"The Big Bully and the Itty-Bitty Rock"

Message preached June 25, 2000
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA
Based upon 1 Samuel 17

This message is intended to be very interactive, "amble and ramble" style, involving children as well as all ages in the retelling of the familiar story of David and Goliath.

After singing "The King of love my shepherd is," the worship leader says:
            "The hymn we just sang is based upon the 23rd Psalm, a song of trust in Godís protection. The Bible says it goes back to David, who was once a king of Israel. Before he became king, though, David took care of his familyís sheep. He was a shepherd. This morning we are privileged to have with us King David, who will remember with us one particular dark valley where, as a young man, he encountered a big bully. To begin, let me read from the first book of Samuel. (Read 17:4-11)"

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Have you ever faced someone or something so very much bigger that you? I have. Many times, in fact. Of course, Iíve got to say that Iíve never encountered anyone bigger than God. Remembering that God is bigger than any trouble I run into has helped me through some pretty tough times.

How did I know God was bigger? Well, I guess it takes time to discover. Me, well, I needed to learn that early on. You see, I was always the runt. Of my Daddyís eight boys, I was the youngest. You get kicked around a lot when youíre the littlest. Nobody expects much out of you. The worst jobs are passed down from older to younger until they canít be passed down anymore, and there they stick. It was my job to take care of the sheep.

Talk about boring chores! Sheep are not exciting creatures. They pretty much just stand around and munch on grass, but someone has to watch over them. Me. But, you know, out in the higher meadows, thereís a wildness. All Godís creatures got to eat, and some of the bigger, wilder ones want to eat my sheep. To protect them and myself, I learned how to fend off even bears and lions.

The first thing you got to do is handle your fear. I guess thatís where I learned about how big God was. Certainly, I wasnít bigger than those wild animals, but God was. And if I trusted in God, then I figured He and I could manage. Itís easier not to be afraid with God behind you. And I needed to stop shaking when I ran into a bear. You see, to handle that critter, what it took was a well placed rock between the eyes, and my aim needed to be steady.

I practiced a lot, understand? Give me a sling, and I can hurl a smooth stone with great speed and accuracy. But even with all that practice, in a face-off moment with a wild creature, I needed God with me. "Lord, be my aim," I always whispered, "for these sheep depend upon me." God never let me down.

Well, you donít want to hear about sheep, do you? One day, Dad sent me off with provisions for my older brothers. They were in the army, serving King Saul in battle against the Philistines a ways west of our hometown. I was just supposed to drop off the food and return, like a good little go-fer. I tell you, though, it was something to behold when I approached the camp. Our forces were on one side of the valley, and the Philistines were on the other. Such a racket, youíve never heard. Say, help me and weíll see what we can imagine. (Have one side of the congregation be the Israelites, and the other be the Philistines. Have them yell and growl at each other - no profanities, please).

Can you imagine? It was quite exciting! And frightening at the same time! My young heart was a-pounding. As I watched, everything grew quiet. And I saw this big man come out from the other side. Man was he big! "Who is that?" I asked the soldier next to me. "Goliath," he said. "Just how big is he?" I went on. "They say heís six and a half cubits tall."

Whoa! Do you know how big that is? Here, let see if we can figure it out. (Invite a child to come forward to help. Precut a stick 17Ĺ inches long, with a halfway mark in the middle. Using that, have him or her help you measure how tall 6 cubits and 1 span (a Ĺ cubit) is on the wall up front - over 9 feet high - perhaps leaving some kind of taped mark). That is one big guy, wouldnít you say? (Invite some more children to come forward to see how big that was. In fact, after a while all children may be up front, following continual non-verbal invites) And he was a bully, let me tell you. My Mom wouldíve washed my mouth out with soap if I had said some of the stuff he did. He was cussing out our side, telling us we were cowards, that our God was nothing. He challenged anyone on our side to step forward and take him on, one on one. The winner would decide the whole war.

"Isnít somebody going to answer him," I asked after a long time of silence. "Are you nuts," the guy next to me asked, "do you see how big he is? Nobody would have a chance!" "Well, what if somebody does, and manages to win?" I asked. They all kind of looked at me like I was the biggest fool around. "I suppose the king would give him a big reward, maybe even offer his daughter as a bride."

