June 25, 2006
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
"Five Smooth Stones"
(1 Samuel 17:1, 4-11, 21-24, 32-50 MSG)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A Sunday School teacher told the class the story of David and Goliath. He embellished the story with all kinds of details, emphasizing, especially, David's deep faith in God. He animated with gestures and movements; and he concluded with all the details of how little David killed the giant Goliath with a rock from his sling. At the end of the story he asked the class what lesson they had learned. One of the little boys popped up and said: "Duck!"
This morning we examine one of the best known stories of the Old Testament. The story of David and Goliath. Listen to the Word of God and hear not only God's Word, but what God might be saying to you through the reading of these words.
1 Samuel 17:1 (MSG)
 The Philistines drew up their troops for battle. They deployed them at Socoh in Judah, and set up camp between Socoh and Azekah at Ephes Dammim.
 A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath.
 He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor, 126 pounds of it!
 He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword.
 His spear was like a fence rail, the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him.
 Goliath stood there and called out to the Israelite troops, "Why bother using your whole army? Am I not Philistine enough for you? And you're all committed to Saul, aren't you? So pick your best fighter and pit him against me.
 If he gets the upper hand and kills me, the Philistines will all become your slaves. But if I get the upper hand and kill him, you'll all become our slaves and serve us.
 I challenge the troops of Israel this day. Give me a man. Let us fight it out together!"
 When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine's challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope.
 Israel and the Philistines moved into position, facing each other, battle-ready.
 David left his bundles of food in the care of a sentry, ran to the troops who were deployed, and greeted his brothers.
 While they were talking together, the Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, stepped out from the front lines of the Philistines, and gave his usual challenge. David heard him.
 The Israelites, to a man, fell back the moment they saw the giant, totally frightened.
 "Master," said David, "don't give up hope. I'm ready to go and fight this Philistine."
 Saul answered David, "You can't go and fight this Philistine. You're too young and inexperienced, and he's been at this fighting business since before you were born."
 David said, "I've been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father. Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock,
 I'd go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb. If it turned on me, I'd grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it.
 Lion or bear, it made no difference, I killed it. And I'll do the same to this Philistine pig who is taunting the troops of God-Alive.
 God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine." Saul said, "Go. And God help you!"
 Then Saul outfitted David as a soldier in armor. He put his bronze helmet on his head and belted his sword on him over the armor.
 David tried to walk but he could hardly budge. David told Saul, "I can't even move with all this stuff on me. I'm not used to this." And he took it all off.
 Then David took his shepherd's staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd's pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath.
 As the Philistine paced back and forth, his shield bearer in front of him, he noticed David.
 He took one look down on him and sneered, a mere youngster, apple-cheeked and peach-fuzzed.
 The Philistine ridiculed David. "Am I a dog that you come after me with a stick?" And he cursed him by his gods.
 "Come on," said the Philistine. "I'll make roadkill of you for the buzzards. I'll turn you into a tasty morsel for the field mice."
 David answered, "You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel's troops, whom you curse and mock.
 This very day God is handing you over to me. I'm about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there's an extraordinary God in Israel.
 And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn't save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God, he's handing you to us on a platter!"
 That roused the Philistine, and he started toward David. David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.
 David reached into his pocket for a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine hard in the forehead, embedding the stone deeply. The Philistine crashed, facedown in the dirt.
 That's how David beat the Philistine, with a sling and a stone. He hit him and killed him. No sword for David!
It struck me, probably because we have been all tied up in Vacation Bible School, but David picked up Five Smooth Stones before facing Goliath and the kids learned about and discovered Five Cool Treasures and Truths about God. In one sense, then, faith in God is kind of like that pouch, it holds all of these promises; all of these treasures. And these promises and treasures are worth more than any silver or gold because when you get into trouble, when the world around you storms out of control, when you face the Giant Sized problems of the world, you can reach into that pouch and remind yourself that you're not alone. You can remind yourself that God Loves You, God Knows You, God Treasures You, God Forgives You, and God Is With You.
That's what the kids have been learning all week. And I thought it would be a good thing to remind us of those same treasures and promises.
The first Treasure is GOD LOVES YOU. One of the things a lot of us have trouble with is the image we often get of God through some of the stories in the Old Testament. Some of the passages make God out to an Angry Vengeful God. Kind of like an old Gary Larson Far Side cartoon which showed God looking into a computer monitor. You see a young man walking along and there is a piano overhead being raised or lowered. As you look at the picture you see God's hand poised over the "Smite" button.
