From Victory on to Victory
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From Victory on to Victory

1 Samuel 17:40-58  (ID: 3397)

As Goliath assumed his battle position, he was insulted by what he saw: his opponent clearly lacked both experience and equipment. Standing in one corner of the metaphorical ring, the giant cursed David by his gods, unaware that the unassuming shepherd boy in the other corner was empowered by the one true and living God. Alistair Begg explains that Israel’s only hope rested in God’s provision of an anointed and appointed deliverer. The same God who granted David victory has also secured our victory over sin through Christ, giving us every reason for thanksgiving.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, I invite you to follow along as I read from 1 Samuel and chapter 17. I’m beginning to read at the fortieth verse and reading through to the end of the chapter. First Samuel 17:40:

“Then [David] took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

“And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.’ Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.’

“When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

“As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, ‘Abner, whose son is this youth?’ And Abner said, ‘As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.’ And the king said, ‘Inquire whose son the boy is.’ And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’”

Amen.

Father, thank you that because of your faithfulness to your Word and to your people, we have this record of triumph that we now turn to. We pray that you will help us to both understand what the Bible says and what it means and why it matters. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, for those of you who are visiting, you may wonder just why it is that on a Sunday that is so directly related to Thanksgiving we should be turning to ancient history and to the history of the nation of Israel. After all, you might have reason to say, “What has this got to do with Thanksgiving?” I hope to be able to show you that it has absolutely everything to do with Thanksgiving, and indeed, it is not for that reason that we’re turning to it, but simply because we have been working our way through this particular book, and as of last Sunday evening, we had reached verse 40. We made a commitment to one another that Goliath would be dead by lunchtime on December 1, and in order to keep faith with that commitment, we are here in this passage this morning.

We have already noted that the army of Israel has been subjected to the defiant mockery of this giant who essentially is Philistia. He is the embodiment of their opposition. His name is Goliath. He comes from Gath. He is the champion of his forces. And into that context has come the shepherd boy, David, the son of Jesse, a Bethlehemite. His arrival has not been welcomed by his brothers. His three elder brothers are serving in the army. They do not like the fact that he has shown up, and they are less than kind to him, on account of the fact that he is making an inquiry as to why it is that no one has taken up the challenge of the giant. Because the giant has said, morning and evening, again and again, for weeks, “Why don’t you send out a man who will represent you, and a man that I can fight and finally defeat?”[1] And, of course, no one—not even Saul himself—was prepared to step forward.

David has now reached the ear of Saul, and in the dialogue that ensues between himself and the king, the king is clearly concerned that although he has reason to acknowledge the bravery, if you like, of David, he sees him as a completely inadequate prospect, and largely on account of two issues: first of all, his lack of experience, and then secondly, his lack of equipment—“You do not have the necessary, requisite materials to go into armed conflict in this way, hand-to-hand conflict.” And in his attempt to provide for David, who cannot be disavowed, he dresses him up in his armor, and it’s really quite humorous to think of him. David says, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to wear this. I’ve not had any practice wearing material like this.” And so, in the end of verse 39, he took them off.

Now, what he was able to convince Saul of was simply this: that his confidence lay in God—that his prior experience, as a shepherd boy, of dealing with those who came to annoy and destroy his flock had been quite simply to discover that the Lord delivered him and made it possible for him to execute, if you like, judgment on those who were ravaging the flock. He therefore is able to say to Saul, “My approach is simply this: the Lord who delivered me from the lion and from the bear is the same Lord who is clearly capable of delivering me from this big giant if you will just let me go and represent you.” And verse 40 provides the picture—a very tranquil picture, a very low-key picture, isn’t it? He takes his staff in his hand, chooses five smooth stones from the brook, puts them in his shepherd’s pouch, and with the sling in his hand, off he goes to approach the Philistine.

In the Blue Corner…

And so, the combat is about to begin. It is very much like any kind of battle between two individuals. Those of you who were wrestling fans, or some of the children, if they’re now grown, had all these little creatures like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and I remember battles taking place in our basement between these characters—and, of course, they represented a bigger battle than was taking place there. In the same way, those of you who have been brought up with boxing matches—I grew up in the era of Muhammad Ali—will have a very clear picture of what’s involved when these two fighters come against one another.

