The One Between
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

The One Between

1 Samuel 17:1-11  (ID: 3394)

The dramatic encounter between David and Goliath is a familiar, though often misunderstood, story. Taunted and challenged by the heavily armored giant, Israel was dismayed and afraid until an­ unlikely champion stepped up—a “man in between,” armed with just a slingshot! This story’s central message, though, is not a call to emulate David’s heroic behavior. Rather, teaches Alistair Begg, it’s a story about how God uses weakness to triumph over strength, just as Christ Himself, our ultimate champion, defeated death at the cross.


Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to 1 Samuel and to chapter 17 and follow along as I read from verse 1. First Samuel 17:1:

“Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”

Amen.

Gracious God, we look from ourselves to you, asking humbly that the Holy Spirit might quicken our thinking and renew our understanding and in some cases open our eyes to the wonder of all that you have provided for us in the person of heaven’s champion, your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, we are now clearly beyond the halfway mark in our studies in 1 Samuel. And along with you, I am pleased about that. And we have reached the seventeenth chapter, for which some have told me they have been keenly waiting, and certainly the chapter which, if we know very little about 1 Samuel, we probably know this chapter. It is one of the great stories not only of the Bible, but it is great story in itself. It’s right up there with Daniel in the lions’ den. It’s probably even more remembered and memorable than that. It’s the record of a dramatic encounter between a giant and a shepherd boy. And even just to state it in those terms immediately perks up some of the ears of people, and not least of all some of the little people.

Some of us, depending on our background, may come to this as essentially a blank slate. The only thing you know about David and Goliath you read in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book of the same name in [2013]. And that’s good. That’s fine. This will help you as you think about what he said in that book. Others of you, like me, have known this story from infancy. And it’s questionable who has the greater challenge—i.e., the person who really knows nothing about it and comes to the text, or the person like myself who thinks they know everything about it when they come to the text.

Arguably, the latter is the greater challenge. Because I grew up singing,

Only a boy named David, only a little sling,
Only a boy named David, but he could pray and sing.

That seems to me an attempt at poetry right there. There’s not a lot there.

Only a boy named David, only a rippling brook,
Only a boy named David, [and] five little stones he took.
And one little stone went in the sling,
And the sling went round and round.
And one little stone went in the sling,
And the sling went round and round,
And round and round and round and round,
And round and round and round.
And one little stone [flew through] the air,
And the giant [fell to the ground].[1]

I remember the “round, round, round” seven times, because it gave us the opportunity just to be a complete nuisance to all the people standing around us. ’Cause you were allowed to swing your hands, and so I would make sure I swung ’em as effectively as I could and usually was sent to another corner of the classroom for the balance of the time. But that is of no surprise to you; you know that I spent a lot of my time in the corner.

The story hasn’t only captured the imagination of children; it has tested the minds of theologians. It tests the minds and abilities of those who are going to teach this particular passage. I have found it particularly daunting. Once again, it becomes obvious to me that the passages that are harder to understand often yield to one’s study easier than the ones that we have been familiar with for so long. Some of us have suffered from sermons that were preached by well-meaning pastors who preached, actually, truths, but not out of the passage, not out of 1 Samuel 17. And you may well have heard sermons like “Dealing with the Giants in Your Life” and “The Five Stones of David” and so on, where the minister told you that the stones in his sling stood for certain things—for example, obedience, prayer, fellowship, worship, and witnessing—which, even as a boy, I thought, “That is bizarre.” I mean, and I look at the text again, I said, “There’s nothing in there about the stones. And furthermore, he only used one stone. If you want to have a conversation, why did he choose five?” I think probably he was a humble boy. He recognized, “If I miss it the first time, at least I got four more shots.” Intensely practical. But of course, if you are from the school that has interpreted it allegorically, then you will regard that as a dreadful abuse of the text.

The message of the story of David and Goliath is not that we are called to be like David but rather that we have in Jesus a David, a King who triumphs in the valley of battle.

Gladwell, actually, in his book admits that his obsession with David and Goliath and with the story itself is not only because it fascinated him but because he was convinced that he knew what it was about until he went back and reread it. And then he said, “I didn’t know what it was about at all”: “I didn’t understand it at all.”[2] Judging by his conclusions, I think, if I can say so respectfully, he still has a way to go. And some of us do too.

