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Vespers sermon

1 Samuel 17:48-18:9

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wednesday after the Tenth Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Aug 3, 2016 

A Bohemian hymn goes like this:

“Lo, Judah’s Lion wins the strife / And reigns o’er death to give us life.  Hallelujah! / Oh, let us sing His praises!

“’Tis He whom David did portray / When He did strong Goliath slay.  Hallelujah! / Oh, sing with gladsome voices!”

Indeed, David portrayed the Son of David.  The young shepherd portrayed the Good Shepherd.

That monstrous giant, satan, kept us all afraid.  We trembled before him.  We could not challenge him.  Any who fought him would surely lose.  His strength was simply too great for us mortal sinners.

Doctor Luther described the giant this way:

“The old evil foe / Now means deadly woe; / Deep guile and great might / Are his dread arms in fight; / On earth is not his equal.”

But then our own Champion took to the field.  He did not appear to be much.  As Goliath laughed at David, others also mocked at the Galilean.  “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” they said when told Christ was a Nazarene.  No mighty warrior did He appear to be.  He held no deadly weapons in His hands as He went forth to face the devil.

Yet our Son of David needs no weapon.  He is David’s Son, yet David’s Lord.  He was conceived before the ages began.  His Father is the eternal One, and so is He.

This Omnipotent Lord flung His mightiest stone at satan.  The mightiest stone was Himself, the Rock that fell from heaven to crush His enemies.  He struck that giant satan upon the head, as promised in the hearing of our first parents.

Of course, satan does not have a literal, physical head.  As a spirit, the devil has no body such as we have.  Yet the point is still clear.  The ancient serpent was mortally wounded by Christ.  The Lord in human flesh struck satan the deadliest blow, from which there is no recovering.

Christ did this by hurling Himself into death.  The Son of David let Himself be crucified for the sins of humanity.  By shedding His Blood this way, He made the devil powerless to hurt any of Christ’s people, the holy Israel whom He has defended.

In the text, Goliath is first struck with a stone in the forehead, then his head cut off with his own sword.  It is not clear whether the death-blow was the stone or the sword.  Perhaps Goliath was as good as dead when the stone struck him, and the sword finished him off.  Or perhaps he was already dead, and the decapitation demonstrated absolutely that the giant was dead.

We could also say that satan is as good as dead, because his head is crushed by Christ, the Seed of woman.  Yet satan still writhes about in his death throes, mortally wounded yet not quite gone.  The final chop of the sword, so to speak, will come at the end, when the ancient serpent is cast into the lake of fire, which is hell.  Then he will be eternally dead, never to return or trouble us again.

You would think that now all would be well.  The giant is slain.  Israel is saved and rejoices that David is victorious.

Yet, almost immediately, there is trouble.  Saul is still the king, not David.  Although Saul’s own son, Jonathan, loves David as his own soul, yet the father is quickly driven to intense jealousy.  Soon enough, that jealousy will turn to murderous rage, and Saul will attempt to slay David over and over.

Peace does not reign on earth, even though the triumphant victory over the giant has been won.

And there are other giants.  Goliath was not the only one.  Israel had to contend with more battles and more monstrous foes.

We, the new Israel under Christ, stand under the shadow of His Cross.  The victory of victories is won, yet warfare continues.

There are, like Saul, false sons within the Church who want to overcome and dominate the true Church.  Others are hostile enemies outside the Church who want to persecute her.  Behind them all are the giants, the demons who do satan’s bidding.  They still stir up evil and violence and corruption to harass and slay us, if they can.

So the fight between David and Goliath is also a picture of our struggle.  We stand, tiny and weak, before titanic foes.  We cannot overcome them by our strength.  They are too much for us.

Yet we have the Stone, the Rock which is Christ.  He is with us even when the enemies seem to tower over us.  They cannot overcome the Rock.  Likewise, the Sword of the Spirit is in our hand, which is the Word of God.  No enemy can stand against that mighty weapon.  All foes will fall, one by one, but the Word will remain forever.

Our only real temptation is to panic.  Look at the giants!  They are so big!  Look at the forces of this wicked world that surround us on all sides!  We feel the temptation to fling away the Rock and the Sword, which only seem to slow us down in our hasty retreat.  Perhaps we can slink off the battlefield and hide that we are Christians at all, and so escape the wrath of our enemies.

Be warned: If we lose Christ, the Rock, we have lost the battle already.  If we surrender the Word, then satan has captured us.  May we never be ashamed of Christ and refuse to confess Him before men, as if we could escape the battle through cowardice.

But we must continue.  We must take our stand with the Rock and the Sword.  This does not mean that we win by our abilities.  Instead it means that we stand by being faithful to Christ and His Word.  We trust in His strength, not our own.  We trust in His Blood and His redemption, and in no merits we might have.  And, trusting in Him, nothing can move us or destroy us.

Sometimes the battle looks dark.  Sometimes we seem to be losing.  Sometimes the giants tower over us and mock us, and our fears get the better of us.

But we remember that the Lord is with us.  David did not really win the battle by his skill with the sling.  No, the Lord was with him, so he won the victory.  So also we shall win the victory, because the Lord of hosts is with us.  The Lord of life and death, the Almighty Son of David, stands with us on the field.  Therefore, what can they do to us?

“And take they our life, / Goods, fame, child, and wife, / Though these all be gone, / Our vict’ry has been won; / The Kingdom ours remaineth.”

As the times look darker and darker, we need to remember who is with us.  We need to remember who has already won the victory for us.

In His Name, the great and mighty Son of David, the Lord of hosts, and more importantly, our Lord.  All glory be to Him alone, with the Father and the Spirit, one God forever.  Amen.

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