You and Goliath

Worship on the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Mission Awareness Sunday
10:00 am       28 April 2024
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Rom Rhoad
Elder: Iris Routledge

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: Like spring breaking through winter’s power,
P: God’s resurrecting power breaks into our lives in surprising ways.
L: Like the vine that supports blossoms and fruit,
P: God’s Word upholds the church in strength.
L: Let us worship God who makes all things new.
P: We will praise God who brings growth and renewal to all life.

Opening praise: I give You my heart

Prayers of approach and confession

God of Great Wisdom,

You are beyond our imagining, beyond our control, and sometimes beyond our comfort zone.

You amaze us.

You have given us more than we could ever earn or deserve, and in response, we are not only grateful but determined to be faithful stewards.

Receive our worship this day, O God.

Speak to us in the sounds and silence of this hour and amaze us once again in your presence. God of Goodness, You share your abundance with us and shower us with gifts.

But we confess that we have squandered those gifts.

We have wasted knowledge, friendship, beauty and wealth; we have squandered our time and energy, sometimes even our trust and love.

Forgive our foolishness.

Have mercy on us.

Teach us new ways of living out your love in the world today and every day, with the help of Jesus Christ, our Friend and Saviour. Amen.

Response: Glory, glory, hallelujah

Assurance of God’s grace

While it is true that we have sinned and squandered God’s gifts at times, it is a greater truth that we are forgiven through God’s love in Jesus Christ.

To all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say,  In Jesus Christ, our sin is forgiven. Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Response: Jesus loves me (373)

Story: Behold a team went forth to play a game of baseball.

Just as the umpire was saying “Batter up” to start the game, the catcher for the home team arrived and took his place behind the plate. The center fielder didn’t show up at all but sent regrets. The 3rd basemen likewise failed to come to the game, having been up late the night before. The shortstop was there but left his glove at home by mistake. Two the outfielders were away on a weekend trip but said they’d be there in spirit.

The pitcher went to the mound and looked around for his teammates. But his heart was sad for their positions were empty. The game was announced; the visitor were in the stands; and there was nothing to do but pitch the ball and hope for the best.

BUT in addition to pitching the ball, the same person also had to cover first base, shortstop, and center field.

When the absent players heard that their team had lost, they were very upset. Everyone held a meeting and they decided to get a new pitcher.

When things aren’t going well, it’s the leader that often gets the attention. But it’s never just about the leadership.

Schools, Work, Church, Families – everyone has to do their part.

That is exactly what you are all doing right now. Thank you for being here today to worship together. Without you, we just don’t have a full team.

Prayer: God, I thank you for these young people, for our children, for their excitement and their big bright smiles and their energy. You bless us greatly and we are not the same place without them. And now we pray our prayer that you taught us to pray.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: We will tell each generation (46)

Today’s Message

Scripture: I Samuel 16:1-23 and 17:1-6, 32, 38-40,48-50

Response: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord

Message: You and Goliath

In the City of Gath, located near the mound, in 2005, just below the late 9th-century BCE earthquake destruction level, in a small section dating to the earlier phase of the Iron Age, a team of British archeologists found an interesting inscription. Scratched on a shard typical of the time are two non-Semitic names written in Semitic “Proto-Canaanite” letters. Both inscriptions are variant spellings of the same word – (Gol-iYeth). Goliath.

The ancient Greeks and Philistines sometimes decided on issues of war through the battles of selected warriors or small detachments. The “trials by battle ordeal” was based on the idea that the gods of the peoples determined a war’s outcome anyway so why not just send a few fighters and spare as many of your people’s lives as possible? Of course, despite this belief that the gods determined the victors, evidence is pretty clear that only the biggest, fastest and strongest were ever chosen. Although the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is not actually in the bible. I think it’s fair to say that it’s a pretty universal concept nevertheless. I guess the Kings and military leaders thought their gods needed a little extra help… just in case.

The custom was not that uncommon, In fact, in 2Sam. 2:14-16 there is a similar story whereby 12 men are picked to battle in place of the full military (though in that story the warriors cheat… I guess they thought god needed help).

Historical texts outside scripture also show other traditions of warriors who fought this way as well, including Egypt. And of course, it is also well recorded in the epics like Homer’s Iliad and the famous Enuma Elish epic.

