But then a hero emerges.
The hero is never as strong as the monster
Never as well armed
But they have courage and they have skill
They do what no-one has done before
They stand up to the monster
But it seems that they will be doomed
But the hero, through skill and pluck is able to find a weak spot in the monster
And the monster, blinded by its own arrogance, doesn’t see the blow coming until it’s too late
And the monster is killed.
Killing monster stories go back to the Babylonians
The oldest surviving story in its original form, the epic of Gilgamesh, is a killing the monster story.
The Greeks told stories about Hercules killing the minotaur
The English told the story of St. George killing the dragon
Later on an Englishman, J.R.R. Tolkien told the story of Lord of the Rings, in which the hero, the half-sized hobbit Frodo, destroys the monster Sauron
The Americans told the story of Luke Skywalker
And the Scots gave the world Harry Potter.
“Killing the Monster” stories are not only fictional
The Second World War is a “Killing the Monster” story where the monsters are Hitler, the Japanese Armed Forces and the Third Reich
We tell these monster stories because we don’t stop being afraid of monsters the day that we finally have the courage to sleep with the lights off
You could tell a “Monsters are not really monsters story”
The Pixar cartoon Monsters Inc is like that
There the monsters are cuddly and are actually as scared of us as we of them
Sometimes you need a “monsters are not really monsters” story
But when the monster is a brutal, oppressive tyranny
When the monster is poverty, or domestic violence
When the monster lurks the mind – depression, chronically low self-esteem
When the monster is a relationship that has destroyed us – an abusive partner, a parent who suffocates, a child who destroys, a son-in-law who twists
When the monsters are, in Paul’s phrase, the “cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”
Then the monsters are not cuddly
We need a “Killing the monster” story.
This morning’s reading is the beginning of the second most important “Killing the monster” story in the Bible.
Before we meet the monsters though
We have to go to David’s signature verse
Which is right at the start of his story when he is being chosen
You remember that the Prophet Samuel came to anoint a king from the sons of Jesse
And he went through the sons of Jesse starting at the oldest
He kept saying to God “This must be one”
But kept saying “Man looks at the face, but God looks at the heart”
And this story is about the contrast between the face that humans see
And the heart that God sees
We can be impressed by the outside
But God sees the heart.
That is the story of David, the man who was after God’s own heart
Who at his greatest moment of failure sang that what mattered to God was a broken and contrite heart.
And though the monster has many things
He is not after God’s own heart, and in that are the seeds of his destruction
It might not look it, but David is far better armed than Goliath
Goliath may be nine foot tall, and David a boy, but the contest is a total mismatch
David is a man after God’s own heart
And Goliath does not stand a chance, poor man.
Meeting The Monster
Back to the monster
The monster turns up in Sucoh in Judah
Do you notice that
The monster is a Philistine, he should just stay in Philistia
But monsters don’t respect their own boundaries
They like the pleasure of camping out in the peaceful place that you hoped someone would just leave you alone.
Monsters don’t wait for invites, they invade.
The monster’s name is Goliath
And we read about Goliath
We read about his height – nine foot nine
And he is covered in bronze chain mail which weighs 125 pounds
We read about his helmet – and the helmet weighs
And he had bronze grieves on his legs
And he has a javelin over his shoulder
And he has a spear, whose shaft is like a weaver’s beam
And his shield is carried by a man
Well before we find remind ourselves what Goliath does next
Let us also ponder that he might be slightly over-armoured
Why does someone need that much armour
Because when your heart is blackened with its banishment of God, the thing that comes in it’s place is fear, and when you are afraid, then is when you start protecting yourself.
And Goliath marches out.
And he taunts the armies of Israel
Let someone come out from amongst you
And instead of us all fighting, let us fight one on one
If he were Glaswegian he would have shouted “Come ahead”
Give me a man, he shouts.
Now there is one man who might fight
One man who is head and shoulders above everyone,
He is Saul, the king
But Saul’s own heart has been crushed, by his disappointments, by his weariness, by his cynicism that God does not act any more
He is the man who used to have faith, but the faith has gone.
Here and now I challenge the Israelite army. I dare you to pick someone to fight me!” 11 When Saul and his men heard this, they were terrified.
Then monster appears opposite the Israelite armies and screams at them
Not just for one day,
Not just for two days
But for forty days
Because that is how monsters like operate, repeated intimidation
A refusal to leave us alone for any length of time.
After the first day, Saul and the people were dismayed
What were they like after the second day,
And the third day
And the thirty eighth day
And the thirty ninth day
And the fortieth day.
The monster is stronger, more intimidating
And they are dead men.
And it seems like the 41st day is like any other day for Goliath
The tyrants never seem to realise how quickly things are going to change for them.
The old rulers of Eastern Europe never realised they were going to loose their power
The rulers of South Africa suddenly seemed to have to give in
The rulers of Iran this week woke up and they did not understand what was coming.
He wakes up and it is just another day.
But about 15 miles away
A young shepherd boy is saddling some donkeys with bread
The monster doesn’t know
And the shepherd boy doesn’t know
How must this day is going to change both of their lives.
For the young boy this is the day of promise that will eventually lead
To a baby in a manger at Bethlehem
And gathering of Jesus followers in Hallside
For the monster
The 41st day is going to be his last day.
The Biggest Battles
Now it is interesting that in the battles that follow
The helmet, and the chain mail, and the greaves are going to play no more part
They are not going to receive another mention.
The two battles that are going to be crucial
Are going to be David’s struggle with his own family
And his struggle to do things the right way.
