot, he’s a poet! Of course, his heart is moved. But after he felt scared for a minute, David realized. He really might have the courage to do this…
After all, David has had to go up against lions and bears in order to protect the sheep. Every time, the LORD has come alongside him and helped him. The music of God has filled his soul. The love of God has fortified his heart. David knew he had the courage to slay Goliath because his courage comes from the power of God. And he was right. And he did.
And all I’m saying is if it could happen to him…
This is a story about the power of God.
Now the first thing you’ll notice is that God’s power wins, so no wonder it’s so attractive! No wonder our hearts are moved by the victory of a God who slays the villains, and defeats the devil, and triumphs over the grave! If all this glorious winning is what it means to believe in the power of God, go ahead and sign us up. It’s just…
In case nobody has warned you, somebody should. There’s something else that makes God’s power different from all the other powers. And it’s not the winning.
All through the story of our faith, the LORD our God chooses to care for the poor, for the widows, and the orphans, and the immigrants, for those who are locked up and those who are left out.
When the people wanted a hero soldier to trounce the giant, God sent them a child who took care of sheep and played the harp. When the people wanted a Messiah to usher in the promise of righteousness, God sent them a baby born to a family in trouble. When Jesus got executed as a criminal, God got up from the dead and turned our violence into forgiveness.
You and I know how it happens. The Holy Spirit looks at this world she has made, and her heart breaks. God sees children hiding in classrooms and armies blowing up cities. God sees the trans teenager who is struggling to find acceptance and the parents who are desperate to find food for their babies.
For God so loves this world that he comes into this world to go with us. With no armor and no weapons, the LORD sits down beside the ones who are grieving. He blesses their outrage; God believes the prayers of their tears, and you and I know, God cries too.
Then with their own hands, the Holy Spirit begins picking up pieces of this world that we have tried to obliterate. And I know, says the LORD. Why don’t we take this and turn this into something beautiful…
And Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.
At first, fear is a feeling. We have no control over the feelings that rise up inside of us. At first. Of course, we might feel afraid in a frightening situation. Anybody would! That’s what it is to be human.
First, fear is a feeling. Next, fear is a choice. And here’s the thing. When we choose to put our faith in the power of God, when we choose to let our hearts be moved by compassion, I need to warn you, we might not get to keep our fear. It’s like the armor the king keeps trying to put on David, but bless his heart, it doesn’t fit!
When we make the choice to care about the ones God cares about, you know the fear we’ve always carried around? Well now, it doesn’t fit. We can’t even walk in it.
I’ve shared this story with you before. Nearly ten years ago, in August of Two Thousand Thirteen, twenty-year-old Michael Brandon Hill stormed into a school in Decatur, Georgia with an AK-47 assault rifle and five hundred rounds of ammunition. What makes this school shooting different is, this time, nobody died.
Immediately upon entering the school, Hill encountered the bookkeeper in the office, Antoinette Tuff. Now she says it was God who was guiding her. By talking to Hill, Tuff was able to persuade him to surrender.
We have her words from the Nine-One-One recording. She says: “I can help you. You want me to talk to [the police]? Let me talk to them, and let’s see if we can work it out so you don’t have to go away with them for a long time… I can let them know, you have not tried to harm me.”
Hill argues with her because he shot at the police, and Tuff says, Yes, but you didn’t hit anybody. She says to the dispatcher: “If I walk outside with him, they won’t shoot him [right]? He just wants to go to the hospital… Can you talk to the police and let them know he wants to go outside with me?”
A little while later Tuff says to Hill: “Don’t feel bad, baby, my husband just left me after thirty-three years… I tried to commit suicide last year, after my husband left me. But look at me now. I’m still working and everything is okay.”
She continues speaking to the gunman: “I’m gonna sit right here so they’ll see that you didn’t try to harm me… It’s gonna be all right, sweetie. I want you to know that I love you. It’s a good thing you did, giving up. Don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life. You’re gonna be okay.”
After Hill was taken into police custody, Tuff tells the dispatcher: “Let me tell you something, I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life. Oh Jesus…”1https://www.salon.com/2013/08/22/the_story_the_right_hates_antoinette_tuffs_courage/
First fear is a feeling. Then it’s a choice. So is compassion.
Imagine what it means to put our faith in the power of the LORD who is our shepherd… God who goes back to find the lost sheep! God who gives us rest in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. God who lays out a table of peacemaking in the middle of the wilderness. God whose goodness and mercy follow us forever!
Imagine what it means for us to let our hearts be moved by tender care for those who are most vulnerable. In case nobody has warned you, somebody should. This will make us more courageous than we ever meant to be.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.