If we’re going to understand this story to be a call for us to see David as a hero whose courage we are then supposed to imitate in fighting against our individual Goliaths, then actually, we need to think again. Because the message of this story is not that we are called to be like David but rather that we have in Jesus a David, a King who triumphs in the valley of battle.

Now, with that said, I find it important when I’m studying particularly these Old Testament stories and the familiar ones to keep in mind that there are levels of our understanding. I won’t belabor this, but let me just suggest to you that when you read a story like this, at the ground level, there is, if you like, the personal history that is involved in it. This is a real David shepherd boy, this is a real king, this is a real period in time, and this is a real confrontation involving their personal history. And the story is being recounted for us.

On the first-floor level, the history that is being dealt with there is, if you like, the national history. It is the history of God’s purposes for his people: that he has chosen these people, he has brought them out of Egypt, he has brought them into this place, and so on. So what is happening at the level of the personal history of these individuals is directly related to what is going on in terms of God’s purpose for the nation of Israel.

And then, if you like, if that’s the first floor, on the second floor, at the other level of meaning, is the whole matter of redemptive history—i.e., what does this have to do with God’s plan from all of eternity to put together a people that are his very own from every tribe and nation and language and people and tongue? In other words, what does this text have to do with the coming of Jesus down into the valley of life, if you like, and his victory over sin and death and hell, and his triumphant return when, in a new heaven and a new earth, the lion will lie down with the lamb,[3] and all that was foreshadowed and pictured, it will have become reality?

Those are the levels that we have in mind when we come to the text. At least, I hope that that will be helpful to you as you read the story. Incidentally, when you take those three levels, if you reject one of them or superimpose one of them over the other two, then you do despite to the other two. And so, all three pieces of the puzzle are necessary.

Well, that by way of introduction to the text itself—familiar material, as we say.

The Philistines, who are here at the beginning of the chapter, were, as we know, a perennial problem for Israel. Saul, in his anointing way back in chapter 8 and 9, had been appointed in large measure to save God’s people from the hand of the Philistines. You remember when the people had chosen a king for themselves, they said, “We want him to be a king so that we can be like the other nations; we want a big, strong warrior who will triumph in this way. We want, if you like, a champion.”[4] And as we have rehearsed the story, we’ve discovered that Saul in this respect had failed miserably, that his kingdom had collapsed. He had rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord had rejected him as king of Israel.[5]

In the last chapter, in our last couple of studies, we have been taken, as it were, behind the curtains into what is a kind of secret anointing, a kind of clandestine event, involving only a few people: the anointing of the shepherd boy David in the midst of his brothers, as 16:13 tells us. And he has been anointed privately, and the public emergence of him is now before us in this chapter. He has been anointed to take the place of Saul, whose kingdom has collapsed.

Now, with that, again, by way of background, we realize that here in the opening verses, the battle lines are drawn: “Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle.” The event is taking place approximately twelve miles to the west of Bethlehem. Some of you will have been here. If you have been to this area, if you’ve visited Israel, if you’ve had a good tour guide, you will have been here; you will have been in the Valley of Elah. And if the tour guide was any help to you at all, they would have explained that “here where you stand is the very context in which the historical battle that took place between David and Goliath unfolded.”

The Philistines, we’re told, were encamped on the southern side of the valley, we’re told “between Socoh and Azekah.” Now, the significance of the geography here is… It’s not there as filler. In fact, you will notice that it says, “And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah.” In other words, the writer is pointing out to the reader that the Philistines are actually encroaching now on the territory of Israel itself. The gains that Joshua had made are being eroded as a result of their continual aggression. And it is there that they find themselves.

The Israelites camped to the north. And in the heart of the valley, a brook which in the wintertime runs freely and which in the summertime is dry—the brook of Elah. And when we discover that David is going to go to this rippling brook to take up stones, surely it is a reference to that very place, once again reminding us, especially young people, who often will come to a story like this and have it in their minds that somehow or another, this is a fiction; that somehow or another, this is just a drama that has been created out of somebody’s mind. And I want to say to you young people: don’t immediately succumb to that kind of thinking, but listen carefully and read properly. And realize that with the battle lines drawn, if either of the armies were to make an advance on the other, then for them to come down one side would immediately make them vulnerable to the army on the other side, who would have an advantage as a result of their territory and their height.