And so, I simply wrote down in my notes, in light of all of that, I wrote, “And in the blue corner, weighing in at 310 pounds, not counting armor, we have Goliath of Gath!” Because that’s exactly it. Here is the proponent of his great philosophy. His shield-bearer, fascinatingly, walks in front of him. And he is singularly unimpressed when he looks at the opponent that has come. “When the Philistine looked and saw David…” It’s hard to determine just how much distance there is between them at this point, but we must assume that if they’re both coming out from the ranks, that they start off at a fair distance, so that the giant would look over to the other side of the valley, and he would begin to get a picture of what was coming at him. And as it began to materialize, he cannot believe his eyes. “He disdained him” when he saw that he was just “a youth”; he was “ruddy and handsome in [his] appearance.” Of course, we know that, because we’ve met him already. He’s actually insulted by his coming. That’s the significance of verse 43: “And the Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with [a stick]?’”

And what you actually have here is smack talk before there was smack talk. This shows that talking trash goes back way, way beyond the NBA. And that is what we have here for us in just these few verses. First of all, in rather brief form, Goliath goes at it, and then David follows up. And we’re gonna see that David is able to hold his own.

He curses David, you will notice; he curses David by his gods. We ought to notice that. Because—unwittingly, I think—what Goliath does when he involves the gods in it is he is acknowledging that what is about to take place is far more significant than simply a conflict between himself and David, that it is actually far more significant than a conflict between the Philistine army and the army of Israel. Introducing his gods, whom we’ve already met—not a particularly impressive group—but introducing his gods, he introduces the fact that the battle is actually ultimately between the non-gods of the Philistines and the living God, the God of Israel.

Now, when the prophets in a later day articulate these things, because it’s the ongoing story, strikingly—and I’m just quoting briefly from Isaiah 46, where the prophet speaks of the idols that are represented in Babylon—the striking thing is this: that he talks about the way in which these idols cannot save because they are things that you carry around. You carry these gods with you. In verse 7: “You lift your gods to their shoulders to carry them. You set them in their place, and they stand there, but they can’t move from their place. If you cry to it, it doesn’t answer. It can’t save you in the trouble.”[2] And then, in the middle of all of that, here is the word of God to his people:

Even to your old age I am he,
 and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
 I will carry … [I] will save.[3]

That is the distinction. He curses him by the gods of the Philistines that have to be carried around. Remember chapter 5: Dagon has to be set up. He topples over. He has to be put back in place. His head eventually falls off[4]—which is almost a prophetic word in relationship to what is about to happen to Goliath himself.

When Goliath introduces his gods, he introduces the fact that the battle is actually ultimately between the non-gods of the Philistines and the living God, the God of Israel.

No. “When I’m finished with you,” he says in verse 44, “you will not even get a decent burial.” That’s the significance of the flesh being given to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field. That’s not a novel thing. You will find through the Old Testament that the final sign of ignominy is not simply death, but it is death without a burial that is marked by the propriety that is due to the event—rather, just being thrown out and cast out to be eaten by the marauding hordes of dogs and birds. Now, that is what he is saying, and that is what he believes is about to happen.

Now, let me just pause and ask a question here: How did the army of Israel get itself into this position? After all, it is the army of Israel, isn’t it? It is the army of the living God, not the army of the non-gods. You would think, if it is the army of the living God, that since they believe in the living God, they would actually be quite prepared to go down and take on this giant challenger. Well, the answer to that doesn’t need to be conjecture, because the answer to it is quite clearly in chapter 12. And if you care to turn there, I can point it out to you, and then you can follow it up on your own.

You remember in Samuel’s farewell address, as he reminds the people that they had asked for a king—remember, a king that would make them like the other nations—he says in 12:13: “Here’s your king, the one you’ve chosen, the one you asked for. Behold, the Lord has set a king over you.”[5] Now, here are the terms that relate to this. Verse 14:

If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and [against] your king.

That is the reason for their predicament. God is true to his word. And so they find themselves marginalized, stymied, before this giant, threatened by him, and actually deserving of the death that he threatens. “If you don’t obey, you’ll find yourself in this predicament.” Well, guess what?

So what chance is there for this group? The only possibility is that someone will stand in between them and the giant, that someone will fight on their behalf, that the Lord will provide for his own rebellious people a deliverer who will win not by might or by power but in the weakness of he who is the anointed, appointed, empowered king.

