Summer Reading: Trinity 4

Back at it again! Today I went really Old Testament on 2 fairly unsuspecting congregations in the parish I cover services for on the 4th Sunday of the month. They are in a vacancy at the moment as their former Priest has moved on. I do enjoy surprising them with my sermons – I’m not quite what they are use to! In a good way – I hope!

This morning my focus was on David & Goliath.  Every one – young and old – were given this on the way into the service…

Image result for david and goliath

1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49
Psalm 133
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

You might have noticed that you were given a David & Goliath colouring sheet on your way in – which you are indeed welcome to colour at your leisure (now or later), or make a shopping list, etc. I did this to make my first point that when it comes to the OT many people have a Sunday School view of the stories.

We are told these stories as children and we hold them there. Some cite that the OT is too violent, boring, hard to understand, etc. I hope to go some way in dispelling that for you this morning. These Sunday School stories have far more going on in them!

To summarize the OT, I often describe it as the story of a people who screwed up over and over again and the God who loved them anyway. Israel was God’s chosen nation and people – not totally sure why – but they were. God would provide their every need if – if – they would fear him, serve him, listen to his voice, stop rebelling and follow him. Behave!

But they couldn’t – Israel proved over and over again to be unfaithful, they wanted to be like the neighbours with their own king, they disobeyed God and went their own way, making bad decisions. They were punished for it – until God finally had enough. And sent Jesus to rescue us from ourselves and our sin.

Second point – we can’t separate the OT from the NT. The whole of the OT is orientated towards the coming of the Messiah. He is prophesied about, spoken of – Jesus is very much present in the OT.

This morning we pick up in the middle of 1st Samuel – set in 10th Century BC and it describes the rise of the prophet Samuel and the reigns of Israel’s first two kings – Saul and David. At its heart the books of Samuel tell about God’s involvement in Israel’s history and highlights the fallibility of human choices. Israel gets what they ask for (human kings) and the consequences that follow.

That is a brief explanation of the OT and books of Samuel very widely. Now we focus on the particular story of David and Goliath.

Saul – Israel’s first king is still alive, on the throne but has fallen out of favour with God due to bad behaviour and disobedience. David – Israel’s second king has been anointed by Samuel. As he is maybe 13 or 14 years old and the youngest of 8 brothers – he has been relegated to the sheep fold until he was called into Saul’s service – armour carrying flute player to calm Saul’s tormented soul.

Then the Philistines show up – again. Philistines have been a problem for Israel for about 200 hundred years. Samson did battle with the Philistines – particularly their women! God had forbidden intermarriage between Israel and other people. Problem goes back a while!

More recent to our story – God had told Israel (via Samuel the prophet) if they would return to Him and stop worshipping other gods – He would get rid of the Philistines. There is a brief period when the Philistines went away and didn’t bother Israel.

But – then – Israel fell back into her old patterns and the Philistines returned!

I think this says something about getting to the root of any problems or issues we may be facing– if we don’t get to the root of them – they will inevitably grow back.

At the start of Ch 17 – the Philistines are back! Problem not gone away and bigger than ever. We can use Goliath as the working example. I want you to imagine for a moment what Goliath might have looked like. If he were alive today he would be over 9 feet tall or 3 metres tall!

The Bible describes him as a ‘champion’ but doesn’t tell us what for or why. The rest of the description we have about Goliath is about his armour – his helmet, armour, javelin, spear and sword. Goliath is a giant and well-armed problem standing in front of Israel – pointing to their inability to fear, serve, listen and follow God.

What do we learn from David and Goliath:

First – doing nothing is not always an option. Sometimes the situation we are in simply won’t go away. This current situation between the Philistine’s and Israel has been going on for 40 days when David gets involved. They are each camped on mountains with a valley in between them. Every day, twice a day, the same thing would happen – Goliath would stand up and yell at the Israelites. They would do nothing.

Somebody needed to do something! We will all face situations where we must act – must go and stand in the valley. This can be quite scary and comes with a lot of responsibility. It is David who steps up.
Often in the Sunday School tale he is an angelic little boy – I kind of imagine Prince George! However – think about 13 or 14-year-old boys that you might know! Crazy teenage brains!

David is seriously angry at this situation. He is indignant that the Philistines are defying the armies of the living God. Angry enough to do something about it! According to his brothers, who are in Saul’s army and not stepping up themselves – David oversteps the mark with his comments. David answers his brother ‘What have I done now?’ So not the first time he has spoken out. Yet these words make it back to Saul and David is sent for.

David learned some things in the sheep field – how to defend himself and protect the sheep, he learned about fighting lions and bears. David’s moment has arrived! ‘Don’t let your hearts fail because of him (Goliath) – I’ll go and fight him’ declares David.

He is not going to let what is standing in front of him – defeat him! David took opportunities when they came – despite circumstances. By taking these opportunities David was building up his skills – maybe not realising how they will be useful one day. We need to take the opportunities that come to us to learn new skills, new ways of thinking, being or doing. You never know when they will be helpful, but we can be prepared for whatever comes. No education or experience is ever a waste – even if we can’t see at the time what the point or purpose of it was.

Saul wants to help David by putting his armour on him; but David knew that wearing Saul’s armour isn’t going to work for him. It wouldn’t help him. Sometimes doing things that other people suggest just won’t help us in our situations. Other people might really want to help us, but their advice or help might not be what we need. David knew what he needed – 5 smooth stones and his sling. We know what happens next – words are exchanged, the beautifully ruddy boy slings the rock into the giant Philistine’s forehead and its lights out.

The story is not about the size of Goliath or stones & slings.

The biggest thing that David had going for him was his trust in God. David’s confidence was in the name of God – this was God’s fight. The same God that David trusted and had confidence in – is the same God we have today. He is completely trustworthy. He wants to help us face our challenges. We can trust Him with whatever we are facing, bring it to Him in our prayers and ask for help.

God will calm the storms – the Gospel reading for this morning is Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. The gale comes up, Jesus is sleeping peacefully the disciples (most of whom are fishermen who knew the Sea rather well) freak out and wake Jesus up. Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, then asks them ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ The wind and waves obey him! Giants submit!

David was not afraid to face Goliath – not because of what David could do himself but because David knew that God would help him and be with him. The disciples saw first hand the power of the one who can calm the wind and waves.

There is no challenge to big that we cannot face when we have God with us – even if he is sleeping in the boat.

Who is our confidence in – as people, as Christians, as a Parish – St Mary’s/St Thomas? That is – at is most basic – what these two stories are about.

Author: Sue Lepp

Newly appointed Priest-in-Charge of the Hambleden Valley Group of Churches and will start later in January 2021. Time for a new start at the beginning of a new year. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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