And so, it’s stalemate, and that is what is described for us—setting up verse 4, which reads, “And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.” I like this verse. You say, “Well, thanks for sharing that, brother.” No, I mean, I don’t think it goes like this [in a pleasant voice]: “And there came out of the camp of the Philistines…” No, no, it’s just [lowers voice]: “And there came out of the camp of the Philistines…” And so, this is just grandchildren time, right?

“And there came out of the camp a giant, and he was over nine feet tall.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“You mean he was bigger than Shaquille O’Neal?”

“Oh, yeah!”

“But Shaquille O’Neal had size 22 shoes!”

“I know! But he’s bigger than him!”

“Bigger than William Perry, ‘The Refrigerator’?”

“Bigger than him!”

“I bet he wasn’t bigger than Andre the Giant!”

“Yes, he was! Two feet, at least, taller than Andre the Giant!”

“Wow!”

Yeah, wow is right. That’s what we’re supposed to be saying at this point, at verse 4. Wow!

And then, when the storyteller gives us the armor, again, this is not filler. You don’t often have such detail in the record of warfare, even in the Old Testament. But you see, this is being written in such a way that those who enjoy the story will enjoy the story. It seems so obvious, and yet it often isn’t. We wanna move immediately past all these things. Why are we being told this? Why are we being told that he was over nine feet tall and that his armor weighed some 125 pounds? A hundred and twenty-five pounds of armor! Now, if you do free weights—and clearly, I don’t—but if you do free weights, and you take two 20-pound weights, in your hands, even if you’re pretty strong, it’s a significant weight. That’s 40 pounds. If you multiply that by three, you get 120 pounds. And 120 pounds is still not the weight of his armor that he’s got on top of him. And his spear, we’re told, was “like a weaver’s beam.” Now, the point is simply this: that the average hand couldn’t hold the spear, because the diameter of the thing was such, you couldn’t even get your hands around it. Now, what is the storyteller doing? Building the picture, creating the situation, so that the reader is brought along with it.

And so, having appeared and having been described—and incidentally, how would you have liked his job, as the armor-bearer, to walk in front of him with a shield? The shield was like the equivalent of a bedroom door. That’s how big the thing was, and much heavier than that, so the armor-bearer had to be pretty good himself. “Go ahead.” “Okay, I’m going. Yes I will.” Okay. And behind you comes the giant. It’s quite a picture. I’m very impressed with that man, whoever he was. I really am—especially when he had to go in front. It’s just as well that David was as accurate as he was.

So what we have is the description of an impenetrable fortress on two legs. If there was a weak spot—and there was a weak spot—it was in the absence of protection for the face. Because unlike Sir Lancelot and that period of time, where, you know, the shield comes down like on a motorbike helmet, there was nothing like that. No, the Philistines had these helmets, and they had feathers on them as an indication of their almost perception of invulnerability: “We’ve got this covered, and we can identify ourselves in this way, because look at who we are.”

So, not only is he described for us so that we can get a picture of him, but then he speaks for us, and we have the record of what he said. Verse 8, he taunts and challenges Israel: “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle?’” That was a very good question, wasn’t it? “Why have you actually come out here to draw up for battle?” That was the question that some of the soldiers in the camp of Israel must have been asking themselves: “You know, every morning, we get up, put the shoes on and everything, and then out we come, and we just stand there. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, day twenty-six, day twenty-nine, day thirty-one.” “Why have you come out here? If you’re not planning on fighting, why do you even show up?”

You know, just in passing, if we’re very clear that the story is not about finding ourselves in the story as David—he was the hero, and we want to be the hero too—setting that aside, if we want to find ourselves anywhere, then I think the church can find itself as a rather neutralized bunch of soldiers standing around holding weapons, and the world is going, “Why don’t you guys fight? Why don’t you actually say something? Why don’t you do something? Don’t you have a man? Don’t you have someone?” And that’s exactly what is happening to them.