The first thing that David is going to have to deal with is his older brother Eliab
Often it is those closest to us who cause us the biggest damage
Who get in the way of us fighting the battles that are given to us.
David appears in the Philistine camp and he hears Goliath roaring at the Israelites
And his initial pain is not disappointment in his brothers, in the army, in King Saul
You might think the story might be something like “David had previously worshipped these men as heroes, and this was a moment of unveiling, when he discovered that they were not as brave as he once believed.”
David is a man after God’s own heart.
David doesn’t seem to have been under any illusions about his brothers being great.
The person that is great for David is God.
Here we have an insight into one of the many benefits of being able to praise God.
We praise God because God is God
But it turns out that when we praise God we have a good attitude to humans – we don’t expect them to be amazing, to be God, we know that others are frail.
The other thing is that we have a passion for the things that matter to God
– justice, love, the renown that is given to God’s name (that one is one we don’t often mention, but it’s very important)
So when David hears this giant insulting the armies of God
He says “Who is this that insults the armies of God.
When he starts saying this, word gets out
And David’s brother Eliab hears about it and says to him
“Why have you come down
And left those few sheep in the wilderness – older brothers like to dismiss what their younger siblings do – a few sheep
And I know your presumption and the evil that is in your heart – who’s heart is it that has evil in it at the moment?
David’s heart is after God
But Eliab’s heart, that might be twisted
Our enemies often accuse us of the complaints that they suffer from themselves
And when we are at our worst, we often complain about others, that which is in ourselves.
So the first battle is the aspersions that cast upon him from those around about him.
And at this point, David could get distracted into a battle with his brother
But that is not David’s struggle.
Do you have that in your families – a family member who constantly brings you down, who belittles you, who questions you, who makes you feel this small?
How much time are you giving to that battle at the moment?
Is that the main battle that you are given to deal with at the moment, or is this distracting you?
David doesn’t let this be a distraction, and he says, as younger brothers are wont to do “What have I done now? Was it but a word.”
And then David moves on.
The Armour of Saul
The next battle is with the person before who has tried to fight and his given up.
We all know people like this.
People who started out with great hope in their early careers, but their later results never matched their early promise, and now they are bitter.
The Church is full of people like that.
People who don’t actually like vibrant young people, because they call their own cynicism into question
I encounter this in committees often – people whose own Churches don’t sound like happy places, but spend a lot of time bringing down those who might be getting above themselves
It’s not just at a national level, it happens in congregations, and since our congregation is no greater than any other, it must also happen in ours.
Saul says to David
“Go out, but you should try to wear my armour.”
Now Saul is 7 foot himself
David is small
Is Saul’s armour ever, ever, ever going to help the boy David
So what is Saul thinking?
Saul must know that this isn’t going to work
And that’s the point – he helps him in a way that isn’t going to help him
Smothers him with advice, that will destroy him.
So that when David fails, Saul can still say “I tried my hardest to help him.”
Not “I fought with him”, no “I tried to help”
Remember that Saul needs a dead David here, because if not his own leadership is going to be shown up to be pretty bad
Do you ever work with people who are supposed to help you, but actually want you to fail, who try and get you to work in ways that will never succeed
People that need you to fail, because if you succeed it makes them look bad.
So he tries to suffocate David with armour that doesn’t fit
David’s first big victory was knowing not to fight his brother
The second big victory was having the courage to go up to Saul and say
“Thanks, but no thanks”
The big king is trying to get David to work a certain way
And David says no.
Then David takes his staff
Five smooth stones and goes out to meet Goliath.
He has dealt with the brother who questioned him
The cynical broken king who tried to get him to fight the wrong way
And now he is ready.
The giant comes up and he sees David, who is ruddy and handsome in appearance.
And the words in the Hebrew here are exactly the same as earlier “man sees the appearance, but God looks at the heart.”
Monsters don’t see so well.
And Goliath jeers and curses
But David says this speech, and listen to it, to hear some words that occur quite often:
45 David answered, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the Israelite armies, which you have defied. 46 This very day the LORD will put you in my power; I will defeat you and cut off your head. And I will give the bodies of the Philistine soldiers to the birds and animals to eat. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a God, 47 and everyone here will see that the LORD does not need swords or spears to save his people. The battle belongs to the Lord, and he will put all of you in our power.”
And so David with his vision of being surrounded by God
And conviction that he is doing the work of God
And having fought the battles that would have distracted him
And not being afraid of the monster that comes against him
Throws the stone
Now a nervous man would have missed
But David hits with his first stone
So what makes him not nervous.
Many of you have told me of this.
Of things that you have been terrified of, but when it comes to the point, the procedure, a strange confidence takes you over.
This is what happens with those filled with the confidence of God.
And he throws the one stone
And the giant is toppled.
And this lesson sets the pattern for a life
Which will have many mistakes – and we are going to learn what these were over coming weeks
But never forget that David was a man after God’s own heart,
And he lived with what he learnt that day never totally taken from him.
And when Jesus came,
How was he known?
He was known as the son of David
And one evening, shortly before he went into battle on Good Friday
Against the monsters of human sin, and an oppressive society
And all the monsters of the devil and his host.
Jesus did not take five stones
He took bread, he said this is my body, given for the world
He took the cup, and he said this the covenant sealed with my blood
And he, a man, went against the state
Went against sin
Went against the devil
And though Jesus died
On Easter morning he rose
But those three monsters
The monsters of the dark
Like all monsters that stand against God
They didn’t stand a chance
** With many thanks to “David” by Charles R. Swindoll
None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :
None. Good New Translation – Second Edition (electronic ed.) . ,: :