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February 11, 2023
That’s a Promise (David) Courage to Believe God’s Promises
Pastor Philip De Courcy
1 Samuel 17:1-58

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


In the new series, Profiles in Courage, Pastor Philip explores the lives of biblical figures who exemplify God-given courage. From Genesis to Revelation, these profiles of courage will inspire us to take a stand for righteousness and unwavering faith.

Courage is not limited to a select few; it is a quality all believers must cultivate. It involves putting ourselves at risk, sacrificing comfort, and persevering in the face of opposition. It demands a firm commitment to truth and an unwavering determination to do what others cannot or will not do.

More From This Series


Well, we’re on the eve of the Super Bowl. And today, I’m sure the teams will be spending a little bit of time going over the game plan for tomorrow. That’s what we’re doing this morning. As a Men’s Breakfast, we’re getting together to remind ourselves what side we are on, who we’re playing for. And we are going over the game plan as God has laid out in His Word.
And so I invite you to take your Bible and turn to 1 Samuel 17. We’ve been in a series called Profiles in Courage, and this is our last study. It’s our 10th study, believe it or not, and we’re coming to look at young David, who displays and portrays for us the courage to believe God’s promises. There are 58 verses in this chapter; I’m not going to read them all. So just keep it open, and we’ll jump in and out as we deal with the text and the story.
Now, for some time I’ve been challenging you to be a profile in courage. Joshua 1:7 tells us to be men of courage and not be dismayed. First Corinthians 16:13 tells us to act like men, to be strong and courageous. And we want to be brave and bold in our profession of faith in Jesus Christ. And I’ll tell you why: the times demand it. I’ll tell you why: manhood is defined by it. I’ll tell you why: the history of the church amplifies it. And I’ll tell you why: the Christlikeness personifies it. Courage marked the Lord Jesus, and it will mark those who are His followers. Be a profile in courage.
In fact, I would go as far as to say a man who lacks courage is a man already dead. Dr. Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader, in a famous speech said this: “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” He’s right. It’s hard to live with yourself as a man, and a man of God, when you act cowardly. It’s hard to look yourself in the mirror on any given day when you know you ran from the fight; when you were silent when you should have spoken up; and when you dodged your responsibility to your community, to your nation, to your family, to your church, to yourself.
Self-respect is tied to having courage to be true to God, yourself, and doing right by your fellow man. Self-respect is tied to showing that kind of courage at critical times and crisis moments. God help us to be profiles in courage.
And, to that end, we’ve been studying different men in the Bible who have modeled that courage and manifested it in a variety of ways. We started looking at Elijah, the courage to take sides. We looked at Joshua, the courage to step up. We looked at Nehemiah, the courage to keep going. We looked at Joseph and the courage to refuse temptation. We looked at the apostles and the courage to defy government. We looked at Stephen and the courage to die unafraid. We looked at Paul, the courage to take risks. We looked at John the Baptist, the courage to name sin and call it out. We looked at Timothy last month, the courage to live fully.
And, this morning, we’re coming to look at David, the courage to trust boldly, the courage to trust the promises of God. Because, as we come into 1 Samuel 17, we encounter a young King David. In holding up his life to examination, we see another facet of courage, the courage to trust God’s promises. That’s the interpretive key here in this story. Who’s going to trust God’s Word?
And we’re going to see in this encounter between Goliath and David that David was armed only with a naked and strong belief in the promises of God. In the Valley of Elah, a few miles southwest of Jerusalem, standing before the original Hulk, David channels the spirit of Joshua and Caleb. See, this text takes us back. This isn’t the first time the Israelites have faced giants. If you go back, you’re going to find that they faced giants, and they failed that test. They came to the borders of the promised land, and they saw the giants. And ten of the spies reported, “You know what? They’re too big; we’re too small. They’re too strong; we’re too weak. I don’t think we can do it.” But Joshua and Caleb said, “We are able.” That’s where we’re at here.
And now, a descendant of those giants, an Anakim from Gath, Goliath, some nine and a half feet tall, along with the Philistines, have penetrated well into Israel. They’re in Judah. The giants are back. And David is channeling the spirit of Caleb and Joshua. Didn’t God say to Joshua in chapter 1 that, you know what? They will not be able to stand in your way. And you get that spirit with David.
And so that’s really what this passage is all about. The moral of the story is not that the little guy need not fear the big guy. The moral of the story is not that big is not best, and you don’t need to lose hope when the numbers are stacked against you. That is not the story of David and Goliath. No, the moral of the story is that God can be believed, and His Words don’t fail Him. That’s the moral of the story.
