For whatever reason America loves an underdog,
I remember a story that my grandma used to tell me about her father, my great-grandfather, and my namesake as it so happens.They always used to listen to baseball games when they were going on long car trips, and he would tell her that he always rooted for the Yankees to lose. And why? Because they’ve won too much already he said.
A lot of Americans are like that, the Yankees have won too much so we boo them. Everyone used to love the Red Sox,then they won and now we boo them too, Lord help us if the Cubbies ever win the World Series.
For whatever reason, Americans tend to root for the upset, they want the little guy to win, they want Cassius Clay to beat Sonny Liston and shock the world.
I have a theory as to why; I was listening to the soundtrack for that musical about Alexander Hamilton,
the one with all the Tonys and the accolades,
because everyone else was talking about it and I don’t like being left out.
And in the play Hamilton--
I think, it’s harder to tell who’s who when all you have is the music--
he describes his country as “young, scrappy, and hungry”.
America started as a huge underdog,
we were the young, scrappy, and hungry colonies that stood up to the empire on which the sun
never set and against all odds we came out victorious.
All that to say,
I couldn’t think of a better way to get a cheap pop on Independence Day weekend than to talk
about the story of the original underdog.
Before we get any farther, let us pray:
may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts,
bring us closer to you.
I pray that you would be present in this room,
and that you would use this passage and this message to bring all of us closer to you.”
Since we only read a small portion of the story perhaps I should set the scene a little bit.
The current king of Israel, Saul, and his army are locked in war with the Philistines.
And day after day after day, Goliath, a giant that for whatever reason is fighting alongside the
Philistines as their champion, is coming out into the neutral zone between the two armies every
day and cutting this massive promo on the Israelites,
and even worse on the God whom the Israelites serve,
he’s daring anyone from the Israelite army to come and fight him in one-on-one combat,
and of course nobody’s taking him up on his offer,
because the guy’s huge,
I mean he makes Shaquille O’Neal look like Nate Robinson…
I think I remember reading somewhere that he was over nine feet tall.
You can’t teach that.
So Goliath keeps taunting the Israelites,
and nobody is stepping forward,
and the whole ordeal is becoming very dishonorable for the Israelite army,
and by extension for the Israelite God.
It’s into this situation that David stumbles.
He’s really only there to check on his brothers for dad,
but he hears Goliath’s challenge,
and he decides that somebody has to stand up to this bully and fight for God’s honor,
even if it is the runt of his family’s litter who isn’t really supposed to be there.
Saul looks at David,
and he’s understandably skeptical of the young man’s chances,
but despite those reservations Saul says okay,
I mean it’s not like he has a wealth of volunteers to choose from,
and offers David a suit of armor to protect him in his seemingly hopeless task,
which David turns down by the way,
says its too hard for him to move around in.
So David moves into the valley to face Goliath with all his of his size and his armor and his
impressive stockpile of weapons,
and David has considerably less size,
and no armor,
and as a weapon he has a sling, and some rocks.
Goliath is unimpressed,
but David is unbowed,
for he has something more impressive than all of the size and the armor and the weapons in the
he has the backing of the one true living God.
And he was not throwing away his shot,
he takes aim at Goliath with his sling,
and one shot later the giant falls.
God comes through,
David is victorious,
and with their champion dead the Philistines are routed by Saul’s army.
Thus begins a military career that will see David defeat his “tens of thousands”,
and will end with David fulfilling his calling and destiny as the king of Israel,
kind of like Cassius Clay upsetting Sonny Liston set the stage for him to become the greatest of
How did David do it?
David had great faith that God would protect him and deliver the giant into his hand,
it wasn’t blind faith, however.
During his original conversation with Saul,
David mentions his experience as a shepherd,
I mean he didn’t have any military experience to fall back on…
He states that he was sure God was going to protect him from Goliath,
because God had already protected him from lions and bears,
no word on tigers…oh my.
David was sure that God would remain faithful,
because he remembered all the times that God had remained faithful to him in the past.
I’ve often noticed that when people are struggling with God,
whether that’s because they’ve received a calling that they would rather not heed,
or because they disagree with one of God’s commands,
or for whatever reason they think they know better than the omniscient deity,
one thing that never comes up in those situations are all the times that God has been faithful in
during past leaps of faith.
David does not fall into this same trap,
he remembers the times that God protected him from the lion and the bear,
and uses that memory to trust that God will now protect him against this man,
with the size of a bear and the roar of a lion.
So sure is David that God will protect him from Goliath,
that he does not accept the king’s gift of armor.