Now, for those of you who are able to join the dots, we could almost finish the talk at this point. Because you say to yourself, “Oh, you mean, an anointed, appointed, empowered King—like Jesus?” Yes! Exactly.

In the Red Corner…

But don’t chase too far in advance. Because in the red corner, weighing in at 163 pounds soaking wet: David, the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite.

And it is immediately clear that David can hold his own when it comes to putting the wind up his opponent. Again, you remember how these boxing matches happen. Before ever they get into the ring, they always have a television event where they stand with their noses against each other, and they just say horrible things. You can’t hear it, apparently; they turn the microphones off so you can’t hear. But they’re just saying to each other, “I’m gonna tear you apart, and your head’ll come off…” Nobody can actually hear it, but you go, “Wow. Wow.” And so you better be up for that! You better be up for that! Well, David’s up for it. Oh, is he up for it! “And David said to the Philistine, ‘I see you’ve got all your stuff with you: big spear, big sword, big javelin. But guess what? I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of heaven’s armies.’” Goliath might have just said to himself, “Oh yeah, I know—heaven’s armies. Look at them up there. They’ve been up there for over six weeks now, and not a peep from any one of them. The Lord of heaven’s armies!”

Well, the problem’s not the Lord. The problem’s the army. The problem is not that God is not all-powerful over all the events of our world. The problem is that the church is sitting up there waiting for somebody to do something: “No, go ahead, you go.” “No, I think you should go.” “No, I was gonna go, but I’m not gonna go.” “Oh, well, okay.” And the world looks on and says, “Look at these people!” That’s the picture.

“I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,” the battle lines of Israel. “It’s him you have defied,” you’ll notice. “You defied him. I’m not here in my own right. I’m not here just because I like fighting.” Essentially what he’s saying is “You were right to curse us by your gods. You were right to curse us by your gods, because this is actually much bigger than an event involving you and me. And today Yahweh will deliver you,” verse 46, “into my hand.” Now, this harks back to what he had told Saul, remember? “The Lord has delivered, and the Lord will deliver.”[6] And on the basis of God’s word and on the strength of his confidence in the faithfulness of God, David has appeared, and David is prepared to address him in this way: “The Lord [today, this day,] will deliver you …, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.”

Now, by this point there ought to be at least a tiny shiver running up the gigantic spine of this fellow. Because the incongruity between what he sees and what he hears is fantastic, isn’t it? You know, I don’t know what kind of voice David had. He might have had a squeaky voice, a bit like mine, not a big, deep voice, you know. So it’s like [in a high voice], “The Lord’ll deliver you into my hand, and I will cut off your head!” It’s like [in a deep voice], “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” No.

No, because what David knows is that “the battle is the Lord’s.” “The battle is the Lord’s.” And that this is going to happen not to make a name for David—although it does make a name for David—but this is going to happen, notice, in order that the whole earth will know “that there is a God in Israel” and in order that the assembled crowd on both sides of the mountain will know that God “saves not with [a] sword and [a] spear.” Because in actual fact, the army is looking down on this, and they’re saying to one another, “Can you believe he just went out there with his staff and with that sling? How is he gonna deal with this guy? You cannot do this!”

And they have no way of knowing what the dialogue is between David and Goliath. Presumably, they couldn’t hear. But they’re going to discover that it is not by might that man will prevail, because the Lord will give strength to the king, and the Lord will exalt the power of his anointed. Where does that come from? Hannah’s prayer, 1 Samuel 2: “The Lord … will give strength to his king,” and he will “exalt the [power] of his anointed.”[7] Hannah could never know all that was contained in that—first in the Valley of Elah, but then in “the valley of the shadow of death,”[8] eventually. I say again to you: presumably, the dialogue was unheard. From a human standpoint, the outcome was pretty straightforward: strength and might will prevail. “It’s been fun so far, but I don’t know what we’re going to do next.”

A First-Round Knockout

And then, in verse 48 and 49, after all this buildup, after the whole chapter has got us here, after the dialogue that has taken place, there’s about sixty-three words in David’s speech to Goliath, and there’s thirty-six words describing what happens in the battle. And I just wrote in my notes, “A knockout in the first round.” The bell has barely rung for round one, the giant has taken a step forward, David has unleashed—with amazing accuracy and great speed and power—has unleashed this one stone, has hit him at the point of vulnerability, because there was no covering for his face and for his forehead; he has targeted him there.