Now, I wasnít too sure about the "daughter for a bride" stuff, but the money didnít look bad. With it, my family could pull themselves up a bit. We werenít exactly rich. Just then, one of my older brothers grabbed me from behind, took me behind a tent and started yelling at me. "What are you doing here? Why are you flapping your lips? Youíre just a little kid. Go home. Youíre embarrassing us!" You know the routine. When youíre the youngest and the littlest, thatís what you often get.

Just about then, an important looking soldier came up and asked if I would come with him. You should have seen my brotherís mouth as I walked away. It was wide open. A fly could have flown right in and he wouldnít have noticed. No, change that, a locust. He was dumbfounded.

Anyway, I was brought to King Saul, who asked if I was the one asking about Goliath. "Thatís right, sir." As he looked me up and down, I thought I saw a slight smirk on his face. "Are you willing to go up against Goliath," he asked. After thinking a moment, I replied, "I reckon I am." At that, his mouth opened wider than my brotherís had. "You canít mean..." one of the kingís aides started to say, but Saul cut him off. "If he is willing to do battle with Goliath, something none of my brave soldiers has offered to do, then let him. But son, take my armor. Youíll need it, believe me."

I tried to wear it, I did. It was too blasted big, and heavy. If I had tried to handle those bears and lions with such an outfit, all my sheep wouldíve been dead long ago. Me, too. "No, thanks," I told him, and walked forward just as I was. Along my way, I picked up a few smooth stones for my sling. I donít know what it is about wide open mouths, but as I passed our soldiers, thatís how they all were standing - just gaping at me like I was some idiot. Well, maybe I was a fool. But, you know, our God is awful big. Bigger than King Saul, bigger than my brother, bigger than any bear or lion, bigger than any big bully like Goliath.

It took a while for Goliath to see me coming. He was mouthing away about how yellow us Hebrews were, with no one "man enough" to answer his challenge. He even was calling our God puny. Then he saw me, and started to laugh. I let him have his fun. Bears and lions donít laugh when theyíre stalking their prey. That was Goliathís first mistake. Donít underestimate your enemy. I remembered that one for years to come.

Amid his guffaws, he was cussing out Israel for sending a boy against him. Our God must be really small and powerless if this is all we had to offer. It didnít faze me in the least. Hey, Iím the youngest of eight sons. Iím used to that kind of abuse. He commented on my lack of armor, in comparison to his own. I tell you, it was impressive: his huge spear, massive sword, and the breastplate and leggings and all. I couldnít begin to guess how much weight he was carrying. Too much, from my perspective. Bears and lions travel light. That was Goliathís second mistake, something I also would remember.

I picked out my best stone, put it in my sling and started my wind up, judging the distance as I did. Goliath finally stopped laughing, and started squinting his eyes trying to see what I was doing. Guess he didnít see who was standing behind me. (Turn to the children and ask:) Now, who do you think was standing behind me? God. "Lord, be my aim," I whispered, "for these people depend upon me." I slung that sling round and round to pick up speed, staring Goliath eyeball to eyeball. I wasnít afraid of that big bully. After all, God is much bigger. And the Lord could make use of this youngest of eight sons, and the little, itty-bitty rock in his sling. When I was ready, long before Goliath realized what I was doing, I let that smooth stone fly. (Turn, again, to the children and ask:) And what do you suppose happened?

It hit him right between the eyes. Yes, he was big. Yes, he had all that armor. Yes, he had a huge spear and a great sword. But he never knew what hit him. I could-a swore the ground trembled when he came tumbling down. A little, itty-bitty rock defeated a great big bully.

Have you ever faced a Goliath? I bet you have! It may not have been a big bully of a person. Maybe it was something else which threatened to scare you to death, maybe a bear of an illness, or a lion of a problem - something that wants to gobble up whatever important to you. If you ever face a Goliath, remember me. Remember the one who stands behind me, and who will stand behind you if you trust him. The armor he provides may seem itty-bitty, but remember that all it took to bring Goliath down was a smooth stone, and the aim of God.

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At this point the worship leader reads Ephesians 6:10-17, after which the children leave for Sunday School (summer schedule) while the congregation sings "Strong, righteous man of Galilee."

©2000 Peter L. Haynes

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