34 David said to Saul, “Your servant has been taking care of his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it and rescued the lamb out of its mouth. When the lion reared up against me, I grabbed it by its mane, struck it, and killed it. 36 Your servant struck both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has defied the ranks of the living God.” 37 David added, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go then! May the Lord be with you.”1 Samuel 17:34-37
We all like to cheer for the underdog. Last week was the NFL virtual draft and you may have watched as teams picked who they think are the best players to be on their team. While we all have our favorite football teams and admire their accomplishments, it’s also true that we have a heart for the underdog. Maybe we have a heart for the underdog because so often in life we feel like the underdog.
In the first lesson for today from 1 Samuel we stand with a teenager named David who found himself in a situation where he was the underdog. We join him in hearing Goliath make fun of the Israelite army, then see him towering over David. But God didn’t put this account into the Bible so that we’d get all caught up in how we’d feel if we were in David’s sandals. He caused it to be read by us so we can focus on what God did for and through David. That same God wants to work for and through us, too. He wants us to know that
When Underdogs Are Under The Good Shepherd
They have Confidence
Let’s set the stage. The Philistines from along the coast of the Mediterranean had gathered forces for war against Israel. King Saul and his troops went to stop the attack. “Now the Philistines gathered their troops for battle. They gathered at Sokoh, which belongs to Judah, and they camped [there]…. 2 Saul and the men of Israel also gathered together and camped in the Valley of Elah. … 3 The Philistines took up a position in front of the mountain on one side of the valley, and the Israelites stationed themselves in front of the mountain on the other side of the valley” (1 Sam 17:1-3). When the battle lines had been drawn up, a mighty champion of the Philistines named Goliath walked down into the valley and shouted a challenge at the Israelite troops, “Choose a man to represent you, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, we will be your servants. But if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our servants, and you will serve us.“ This sort of dual between enemy champions was pretty common in those days. But, who was going to fight Goliath? 9 feet tall, bronze helmet, 100 lbs coat of armor, a sword slung on his back and a spear as big as a piece of timber with a 15 lbs spear head! “Saul and all the Israelites were … terrified.” So, who’s going to fight him?
That’s when David arrived on the scene. David had come near the front lines to bring his three oldest brothers a “care package” from home. But, when he heard Goliath’s taunts, David was steamed. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine who dares to defy the troops of the living God?… 32 David said to Saul, “Do not let anyone lose heart because of this Philistine! Your servant will go and fight him.” Where did David get such courage and confidence? David himself gives us the answer. “34 David said to Saul, “Your servant has been taking care of his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it and rescued the lamb out of its mouth. When the lion reared up against me, I grabbed it by its mane, struck it, and killed it. 36 Your servant struck both the lion and the bear.” Did he get his power from himself? NO! “37 David added, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David did not dig down deeper and pull up his bootstraps to find the courage from within. If he had looked into the mirror he would have seen a red-headed teenager. His courage was based on God! The guarantee that the Good Shepherd watching over him gave him the confidence. You can hear this confidence as David spoke to Goliath, “46 Today the Lord will hand you over to me. I will strike you down and cut off your head. … Then all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and all those gathered here will know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear, for the battle belongs to the Lord, and he will deliver you into our hand.” David was the underdog of the Good Shepherd and his confidence came from the Lord.
So who are the Goliath’s in your life? Maybe you’re thinking of the bully down the block, or the boss at work, or the overbearing relative. Maybe you’re thinking about poor health, being separated from the ones you love, mounting bills, mortgage payments or rent. Bullies might intimidate us and drag us down, but the devil wants to drag us to hell! Satan doesn’t have to go looking for bullies because he has one that’s already lurking inside each of you. The sin nature in us all tricks us to look for bullies on the outside so he can have his way with us on the inside. Where are we going to get the courage to face Satan, the bullies of the world and in order to keep our foot on the neck of our sinful nature? From the same place David did—from our Lord God. God has promised to stand with us and protect us at all times as much as he did with David. Jesus, our Good Shepherd promised, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). We are the Underdogs under the Good Shepherd. When we are surrounded by God’s protective power, nothing can remove us from His gracious care. So we don’t try to slip out from his watchful eye and take on Satan alone. Don’t try to overcome evil desires apart from God. St. Paul said, “31 What then will we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). Yes, plenty of people will mock the confidence we have for our situations. But, our faith rests on God’s promises, that even if the situation should result in our death, we have life through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Underdogs Under the Good Shepherd, have confidence and face the enemy with God’s weapons
Goliath was huge. His weapons were scary. No wonder King Saul was hesitant to send David out to fight him! After all, if he loses, they all become servants of the Philistines! But, if David insisted, at least he should look like a warrior! “Saul said to David, “Go then! May the Lord be with you.” 38 So Saul dressed David in his own gear. He placed a bronze helmet on his head and dressed him in scaled body armor. 39 David strapped his sword over his gear. David tried to walk around in them, since he had never trained with this kind of equipment before. David said to Saul, “I cannot go in these, because I have never trained with them.” So David took them off.” Was David going to take on this giant bare-handed? Not exactly.