You say, “This is miraculous.” Well, no, it’s not miraculous at all. No, this fellow was obviously good at this. He was able to do this. He had proved this in the past. This was his machinery, if you like. He knew how to use it. Probably on weekends, he practiced on different things, seeing how he could take them out in just an instant. And now, with four stones still in his bag, he nails this guy with the first one—huge force, pinpoint accuracy. And he triumphs, you will notice, without a sword. Verse 50: “There was no sword in the hand of David.” But, of course, that could not happen. But it did happen. He had told Goliath that that was going to happen, and it had probably sounded like bravado in his ears. But no: “The Lord will give you into my hands, and I will strike you dead.”

And so, you have it there, just in a phrase in verse 50: “So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone.” Incidentally, this sling—you should not think of a slingshot that you can go over to Target right now and buy, a little piece of stick with a thing at the back and a little bit of leather, and you pull it back. Any thinking person says, “There is no way in the world that you could get enough power and force from that to barely knock an empty Coke can off a wall, let alone kill a giant by hitting him in the forehead.” No, it’s because the sling was entirely different. Google it. You’ll see. And the way in which the thing would go, could build up—it could build to a speed that could actually be as fast as a bullet out of a gun. So that’s exactly what has unfolded.

And as a result of the prevailing impact, the Philistines fled—verse 51. “The men of Israel” then “rose,” verse 52, “with a shout and pursued the Philistines” and plundered them. And in the evening, when they all finally got back to base camp, they sat down to have something to eat, and somebody said, “Let’s go round the table and just ask each other, ‘And what is it that you are thankful for?’” Right? And to a man, every single one of them said, “I am thankful that the giant is dead.” Some may have said, “I am thankful that the whole world now knows that there is a God in Israel,” or “I am thankful that now we have been reminded that our lethargy and our indolence and our fearfulness were simply a testimony to our own feebleness and was really no representation of the power and might of God.”

David is going to take the head of Goliath to Jerusalem. Incidentally, David does not get to Jerusalem until 2 Samuel chapter 5. And so, here you have another incident where the significance of the event takes precedence over the sequence. It is in the interest of the narrator to establish, if you like, the triumph, even though the actual event itself happens subsequently. Because at this point, Jerusalem wasn’t under the control of the armies of Israel and of the God of Israel. Therefore, it would… Anyway, there you have it. We leave it there.

The same is true in verses 55–58. What I find remarkable about people when they study their Bibles is simply this: instead of being prepared to say, “Now, let’s stand back from this entire book and this entire chapter and get the message that is perfectly clear,” no, they want to come, set that aside, and let’s have a conversation about why it was that Saul didn’t know who David’s father was. And they spend an entire evening wrestling over this irrelevant question and coming up with all kinds of wonderful explanations: “Well, I think he had the onset of dementia. I think he was a lot older than he used to be,” and so on. No, absolutely. You don’t need to do anything with that at all.

First of all, verses 55 and 56 are a flashback: “As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine…” Well, we already had that, right? So it’s a flashback. So when he saw him going out, he says to Abner, he says, “Whose son is this?” Remember, if he wins this, he’s gonna be his son-in-law. There’s a family factor here. “Whose son is this?” Abner says, “I don’t know.” Saul doesn’t know who David is. There’s a sort of remarkable cluelessness whereby, in his not knowing, it tells us more than the fact that he just didn’t know who his family was. He’s sidelined. He’s out. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know. There’s worse to follow. And even when he comes back, the question still remains: “‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David [said], I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’” Okay?

A Reason for Thanksgiving

So, let me come full circle, and we’ll end where we began. Somebody says, “So, thank you very much for that, but I’m about to get in my car and drive back to Michigan, and I don’t see what this has got to do with anything—with all due respect.” And I say, “Well, thank you for being so respectful. Let me try, in the closing moments, help us all with that.”

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of a foundational verse that we’ve used throughout our entire study—namely, Romans 15:4: “And all the things that were written in the past were written for our instruction”—“for our instruction,” writes Paul in the first century, for the reader’s instruction—“so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”[9] So you say, “Okay, I get that.” So the Old Testament stories are a basis for us to first of all understand, to be instructed, and then to find hope—to which you reply, “Yeah, but what possible hope is there for me in the fact that a fellow called David killed a giant called Goliath, you know, a couple of millennia ago?” Well, hold on. That’s a good question. I want to try and answer that for you.