Now the Philistines were a sea-faring people who came to Canaan at the very end of the Bronze Age and barely defeated the Hittites in a land war. When they did win, however, they gained a whole new kind of technology – Ironworking. And that was a game changer. With this new ability to make weapons, came a new age of warfare. The introduction of these weapons changed the world of war forever and is part of what led the Israelites to demand a King for themselves in the first place.

As a result of these trades and weapons the Philistines quickly ravaged the surrounding lands and claimed 5 new territories for themselves including the mysterious land of Gath (a city that had already stood for at least 1200 years before the Philistines ever got there). In Gath, like all places, once the people were defeated they became a part of this new Philistine army and were granted in return the gift of breaching the Iron Age.

Now armed with a whole new kind of violence and covered in metal protection even the average soldier became a super-soldier; almost invincible to other people still counting on arrows and rocks as weapons to fight off this new Iron Man. You can imagine how frightened the people in the nearby cities must have been. They had never seen anything quite like this before and now every town was falling to the Philistines.

When the Philistines arrived on the scene, readying to enter Israel they stopped at the top of the valley on the West side. There they stood with long steel swords. Israel received word of their coming and assembled in the East to defend their land and people.

In the text, Goliath’s spear is said to be “like a weaver’s beam” meaning that at times the writer didn’t even know what it was or understand it.

Until David, Saul’s army focused on guerrilla warfare holding attackers off with short copper and tin or even rock knives. They managed to do so, simply because they knew the landscape and could fire random arrows and hurl rocks from hiding places. Israel was completely made up of light infantrymen, and only the very wealthy might have been able to buy armour (and even that was made of weak flimsy tin). It was designed to deflect small rocks.

As the Philistine army prepared for war (metal armour blazing in the light of the sun) they sent Goliath out to the front to taunt Israel as their chosen warrior. Sometimes translations will call him the “warrior” or the “champion” but the Hebrew description is pretty literal. It calls Goliath “the man who stands in the space between two armies”.

And then comes the description. While I must note that the oldest version of this story from the Dead Sea Scrolls states that Gol-yet is “Four cubits and a span” which is roughly 6ft 9inches, the majority of texts, the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts all state that he was “Six cubits and a span” which is roughly 9ft 9inches tall. Do with that what you will, but the point is this… He is big. In all variant text, it is agreed that his coat of armour weighs 125 pounds and that just the tip of his iron spear is another 15 pounds. To the Israelites, it was like the first time a chariot was ever seen the first time someone used gunpowder against a bow and arrow or the first time a tank appeared on a battlefield. It was insurmountable. And without a doubt, this huge armoured man is the champion and the only selection of a massive army picked to be “the man who stands in the space between two armies”. He is huge and he is nobody to be trifled with.

Then again, the whole point of this story is that God doesn’t judge by outward appearances. See, about the time that the Philistines were coming to power the people of Israel begged God for a king so they could be like the other nations around them. But King Saul wasn’t quite what they hoped for him to be. In essence, he was chosen because he was the tallest in the land. In 1 Samuel the bible says that Saul was “a head and a shoulder above everyone else in height.”

So when God asked Samuel to go and anoint a new leader he rather naturally goes out looking for the same thing. That leads him to the sons of Jesse but as Samuel is looking over the boys, the biggest and tallest and strongest around, and just as he is considering Jesse’s oldest and tallest child, God speaks to Samuel and says, “Do not consider his appetence or his height for I have not picked him, for the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at outward things but the Lord looks at the heart.” 11 So Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

Now up until this point Jesse hadn’t even considered that his youngest boy would even be a possible candidate. He was off in the field and while the others are named, David is so unimportant he is simply referred to as “another boy” until the end of chapter 16 when finally his name appears. In other words, he’s nothing, just a shepherd. But remember God does not consider his age or his height.

Now- some people disagree on this one but – Some people believe that David is pretty big. And I will concede that it’s probably a fair possibility that he’s large compared to most Israelites considering that he does have tall brothers (though he is very young here). Some also wisely note that Saul (the tallest man in Israel) later puts his armour on David and that David takes it off not because it’s ill-fitting but in his own words because “I am not used to them” meaning they might not have fit all that badly.

So was he a big guy? Maybe. Relatively I suppose. Okay, I don’t think so. I think he’s pretty small. And honestly, even if he’s big for the time – he’s still a whole “head and shoulders shorter than Saul”. And Saul we should remember trembles at the mere sight of Goliath. The whole point of the story is that David isn’t big but that God “does not look at his appearance or his height”. He looks at the heart.

