November 14, 2004
As David charged onto the battlefield to face Goliath, he saw more than a giant: he saw that the Lord’s reputation was at stake. Drawing from 1 Samuel 17, Alistair Begg explains that proper perspective comes from knowing God through His Word. A relationship with the living God shifts our focus away from superficial realties and enables us to embrace a biblical view of our circumstances, as David did.
Sermon Transcript: Print
I invite you to turn with me to the portion of Scripture that was read for us from 1 Samuel 16.
Now, 1 Samuel 17 turns us back to the story of apparent power confronted by apparent weakness. We’ve been considering this; God has, I think, confronted us with this as a church to remind us that we’re very foolish and wrong to start to rely upon ourselves, to start to think that we are strong in and of ourselves, to perhaps rely on any strategies we may feel able to develop, and so on. And in the course of that we were reminded of the underlying principle of God’s perspective in 16:7, where God has to remind his servant Samuel that he shouldn’t consider the appearance of Eliab in terms of his height or the externals, because, he explains, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at,” and then he explains what he means by that: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Now, there is cause for great encouragement and great challenge in that. The encouragement, of course, is that God is not put off by many of the superficial externals of our lives; he does not set us aside because of the things that others may choose to use as bases of disqualification. And there is encouragement in that. There is challenge, too, that we cannot hide from God the reality of what’s going on inside of us, and that there is in each of our lives a distinction between reality and reputation. All of us have over time created some kind of reputation; it’s an ongoing process. It is God who knows how much reality there is behind the reputation. Whether that is the reputation of the person in the pulpit or the reputation of the person in the pew, God reads our thoughts, God knows our motives, God knows how much life there is behind our facade. And we do well routinely to not only remind ourselves of the principle, but to pray again with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart—know my heart. Try me, and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there is a wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Now, we can only assume that David, by whatever mechanisms and means in the pilgrimage of his young life to this point, had fastened on this truth in such a way that he stands out from the rest of the company as being “a man after [God’s] own heart,” and a man who views things in a way that puts him out of kilter with the way everyone else views things, so that when you take that verse, you fold the page over, you go into chapter 17, you realize that the armies of Israel were looking at things from a purely human perspective. That’s why in verse 11 when they heard the cries of the Philistine Goliath, “all the Israelites were dismayed and [they were] terrified.” It was the same perspective that marked out the response of David’s brothers, and particularly Eliab. You will remember down in verses 28 or so that he tells David, “I know how conceited you are and [I know] how wicked your heart is.” The fact is that he didn’t know how wicked his heart was, and he was dead wrong in any case. It is only God who searches and knows our hearts. It is only God who knows our motives.
That, incidentally, is why we ought not to be too concerned about cultivating or being debilitated by the court of human opinion. If you constantly get up in the morning on the strength of whatever flattery or encouragement you receive, if you allow yourself to be lifted up on the tide of human opinion when it swings for you and cast down on the tide of human opinion when it goes against you, then you’re going live your life up and down, crazy all the time, one moment rejoicing, the next moment debilitated and neutralized. And David somehow or another had an even keel, and it was offensive to his brother Eliab, because Eliab was not even-keeled. Eliab essentially accuses David of what is true of himself. And were it not for the fact that David was able to take recourse to the fact that “God knows my heart,” then he would have had to spend a long time arguing with Eliab: “Oh, no, you don’t know my heart! Oh, I can explain my heart to you,” and so on. There’s no indication of the fact that David defends himself. “I know you think you know my heart,” he may have said to his brother. “That’s not my concern. You don’t.”
The hymn writer puts it well in an earlier era:
Some will love thee, some will hate thee,
Some will praise thee, some will spite;
Cease from man, and look above thee:
Trust in God and do what’s right.
