The King's faith - 1 Samuel 17

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from 16th January 2022.

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1 Sam 17 “The king’s faith”


What do you fear? If I asked you to write down on the handout in rank order your top 5 fears what would make it onto the list? As you think about that right now, be specific – what are the things that currently are tempting you or even worse actually causing you to lose heart and feel weak, trapped and powerless? God has an answer to all of your fears, and his answer is himself, God’s very presence with us, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. The most frequent command to God’s people in the bible is “Do not fear” and we need to hear that again and again because faith and fear are incompatible and yet we are so prone to taking our eyes off the almighty God who has made us, redeemed us and is with us, and setting them instead on mere created things that seem so terrifying when we forget who God is.   

But there are certain parts of God’s word that we come to and we are stirred again back to full-blooded, confident, determined, triumphant faith in the one true King of the universe and 1 Sam 17 v 45-47 is definitely one of those passages. The Shepherd boy David steps out against the giant warrior Goliath and this is what he defiantly proclaims; 

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied… All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

As a church family right now, we are to turn away from fear and as we look through king David to King Jesus, we are to put our faith firmly in the one who has fought all of our battles for us, the one who has beaten every single one of our enemies on our behalf. As we listen to, believe and accept God’s word to us this morning let us determine to go out from this place with a fresh confidence in the God who loves us, has saved us, is with us, and is getting us ready for home.


         1) Foolish fear kills faith (v1-11)

In verses 1-11 we see that foolish fear kills faith in God. These verses describe a great battle scene where 1 of the armies is filled with terror. But what is so sad here is that the wrong army are the ones giving in to fear. The Philistines should be the ones shaking in their boots as they dare to oppose the almighty God and his chosen people, Psalm 2 puts their situation so well;

“Therefore you kings, be wise; be warned you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

But the Philistines are proud fools and so because they have the great warrior Goliath (and he was a big guy with serious weaponry in v4-7) they dare to defy the people of Israel; Goliath arrogantly marches out and makes his challenge again and again to the Israelite army (40 days).

Despite appearances, the Philistines are fools because the God who made Goliath and who gives him and all the rest of the Philistines their very next breath, he is on the other team. The creator God is for his people. The Philistines think they are so well armed and yet they don’t stand a chance. And so the response of the Israelite army, although faced with this terrible threat and ruthless warrior, should be one of calm faith in God. The God who made them, called them, rescued them from Egypt, delivered them to Canaan and established them in the promised land is the God who stands with them.


But the Israelites are fools as well (not proud fools but fear-filled fools) and so though God does stand with them, they don’t stand at all. Verse 24 is such an embarrassing verse (our kids say cringe – it’s a cringe verse) – as Goliath steps out to shout his usual defiance in the faces of God and his people we read this; “Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.”

When you read the bible you should pay attention to the details – what was it in this verse that caused these experienced soldiers to repeatedly run away in fear? Whenever the Israelites “saw the man” they all fled from him in great fear (all – v11 shows us that this fear goes all the way up to King Saul). The problem is what God’s people are fixing their eyes on. They are staring at Goliath and he definitely must have been a frightening sight if he is the only thing filling your sight. But he is just a man. They should have been fixing their eyes on God.

(Kids being scared of the dark but not scared when parent is with them even though the darkness remains) Israel’s God is real and HE is to be feared and nothing else, but the foolish fear of Goliath, a mere man, is killing real faith in God. And so here is the first big question for us this morning. Who here has forgotten who God really is? Who has given in to panic and fear? It might be a family situation, a financial situation, it might be Covid-19, it could be the state of our country and government, global warming whatever. Allowing fear to rule your life is foolishness – it dishonours God and it leads to us running away from the work God has for us to do, the work of worshipping Him, serving his people, loving the world around. This morning we must once more realise who our God is, we must take courage, and we must stand rather than run away.


           2) Faith in the living God kills fear (v12-37)


In Home group on Wednesday night one of the members read out this quote which was so helpful; “God doesn’t call those who are qualified, he qualifies those he calls”. God gives his little children what we need and so faith in the living God will kill fear. The first 11 verses have been very depressing but then we get verse 12; “Now David …” What is it about David that means out of all the battle-hardened soldiers and even King Saul himself, this visiting shepherd boy is the only person not afraid of Goliath, is in fact disgusted by the fear Goliath is bringing to the people of God?  

We can see several answers in the text. Verse 26; “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David knows who God is and he knows who God’s people are;

Who is God? God is the living God. He isn’t a figment of our imagination, He isn’t a crutch invented out of simple human need. He is the God who is before us, the God who spoke and all things were brought into being, the God who keeps us alive, the God who judges between right and wrong, the God who is eternal and knows the end from the beginning. David couldn’t look at the cross at Calvary like we can but he knew all the same that God wins for his people.