Part of the answer is in reminding ourselves of what we say with great frequency—namely, that the Bible is a book about Jesus; that when we take our eyes off Jesus, we lose our way around the Bible; that in the Old Testament he’s predicted, in the Gospels he’s revealed, in the Acts he’s preached, in the Epistles he’s explained, and in the book of Revelation he’s expected. So, from Genesis all the way to Revelation, if you like, the spotlight is moving through the Scriptures in anticipation of or in retrospective gazes upon the person of the Lord Jesus. So when you come to an Old Testament story like this, the question that we’re supposed to ask is not “Where am I in this story?”—which is what we like to do. Most of us want to say, “Well, I’m… Of course, I’m like David. I mean, I have a sling.” And the answer is, “No, you’re like Eliab,” or I am: “What are you doing here?” Jealous anger. Or you’re just like the mass up on the hillside. No, no. No. The question is, “Where is Jesus in this?”

Now, let me just finish up in this way. What we have here in this event is an extraordinary victory. I mean, a victory that has spanned the years. A victory that is such that even people who have got only a modicum of understanding of the Bible—only know, like, one story in the Bible—this may actually be the story. The victory is so extraordinary. Whether they believe it, whether they like it or not, it is there.

Just as David stood between the armies of Israel and their defeat, so Jesus stands between us and our ultimate defeat—death.

At stake in this extraordinary victory, as we’ve said, is Israel’s future—is the future of Israel. Because they didn’t fight. The army didn’t fight. They only watched. They watched as their future hung on the shoulders of David. Their future hung on David’s shoulders. David, who was chosen by God to be the man in between. David, who was only a shepherd boy. David, who was the one to declare, “I come to you in the name of the Lord.” I’m sure you picked up on this from Psalm 118 when it was read earlier in the service.[10] David was the anointed, appointed servant of God—and in that respect, he was the prototype of Jesus.

So, for example, when—in another very familiar story that people know, because sometimes they will go to church on this particular Sunday—when Jesus enters into Jerusalem riding on the donkey, remember? “The crowds that went before him and … followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”[11] You see, they understood: “The one who will come as our champion, as our Savior, is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” But it doesn’t look like much. On a donkey? You mean like having only a sling and a stone? And being outnumbered? Exactly!

So just as David stood between the armies of Israel and their defeat, so Jesus stands between us and our defeat. Where is the ultimate defeat? In death—when you’ve run your whole life, and you get up to the end of it, and it comes to a crashing halt. That is why death is so terrifying. And when somebody tells me they’re not terrified of death, I frankly don’t believe them.

The reason that death is terrifying is because it is the punishment for sin: “The wages of sin is death,” the “gift of God is eternal life.”[12] “You mean kind of like the gift that those armies got through David doing what he did?” Similar. “The wages of sin is death.” None of us is without sin. The law of God demands perfection. None of us is perfect. Therefore, we are terrified.

What is there, then—who is there, then—to stand between us and that eventuality? We need somebody to step forward. And the answer is that Jesus has done so—that his victory is the greatest news, the greatest news the world has ever known. Because in Jesus the demands of the law were met by his perfect life. The penalty of the law was dealt with in his death in the place of myself, who deserved to die. And the power of death was defeated by his resurrection as he triumphs over it.

Now, it is for that reason that Paul, when he writes of these things in his letter to the Corinthians, ends his great chapter on the resurrection with thanksgiving. And what is he thankful for? “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[13]

You get it? They are all up there, and their future hangs on the shoulders of the shepherd boy. We are making our way from the beginning to the end of our lives, facing the reality of death and the certainty of judgment, and we either are going, trusting in the one who has stepped forward to do for us what we couldn’t do, to keep for us what we haven’t kept, and to provide for us a victory that we could not achieve.

So, essentially, it issues a call, doesn’t it? The whole story finally says to us, “Well, I need to seriously think about whether I have understood this story at all. I’ve tended to think of it just as a bit like Malcolm Gladwell: against all odds, and what a wonderful testimony it is that David, although he was weak, triumphed, and even though I’m weak, I can triumph too.” No. No, no, no, no, no, no. No. It is a call to acknowledge that we are so weak, that we are so powerless, that we find in Jesus not an example but a Savior.