If you go to Joshua 21:45 and Joshua 23:14, you will read in the story of the conquest of Canaan, early on in the life of Israel, that it said twice that God’s Word did not fail. Joshua took God at His Word, and the Word did not fail, and the enemies fell. And now David takes that exact same Word, and we’ll get to the end of story, and we’ll see that Goliath fell like a bowling pin. And God’s Word didn’t fail David, and it doesn’t fail us. The world in which we live, guys, will challenge our belief in God’s Word.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I would think so by now, the Bible’s under attack—and sadly, inside the church and outside the church. But speaking about the culture, the Bible’s under attack regarding origins, creation versus evolution, biology, morality, the purpose of life, the significance of Jesus, and how human history concludes. The culture will, like Goliath, defy and decry the Bible. But, like David, we must engage the cultural contest and get engaged in spiritual warfare with a courageous belief in the Bible and its promises. We need to remain unashamed of the gospel. We need to trust it for eternal life, and we need to trust it throughout life. God give us grace to do that.
So, here we are in our final study. The courage to trust God’s promises. Now as I’ve said, there’s 58 verses here. We’re not going to work our way through this text line upon line. It is narrative. It’s a story. We’re going to take it in clumps. It’s going to be suggestive, not exhaustive. And I’m really going to spend the balance of my thoughts and my teaching on David. There’s three characters in the story on the human level: Goliath, Saul, and David. And then we have God on the divine level. And each are responding to God’s Word differently, and that’s where I’m going in the message, a message I’ve called “That’s a Promise.”
Goliath defies God’s Word. Saul, he disobeys God’s Word. David depends on and declares God’s Word. So, let’s look at these three characters, and we’ll go through the first two reasonably quick and spend the balance of our time with David.
Let’s look at Goliath’s defiance. Goliath’s defiance. Goliath personifies a defiant disgust for God and His Word. We see that in the opening ten verses, as he presents himself, and he outlines a contest between him and a representative from the army of Israel. And whoever wins wins the day. And for 40 days straight, with a big mouth, he has uttered contempt for God and His Word.
Look at verse 16: “And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening.” Again, that’s a tie in to the fact that a disobedient, disbelieving generation spent 40 years in the wilderness, as God tested Israel. Now they’re being tested once again. And it’s a Philistine, and it’s 40 days. The number 40 in the Bible is the number of testing.
And you’ll note that defiance is the key word interpreting Goliath’s role within the text. Look at verse 10: “And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.’” You get the idea of his defiance again in verse 26: “Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” You’ll get it in verse 36 and 45. Just making the point. That is, my point: Goliath’s defiance. He’s defiant. He’s challenging God’s glory. He’s defying God’s Word. He’s confronting God’s people.
In fact, I think he even realizes that himself. I think he even knows somewhat of the part he is playing. Because, in verse 8, read it: “Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, ‘Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.” One of the Bible commentators Dan Doriani says this. He’s kind of paraphrasing what Goliath said: “Am I not a pagan? I’m a godhead in Philistine. Then why don’t any of you men of the living God fight me? You must not really believe in Him. In fact, you must believe a nine-foot warrior is stronger than He is.”
So, Goliath’s defiance is very clear in the text. And as we noted by way of introduction, his brazen defiance is a new test of Israel’s trust in God and the promises given to Joshua. In fact, if you go to Joshua 11:22, while Joshua in the conquest wiped out most of the Anakim, some survived. And one of the areas they survived in—read it, Joshua 11:22—was in the city of Gath and Gaza. And so, they’re back. And the way you deal with them is the way that Joshua was to deal with them, by trusting God’s unfailing Word. God had promised that their enemies would fall before them as bowling pins, as they obey (Joshua 1:1–9).
But here’s the point, just practically. I think Goliath represents the bluster and blasphemy of an unbelieving world that stands opposed to all things godly, that rejects the authority of God’s truth, and who, on a daily basis, seeks to bully you and me out of a strong confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the spirit of Goliath is alive today. Is it not? The derision that we’re increasingly facing is but a taste of what our brothers and sisters across the world face on a daily basis. Goliath’s spirit is alive and well. It can be found in the unbelieving boss at work who singles you out as a Christian for ridicule. It’s to be found in the atheistic professor who mocks the Christian and their faith and their belief in the creation story in the classroom.