Because we are moving inexorably towards the bar of God’s judgment! And while the court of human opinion is not irrelevant, it certainly isn’t to be the controlling influence in the life of God’s child. David gets that, in contrast to the army, in contrast to his brothers, in contrast to Saul, who, viewing things from a human perspective, seeing David, seeing the giant, says to David in verse 33, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him.” Why not? “[You’re] only a boy … [he’s] been a fighting man [since] his youth.” Well, from one perspective, that is absolutely straightforward, isn’t it? You might say, “Now, here’s a sensible fellow! Here’s somebody who is able to weigh things up and come to the right kind of decision! Here’s the kind of practicality that we like in a leader! It’s obvious: total power, total weakness. You can’t go.” Wrong perspective. And Goliath, he obviously looked at things from a human perspective. There’s no surprise in that. He looks David over in verse 42, sees he’s “only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him.” “He despised him.”
I think it’s more than likely that when David walks out, as we now come to the section here in verse 41—as David walks out to engage this Philistine in armed combat, the armies of Israel to a man were saying, “Who does he think he is? I mean, who does he think he is?” When in point of fact the real question they should have been asking was, “Who does he think He is?” See, they’re asking the question all in lowercase. But the second “he” should be capitalized: “Who does he think He is?” And when we see someone stepping out in faith and it is a challenge to us, when we see somebody trusting God and it is a rebuke to us, the temptation of our perverse hearts is to say, “Who does she think she is?” when in point of fact the answer may be, “Who does she think He is?” Some of us remain this morning neutralized on the sidelines of the battle. And it all has to do with perspective.
Now, we’ve seen these dialogues as they’ve been taking place—David and Eliab, David and Saul—and we come now to David and Goliath. “Meanwhile”—verse 41—“the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David.” We’ve left them, actually, for a couple of weeks just standing glowering at one another, and it’s good that we can finally advance the story here and bring it to some kind of conclusion.
He “look[s] David over.” You can just imagine him looking down at him. Reminds me of a line from a Paul Simon song, “I looked her over, and I thought she maybe looked all right; all right in the kind of a way for an off-night.” In other words, just completely dismissively, checking him out. He looked him over, ruddy-faced boy, standing there with no implements of destruction, coming with a sling and a few stones in his bag, apparently. And he saw him, and he despised him, and he cursed him, and he threatened him: “I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” Woo-hoo!
Now, you know, we shouldn’t think that David was like, “Oh, no you won’t!” David was like, “Whoa-ho! Maybe … maybe he will!” You see, faith is not the absence of fear; faith is not the dismissal of circumstances; faith is facing straight on what confronts us, but coming at it from a completely different vantage point. And so we ought not to assume that this was like water off a duck’s back. You can imagine that the Philistine’s voice reverberated in the core of his being, and he “kept coming closer to David.”
But the response of David in verse 45 proves that for David, this is not between David and Goliath. This is not even about the armies of Philistia against the armies of Israel. For David, this is a battle between Yahweh, the living God, and the non-gods of the Philistines. This is about who is God. It’s the kind of battle that takes place in our contemporary society. There are lots of gods with a small g in our culture. There’s the god of sport, perhaps the greatest idol in contemporary America. Sport! Just about at every level of our culture, from little league all the way through to big league. “Oh, we couldn’t possibly do that. Oh, we couldn’t possibly go there. Oh, we couldn’t possibly rearrange that. Oh, we can’t come at four o’clock. Oh, we won’t be able to go at seven.” Why not? Because we’re worshipping! We’re worshipping our god! We pay vast sums of money to pay homage to it. Some of us invest in it. Some of us gamble on it. So when we look at a situation where the battle is between the true and living God and the non-gods of the nations, we shouldn’t say to ourselves, “Oh, I wonder what that kind of battle is like?” We should be honest and say to ourselves, “That’s the kind of battle we’re engaged in!”
