Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"When Goliath is not our enemy"

Message preached July 1, 2012
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA
based upon 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Order of Worship

listen to this in mp3 format

        With our children this morning we remembered the day young David faced into that ďbig bullyĒ Goliath and defeated him with an ďitty bitty rock.Ē Itís a comforting story, especially for people who must stand up to modern day bullies, be they actual persons, or menacing problems or illnesses. It is ďcomfortingĒ in that it helps build us up, it ďfortifiesĒ (Old English ďcomĒ + ďfortĒ) us for whatever seemingly overpowering struggle which lays ahead. Remember David and Goliath.

        What do we do, however, when the Goliath we face is not our enemy? Sure, itís helpful to think of grabbing some small, smooth stone, putting it into our figurative sling and hurling it into the forehead of a problem, thus knocking it down. In a way, isnít that what this weekís holiday represents? The founders of our nation penned an itty bitty document, a "Declaration of Independence," and slung it at the mightiest empire of the world at that time. They saw themselves as David, and England as Goliath. Such an analogy fit, and the colonial "David," while not felling the enemy "Goliath," certainly got him off their back.

        But what do we do when our "Goliath" is not our enemy? Letís think about David again. There was another "Goliath" who stood before him, only this "Goliath" was not a Philistine. In the course of his life, David did not choose a stone and hurl it at this "Goliath," even though he had opportunity on several occasions. Who was this "Goliath?" ... King Saul.

        According to scripture, Saul and David first met when Saul was troubled by an "evil spirit." David had a reputation for playing soothing music on his guitar. Okay, so it was a "lyre." If the guitar had been invented back then, Iím sure he would have played it. A funny thing about this relationship was that the one who brought Saul relief from whatever plagued him, was the very one who was, in a way, causing his fits.

        You see, from the start, God was never too sure about this whole "king" business, but allowed the children of Israel to move from being led by "Judges" like Samuel, to become like other nations and be led by a "king." Saul was the first. He wasnít a bad one, as kings go. However, he made his mistakes along the way, and as time went by, "power" got the better of him (as it often does). He forgot what God wanted. At a certain point God, who was Ďiffyí about such things as "kings" from the start, said "enough is enough," and pulled back from Saul. Scripture says, "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him." (1 Samuel 16:14)

        Furthermore, unbeknownst to Saul, his replacement was already anointed by God - David. So you see, as he worried over his future, anxious over the usurper who might steal his throne, that very person was at his side bringing comfort with music. Life gets strange sometimes, doesnít it?

        Well, David met his original Goliath and defeated him but, as time went by, Saul became more fearsome a Goliath to David than that Philistine ever did. Saul soon grew suspicious of this young man with a guitar in hand. It got downright nasty at times. On a couple occasions Saul, during some of his fits, wanted so badly to grab a spear and nail David to the wall that he actually tried. By the grace of God, I guess we should say, David managed to miss getting skewered. He had to run away many times. Of course, there were also days when Saul was apologetic and repented of his evil desire, truly wanting to embrace David in love.

        Sort of reminds me of some families I know. Only I canít say that whatever "evil spirit" which seems to plague certain abusive persons in those families is "from God," as scripture says it was for Saul. I have a hard enough time dealing with all the violence in the Old Testament. Violence (whether it be physical or verbal or sexual) in the modern-day home is worse, however. Any police officer will tell you the most unpredictable, hardest to handle calls they get are domestic disputes. What do you do when "Goliath" is a spouse, or a child (grown or otherwise)? Somehow a smooth stone to the forehead isnít going to do it, even though that may be what you most want to do.

        Are you understanding my question now? What do you do when "Goliath" isnít your enemy? More of the "Goliaths" we face day to day are not our enemies. They may live in our homes. They may work beside us. To deal with them, we need other kinds of "stones" in our pocket than what David used on the Philistine. In fact, he had to come up with alternatives himself when facing up to Saul. What did he do? Letís examine the record.

        We already mentioned a few "stones" he used. One was his talent for music, which worked sometimes, though not at others. By the way, persons who live with abusive partners become masters at these alternatives. And while we may sometimes question how they "enable" their partner to continue down a wrong path, we have to marvel at their ingenuity. How might we handle it if we were in the same shoes? Maybe not as well.