It’s found in the secular government seeking to censor the church into silence. The world is filled with Goliaths working to put faith to flight. But we ought to be armed, not alarmed—armed with God’s Word and the trust in the God that that Word describes: sovereign, omnipotent, providential, warrior-like. He’s a man of war, according to the Book of Exodus. If we go into Philippians 1:28, we’re told not to be alarmed at our opponents. Don’t let your adversary alarm you. When the enemy’s fire is raining down on you—wherever that is and whatever that is—don’t be alarmed. Don’t show panic. Be strong in the Lord and courageous, and don’t be dismayed. Hebrews 13:5–6 tells us not to be worried about what man may do to us, for the Lord’s our helper. You know this. We’ll get to this later on in the text.
David is driven by a passion for God. David is consumed with the glory of God, which is just another way of saying that he was a God-fearing man. David didn’t just see the throne of God. He saw life from the throne of God. And David would remind us that a fear of God centered on His Word will drive out the fear of man. Psalm 19:9 talks about the Word of God and the fear of God all in one breath. Because the Word of God is a description of all the glorious attributes of God, which brings about a fear of God from us. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, you know what? Don’t fear him who can kill the body but fear Him who can kill the soul. Choose who you’re going to fear.
See, we fear man too much because we fear God too little. That was Saul, but it wasn’t David. Goliath was small to David. Why? Because God was big to David. In fact, he has a pretty good robust theology of God. Twice he’s called the living God in verse 26 and 36. That’s not just an affirmation of God’s existence—alive, as opposed to dead or non-existent. No, it means that he believed in a God who was actively present, a God who reveals Himself—a God of power, authority, and ongoing involvement in history through His providence and sovereign hand. He’s a God who rescues people (v. 37), a God who saves them (v. 47), a God who triumphs over their enemies (vv. 46–47). He’s the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel (v. 45).
That’s how David describes God throughout this text. And he goes into the fight with Goliath with a robust view of who God is and God’s commitments to him. “The battle is the Lord’s,” right? That’s what he’s going to say. And it’s not much of a battle, because our arms are too short to box with God. It wasn’t even a contest, really, but that’s the point. David had a realistic view of man: this guy’s a Philistine. And he had a realistic view of God: living.
I’ve told the story before of Robert Dick Wilson, who was a professor of Hebrew at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was one of the most brilliant men of his time. One of his graduates was the famous Presbyterian preacher Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, who later pastored Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.
Twelve years after graduating from Princeton, Barnhouse was invited back to preach at the old Miller Chapel. And it’s always a privilege to go back to your former school, but it’s a bit of a challenge. Your old professors are there. Maybe some of the alumni are there. And so it was the case for Barnhouse. In fact, it was made doubly hard because Dr. Wilson sat on the front pew, which was very intimidating. Barnhouse preached his heart out; he took the opportunity and used it well. And after it, Professor Wilson extended a hand. Then he said, “If you come back again, I will not come to hear you preach.” And he is about to walk off, and Barnhouse kind of kept a hold of his hand and jerked him back a little and said, “What do you mean?” He was taking it that he had disappointed his professor. And he says, “Could you explain?” Dr. Wilson says, “Well, when my students come back, I come to hear them preach. I only come once. I’m glad that you’re a big-godder. When my boys come back, I come to see if they’re big-godders or little-godders. And then you know what kind of ministry they will have.” And Barnhouse said, “Can you run that by me just one more time?” He says, “Well, some men have a little god, and they’re always in trouble with him. He can’t do any miracles. He can’t take care of inspiration, the transmission of Scripture. He doesn’t intervene on behalf of his people. They have a little god, and I call them little-godders. Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks, and it’s done. He commands, and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear Him. And, Donald, you have a great God. And I believe He will bless your ministry.”
David had a great God, and that God blessed his efforts to live for God’s glory. Goliath’s defiance. Guys, the culture around you, on a daily basis—from the political world to the entertainment world, to the media world, to the work environment world—will seek to bully you out of your commitment to all the standards of God’s Word, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, and the truth of God’s world. Don’t let them bully you. Make sure the fear of God is alive in you, and it will put the fear of man to death.
Goliath’s defiance. Saul’s disobedience. If Goliath personifies defiance toward the Word of God, Saul personifies disobedience toward the Word of God. There was a complete failure of nerve on the part of this king and his army. Just going to again jump into the text and out of it.