Now, if you turn back to Joshua 24, I want to show you how the history of God’s people in the renewal of the covenant at Shechem, which you can read for your homework—it begins at the beginning of chapter 24—and in it Joshua speaks to the people, and he says to them, “Let me give you God’s word on things here”—“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says.” And then he provides for them a history of their comings and goings and God’s goodness to them, and in verse 11, we’ll just pick it up, and I’ll read briefly for you: “Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. [And] the citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, [the] Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites … Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands.” This is God speaking. “I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings.” Now, notice this next sentence: “You did not do it with your own sword and bow.” “You didn’t do it with your own sword and bow.” Everybody to a man would have said, “That’s right! I remember that. We didn’t do it with our own sword and bow. It was completely amazing, the way in which we were granted victory.” That’s an important lesson, isn’t it? You would think that it would be sort of endemic, now, in the people of God, that it would be factored right into the forefront of their thinking, every time there was an equation, that this would be at the heart of it.
“So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.” They said, “That’s absolutely right! God has been really good to us: gave us a city, gave us houses, gave us vineyards, gave us olive groves.” “Now [in light of that] fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.” “I’ve been more than faithful to you,” God says. “Now I want you to be really faithful to me.” Every time we sing “Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father,” the result of it ought to be, “and since you are such a faithful God, help me tomorrow, and all of my tomorrows, to be faithful to you.”
What would that mean, to “serve him with all faithfulness”? “Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” In other words, “Clean the decks! There were things that you were involved in before, but in light of my intervention, in light of my provision, in light of my grace, in light of my covenant, you are now a radically different group of people. Therefore, get rid of that junk! It’s not that you have added me, the living God, to all the little gods that you are now prepared to tolerate, you’ve just demoted them and given them a secondary or tertiary place in your life. I don’t want you to do that,” he says. “I want you to get rid of them completely.”
Now, look at verse 15: “But if serving the Lord”—if serving Yahweh, if serving the living and true God—“seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” Now, remember we’ve had to unlearn the way a lot of passages have been taught and the way we’ve taught them. Here’s another one, right here. Most of the time this passage is taught, it is not taught in light of the development of thought that is contained in it. It becomes—it’s not a wrong thing to teach, but it’s not accurate to the passage—it becomes, “Do you want to serve God, or do you want to serve Baal?”—you know, in terms of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. But that’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying, “I want you to serve the Lord in faithfulness. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then go choose someone else to serve. You can choose the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or perhaps you want to choose the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you’re living. As far as I’m concerned, as for me and my house, we’re going to serve the Lord. Therefore, we’re not going to have to make a choice as to who it is we’re going to serve.” In other words, when you choose to serve the living God from your heart, then you don’t have to make choices about the non-gods that put up their hands for our attention.
Now, Dylan I wouldn’t regard as the greatest of theologians, but in his Slow Train Coming album, which some of you will remember, he gets this absolutely right in a fairly long song, which begins
You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight [champ] of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes,
Indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody;
Well, it may be the devil … it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Now, that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
The rich young ruler was serving his money, comes to Jesus very concerned about eternal life: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says to him, “Why don’t you go keep the commandments?” The young guys says, “Well, I did all the ones you mentioned.” Jesus says, “Well, then sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and then come and follow me,” and the man “went away sad.” Why is that? Well, Jesus just confronted him with the earlier commandments. “‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ So divest yourself of your god, which is a non-god, and then come and follow me.” The man says, “No, I don’t want to do it.” And Jesus says, “Then you won’t know eternal life.”
It’s radical, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound a lot like the kind of offer of the gospel that is contemporary in the twenty-first century, which essentially goes like this: “Now, I know you’ve all got a lot of things, and things you’re interested in, and little shrines, and every so often. God’s not concerned about that at all; all he wants to know, that you’re going to include him in the program, and he is so desperately keen to have your affection and your love and your attention, and he’s standing on the sidelines just waiting to know if you’re perhaps ready to sign up in his program.” What a bunch of nonsense! “Now throw out the gods and serve the Lord in faithfulness, but if you’re not going to do that, then choose whatever god you’re going to serve.”