        David soothed with music. When that didnít work, he ran. Running is not a bad option. Itís certainly better than being nailed to the wall, wouldnít you say? Our congregation supports the Family Crisis Center, in part, because it provides a safe place for abused persons to run to, even as it works with families on alternatives to violence... Another stone in Davidís pocket for dealing with that "Goliath" called Saul was his doubt. While he believed that Saul was sincere in all his apologies, David didnít totally trust the King. He didnít fully move back into the castle. Call it healthy skepticism.

        One more, very significant stone - David had a close relationship with Saulís son, Jonathan. This, by the way, is one of the Bibleís greatest examples of friendship. David never had a truer friend. Jonathan would have been next in line for the throne, but he felt no competition with David. Jonathan would gladly have died for his friend David, so great was their love for each other.

        Friendship is a powerful stone in dealing with the other "Goliaths" we face in life. Without a friend nearby, we feel lost and alone. A true friend, however, can help us through almost anything. How are you fixed for friends, by the way?

        Itís funny to say but, at a certain point, David even allowed himself to become Saulís enemy. Mind you, at most every step along the way, David assured Saul that he wasnít out to kill him, that he would never lay a hand on him, that he still looked up to Saul as king, as Godís anointed. And David meant what he said - whether Saul really believed him or not.

        On a couple occasions, in fact, David was within striking distance. He could have ended it all with a simple jab of the knife, and who would have blamed him. Once David and his men were hiding in a cave, and Saul went in there to go to the bathroom. No lie, folks. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. David managed to sneak up (donít ask me how) and cut off a piece of Saulís cloak. From a distance afterward, David yelled to Saul, holding up the cloth as a sign that though he couldíve done harm, he didnít (1 Samuel 24). A similar story is told of a nighttime encounter when David refrained from slitting Saulís throat as he slept (1 Samuel 26).

        Toward the end, David even allowed himself to become Saulís enemy. He and his men went to live among the Philistines, probably confirming everything ill Saul had thought of him. Every avenue that David could have taken to avoid killing Saul, however, had been cut off by Saul - except for that one. And instead of returning eye for eye against Saul, he chose to be on the other side of his own people. Of course, all too soon sides would switch again.

Mount Gilboa - where King Saul died        Now, donít hear me claiming David was a pacifist. His reputation was anything but. However, in relation to the "Goliath" named Saul, David chose a different path. And when Saul was finally killed in battle, David deeply and honestly grieved his death. Saul died by his own hand, you know (1 Samuel 31:4, though also see 2 Samuel 1:10). The scripture you heard read earlier was the song of lamentation that David wrote for Saul and Jonathan after their deaths. This "Song of the Bow" marked the beginning of a new chapter in Davidís life and in the life of his people.

        As disciples of Jesus, we know there are many other ways of dealing with the "Goliaths" of life than a rock between the eyes. It is written that "while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son" (Romans 5:10). As Godís anointed One, Jesus could have come with a sword to take what belongs to God by force. But the stone he chose was the cross. It wasnít forced upon him, he freely chose it. That path is one that we, who seek to follow him, must take seriously, for didnít he call us to "take up (our own) cross" along the way? But remember, it is a conscious choice, not something forced upon us. Taking up the cross involves options, being equipped with the spiritual armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). This path requires great ingenuity. If David could come up with other options, then how much better might we, who have this gift called the Holy Spirit?

        I love what the apostle Paul wrote about this. See how many creative options you can hear in these words: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ĎVengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.í No, Ďif your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.í Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:14-21)

        Now, Iím not saying I have all the answers for what to do when Goliath is not our enemy. After all, that would be claiming I was wiser than I am. However, I do know this. Many times, we are "Goliath" to someone else. For instance, as wonderful a father as I might try to be to my children (ha ha!), it is ingrained in the process of growing up that at some point Dad is "Goliath," whether I like it or not. Maybe I need to preach a sermon on handling the smooth stones aimed at your own forehead.

        While weíre on the topic, since July 4th is just around the corner, we need to remember that when much of the rest of the world looks at our country, they see "Goliath," not "David." I hope that Goliath, that Saul, with the Lordís help, can learn to creatively walk a different path, also. "ĎIf your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.í Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Amen? Amen!   

 ©2012, 2000 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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