And then he says, “Am I not a Philistine?” Well, of course they knew he was a Philistine. What he’s basically saying is, “I am the Philistine! I am the embodiment of those who oppose you. Look at me: dressed to kill, ready for battle. And look at you. Look at you! Are you not servants of Saul?” Now, what he’s really saying is simple: “Surely you can put on a better show than this, can’t you? Don’t you have something?” So, he says, “Here’s my challenge. Choose a man for yourselves. Choose a man for yourselves. Choose somebody who will come and stand in between.” That’s actually what the word champion means: “the man in the between.” The man in the between. So he says, “What you need is a man who will be the man in the between. And then, if he comes down, then we’ll settle the matter.”

Now, this ought to ring bells for those of us who have been studying along the way. Because among, again, the ranks of the army, there surely would be some of them who in response to this challenge—“Choose for yourselves a man”—would have nudged one another and said, “We tried that! And how did that plan go?” Because that’s exactly what they had done. Remember, they had chosen for themselves a king. And who was it they had chosen? They had chosen Saul, who stood head and shoulders above all the other people, who was handsome, who was apparently dynamic and influential. And after their choice, they had to dig him out of the baggage room. But he seemed to be the best shot. Now he is conspicuous once again by his absence. “We chose a man. He’s back here with us, somewhere back here.” Yeah. What had happened? “The Spirit of the Lord” had “departed from Saul,” 16:14. There was no fight left in him.

You see, God is not in need of the big, tall, handsome quarterback. The advance of his church is not that he picks out amongst the cheerleaders from school. They have a place; some have a significant place. But the story of God’s redemptive purpose is not a story of might triumphing over might, but it is a story of weakness triumphing over strength. And it is that which is being set up here in the battle lines, in the emergence of the Philistine, and in his cries of defiance. This went on for forty days. Forty days! And verse 10, “the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel this day.’” “I defy you! I mock you! My very presence every day, when I come out here, is a testimony to the fact that you folks are absolutely useless.”

And what is the response in verse 11? “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” In other words, they got together and said, “What are we gonna do about this? We can’t deal with this.” It’s not uncommon, actually, to hear the soldiers in the army of Jesus mouthing the same kind of stuff in relationship to the affairs of our day: “Oh dear, oh dear, what are we going to do now? Look at the forces of darkness. Look at the forces of evil. Look at this. Look at that.”

The story of God’s redemptive purpose is not a story of might triumphing over might, but it is a story of weakness triumphing over strength.

Now, in fairness, if you remember in the prayer of Hannah—which takes us all the way back to chapter 2—Hannah’s prayer, which was in some measure prophetic, announced the fact, in 1 Samuel 2:10, that “the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces.” “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces.” But in actual fact, the reverse was apparently the case. It seemed that the soldiers of the Lord were, at least psychologically and emotionally, broken to pieces. They were a threadbare outfit. They were neutralized on the side of the mountain—and not just for a moment or two, but for what? Almost six solid weeks! And still the taunt, still the cry: “I defy you!” “I defy you!”

You see, what you’re really dealing with in Goliath is—in the words of Luther’s hymn that we’ve been referencing now ever since Reformation Sunday at the end of last month—what you really have in Goliath is “the prince of darkness grim”! And you remember, when we sing that great triumphant song, we say, “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him!”[6] But in this historic context, the prince of darkness grim stands up before them, taunts them, and they have to say, “We do tremble for him—and we had thought that all of the adversaries were going to be crushed.”

Well, my friends, this is why I said to you what I said at the beginning: that the story has to be understood on these different levels. It is, in terms of the personal unfolding of history, as it is described. It is leading to the inevitable question “Is there somebody who is going to step forward who will be the man in the between?” “And if victory is going to come,” the thought would be, “surely, we’re going to need somebody taller, stronger, braver, more menacing, more terrifying—somebody who will beat this Philistine at his own game. Might against might: we will take it on, and we will defeat it.”

Now, of course, you know the end of the story, and I don’t want to steal all of our own thunder. We will come to it later on. But if you allow yourself one little sneak into the future, look at verse 17 and ponder this: ponder how, in the providence of God, the answer starts with an assignment involving sandwiches. It does! And Jesse says to the boy who was not in the battle, “Take these sandwiches to your brothers, and take some cheese for the quartermaster, and get on with you, and make sure you come back.” Because, as chapter 16 says, he was going and coming between the fields and the court.