Some of us this morning are sidelined, impoverished, neutralized, captivated, because of the gap between reputation and reality. Reputation: fine upstanding citizen, ongoing Christian. Reality: serving the gods of internet pornography. Reality: serving the gods of an overinflated desire for materialism which has us with our Visa bills at an extent that we could not get out of if we tried our best from now until three Christmases from today, some of us trapped by our own inverted preoccupations with who we are and what we long to be. It’s not a pleasant thought. But the good news is this: I don’t know it, but God knows it. And the God who searches our hearts and knows it is the God who calls us to the faithfulness that the people of God were called by Joshua in the renewal of the covenant. You would have thought that he would have said, “It’s a no-brainer! We’re all signing up for this.” Well, of course, that’s what they did. They said, “Yeah, we’re up for that, we’re going to do that.”
You turn over the pages and the pages and the pages, and here you come to the battlefield, and here are all the products of the background standing neutralized by a giant—albeit a giant—not aware of the fact that the reason that they are in the predicament in which they find themselves is on account of their unwillingness to do what Joshua had said back in Joshua 24. And now the gods, the non-gods of the Philistines, have got the armies of the living God completely debilitated on the field of battle. It’s hard for me not to suggest that it is a picture of the contemporary church: standing on the sidelines, paralyzed, fearful, unwilling to send out a champion. Why? Because we’re serving the wrong gods.
Now, there is a big gap between reputation and reality. I think the whole of the Christian life is actually trying to close the gap, isn’t it, by God’s enabling? Paul says to Timothy, “You’re a pastor; watch your life and your doctrine closely. Watch your life and your doctrine closely. By God’s help, close the gap between what you say and what you are. Because if what you suggest and what you are is different to any degree at all—to any significant degree—then you will ruin yourself and you will ruin your hearers.” Who would sign up for this?
Now, let’s get to little David here. The great thing about David is, he knows it’s not about him, small h, he knows it’s about Him, big H. It’s all about Him—that is, God. The focus is not on David’s bravery, but the focus is on God’s adequacy in David’s weakness. I hope we’ve got this principle now. Remember in Gideon? God reduces the numbers once, he reduces them twice, he takes them down to three hundred, and we had to unlearn what most of us have been taught, the idea that God is calling for the three hundred commandoes, for the three hundred marines, the kind of people that he needs in order to do the battle, and he can send the thousands home. We said no, that’s obviously not the case; the number is not a number of the right people who are made of the right stuff, but it is a number that is so small so that when God grants victory everybody will know, “Well, it must have been God that did that!” So the story of David is not the story of a bunch of weak-kneed willies in the army all standing around flabby and so on, and God looks around, and he finds a little tough guy who’s really built, thirty-inch waist, forty-four-inch chest, muscular, tearing the heads off bears and everything else, and he’ll go out, and he’s the guy, and so the exhortation is, “Come on, now, that’s it, get your waist down, get your weight down, get up and get going,” and everybody goes out and says, “That is pathetic!”
And you’re right, it is pathetic, ’cause that is not it at all. No matter what David’s background was, the fact is that anybody observing the circumstances knows, “He is on a hiding to nothing. He is going out against all odds. I don’t care about his bears and his lions. I mean, if that’s what he’s relying on, he may have done bears and lions, but he never came across a guy that was ten-foot tall with a dirty great sword and a fellow walking in front of him holding a shield. No, he’s done!” No he’s not. Why? Because he’s not concerned about himself. At least, he’s not primarily concerned about himself; he’s concerned about God and his glory. That’s the thing that annoyed everybody when he showed up and said, “This shouldn’t be happening. You’re looking at things all wrong.” The underlying force that’s going to drive David to victory is his longing that God would receive the honor that is due to his name.