Look at verse 11: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed.” Does that ring a bell? Because God told Moses and Joshua to tell the people not to be dismayed. So, Israel’s being retested here with a giant from Gath, from the region of the Anakim, and they’re failing like the first unbelieving generation. It’s David who’s the new Joshua¬—not Saul, because he’s dismayed. Look at verse 24: “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man [that is, Goliath], fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.” Every time that big goon from Philistia turned up, they tucked tail and ran.
I’ve made note of the fact that this is the language of the earlier unbelieving generation. In fact, here’s another example of that. When David eventually is made known to Saul and offers his services to go and fight Goliath, what does Saul say? “And Saul said to David,” verse 33, “‘You are not able.’” That’s what the ten spies said. So, Saul and Israel are dismayed when they shouldn’t be, based on the promises of Joshua 1. And while David is kind of channeling the spirit of Joshua and Caleb, Saul is channeling the spirit of the ten spies who brought an unbelieving report. The indictment of the text is that Saul and Israel were living in contradiction to the promises of God made to Israel.
Let me just read Deuteronomy 9:1–3: “Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?’ Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said to you.” David believed that. Saul didn’t.
So, in Goliath, we see defiance. In Saul, we see disobedience. Let me make an application to this. In meeting Saul, David faced his first Goliath. David faced another Goliath before meeting the real Goliath. And the Goliath was the unbelief and anxiety of Saul and the people of God. Before he fought Goliath, he had to fight the unbelief and anxiety among the people of God. We’re not going to spend any time, virtually, looking at his brother Eliab, who mocks him when he brings the lunch and supplies for his brother. “What are you doing here? Are you up to some mischief?” But Saul does not lead David. David embarrasses Saul by his courage.
In fact, Saul tries to turn David into a little Goliath, because he’ll later on say, “Okay, if you want to go and fight him, sign this piece of paper. I don’t want any legal complications for sending you out here, but I’ll lend you my armor.” He tried to turn him into a little Goliath—because Goliath’s got armor, right? But David understands what Paul will later say: Our weapons are not carnal. We’re not going to fight them with their weapons on their ground. We’re going to fight them with our weapons in God’s presence. Well, here’s the point, the takeaway, the challenge. And it’s sad, isn’t it? It’s discouraging. Sometimes a man’s foes will be that of his own household and community.
I like what one writer said: “Goliath is not really the problem here. A leather strap and a little rock can fix him. The real menacing giant in this story is the unbelief that dominates the hearts of God’s people. The obstacle is not found in God; it is not found in God’s opponents; it is found in God’s own people. I suspect God was more insulted by Israel’s disbelief than He was by Goliath’s blatant, blasphemous defiance. We should expect Goliath to respond the way he does, but the people of God should know better.” It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?
We spend a lot of time focused on where the culture is and where it’s going, its moral slide. And the fact that the dimmer switch is being turned down, and darkness and darkness and darkness is encroaching. I get it. And we should stand and be a light in the darkness. But, I wonder, when God looks at America and He sees all of that, that’s got to grieve Him. But, I wonder, is He even more grieved by the prayerlessness of God’s people? The biblical ignorance of the church? The cowardliness of preachers in the pulpit? The worldliness of His people? The sexual sin that’s encroaching in the church?
I mean, we could go on. The materialism and opulence while missions beg for money. I mean, we could go on. I wonder, how much of that grieves God? It’s one thing to fight an unbelieving Goliath. It’s another thing to fight a doubting Thomas. And Saul was the Goliath before the real Goliath. Or, the unbelief of Israel was the real Goliath before the Goliath. Have you been told by some Saul, you’re too young? Have you been told by some Saul, your ideas are too naive? Have you been told by some Saul, you know what? That’s too theological. People won’t buy it.
Spiritual confidence is always an embarrassment to those who are weak in faith, and that was true of Saul. When you think about that, maybe the one story that jumped out at me was—if you’ve not read it, it’s worth reading—the story of William Carey, who went to India for the gospel.
In his day, the church was asleep. There was no such a thing as foreign missions. And so, at a minister’s meeting among Baptists, he taught on this idea of the Great Commission and churches in England sending missionaries out across the world. And he offered himself to be the first. And some Saul stood up in the meeting and said, “Sit down, young man, you miserable enthusiast. If God wants to save the elect, He can do it without your help.” “Sit down, you miserable enthusiast.” That’s shocking. How many times has that gone on? Certainly, school. And maybe watch the rough edges of youthful enthusiasm, but don’t pour water on young men and young women who have got big plans for God, who’ve got a boldness that left you a long time ago. Don’t be a Saul in the midst of a world of Goliaths. You’re just making work for the Lord doubly hard. Goliath’s enough. We don’t need Sauls in the church when we’ve got Goliaths in the world.