Now, of course, what we’re about to discover is no surprise to us if we know our Bibles, and that is that God saves his people not by might but through weakness. Personally, we’re about to see that in the victory of David over Goliath. On the first floor, we’re about to discover that God’s purposes for his people Israel are going to prevail. The story is nowhere close to being finished. But also, what we’re about to discover is that not simply on the level of the personal or the national but on the level of the international—let’s just stay with the idea—but of the whole redemptive purpose of God, we’re about to see that the power of darkness, which appears to prevail, is going to be defeated.

Now, the encouragement that this contained for the people of the day is an encouragement that was then enjoyed by the generations that followed, and it is an encouragement that is here for us today. In our cities, in our homes, in our nation, in our world, God is defied. God is defied. God’s law is defied on multiple levels. You don’t need me to articulate the ways in which the defiance of our world opposes Almighty God. And the church, this little group here, in the midst of the vast area of greater Cleveland, seems to be so insignificant, so impoverished, so unable to do anything about it at all, tempted to stand aside and simply be dismayed. And the reason that we have 1 Samuel—the reason that it is there, if you like—the message of 1 Samuel, is to teach us that God triumphs and saves not through might but through weakness. In other words, it brings us inevitably and wonderfully to the Lord Jesus.

See, what is the great challenge that is to be faced by us all? Well, it is the challenge of darkness—the darkness into which Jesus came as the Light of the World.[7] People love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.[8] But the darkness seems to be so prevailing. It seems to be so successful. It seems that it’s about 47–nothing and we’re only in the first quarter of the game. That’s how it feels. And we’re confronted by sin, we’re confronted by death, and we are confronted by hell.

Goliath was, if you like, the embodiment of the Evil One’s attempt to destroy God’s plan from all of eternity. In other words, he’s in line with, for example, the pharaoh of Egypt, who wanted all the boys killed.[9] He’s in line with Herod the Great, who wanted in Bethlehem all the children killed.[10] That, on a personal level, is tragic. On a national level, it’s significant. And in terms of God’s ultimate redemptive purpose, it makes perfect sense—that God now is going to triumph through this apparent weakness. God will accomplish his purposes in the world. That’s the message of 1 Samuel, if you like: that he will do what he has planned to do.

And so, when the army, in verse 11, finds itself “dismayed and greatly afraid,” the music just changes ever so slightly. And as the story is about to unfold: “Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days…” “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s that got to do with anything?” It’s got everything to do with everything, because he is about to step his feet onto the valley as heaven’s champion. Heaven’s champion.

The message of 1 Samuel is to teach us that God triumphs and saves not through might but through weakness. In other words, it brings us inevitably and wonderfully to the Lord Jesus.

Now, let me end in this way—perhaps a little strangely, but purposefully. Let’s leave that aside. We’re gonna come back to that. But some of you are here this morning, and you understand that the great enemy that faces you is death. We do not like to talk about it in polite conversation. Every fear known to a man or a woman I believe is ultimately grounded in this great fear, which is the fear of death. Because we know that one out of one dies. And death is as a result of sin. Death is the punishment for sin. Therefore, we are rebels before the God who made us, and we are incapable of extricating ourselves from the predicament which yields, ultimately, our own death. Which ought to cause us to ask the question “Is there a man between? Is there one, is there a champion, who deals with the great ultimate onslaught upon our souls—namely, the implications of our own indifference and our own rebellious hearts?”

And the wonderful story of the gospel is that just in the same way as David was raised up in that personal, historical context, so David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus, was being raised up and being set aside. He was gonna die in weakness. Nothing looked less like a Messiah than the bloodied story of the man on the tree. People mocked him: “Is this here the best you can do?” That’s what they were saying.

The answer is, of course, it was God’s plan. He was doing what no one else could do. In his sinlessness, he bore sin. The fact that he was Almighty God allowed him to triumph over death itself and to arise victorious, so that those who are caught up in his victory, like at the end of this story—and I can’t resist getting to it—like at the end of the story, you’ve got all these soldiers in the army, all running down the street, going, “This is great! This is great! Look at this! This is fantastic!” Who did that? Well, God did it. How did he do it? Through David! How do the people of God run out in triumph? Not because we become heroes as a result of our own doing but because we have one in Jesus!