Now, when you look back at this little unfolding drama, you realize that there’s more to it than meets the eye. David is able to hold his own in winding up his opponent. I mean, he’s going to become “flesh [for] the birds of the air”; he says, “Well, I’m going to make the carcasses of the Philistines flesh for the birds of the air.” Touché. And Goliath stands up and he boasts in himself—boasts in himself. We’re tempted to boast in ourselves, aren’t we? We all want to read this story and identify with the hero—you know, “Oh, I think I’d be David if I was in this story, yeah.” Just ask your wife whether you’d be David in the story. She’d say, “You’re about five rows back, they can’t even see you in this battle. Half the time you’re looking over here, making a run for it. Don’t give me you’d be David.”
The fact of the matter is, some of us have got more of the spirit of Goliath about us: “I think I can handle this. I mean, after all, look at me. Look at my armor, look at my substance, look at my track record, look at my equipment, look at my weaponry. It’s not a problem.” In fact, some of us have spent our whole lives trying to get there. That’s been the whole drama of our lives. And when we hear ourselves speak in conversation, it is sad and it is obnoxious the way in which we represent ourselves. And the Bible has told us, “Let the one who thinks he stands take heed, lest he falls.” Goliath stands as a classic illustration of this: “I’ve got it covered.” No, you don’t. “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the rich man boast in his riches or the strong man boast in his strength, but let him who boasts boast in this: that he knows me, the living God.”
Now, that’s what David does. David says, “You come against me [à la…]; I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.” Now, that’s not jargon, because God’s name stands for all that he is. He is an omniscient God, he’s an all-powerful God, he is a faithful God, he’s a covenant-keeping God, he is fulfilling his purpose to his servant Abraham that “through the seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” And to some degree or another David has an inkling of this great unfolding drama, which is much bigger than himself. And so he says, “I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord. And the Lord is a reality to me.” He’s not going up against the enemy confident in his training, relying on his strategy. The only time he mentions any of his history is to Saul—you know, to one of his own gang. Saul says, “You can’t go out there because of this.” He says, “Well, you know, it’s not completely outlandish. After all, as a shepherd I’ve managed to do this and this, and the Lord has delivered me in those circumstances, and I believe the Lord can deliver me again.”
And when Goliath chides him, when Goliath opposes, him David does not respond by saying, “Well, you don’t understand. I’ve done karate. You don’t understand about Pilates. You don’t understand about my stamina and my discipline. I mean, I’m so fast, I fly like a butterfly, I sting like a bee, you know. I can deal with you. You are… you are mine!” There’s none of that! I mean, it must have just made Goliath go, “I’ve got him now! ‘I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.’ Oh, yeah, sure. Yeah, yeah, oh yeah, go ahead, yeah.”
So where does David’s confidence lie? Not in his strategy, not in his weaponry, but in his experience of the living God—in his experience of the living God. “Let him who boasts boast in this: that he knows me, the living God.” See, the real test for each of us today is, do we know God? You see, that’s the whole experience of our Christian living, isn’t it? That we who by our very nature are aliens and strangers to God, we are dead in our trespasses and sins—we don’t even seek God, let alone know God—that the God who seeks and saves the lost has brought us into an awareness of himself, and we can say, even with childlike faith, “I may not know him as much as I want to, but I do know God. ‘[I’ve] found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me, He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul,’” you know. And that’s what David is saying. He’s not arguing on the basis of his training or working on the strength of his resources, but on his experience of the living God.
Can I just say in passing to some of you, don’t get hung up on this training deal—“I’ve gotta get the right training, I’ve gotta get the right program, I’ve gotta get the right resources.”
Get all the training, all the programs, all the resources you might get, but understand this: there is no training program, there is no resource pack, there is no strategy defined by man that will ever be able to fill in the great hollowness in our hearts, which is a hollowness that reveals the absence of an experience of the living God. “It’s what I know of thee, my Lord and God, that fills my life with praise, my lips with song.” Why do you think it is that Paul says in Philippians 3, “I want to know Christ.” “I want to know Christ.” You say, “Paul wants to know Christ? If he wants to know Christ, maybe we ought to have that on the agenda.” “Well, I know Christ. Yes, I know Christ.” What do you know of Christ? It is his experience of the living God that “nerves [his] feeble arm for fight.”