Just one last thing too. What’s sad about this picture of Saul is it’s an unflattering picture of a leader in decline. When we get to this passage, 1 Samuel 17, Saul has been rejected by God by now. Back in chapter 13 and chapter 15, we see him make an unsanctioned offering to God without the priests. We see him fail to kill King Agag of the Amalekites. We see disobedience. And you know what? God rejected him because he rejected God’s Word. He was a disobedient leader.
\It’s an unflattering image of a leader in decline, a leader rejected by God and without the protection of God’s Holy Spirit. Because when you get to chapter 16, verses 13 and 14, we read, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.”
And in it, you remember, a distressing spirit comes in the place of the true Holy Spirit. And you’ve got to connect those two things. In chapter 13 and 15, he disobeys the Word. In chapter 16, the Spirit of God abandons him. Now, that’s an Old Testament passage. A New Testament believer cannot lose the presence of the Holy Spirit because we’re sealed with the Spirit until the day of redemption (Eph. 1:12–14; 4:30). But this was the case then. And I think it’s no coincidence that a man loses the power of the Holy Spirit to the degree that he disobeys the Word of God. You and I need to be men of the Word and the Spirit. It’s no coincidence to find in Thessalonians this admonition not to quench the Spirit alongside this admonition not to despise prophesying.
Don’t despise the preaching and prophesying of God’s Word. Don’t quench the Spirit. The Word and the Spirit. To the degree that you obey the Word, you will enjoy the fullness of the Spirit. You get the same thought in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18. Colossians 3:16 says what? “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The word “dwell” there, “find its home.” You and the Bible should never be far apart. And then, sing to “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” But when you get to Ephesians 5:18–19, it says, “And do not be drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” So it’s the same outcome, but it’s two different elements contributing to the same outcome. And I think those two things are joined together. Letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly produces a filling of the Spirit. Because the Spirit wrote the Word, and as you obey the Word and glorify God in the obedience to the Word, the Spirit of God is pleased and favors you and indeed blesses you.
If you’ve played golf in a modern golf cart that has GPS, you know that sometimes there are areas that are out of bounds—maybe out in an area near the green, areas that are waterlogged after some rain, or maybe ground under repair. And, if you knowingly or unknowingly take that golf cart into that forbidden area, what happens? It loses power. Exactly. You got to reverse out of there. I love that analogy. It dawned on me one day; that’s exactly what it’s like when I take my heart and my body and my mind and my life, and I willfully drive into a forbidden area that God’s Word tells us to stay away from. And when I do that, God turns the power down. I don’t have His power. I don’t have His favor. I don’t have His blessing. I got to shift gears and reverse out of there. It’s called repentance. And then I have to get back onto the path of obedience and drive down in that direction.
Finally, David’s dependence. If Goliath personifies defiance, and he speaks of an unbelieving world—and if Saul personifies disobedience, and he speaks of unbelieving believers—then David personifies dependence, those who have the courage to believe the promises of God. As we’ll get to momentarily, David’s approach to Goliath is one in which he was armed only with an unshakable, unassailable confidence in the unfailing, prevailing Word of the living God.
I don’t want to discount the sling and the shot, but you know what? It was his trust in God’s Word that brought about the favor of God, which blessed that slingshot. David went up against Goliath with a confidence in the Word, a Word that God had given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3: “I’m going to give you the land” (paraphrased); that God had given to Moses in Deuteronomy 1:21 and 31:8 and Joshua 1:9, that “they’ll not stand before you. The land is yours. It doesn’t matter how tall they are, how big they are, how mighty they are. You get in behind Me, and I’ll drive a path through your enemies” (paraphrased).
Now, textually, the introduction of David plays also an historical role in the text, to where we’re beginning to see a changing of the guard. This is where we begin to see David’s emergence as the new king, given Saul’s rejection.
But it’s a few things I want us to see. Number one, the providence. Go back to 1 Samuel 17. We’re looking at David now and his dependence and trust in God’s promises. Let’s look at the providence. David was not old enough to fight. If you go to Numbers 1:3, you have to be 20. The fact that he wasn’t fighting means he wasn’t 20 yet. He was taking care of his father’s flock. You can read the text. And his dad decides to send him on an errand with some bread and cheese for his brothers. He arrives as Goliath is coming out. He sees all that’s going on.
