Who will Save Us?

Reading: 1 Samuel 17.1-51

Have you ever looked at fish in a tank, or a bird in a cage, and wonder what they must think about a creature as large as you are? Try to imagine it. Stand under a tall gum tree and think, What would I be doing at this minute if that was an animal and not a tree?

Yet your pet fish or pet bird has to cope with your immense size all the time!

Do you like frogs? A little girl in a previous parish used to breed them - the native frogs that are so endangered by the cane toad.

How would you like to meet this frog? He is found living in cascading mountain streams in a restricted part of west central Africa. One group of pygmies regard him as good tucker, though he is now protected and not even zoos are allowed to get specimens. He is said to be "shy and elusive". So he would very likely hop out of your way. But he reaches a body length of 30 centimetres and an overall length of about 91 centimetres - specimens of over three kilograms have been collected. That's not tiny, but it's not big either - even if it is big for a frog. It's the largest known frog in the world and what is it called? The goliath frog.


Our frog, of course, was named after Goliath in today's story - huge for a frog, but only frog-size for Goliath!

Throughout the reign of King Saul the state of Israel was under constant threat of invasion from the Philistines. On one of these invasions the Philistine warriors pushed as far as the valley of Elah - only about twenty-five kilometres south-west of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem wasn't the capital at this stage). Here the army of Israel met them and the two armies faced one another across the valley.

George Adam Smith, writing The Geography of the Holy Land in 1894, comments, "Shocoh [where the Philistines were] is a strong position isolated from the rest of the ridge, and it keeps open the line of retreat down the valley. Saul's army was probably not immediately opposite, but a little way up on the slopes of the incoming Wady el Jindy, and so placed that the Philistines, in attacking it, must cross not only the level land and the main stream, but one of the two other streams as well, and must also climb the slopes for some distance. Both positions were thus very strong, and this fact perhaps explains the long hesitation of the armies in face of each other, even though the Philistines had the advantage of Goliath. The Israelite position certainly looks the stronger. It is interesting, too, that from its rear the narrow pass goes right up to the interior of the land near Bethlehem; so that the shepherd boy… would have about twelve miles to cover between his father's house and the camp."

Goliath was a very big man. He was "nearly three metres tall and wore bronze armour that weighed about forty-seven kilogrammes and a bronze helmet. His legs were protected by bronze armour [if anyone was game enough to attack him, it was his legs that needed protection!]… His spear was as thick as the bar on a weaver's loom and its iron head weighed about seven kilogrammes."

It's hard to imagine someone as tall as that! The Guinness Book of Records has a photo of Robert Wadlow who died in 1940 at the age of 22 and was 272 cm high. We recall the report brought back by ten of the twelve spies that Moses sent into the promised land - "the people who live there are powerful, and their cities are very large and well fortified. Even worse, we saw the descendants of the giants there… Everyone we saw was very tall, and we even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that is how we must have looked to them" (Num.13.28,32c-33).

Why have a battle and a lot of people killed? "What are you doing there , lined up for battle? I am a Philistine, you slaves of Saul! Choose one of your men to fight me. If he wins and kills me, we will be your slaves; but if I win and kill him, you will be our slaves. Here and now I challenge the Israelite army. I dare you to pick someone to fight me!"

Goliath was depending on his great height and physical strength. He was confident of a big advantage by having a fairly terrified opponent - if anyone dared! He despised the Lord and, when David was coming to him, "called down curses from his God on David."


By contrast, David had a simple and confident trust in the Lord. When he was visiting his older brothers and heard Goliath's taunts, his attitude was "Who is this heathen Philistine to defy the army of the living God?"

His older brothers were annoyed at their little brother. This was business for soldiers, not for a shepherd boy. He was confident that anyone who went out against the giant would win - he was willing to go himself! "I have killed lions and bears, and I will do the same to this heathen Philistine, who has defied the army of the living God. The Lord has saved me from lions and bears; he will save me from this Philistine."

David trusted in the Lord. That didn't mean sitting back and waiting while the Lord did some miracle. Trusting the Lord meant being available to go out and fight, confident that the Lord was with him and would protect him.

No, Saul's armour wouldn't help him. He wasn't used to it. It would hinder, rather than help, him. He would go with his shepherd's stick. He would pick up a few stones from the stream and have his sling at the ready.

Goliath is insulted that a shepherd boy has been sent against him. He'll make mince-meat of this stupid lad!

"You are coming against me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the Israelite armies, which you have defied. This very day the Lord will put you in my power; I will defeat you and cut off your head... and everyone here will see that the Lord does not need swords or spears to save his people. He is victorious in battle, and he will put all of you in our power."

David had five stones with him, but he only needed one! "And so, without a sword, David defeated and killed Goliath with a sling and a stone!"

Who will save us?

There has always been something very gripping about this story. We can look it as another example of an underdog who battles against great odds and comes out on top, for it was a victory over the attitude of his brothers as well as over Goliath!

But it was not David's personal, private victory. It was the Lord's victory. That was something David would need to remember right throughout his life! He could so easily go the way of King Saul if he began to take the credit for himself.

And yet it was the Lord's victory because David trusted the Lord and was prepared to go out!

Are you prepared to be counted? Are you willing to stick your neck out for truth and justice in a society that is going badly astray without God? Are you prepared to be counted as a Christian at school, at work, and wherever you go? No matter how tough it gets, you will know that the Lord is with you!

And what are the giants in your life? What are the big barriers to happiness and wholeness that leer and sneer and defy you, that seem unconquerable, that totally block the way forward for you?

The Lord is your Saviour, not just in terms of forgiveness of sin, but in terms of overcoming those barriers. It is going to be a matter of learning to trust him and to step forward in that confidence. We can spend too much of our lives like the Israelite army - scared stiff and unable to move.

Trust in the Lord! Move into action! And see the giant tumble! Then thank the Lord and keep on trusting him!

(c) Peter J. Blackburn, Buderim Uniting Church, 12 June 1994
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, (c) American Bible Society, 1992.

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