David looks at the circumstances and he sees what the others miss. He sees that Yahweh’s reputation is at stake, and he decides that Yahweh’s reputation is worth fighting for. If you like, he says to the king and he says to the armies, “God’s reputation matters enough to me to risk my life for it”—which is exactly what is being said this morning in forty countries of our world. In forty countries of our world the church is persecuted. I just came from Washington, D.C., sat and had lunch on Friday with a man who is part of the presidential commission to deal with the suffering people of the world as a result of religious persecution, and he went through just a smattering of the circumstances, devastating in their impact. And while we sit in the freedom of our democracy here, our brothers and sisters in at least forty countries of the world are persecuted for their faith. And what they’re saying is, “God’s glory and God’s name matters enough for me to risk my life for it.”
Now, application for a moment to young people that are here: Have you found anything yet that you’re prepared to live for? Have you found anything yet that you may even conceivably be prepared to die for? Is there any possibility that you would die for the reputation of the living God? Does it matter enough to you that God’s name is besmirched when you take the gifts that he gives you and you mess with them? Does God’s name matter enough to you to stay a virgin till you’re married? God’s name! Not your reputation in high school, not your student reputation; God’s name! “I name the name of God.” Does God’s name matter enough to deal with all the feelings of your hearts in relationship to moral choices? Does God’s name matter enough?
See, let’s have it where it is. It’s too easy to say, “Oh, David and Goliath…” Forget David and Goliath for a moment. Take the principle and apply it to ourselves: “Is there anything that I care enough about, that I would be prepared to be brave enough about?” “Freedom! March back to England!” (That’s Braveheart, in case you don’t recognize it.)
Now, let me finish by pointing out to you that the reason David can approach Goliath with such confidence is because he’s clear about who’s doing what. In verse 46 he says to Goliath, “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” “The Lord will hand you over, and I’ll just finish it off.” It’s a principle, isn’t it? One can plant, and another can water, but only God can make things grow. Paul goes down to the riverside in Philippi and meets a little cluster of folks who are there to pray—women who are there to pray—and Lydia, “who [is] a worshipper of God,” discovers what? That “the Lord opened her heart.” The Lord opened her heart, and Paul said, “You know why he’s opened your heart? In order that it may be filled with all of his fullness, in order that you might know Jesus as your Savior and your King.”
That’s the ministry of the preacher: God opens the heart; the preacher is there to say, “And please fill it with the Lord Jesus as Savior and Friend.” Oh, what a challenge it would be if I had to open your hearts! I can’t even open half of your eyes, let alone open half your hearts. So I don’t have to worry about that. What my part is to make sure that as God begins to soften up your hearts, that the message of grace and forgiveness and faith is there to be poured in to those who know their need of a savior. “The Lord’ll hand you over, and,” says David, “I’ll strike you down. In fact”—verse 47—“he’ll give all of you into our hands.”
Now, the great compelling motivation in this—and with this I close, although there’s more, and we’ll get to it another time—notice again just how wonderful David’s perspective is. Verse 46: “This day the Lord will hand you over to me … I’ll strike you down … cut off your head … give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air … the beasts of the earth,” notice, “and the whole world will know … there is a God in Israel.” “Why are you doing this David?” “So that the whole world will know there is a God in Israel.” “Why? Is that it?” “Well, actually,” in verse 47, “all those gathered here will know that [it’s] not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.” So the armies on both sides are gonna watch this encounter, and both of them will be forced to conclude the victory didn’t come about as a result of the weaponry; it didn’t come about as a result of the strategy; it’s not by these weapons that God saves. And David says, “I’m going ahead so that the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel; I’m concerned for his glory. I’m going ahead so that the armies might understand that this is how God saves,” and in verse 47, “in order that we might all realize that the battle is the Lord’s”—that “the battle is the Lord’s.”