Verse 20: “So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army.” Verse 23: “Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words.” The same words he had been mouthing for 40 days. But as David arrives, the armies are setting up, and Goliath appears. What a coincidence. No, what a providence. Given the rest of the story, one thing leads to another, as they say.
Here we have God’s providence. You’ve got a little phrase in verse 12: “Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah.” You’ll read about now David in verses 14 and 15. And then again in verse 20. Everything seems so casual, but it’s all linked to a providential chain leading to the gravest of issues and the biggest of outcomes. It’s just worth noting that. It’s worth remembering when David set out that morning, he had no idea of how he would be drawn into the historic events of 1 Samuel 17.
David would maybe say to us that when you get up in the morning, just be aware that this day that seems so normal—and you look at your calendar, and it seems so routine, the appointments par for the course—what if this day, something turned on a casual encounter, a casual conversation, a casual event, that will change the course of your life? It can, and it does.
It was a casual call to England to hear about John MacArthur coming to the Lloyd Jones Trust to preach that led to my life and ministry in the United States. I called a man called Tony Ruston. I said, “Hey, Tony, I’ve been following John MacArthur for many years. I’ve been reading his books. I’m thinking about coming over to the conference in England. What’s the details? What are the days? How do I get there? What about accommodation?” And he said, “Well, why don’t you invite him to Belfast?” Just a casual conversation that led to a series of events. It was the threading of a needle in a tapestry of divine providence. It’s amazing. Big things come out of small things. Consequential things come out of casual things. So, just make yourself available and on alert to God’s providence.
An old writer, William Blake, says this: “Should we not pray more freely, more earnestly if we did realize these possibilities? Is it not a good habit as you need each morning to think? For aught I know”—he’s kind of saying, “For all I know”—“this may be the most important day of my life. The opportunity may be given me of doing a great service in the cause of truth and righteousness, or the temptation may assail me to deny my Lord and ruin my soul. Oh God, be not far from me this day. Prepare me for all You’re preparing me for.”
It’s a great little insight. What if tomorrow, what if today changes your life? You need to be asking and surrendering yourself every day to God. Lord, prepare me for all You’re preparing me for. Because, as David grabbed the bread and the cheese and headed to the battlefield, he had no idea of what was about to unfold. And the other thing about the providence of God in this story is, providence sent a boy. The hero, at least from the human side, was a boy. A strip of a lad who proved to be a savior of sorts. And he’s a wonderful reminder that God can use the weak, the despised.
His brother Eliab despised him, mocked him. Saul said, “You’re not able. You’re too young.” But God uses the weak. Focused on appearances, Saul and the army of Israel saw no significance in the arrival of a boy with some supplies, but that was their mistake. You’ve heard me say it before: You can be too big for God to use but never too small. God can use someone more who’s empty of any sense of their abilities, their intelligence rather than someone who’s full of confidence in their abilities and intelligence.
This is a good quote from the writer Brian Harbour, who said, “The David and Goliath story provides a paradigm of how God advances his kingdom. He repeatedly uses the weakest and the least promising agents available to do his work. When God wants to deliver his people from an Egyptian slavery, he chooses a stuttering murderer who suffers a self-imposed exile in the Arabian desert. His name is Moses. When God wants someone in the inside to assist God’s people in capturing the city of Jericho, he chooses a prostitute named Rahab. When God needs someone to establish the lineage that will produce the great King David and eventually the Messiah, he uses a foreigner from Moab named Ruth. When God wants a mother for the incarnate Son of God, He selects a young peasant girl named Mary from an insignificant village called Nazareth.” God repeatedly uses the weakest and the least promising agents available to do His work, right? The foolish things of this world to shame the wise; the weak things of this world to shame the strong. A boy, a teenager.
That’s why Hudson Taylor was right when he said, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”
That’s the providence. What about the preparation? Behind every big moment, there’s a bunch of small moments that leads up to it. This is a really good principle. Behind every big moment in your life, there are a bunch of small moments that lead up to it. And, if you’ve managed those small moments well, they’ll prepare you for the big moment. They’ll ready you for that moment.
Guys, when we meet David here, his brave faith, his trust in God is not a flash in the pan. It’s not a momentary surge of valor triggered by an emergency. No, it’s a consistent expression of a faith that has been forged over many years of obeying and following God. How do we know that? Go to verse 32: “Then David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against the Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth.’” You’re not even military age, and he’s “‘a man of war from his youth.’ But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went after it.’”