No, I think the whole point of the story is that he’s small. The tall impressive men have been rejected (two in a row so far and soon to be a third) so that God can prove His might, not the warriors. The point is that David is facing a real insurmountable challenge, not that he’s almost big enough to beat Goliath on his own.

When David finally shows up at the battlefield, he comes as an errand boy; not even allowed to fight. He’s way way way too young. Only three of his oldest brothers (three out of 8) are there. David’s a kid; still taking care of the sheep and doing the lowest of chores.

For 40 days both armies had been waiting for Israel to send a champion. The valley of course has steep walls on both sides with each one looking down on the battlefield. Each army stood there waiting; all the while knowing that whoever rushed into battle first would be both tired from the climb up the other side and strategically disadvantaged (literally fighting an uphill battle). Neither side was stupid. It was time to choose a hero. It was a “trials by battle ordeal”. They needed “the man who stands in the space between the armies”. But who?

When David (who’s just there to deliver the pizza by the way) hears Goliath calling out to the Israelites saying he will murder them all, David is infuriated and confused that nobody is doing anything. It drives him mad that Goliath is insulting the God of Israel and no one has the guts to stop him – and so he volunteers.

And now as if to make it even plainer to see that “God does not consider” his “appearance or his height”, and perhaps even more importantly that God does not consider these new weapons of war or armour as a threat, David strips off the amour he is offered and picks up 5 smooth stones instead.

Now he is just a boy with a sling.

And then of course the story takes place that many of us know. “49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.”

Now I want to be clear, this story is not a story about why we need to defend God’s honor and it’s not a story about how God will help a small persecuted people rise against a massive military oppressor. I would argue that King Saul could have defeated Goliath too. He just had one problem. He didn’t have the right attitude.

Saul thought too much of himself and too little of his God. He forgot who was actually in charge. He forgot this one simple truth in life which we cannot and should not ever forget: that no matter what giants we face, we do not face that Goliath alone. As Mother Theresa once wrote, “We are all pencils in the hand of God”. We just have to realize it and let him draw the picture. Unlike those who trusted in the stature, strength and skill of their warriors, Israel sent an untrained, ill-equipped and largely unarmed teenage boy into battle as the only willing champion.

In the end, Goliath’s name ended up scribbled on a shard of pottery that eventually fell to pieces thousands of years ago.

Everyone knows David. Why? Because when everyone else saw a giant, David saw an ordinary problem and knew an extraordinary God.

Whatever Goliath you face, and you will face more than a few….

Ask yourself this – What do you see?

Song: With the Lord as my guide (574)

We respond to serve God: Our time of giving

Reflection on giving: Dayspring is empowered to carry out our mission of worship, service, and care by generously given volunteer time, talent, and treasure. Many thanks to all who give so generously!

Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves

Lord Jesus Christ, we draw near to you in prayer this day, trusting that your love changes lives and your resurrection brings hope into the world God loves.

You walk with us through every challenging time, and we give you thanks for every sign of hope in a world that is often on edge and the future seems uncertain.

May we abide in your love.

We ask you to bless the ministries and mission activity undertaken through staff and funding provided by The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Thank you for each faithful servant serving in these challenging days, whether in Canada or in international ministries.

Bless them with good health and courageous commitment, and equip them well to reach out in love and respect.

May they abide in your love.

Loving and Listening God,  we bring you now our prayers for others, friends and enemies, neighbours and strangers alike.

We pray for people who are struggling with illness, loneliness, grief or sadness:

         Hold silence for 15 seconds.

May they abide in your love.

We pray for people in countries and communities where it is not safe to live out their faith or express their views openly.

         Hold silence for 15 seconds.

May they abide in your love.

We pray for victims of discrimination and acts of hatred, and those who fear violence day by day.

         Hold silence for 15 seconds.

May they abide in your love.

We pray for journalists and advocates for justice who live under threat for telling the truth.

         Hold silence for 15 seconds.

May they abide in your love.

We pray for churches, local organizations and businesses struggling under the pressure of economic challenges.

         Hold silence for 15 seconds.

May they abide in your love.

We pray for our families, friends and for ourselves, as well as those in the news whose situations tug at our hearts.

         Hold silence for 15 seconds.

May we all abide in your love.

Song: You are holy, you are whole (828)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Go in the peace of Christ, to witness to his love in truth and action each day. And may God’s resurrecting love open the future for you, empowered by the Spirit, and embraced by the presence of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord.

Response: He is Lord

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2024) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.