In other words, he would have liked the song that we sang earlier, wouldn’t he?
Not to us be the honor that’s due your name,
Not to us be the glory that’s yours to claim,
Not to us be the praises and the high acclaim,
Not to us, but to you, O Lord.
It’s all about God. And may he forgive us for every time we start to think that it’s actually all about us. And until we learn that lesson individually and as a church, probably this is about it—this is about it, with two million people in greater Cleveland, the vast majority of whom serve the non-gods of the world and have never, ever met the living God, despite the fact that they’ve met us.
Father, your Word comes and cuts like a two-edged sword into our lives, and it’s painful to speak and hard to hear, and were it not for the fact that we know that you are tender in your compassion and wonderful in your wisdom and gracious in your dealings, then we would be running for our lives away from you. But we recognize that while there is no refuge from you, that there is refuge in you. Forgive us, Lord, when we are proud like Goliath and think we’ve got it all under control. Forgive us, Lord, when we, like the armies of Israel, have got a reputation, but the reality is not even close to what the world thinks. Forgive us, Lord, when we tend to preen our feathers and point to the things that identify us as having significance. And help us, Lord, to be reminded again that in our weakness we discover your strength, and that like David we might learn to have a deepening concern for you, for your name, and for your glory.
So, look upon us in your grace and in your kindness. May your kindness lead us to repentance. May your grace be so evident in our lives that you have made it so much greater than all of our sins, that in coming afresh to you we may see this day even as a fresh start, and new chapter, and a clean page, and a wonderful opportunity to take our place in the armies of the living God. And we recognize that this is a man-sized task, and we ask for your grace and help.
And may the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to him, may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our lives in serving him, may the peace of the Lord Jesus guard and keep our hearts, for we pray in his lovely name. Amen.
 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV 1984).
 Psalm 139:23–24 (paraphrased).
 1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV 1984).
 1 Samuel 17:11 (NIV 1984).
 Norman Macleod, “Courage, Brother, Do Not Stumble” (1857). Paraphrased.
 1 Samuel 17:42 (NIV 1984).
 Paul Simon, “I Know What I Know” (1986). Paraphrased.
 1 Samuel 17:44 (NIV 1984).
 1 Samuel 17:41 (NIV 1984).
 Joshua 24:2 (NIV 1984).
 Joshua 24:11–12 (NIV 1984).
 Joshua 24:13 (NIV 1984).
 Joshua 24:14 (NIV 1984).
 Thomas O. Chisholm, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (1923).
 Joshua 24:14 (NIV 1984).
 1 Kings 18:21 (paraphrased).
 Joshua 24:15 (paraphrased).
 Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979).
 Mark 10:17–22 (paraphrased).
 Exodus 20:3 (NIV 1984).
 Mark 10:30 (paraphrased).
 Joshua 24:16–18, 21, 24 (paraphrased).
 1 Timothy 4:16 (paraphrased).
 1 Samuel 14:44 (NIV 1984).
 1 Samuel 17:46 (paraphrased).
 1 Corinthians 10:12 (paraphrased).
 Jeremiah 9:23–24 (paraphrased).
 1 Samuel 17:45 (NIV 1984).
 Genesis 22:18 (paraphrased).
 1 Samuel 17:33–37 (paraphrased).
 Charles W. Fry, “The Lily of the Valley” (1881).
 Horatius Bonar, “Not What I Am, O Lord, but What Thou Art” (1861). Paraphrased.
 Philippians 3:10 (NIV 1984).
 Thomas Kelly, “We Sing the Praise of Him Who Died” (1815).
 1 Corinthians 3:6 (paraphrased).
 Acts 16:14 (NIV 1984).
 Source unknown.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.