Just pause there. I’m going to guess there were some shepherds who go, “Yeah, it’s just the loss today. I’m not going to risk my life for a lamb.” But David goes after it to try to either rescue the lamb or kill the predator. That’s bravery. In fact, we need to keep reminding ourselves the Eastern shepherd is more like the Western cowboy. These are tough guys. They’re up for hard work, long nights, early rises, and fighting with lions and bears. “‘I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard . . .’” Can you imagine it? Hey, buddy. “‘. . . I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’ Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’”
This was not a flash in the pan. This was something that he had developed. Faith is sustained in the present and for the present as a remembrance of God’s provision in the past. Memory is the handmaiden of faith, said Spurgeon. You and I need to keep alive valleys God has taken us through, hills that God has allowed us to climb, questions that God has answered, victories that God has given, promises that God has kept, surprises that God has brought. All of that, it’s all fuel on the fire of our faith. It’s all kindling in our confidence in God. We need to indeed embrace that and remember that God is preparing you for all that He’s preparing you for.
And every small event you go through adds up to something big when a moment of crisis comes. You see, behind every big moment, there are a bunch of small moments that lead up to it. And, when you manage them well, you’re prepared for the big moment. So, make sure you’re learning and moving forward.
I’ve told you the joke that someone shared with me about two Irishmen who went to the Rockies to do some hunting. They had a license. They flew in a little puddle jumper, and they landed and went off into the wilderness. Several days later, they came back with six moose. They got to their pilot and wanted to head out of there. And the pilot said, “Hey, given the size of this aircraft and the laws of aerodynamics, I can only take four moose and you two and myself. That’s it.” And they said, “Well, you know what? Last year we were in a plane very like this one. We did the same thing. This is an annual trip. We went out in the wilderness. We killed six moose. We came back, and the pilot allowed us take those on board.” And yeah, they kind of bullied him into submission, and he gave in. So, they put the six moose in the plane. The two Irishmen get in with the pilot, and they started taxiing down the runway. They took off. They were climbing, gaining altitude. But halfway through the climb, they realized they didn’t have enough power to get that plane over the top of the mountain, and they went crashing and careening into the side of the hill.
By the way, guys, this is a joke. Don’t look so serious. So, they careen into the side of the hill. The pilot’s dead, and the moose are kind of strewn all around the wreckage. The plane’s still on fire. And Paddy and Mick, they kind of shake themselves awake. And Paddy turns to Mick, and he says, “Mick, where are we?” And Mick says, “You know what, Paddy? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s too far from where we crashed last year.” It’s a dumb story. I happen to like it. We tell it on ourselves. These Irishmen are thick, and we don’t learn that quickly. And we’re kind of stubborn. But the point of the story is learn your lessons.
Whatever God brings you through, you should be better for it, not the same. Whatever He brings you through, don’t stay stupid. Get strong; get smart. Let your past experiences get you ready for your present experiences. Let the accumulation of so many days behind you get you ready maybe for this one day that could be defining.
Finally, let’s get to the proclamation. The text highlights David’s past trust in God’s promises to be with him and for him. And now it highlights his present trust in God, as David confronts the big baboon from Philistia. This is verses 45 to 47. We’ll wrap this up. “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand’”—just like He did with the lions and the bear—“‘and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword or spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.’”
Now, as I said, while we are amazed by the slingshot, David tells it wasn’t the slingshot. It’s not the sword. It’s not the spear. It’s not the sling. It’s not the man. He’s the instrument that over time has been prepared, and he’s learned his lessons. And his trust in God has not been shaken either by a defiant Goliath or a disbelieving Saul. And so, he confronts Goliath, armed with a trust in God’s promised victory. Right? Going back to Moses. Going back to Joshua. Even going back to Abraham.
David ignores the experts. David takes no notice of appearances. He defines reality by what he believes, based on the promise of God’s Word, not what he sees and what he hears at the human level. In fact, the emphasis of the text is not in what David does but what David says. This is a little study I’ll give to you to do on your own. But when you go back and read this story again, it’s godless until David starts speaking. He’s the one who introduces the dialogue of trust and a belief in a living God and a Lord of hosts. In fact, if you read the text, David’s words take up 63 words of the text, while his actions only take up 36. See, the emphasis is not on what he does but on what he says, because he’s speaking out of a confidence in God’s revealed and ruling Word.