He believes that God will keep Goliath from reaching striking distance,
I mean that’s the primary reason,
but what if there was a secondary, more ethereal, reason.
In the story of Gideon, as told in Judges,
Gideon is called to rescue Israel from the Midianites,
and so he does what anyone would do to defeat an army,
he builds up as big of an army for himself as he can.
But God’s plan is slightly different than Gideon’s.
God decides Gideon’s army is too big,
so two times he culls Gideon’s forces,
saying that if Israel were to defeat the Midianites with such a large army,
than they would be likely to take the credit,
they would forget the ways in which God had proven faithful them,
and would instead believe that they won because they were just that awesome.
Often times God chooses the least impressive among humanity to carry out his will.
One of the best examples of that is David himself.
When God wanted to anoint a king to replace the unfaithful Saul,
he sent Samuel to one of the smallest towns of the tribe of Judah,
to David’s family,
with his seven sons who were all bigger and stronger than he was.
David wasn’t even invited to meet the prophet,
someone had to watch the sheep,
but God had big plans for the small boy,
one by one he turned away David’s bigger and stronger siblings,
until he had to ask Jesse to bring out his youngest son,
and that youngest son is now one of the most impressive figures of the whole Bible.
The nation of Israel in it of itself was not too impressive by the world’s metrics.
They were a small nation,
surrounded by larger more impressive nations,
but all those larger, more impressive, nations,
they’re not still here,
and really the Philistines and Midianites are nothing compared to what the Jewish people have
been through since.
God has their back, just like David.
And God gets all the credit for the Israelite people still being around,
despite the best efforts of the Egyptians and the Midianites and the Philistines and the
Babylonians and the Romans and the Germans,
without God in their corner there’s no way the Jewish people would still be around.
if David faces Goliath while not only giving up a significant size advantage,
but without even wearing any armor,
there doesn’t appear to be any way for David to take credit for this victory.
This is very much a story of God fighting the battle on David’s behalf,
and it needs to be in order for it to fulfill its purpose.
The story of David and Goliath serves as a beacon to all those who would come later that if we
are fighting for the name of the Lord,
then the Lord will honor that fight.
That isn’t to say that we will not come into physical harm,
after all the history of the church is full of martyrs,
with more adding to that number in places like North Korea every day.
If we are called to make the ultimate sacrifice,
not that it’s likely for any of us in our context,
said sacrifice will not be made in vain,
it will work towards the completion of God’s plan,
and we will end up with our Lord in paradise.
There are several differences between our context and and David’s,
our nation isn’t being invaded,
I know there are those that would disagree with that statement, but they’re wrong,
and it isn’t extricably linked to our religion,
so if anything ever happens to America it’s not always, or probably ever, a statement about the
power of God like it was for Israel,
I know that there are those that would disagree with that statement, but they’re wrong,
we’re likely not going to be called to literally put our lives on the line for the glory of God,
but what will we be asked to do?
Follow God’s commands,
and follow where he leads us,
sometimes that means taking a short-term risk,
continuing in your education instead of entering the work force,
or even starting again, going back to school,
without the promise of a job on the other side.
God is calling you to take a chance and leave a job that requires questionable actions,
or even one where you’re just not happy.
Or to tell people about the ways that God is working in your life,
even if you’re afraid that they might laugh at you.
Maybe it just means living your life in confidence,
not making decisions based on fear,
but living boldly in the knowledge that the living God is walking before you.
Or perhaps it means keeping the faith,
even when it looks like times are at their darkest.
If you’ll take one more look at our text,
David’s faith is in stark contrast to the somber and defeated Israelite army.
They don’t see any way to slay the giant,
or any way to save Israel from the Philistines,
their spirit has already been defeated,
you get the feeling from the beginning of the story that they’ve already decided that it will only
be a matter of time before they lose the war.
But then David comes through with his faith,
and his optimism.
He gives them hope,
and his defeat of Goliath gives the army new life to defeat the Philistines.
we can walk alongside someone who’s spirit has seemingly already been defeated.
We can give them that new spark of hope,
and be a conduit through which God can reach out to them,
and pull them through to their brighter tomorrow.
Please pray with me:
thank you for today,
thank you for the opportunity that we have to come here and to learn more about you,
thank you for the story of David and Goliath,
and thank you that we can live boldly,
knowing that you are walking before us.
I pray that you would continue to give us confidence,
and that you would continue to help us live in greater faith with you.
I pray that you would continue to guide us,
and give us strength.
In you son’s name we pray.