Who are God’s people? In David’s day it was those who are circumcised and part of God’s covenant promises. God’s people belong to God and point to the glory of God. Goliath doesn’t stand a chance in David’s eyes because he won’t come to the living God and ask to be part of his people. David can’t give in to fearing Goliath because David belongs to the living God.   

Add to this knowledge David’s testimony and experiences in life in verses 34-37. As King Saul reasons with David in very human terms (you are young and he is an experienced warrior) David tells his story of faith, his account of how his faith in God has been tested and built in smaller battles. Lions and Bears should be frightening but God helped David with those (all they wanted to eat was sheep) and so of course God will help David deal with this proud scornful enemy (who wants to destroy God’s precious people).

If you are a Christian then there are 3 questions to ask yourself when you are beginning to panic or give in to fear; Who is God? Who are we, his people? What has God already got me through in life? (trials are good) The discipline of asking those 3 questions, of coming to church to focus on those 3 questions, of encouraging and being encouraged by Christian brothers and sisters asking those 3 questions will do us so much good as we seek to respond in faith and not fear. But there is one more wonderful truth that David is convinced of and it is Saul who speaks it at the end of v37, just before David is to go into battle; “Go, and the LORD be with you.” God is with each one of his people in a real way, a way that should bring us deep courage and a way that should cause God’s enemies great terror.

Goliath in all his pride and self-confidence doesn’t realise it but this young guy walking towards him without armour and without even a sword brings with him a strength and a force that Goliath couldn’t dream up in his worst nightmares. In the Narnia books Susan asks Mrs Beaver about Aslan the Lion – “’is he quite safe?’ ‘Safe?’ Mrs Beaver replies, ’who said anything about safe. Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.’” If you belong to God through King Jesus he is truthfully, actually with you right now and forever. Jesus paid all that was needed to close the distance between you and God and though you sometimes feel far away from him, the truth is He is with you and will never leave you. Poor Goliath, he doesn’t have a clue what is coming towards him step by step – he’s not safe but he is good (Chuck Swindoll “David and the dwarf”). Faith in God kills foolish fear.

             3) The King from Bethlehem is who our faith is in (v38-58)

We know exactly how the rest of the story goes. David does need a sword in the end so after his first stone has done its work, he takes Goliath’s sword off his dead body and uses it to chop off the head of the mere man who terrified a whole army. And suddenly the whole Philistine army are routed. It would be so easy for me to make a big mistake now and finish this sermon by declaring “So go, be filled with faith and TRIUMPH in life. Go and beat those giants. Go and live your best life now!” But that is not where true faith in God takes us. Faith does indeed kill fear but it is who our faith is in that matters most – we must put our faith in the King from Bethlehem.


We so quickly put ourselves into this story as David and there is some benefit to doing that of course but far more fittingly to the whole of God’s plan of salvation, we are to think of ourselves as David’s brothers in this story. In verse 28 Eliab, his oldest brother, although one of the soldiers running in terror from Goliath, still is proud enough to scorn David and burn with anger at David’s holy attitude. Every human being is like this – when we know we are in the wrong, we hate it when others are in the right. When we know we have failed we hate it that there are others who haven’t. And that is because our hearts have been twisted so badly by sin.


Each one of us has been beaten by Satan and sin and death. None of us have got what it takes to overcome those great enemies. They are far bigger enemies than Goliath. And we are far smaller in comparison than was David. And so think of the shame and humiliation of the brothers as they watch young David striding out to fight where they wouldn’t, triumphing where they couldn’t. The brothers and all of God’s people can simply watch as God’s anointed King from Bethlehem goes and wins the battles for us that we could never win.


This is where King David takes us to King Jesus. David had his sling and his stones, Jesus had a cross, some nails, and a crown of thorns. It is so humbling and humiliating for us, but all anyone can do is just watch as King Jesus suffers on a cross because of our sin and failure. There is something to fear in this life. The greatest fear that anyone should have is the fear of our sin and its consequences. Without Jesus we would have no hope. Without Jesus we would face a lost eternity – an eternity in Hell because of our sin and shame. But faith in Jesus Christ sorts out even that fear. The king who went to the cross in what looked like the greatest defeat won the greatest battle. He won on our behalf and he triumphed over his enemies. Colossians 2v13-15 sums it up;


13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us;

he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]


So I do have a final exhortation for you today, but it is not about over-confidence and swagger, instead it is simply this; put your faith once more in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus means KNOWING he has won and so trusting him enough to OBEY.


Faith will mean believing in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (his life, death, resurrection, Spirit, rule, return)

Faith will mean meeting with God’s people with the strength Jesus gives you even when your emotions or the world tell you it would be better to stay away.

Faith will mean caring for the needs of God’s people with the compassion Jesus gives you even when it will leave you less comfortable and a bit stressed.

Faith will mean learning to pray consistently and corporately by the Spirit of Christ which fills you.

Faith will mean speaking the gospel to others in your life knowing that Jesus is with you as you do it.


Leave fear, have faith, trust in our almighty God. Amen.


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