He’s the new Joshua. Don’t be dismayed. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Study the law of God day and night. It will prosper you, and if you obey it, you’ll have success. He has shown a courage rooted in a promise that God has given to His people that, when obeyed, brings about certain outcomes. David was armed with an unshakable, unassailable confidence in the unfailing and prevailing Word of God. Guys, as we close, faith is not believing in yourself. We’ve got to get psychology out of the church and theology back into the church. Faith is not believing in self. It’s not positive thinking. It’s not even a Pollyannaish hope of a better day.
Let me tell you what faith is. It’s simply believing what God has revealed in His Word to be true. That’s what faith is. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Faith is the deeply held belief that God will keep His promises. That’s what faith is. I want to repeat that again. Faith is the deeply held belief that God keeps His promises. And that’s why David comes out victorious. The real problem wasn’t Goliath. The real problem was a feeble faith among the Israelites, exemplified in Saul. They failed to believe the promise of the unfailing Word from Joshua 21:43–45. And, as we close, guys, may it not be true of us.
Second Peter 1:4. God has given us what? Great, mega exceeding promises. That’s M-E-G-A by the way. Mega promises. Precious promises, because they’re centered on the precious Lord Jesus. And the fulfillment came at the cost of Jesus’ life. How precious is that? We have great and exceeding promises (2 Peter 1:4). And, finally, we have those promises that are Yes and Amen in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). If we’re going to just reduce the Old Testament down to one theme—which we could, but it’s more than that, but we could—it’s the coming of the Messiah. And there’s hundreds of promises about the One who will come. And, in the Gospels, we have the fact that He has come.
And those promises in that first coming were literally fulfilled, historically accurate to place and time and event. And that’s a harbinger of the second coming, which will be literal and according to time and place and event. But the point is this here. God said “yes” to His promises in Jesus. Do you need proof today that God keeps His promises? All the proof you need is Jesus.
Jesus was born in Judah, just like the Word of God promises. Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced, just like Psalm 22 promises. Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our inequities, just as Isaiah 53 promises. Jesus is greater than Solomon and greater than Moses, and he’s David’s greater son, just like the Old Testament promises. All the promises are Yes and Amen.
And as you leave, guys, leave encouraged that you have these great and precious promises. Someone did the work. There’s some 8,000 promises in God’s Word. Now, not all of them apply to us. Many of them apply to individuals in a historic context. Many of them apply to Israel and not the church. But there are thousands of promises that apply to you, and I want to tell you what they are: they’re blank checks. They’re blank checks. And God wants you, like David, to trade in promises. I love that. It’s an old Puritan phrase. The Puritans talked about trading in God’s promises. And so, you and I need to take these promises, these blank checks, and put our names on them.
Hudson Taylor did that. As he opened a bank account for the China Inland Mission, the application form asked for his asset list. All right? Do you know what he wrote on the asset list? “Ten dollars and all the promises of God.” I love that. That’s what he wrote in his asset list: “Ten dollars and all the promises of God.” He had a checkbook of faith.
And when you and I properly understand the Word of God and properly claim the promises that are due ours, we can write our name on them and cash them—because Jesus has endorsed them with His blood and His covenant and stands behind them with His holy character.
Father, thank You for our series Profiles in Courage. We’ve learned a lot from these great men challenging us to stand up, not to be spiritual weasels but to grow a backbone for Jesus and to act like men with courage and strength. Lord, forgive us for our faltering and our fear at times that grip us because You have not given us a spirit of fear but of power. Thank You for this last lesson from David. Lord, help us to not be bullied by an unbelieving culture, because the spirit of Goliath is still alive defying the living God. Our culture increasingly defies the living God. But help us not to bend. Help us not to bow. Help us not to budge.
But, Lord, it’s a sad thing to see unbelieving believers in the church. The church has lost its belief in the sufficiency of Scripture, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the ability of the gospel to create its own audience and bring people to a transforming event with Jesus Christ. Help us to put away Saul’s armor and the worldly methods that so many ministries are scrambling for. They want to reach the culture through the culture. They want to use the same methods and mediums that the world uses to make the gospel, it seems, more effective. I don’t know how you make the gospel more effective other than preaching it out of a holy life—be it in prayer and a trust in the promises of God.
So, make us Davids. Lord, help us to believe these great and precious promises. Help us to realize that Jesus is a big “yes” on the promises of God. The Bible is true, and the coming of Jesus proves it. And we can come back to it and live every day in the good of those promises and trade them in. They will enrich us. And we can live in the light of the promise yet to be fulfilled: “I come quickly; and my reward is with me.” For these things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.