Now, here’s my question. Let me ask you, as if I was talking straight to you over a coffee, can I ask you: Who or what stands between you and an eternity in which you have decided that you’re going to have it your own way? That is why you refuse to believe in Jesus. That is why you dismiss stories like this. That is why you stand up on the side of Goliath and say, “A pox on all of this stuff!” Oh, you come along. I never understand why, but it’s mysterious to me. But there you are. Listen, here’s what hell is: you say, “I’m gonna have it my own way,” and God says, “Go ahead and have it.”

Now, let me ask you: Who or what stands between you and your grave? Good deeds? Religious attendance? Multiple religious notions? Spirituality? My dear friends, there is only one who has triumphed over the grave. There is only one Savior. There is only one who is able to save. The hymn writer puts it majestically, when describing the way in which God keeps all of his appointments at the cross of Jesus Christ, and she paints the picture of the cross, and in the third verse of the hymn she says, “There lies beneath its shadow”—that’s the shadow of the cross—

But on the [farther] side,
The darkness of an awful grave
That gapes both deep and wide;
And there between us stands the cross,
Two arms outstretched to save,
[Like] a watchman set to guard the way
From that eternal grave.[11]

The cross of Jesus Christ stands there saying, “Don’t go there. I died so that you don’t go there. Turn from yourself. Don’t be such a proud, arrogant, dressed-up Goliath. Receive all that comes by way of my torn body and my nail-pierced hands.” And the story of 1 Samuel, on level three, is that story. Do you believe it?

I have just a PS before the benediction. I want to speak—it might be to one person in this room, it may be three; I don’t know. But I always say, “If you’d like a copy of the Gospel of John, and you’re wondering about who Jesus is and what he’s done, please take it,” and many people do and presumably read it. But just in case you’re not going to, I’m gonna read the whole thing for you now. No, no. No. I am gonna read part of it to you, and it goes like this: “Jesus said …, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he [that] believes in me, [even] though he die, yet shall he live, and who[so]ever lives and believes in me [will] never die.’” And then he said, “Do you believe this?”[12] That was his question: “Do you believe this?”

That is the question—quoting the book now—every that person must answer:

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you believe that he died on the cross to free you from guilt and [the] judgment of sin? Do you believe that he rose from the grave, breaking the power of death and making a way for you to have eternal life in heaven? If so, you may express your faith in him [in these words]:

Heavenly Father, I believe that Jesus Christ is your Son, that he died on the cross to save me from my sin. I believe that he rose again to life, and that he invites me to live forever with him in heaven as part of your family. Because of what Jesus has done, I ask you to forgive me of my sin and give me eternal life [and enable] me to live in a way that pleases and honors you. Amen.[13]

I wonder, have you ever personally prayed a prayer along those lines? And if not, hurry up. You have no guarantee of another day when the movement within your own heart and the stirring in your own mind will even come close to this very moment. And I may be speaking just to one individual.

Gracious God, we commend ourselves to your loving care. Thank you that you have provided in Jesus the one who is in between. Thank you that he bids us come and trust in him. And as we go out into a world that continues to defy your truth, we pray that you will save us from cowardice, that you will fire us up, that you will make us prayerful in our calling upon you, and then that you will enable us to take arms spiritually against the darkness.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with all who believe, now and forevermore. Amen.


[1] Arthur Arnott, “Only a Boy Named David” (1931).

[2] See Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), “Introduction: Goliath.”

[3] See Isaiah 11:6.

[4] 1 Samuel 8:5 (paraphrased).

[5] See 1 Samuel 15:23.

[6] Martin Luther, trans. Frederick H. Hedge, “A Mighty Fortress” (1529, 1852).

[7] See John 8:12.

[8] See John 3:19.

[9] See Exodus 1:15–16.

[10] See Matthew 2:16.

[11] Elizabeth C. Clephane, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” (1868).

[12] John 11:25–26 (RSV).

[13] Crossway, introduction to The Gospel of John (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 7.

Copyright © 2021, 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.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.