170507 1 Samuel 17:34-37

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 May 2017 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: 1 Samuel 17:34-37
Theme: The Lord Is My Shepherd

My father sent me to the battlefront to get a report from my brothers. I came home with a war story that is still being told today. I went to the front lines carrying provisions for the armies of Israel. I came home with the head of a giant in my hands. At the beginning of that day I was an unknown shepherd boy. By the time the sun had set I was a national hero and the clear choice to be my people's next king.

Many of you are familiar with the events of my life, and no event is more famous than my battle with Goliath. It was a high point for me. It was a turning point for my people. And it will be the starting point as I speak to you on this Good Shepherd Sunday.

My name is David, and years after these events took place I wrote a psalm, the same psalm you sang earlier today. There were many times in my life when I found comfort in the opening words of Psalm 23, and those words were running through my mind as I prepared to face the Philistine.

When I looked up at Goliath I thought about what it took to be a shepherd. I thought about how much it meant to have a shepherd. And that was enough. I didn't need a sword or shield to protect myself. I didn't need months of military training to prepare for this battle. The only thing I needed to remember when I faced this giant, the only thing I needed to remember when I faced any challenge in my life, the only thing you need to remember when you face huge challenges in your own life is this...

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

The Philistines had been a thorn in Israel's side for generations, but on this occasion their armies had advanced to within a few miles of Bethlehem, my home. The battle cry had gone up throughout the land, and thousands of Hebrew soldiers, including my three oldest brothers, had answered the call to arms.

Our father Jesse was getting along in years, and he was understandably concerned. As hard as it is to bury a parent, it is even more difficult to bury a child. He told me to leave the flocks and visit my brothers to see how they were doing, to see how the battle was going, to take them food to help them keep up their strength. And so the next morning I set out for the Valley of Elah with a full load of roasted grain and bread and cheese.

When I reached the camp I heard the war cry, which meant that the two armies were going out to their battle positions. But when I greeted my brothers I heard something else, some of the vilest, most profane language I had ever heard in my life. The shouting was coming from the Philistine camp, from a Philistine soldier who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Goliath was a giant, about nine feet tall. His bronze armor weighed well over a hundred pounds. He wore a bronze helmet on his head and carried a bronze javelin in his hand. The point of his spear was iron, and to give you an idea of this man's strength it weighed about as much as a full-size bowling ball.

If Goliath's physical appearance wasn't intimidating enough, what came out of his mouth struck fear in the hearts of his enemies. For forty consecutive days he came out and taunted the armies of Israel: "Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us... This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other" (8-10).

It was a crude form of psychological warfare, but it was working. Morale in the Israelite camp was at an all-time low. Fear, on the other hand, was at an all-time high. But Goliath's words had a very different effect on me. The Philistine's threats didn't make me afraid. They made me angry. And in my righteous anger I demanded: "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God" (26)?

No one was able to give me a good answer. No one wanted to fight Goliath, even though King Saul promised the man who volunteered great wealth and his daughter's hand in marriage. And because no one else was willing to step up I did. I offered to fight Goliath, and I was confident that the Lord would give me the victory.

King Saul was happy to hear that a brave Israelite soldier had volunteered...until he saw me. He saw that I was just a boy. He saw that I was not a battle tested warrior with the battle scars to prove it. He could see Goliath ending this battle and my life very quickly, and he tried to talk me out of it.

But I wouldn't take no for an answer. I wasn't a professional soldier, but I was a shepherd. And I was convinced that my experiences out in the fields would serve me well on the field of battle.

I explained to the king: "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God" (34-36).

I was confident, but I was not overconfident. I was confident, but my confidence didn't rest on my own strength or speed or skill. I was confident that I would defeat Goliath because I trusted that the Lord would give me the victory. I was so confident that I left behind the traditional weapons of war: no armor, no sword, no spear. All I had was a shepherd's staff, a sling and five smooth stones.

It wasn't a fair fight...the odds were overwhelming...the outcome was a foregone conclusion... Goliath didn't stand a chance. I know that no one on either side of the battle saw it that way. They all saw a giant towering over a young boy, but they couldn't see the Lord standing behind me. They didn't see how the Lord had protected a young shepherd from wild animals in the wilderness, and they couldn't see the Lord guiding the stone from my sling to its target with deadly force.

Imagine the looks on my brothers' faces when Goliath's massive body fell to the ground with a thud. Shock. Joy. Disbelief. The armies of Israel would not be defeated. The God of Israel would not be mocked. The Lord had delivered his people from their enemies. The Lord had come to my aid in my time of need. And the valuable lesson I learned that day is something I still carry with me today. I have no doubt that the Lord is my Shepherd.

Chances are that you will never see a man as big as Goliath in your lifetime, much less have to fight him. It is highly unlikely that you will ever be in a position where you will have to either kill or be killed by a wild animal. But you will probably find yourself in dangerous situations, and you will face difficult challenges in your life.

And if you don't mind this observation coming from an experienced shepherd like me, there are times when you and I bear a striking resemblance to sheep. Sheep love to wander. So do we. Sheep get themselves into all kinds of trouble. So do we. Sheep desperately need a shepherd. So do we.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the problems in your life, if you are struggling financially or emotionally or spiritually, remember this: the Lord is your Shepherd. Your Savior is always with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He will never leave you wanting, and he will provide you with everything you need.

If someone you love has passed through the valley of the shadow of death, if you are anxious about an uncertain future, if you are being pursued by doubts and fears, remember this: the Lord is your Shepherd. He will guide you in paths of his righteousness. His Word is the perfect food to restore your soul. His mercy and love will follow you all the days of your life.

If you have wandered off to places you know you shouldn't go, if you are fighting against a specific sin in your life and it feels like you are losing the battle, remember this: the Lord is your Shepherd. Remember how the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine behind to go after one lost sheep. I was willing to risk my life to rescue the sheep, but the Good Shepherd did even more. Jesus did sacrifice his life to rescue the world from sin. Jesus gave up his life for you, to forgive your sins, to remove your guilt, to give you peace, to assure you that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

If you are having a hard time believing all this, if it seems impossible to think that a boy could slay a giant with a slingshot, if it seems too good to be true that God could forgive a sinner like you, remember this: the Lord is your Shepherd. Remember that Jesus lives, and your living Lord and Savior gives you the faith to believe the impossible, the strength to overcome the devil's temptations, the freedom to live your life for him, to love the Lord with all your heart, to love your neighbor as yourself, to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd. Amen.

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