David had weapons! He had a slingshot. “40 Then David took his staff in his hand and picked five smooth stones out of the stream bed and put them into the pouch of his shepherd’s bag. He took his sling in his hand and approached the Philistine.” So, now’s the time to place your bets. What are the odds? Goliath thought he knew! “43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come against me with sticks?” The Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will feed your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the countryside.” We all know the answer Goliath expected. If Goliath was a dog then David was an Underdog! David’s weapons were wimpy compared to Goliath’s missiles. Yet, David’s weapons were more effective and therefore greater. David staked his life and the reputation of his God on the promises of his Word, “45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel, whom you have defied.”
Dear Christians friends, the Lord does not leave us empty handed in our battles against Satan, the sin nature and the evil world around us. He has given us weapons. Jeremiah said, “29 Is not my word like a fire? declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jer 23:29). Or Hebrews, “12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, even being able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (4:12). God’s Word assures us that we have a Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us, and the rose from the dead to show his victory over the curse of sin, the power of sin, death and the devil. God has equipped us with the weapons we need to send the bullies running!
An example. A young man was so upset about his past and current sins, “How can I ever conquer this?” he asked. You give him the answer! Look at the Good Shepherd and all he’s done for you. He has taken you and plenty other sheep and removed you from the slaughterhouse line. He has equipped you to make the right Spirit-led choices for the right reason! Jesus loves you so much! You’re not a loser lamb, you’re an Underdog under the Good Shepherd with all weapons from his glorious Word! So, let’s fight with confidence and with God’s weapons in order to gain
Goliath was sure he had won. He must have thought, “I’ll just run this little guy through with my spear like a toothpick through an olive.” The battle was on! “48 Then, when the Philistine started advancing to attack David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand into his bag, took a stone from it, shot it from his sling, and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown to the ground.” The victory was in God’s hands. “When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 The men of Israel and Judah got up, cheering loudly, and pursued the Philistines toward the entrance of the valley, all the way to the gates of Ekron. Fatally-wounded Philistines lined the road from Sha’araim all the way to Gath and Ekron.” They cheered loudly because Goliath was dead. Yup. Because their enemies was defeated. Yup. But, did you notice what else happened. God gave a great victory to David and to all the other Israelite soldiers. Step back and see what just happened! David isn’t the hero. They aren’t the champions. The Lord Almighty, the Good Shepherd won the victory!
If there was a terrorist attacking our church right now I don’t think any of us would like to face them alone. Nor would we want to face Satan alone. When we are tempted to trust the material blessings rather than the One who gave us our blessings, when we are tempted to turn the blessings of friendship and family into snooty cliques, when we are tempted trust in our abilities, knowledge, skill, science more than God who gives all to us, then let us confess our sins, admit our errors and beat down our selfish pride. Then let us renew our confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ with his weapons and as Underdogs under the Good Shepherd let us enjoy the victory.
We know David was given a great victory and became the greatest King in Israel’s history. But, there’s more to the story. Later in life he made a mess of his life with sinful choices and actions so that he was not only an underdog but a lost lamb. Yet, the Good Shepherd still loved him, forgave him, restored him, and rebuilt his life. David wrote about being an Underdog under the Good Shepherd in one of the most famous songs of all time. We know it as the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing!”
Underdogs, do you want something to cheer about? Cheer about what the Good Shepherd has done for us. Rest secure in his tender arms. Have confidence in his protection. Use his weapons against your enemies. And enjoy the victory in the house of the Lord forever! Amen!