Actually, I think it issues a call to those of us who have already enlisted in the army to get off the sidelines, to charge down the hill, to plunder the camp, to proclaim the victory. There’s a wonderful opportunity at this point in history, isn’t there, for the church to be the church? “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” That was, what, the nineteenth century? Maybe even earlier.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, …
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead.[14]

“What do you mean? Like from one victory to another, like their victory?” No. “From victory.” What victory? The victory of David in the valley meant the victory of the armies who were the beneficiaries of his triumph. The victory of Christ in his death and resurrection is the basis for the victory of those who are united with Christ in his death and in his resurrection, who are then able to go out into a world that is fractured and broken and afraid to death of death, to say, “In Jesus there is a champion. You need not fear this. You need not try your best to fix everything. You need not try and convince yourself that all will be well in the end. You need simply to acknowledge that he has done what we might never do.”

We can go to our friends who, like the gods of the Babylonian, are carrying their gods around with them. They’re all the gods of the New Age, and what I’m doing, and how I’m doing, and “Look inside yourself and find yourself.” Press your friends kindly. Say to them, “Hey, how are you doing with that toppling god you have? How is that working for you? Does it give you peace? Do you have confidence that if you were to die tonight, that on the strength of your toppling god you might have an answer at the bar of God’s judgment?” And if they’re honest, they will say, “Absolutely not.” Then say, “Well, I’d love to tell you about the God who doesn’t topple, about the living God, about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, about the God who has been faithful for a thousand generations.”

That’s the story. That’s the victory.

I wish we could sing this song, but we don’t know it. So I’ll just have to sing it for you. That was a joke. I don’t want to rob your Thanksgiving. But I am immensely grateful, as I’ve said before, for the songs that came to me as a boy in Scotland from this side of the Atlantic Ocean—I mean, an unbelievable amount, and I don’t know where they all came from. But here’s another one.

This was written by a fellow called William F. Sherwin, who was born in Buckland, Massachusetts, on the fourteenth of March, 1826. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? Do you think… If there’s a way we can do this in heaven, I’d go to him and say, “Hey, hey, what’s your name again?”

“William.”

I would say, “William, you know, I mentioned you December 1, 2019.”

He says, “You can’t be serious.”

“No, I did, I did!”

“Why would you mention me?”

“Because of that song you wrote.”

“Which one?”

“The one that goes,

“Sound the battle cry! See, the foe is nigh;
Raise the standard high for the Lord;
Gird your armor on, stand firm every one;
Rest your cause upon his holy Word.

“Rouse, then, soldiers, rally round the banner,
Ready, steady, pass the word along;
Onward, forward, shout [the loud] Hosanna!
Christ is Captain of the mighty throng.”[15]

And that, my friends, is the ultimate reason to get down on your knees this last Thursday—or, frankly, any Thursday—and say, “Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ.” Have you ever said to him,

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul.
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole.
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
[Your] great salvation so rich and free.[16]

What has this got to do with Thanksgiving? Everything!

Let us pray:

God our Father, we thank you that just as the army of Israel had reason to say, “We are thankful that David stepped forward as our champion,” so as we look upon the cross of Christ and the triumph of his resurrection, coming to him in childlike trust, we are able to say, “Thank you for the wonder of your grace.” The battle has been accomplished in Jesus; the moves of the opposition continue on a daily basis. And so, we take up the fight for the time that we have in our earthly pilgrimage. We take it up as others have left it to us, and if Christ does not return in due course, then others will take it up from us. Help us, Lord, not to fail in the battle. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.


[1] See 1 Samuel 17:8–10, 16.

[2] Isaiah 46:7 (paraphrased).

[3] Isaiah 46:4 (ESV).

[4] See 1 Samuel 5:3–4.

[5] 1 Samuel 12:13 (paraphrased).

[6] 1 Samuel 17:37 (paraphrased).

[7] 1 Samuel 2:10 (ESV).

[8] Psalm 23:4 (ESV).

[9] Romans 15:4 (paraphrased).

[10] See Psalm 118:26.

[11] Matthew 21:9 (ESV). See also Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13.

[12] Romans 6:23 (ESV).

[13] 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV).

[14] George Duffield, Jr., “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” (1858).

[15] William F. Sherwin, “Sound the Battle Cry” (1869).

[16] Bessie Sykes and Seth Sykes, “Thank You, Lord” (1940).

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.