When Armour Is Not Enough

1Samuel 17:38-49

 The Reverend Bryn MacPhail / June 26, 2002


            We all know the story. The account of David slaying Goliath is something most of us remember from our Sunday School days. It is likely that many of you, over the years, have heard countless sermons based on this text. So, what profit shall we gain from revisiting this familiar text? The profit we shall gain is the reminder that God can do what man is unable to do.


            What do I mean by that? I mean to remind you that David did not win this battle according to his own might. Any sermon that would place you in David’s shoes, and your current trial in Goliath’s shoes, makes a fundamental mistake if we leave God out of the picture.


Everybody but David was surprised at how the story ends. But, we should not share in this surprise. We have the advantage of hindsight. We have the advantage of hearing David say to Goliath, “the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into my hands”(1Sam.17:47).


Forget the fact that David was a boy and that Goliath was a giant; forget the fact that David was a shepherd and that Goliath was a soldier; and forget the fact that David had shed his armour in favour of a slingshot and 5 smooth stones (1Sam.17:39,40).


If we were to wager on this confrontation, we would be wise to count none of these things. What is important for us to note is what David observed: “the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into my hands”(1Sam.17:47).


For 40 days, while Goliath paraded back and forth, taunting the Israelite army, the Israelites remained in their camp, paralyzed by their Goliath phobia. That is, until a young shepherd boy arrives on the scene.


Saul, as you can imagine, is reluctant to send this young shepherd boy into battle, but he eventually gives in to the pleadings of David and honours him by dressing David in his royal armour. But David soon found that he could not move freely in this armour, and so he sheds Saul’s armour in favour of his familiar sling and 5 smooth stones.


We immediately attribute this action to common sense, but surely there is more involved in David’s decision to shed Saul’s armour.


By way of example, I think of the armour that I put on every time I play goaltender in hockey. I imagine what it would be like to borrow someone else’s equipment to play goal one night. I imagine that Patrick Roy lends me his equipment. But I face a dilemma: Patrick Roy is 6 foot 3, and I am 5 foot 9. I cannot move freely in his oversized, unfamiliar, equipment and so I shed it. But, do I then go and play goal with an old baseball glove and a pair of shin pads strapped to my legs? Of course not! It would be a dangerous thing to play goal without proper equipment.


In the same way, David may have been wise to shed Saul’s armour, but was he wise to go into battle with only a slingshot? Common sense says “No”. So why did David shed Saul’s armour, and engage Goliath without proper protection? I reckon that it is because of David’s conviction that winning this battle had little to do with weaponry and everything to do with the God he relied on.


Knowing this, let me suggest that we are now ready to give this sermon a new title. Though our current title is, “When Armour Is Not Enough”, I feel constrained to change the title to read: “When Armour Is Not The Point”.


Clearly, this account reveals that it does not matter who has what armour, but what matters is who has what God. David could prevail only because he possessed unarmed faith in the mighty God of Israel.


And from this, Alexander MacLaren wisely concludes that “The unarmed hand which grasps God’s hand should never tremble.” David’s faith sees victory even before the battle has begun.


One cannot win at combat of this nature without armour, unless armour is not the point. One cannot win at combat of this nature with a slingshot, unless weaponry is not the point. One cannot win at combat of this nature by charging in with reckless abandon, unless strategy is not the point.


            David understood that his success was due to the fact that the Lord of Hosts was on his side.


            And what shall we take from this account? Surely, the story of David and Goliath was not added to the canon of Scripture in order to merely entertain us, but is there in order to strengthen our faith.


            The lessons of faith in this passage are myriad, but let me leave you with two of them. Look, first of all, at the goal of David’s faith. The goal of David’s faith is the honour of God. David’s objection is that an “uncircumcised Philistine” has been “taunting the armies of the living God”(1Sam.17:26). And when he threatens Goliath, David’s passion for God’s honour is revealed in his statement, “I will strike you down and (kill you) . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel”(1Sam.17:46).


            It is critical that we understand David’s primary motivation here. David’s motivation is neither malice nor pride. David is not attempting to boost his self-esteem by overcoming a giant in battle. David’s singular concern is for the reputation of his God.


            Jonathan Edwards teaches us much the same when he writes, “The exercise of true religion in Christians is summarily expressed by their glorifying God.”


            Is this true of us? Can we say that God’s honour is at the heart of our actions? When we discuss theology or religion with others, do we do it to demonstrate our own wisdom, or do we do it because of a passion for God’s glory?


            When we attend a committee meeting in the church, do we make recommendations according to what will honour Christ, or do we make recommendations in accordance with our personal taste?


            Young David teaches us something that we must be careful to apply: the goal of our faith must be God’s honour. Every recommendation we make, every act of service we perform, must be done for Jesus’ sake.


            The second lesson of faith in this text concerns the growth of faith. Presumably, we come to worship with a two-pronged motivation: we want to see God glorified, and we want to see our faith in Him strengthened. And from the example of David we learn that faith grows, not when we look at the obstacle, but when we look at our Saviour.


            It did not matter how big or how tall, Goliath was—David did not consider the strength of Goliath, he considered only the strength of his Lord.


            Friends, there are countless ways we can apply this. I have seen churches become paralyzed by financial obstacles. How does this happen? It happens when churches focus on the obstacle instead of the Lord.


            I have seen churches become paralyzed by fear of change. Subsequently, fear of change becomes an obstacle to progressing in ministry. But again, what does this demonstrate? It demonstrates that our eyes are not on the Lord, but on the obstacle.


            We have much to learn from David; we have much to learn from his battle against Goliath.


            We have learned that we must make God’s honour the goal of everything we do.


            We have learned that we must not look at the obstacle, but at our Saviour.


            We have learned that the only armour that matters is God’s armour. He must be our strength and shield. If He is, then there is no obstacle too big for us to overcome. And we will overcome, if our goal is the glory of God. Friends, make this your goal, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.