That's not the God we learned about this week. Instead we learned from Psalm 103:8 that "God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love."
Another Treasure is that GOD KNOWS YOU. GOD LOVES YOU and GOD KNOWS YOU. Scripture even says that God loves you so much that your name is tattooed or written on the palm of God's hand. In Isaiah 49:16 God says, "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands. . ."
Some folks have a hard time comprehending that God knows each and every one of us by name. Or that God desires a personal relationship with each of us. These folks sort of view life like a giant Ant Farm. Remember those? We're the ants and God is the owner. We go about our business and God just sits back and watches. Every now and then God might throw a treat or a morsel our way, just because. Or God could be angry and capricious and just pick up the whole Ant Farm and shake it up, just to see what will happen.
But the kids learned in 1 Samuel 16:7 that this God of love and compassion "does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but God looks on the heart."
GOD KNOWS YOU.
GOD LOVES YOU, GOD KNOWS YOU and GOD TREASURES YOU. There are a lot of people in the world who suffer from low self-esteem. There are a lot of reasons why but there are even more reasons in the Bible for us to have good self-esteem. We truly are Treasured by God. Remember, we are the children of God, we are heirs of the Kingdom, brothers and sisters with Christ and Friends of Jesus. Those are just a few things the Good Shepherd called us.
In John 10:14 Jesus says: "I am the Good Shepherd, I know my own and my own know me."
If that doesn't convince you, then remember that God sent His Only Son just for you.
You see, GOD LOVES YOU, GOD KNOWS YOU, GOD TREASURES YOU and GOD FORGIVES YOU. Jesus didn't come just to be a good example. We already had plenty of those in Scripture. Jesus came to save us and bring us back into a loving relationship with God. Because, just like the prodigal son which the kids learned about this week, we strayed and were LOST. Which, if you remember, I think simply means Living Outside Salvation's Touch.
John 3:16 reminds us just how much God loves us and wants our relationship to be healed and continue. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life."
We've heard that quote so many times and seen it in so many place that a lot of times we just turn off our mind and don't even listen. But this is one of the best Treasures in all of Scripture.
GOD FORGIVES YOU. And that lifts such a burden from our heart and spirit. No matter how far away we get from God, no matter how LOST we become, God wants us back. And when we turn around, when we head back to God, God comes running to greet us. And that's when you discover GOD FORGIVES YOU.
GOD LOVES YOU, GOD KNOWS YOU, GOD TREASURES YOU, GOD FORGIVES YOU, and GOD IS WITH YOU. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is John 14:18 where Jesus says, "I will not leave you orphaned." And then in Matthew 28: 20, the very last words of the Gospel, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." We are not alone. GOD IS WITH YOU.
It's like a certain father who listened as his son told him about his first serious conflict at school. He had been picked on by three bullies who punched him and knocked him off his bike as he was riding home. These bullies had made life difficult for the boy, and he told his father that they threatened to do more harm the next morning. The boy was greatly disturbed; he didn't know what to do.
That evening the father taught his son some basic techniques on how to defend himself. Together they explored all the possibilities, including the possibility that he might try to win them over as friends. The father worked hard to build up his son's self-confidence. The next morning the father and son prayed together. And with a reassuring embrace and a handshake, the father smiled confidently and said, "You can do it, son. I know you'll make out all right." With that assurance the boy got on his bike and rode off to school.
What the son did not know was that his father followed him in the car that day. He stayed just far enough behind to remain out of sight, but close enough to come to his son's assistance if needed. If there was trouble the father would be there. The son might have thought he was all alone, but his father was behind him all the way. (1)
Simply put, David picked up Five Smooth Stones before facing Goliath. He placed them in his pouch and coupled with his faith, he overcame the Giant obstacle in his life. These Five Promises, these Five Smooth Stones, when placed in the pouch or treasure chest of our faith, can help us overcome any of the giant obstacles we might face in life.
Remember use these Five Smooth Stones of faith, GOD LOVES YOU, GOD KNOWS YOU, GOD TREASURES YOU, GOD FORGIVES YOU, and GOD IS WITH YOU.
1. Charles R. Swindoll. STRESS FRACTURES. (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1990), p. 128.
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