What If You Can’t Escape The Panic Room?

Two weeks ago, we were introduced to Goliath. This son of Anak, a descendant of the Nephilim, represents idolatry in humankind’s self-glorification. Goliath represents human unrighteousness and depravity in their fullness. Today, the text forces us to come to grips with our own natures. It forces us to come to grips with the true message of Christ’s Gospel. I want to ask you to be very reflective this morning. Consider your own hearts. Later on, please plan on sharing this message with others on every platform. In our community, the Gospel is miscommunicated. This text gets at exactly how God’s word has been manipulated in other churches and in our community. I desperately want our community to hear the true Gospel and to be aware of how Christ’s Gospel has been miscommunicated. If you are in a church where the Gospel is miscommunicated, I want you to know that I am praying for your local church and hope that (1) your church reforms, (2) you are able to find a healthy local church, or (3) you desire to plant one. If you have a question about whether or not your local church preaches and teaches God’s word rather than merely using God’s word to support some other message, send us a sermon and we will evaluate it for you according to Scripture.

1 Samuel 17:20-30

So David arose early in the morning and left the flock with a keeper and took the supplies and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the circle of the camp while the army was going out in battle array shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up in battle array, army against army.

  Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them. When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.

  The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? Surely he is coming up to defy Israel. And it will be that the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.”

Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

  The people answered him in accord with this word, saying, “Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.”

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.”

  But David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?”

  Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before.

David hears about Goliath (v. 20-25)

So David arose early in the morning and left the flock with a keeper and took the supplies and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the circle of the camp while the army was going out in battle array shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up in battle array, army against army.

Samuel summarizes the context we saw at the beginning of Chapter 11. David is traveling to the Valley of Elah as the Israelites are coming against the Philistine incursion. Here, we see that not much time has elapsed from the beginning of Philistia’s incursion to this point—perhaps near the time it takes David to travel from Bethlehem to Elah—15-20 miles and 5-8 hours or longer because he is hauling supplies.

Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them. When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.

Goliath comes out speaking his blasphemies as David arrives. It’s probably not the first time he has come out to challenge Israel. David is focussed on doing what he is there to do and he hears the Giant’s slander. When the Giant speaks, all the men of Israel fled and were greatly afraid. Here, we see David, who is living on mission, and the people, who are not. Instead of living on mission, doing what they need to do, the Israelites are afraid of the insurmountable Giant in front of them—the unbeatable, technologically advanced, and socially progressive Goliath.

 The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? Surely he is coming up to defy Israel. And it will be that the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.”

Like Goliath, Israel is not focused on God. That is the one fact I find so interesting about this story. The men of Israel are not concerned about Goliath’s blasphemies against God, only his defiance against Israel. Likewise, many people, even those who consider themselves to be mature Christians, only have in mind their own status and are only concerned about how they might overcome their giants or work things out for themselves.

Also like Goliath, Israel is not concerned about God’s glory but, instead, the prize to be won for defeating the giant. King Saul’s prize is the talk of the camp. The one who defeats Golaith gets riches, will not have to labor, and gets to marry the king’s daughter! Simply put, the Israelites have a very works-based outlook on life.

When we preach or teach the story of David and Goliath such that we apply it to one’s overcoming of his or her own giants, we imply the same sort of works-based outlook. It’s a false gospel because it encourages us to focus on ourselves and what we may gain or overcome instead of honoring God as holy and providential. So, from most pulpits and small group teachers in the world, whether intentionally or unintentionally, people are teaching David and Goliath in a way that completely undermines the Biblical story and Christ’s Gospel—in a way that is leading them into Hell’s unquenchable flames. Sadly, this is the sort of religion we have developed for ourselves in our current context. We choose a church based on what we can gain whether entertainment, comfort, social interaction, friends, feels, services, motivational or moralistic speeches, or because it makes us feel like better people. How will God help me overcome my giants? This sort of self-centered religion is in the negative view here, not the positive like the text is so often presented. 

David’s focus (v. 26-30)

Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

David replies to the men of Israel, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine?” I think this is a question is sarcastic, almost like David is repeating it with such a tone that screams, “Really? This is what you are concerned about?” We can’t hear David’s tone as we read. I wish we could. David’s sarcastic remark is followed by another question by which he seems to correct their focus, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” Are you really in this to gain for yourselves? What about the fact that you serve the living God? Who is this Philistine to defy God?

 The people answered him in accord with this word, saying, “Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.”

The correct responses of the Israelite men in reply to David’s rhetorical questions would have been to realize God is bigger than the boogie man and that their focus was misplaced. That’s not quite the response we see. Instead, the people seem to have only heard the first half of David’s inquiry. Even after David explicitly points out their misdirected focus, the Israelites are unable to look past self—what can be gained.

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.”

I find it interesting that David’s oldest brother is indignant with him because of what he said. Eliab accuses David of being insolent and wicked at heart because David came down to see, consider, spy on, or judge the battle ((ראה. Eliab believes David brought provisions as a pretense to come spy on and criticize the king. Remember, Eliab was present when Samuel anointed David as Israel’s next king (16:6). David’s anointed had to be in Eliab’s mind. Isn’t it interesting that Eliab reacts to David implying that the Israelites haven’t fixed their gaze on God by calling David insolent and wicked? At some level, Eliab understood what David was saying, and he still doubled down on works-based living.

Eliab’s response to David is like worldly people’s response to Christ’s message. People say, “Be an overcomer!” Christ replies, “You can’t.” People say, “Gain by living well.” Christ replies, “It’s not worth it.” People say, “Use religion to better your life.” Christ replies, “It’s not about you.” God is the only one who is holy and providential. He is the one who works all things together, not people. God has placed the giants in our lives for His own good purposes—our salvation, Christ’s exaltation, and His own glory. In response, worldly people call us bigots. Even works-based local churches point their fingers and call us false teachers because we claim that people cannot contribute anything to their salvation—salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. 

 But David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?”

David responds to Eliab’s accusation: Did I not just ask a question? Eliab was convicted and, instead of repenting, takes his frustrations out on David. Don’t we often respond the same way when God starts convicting us? Instead of repenting to God, who is sovereign and holy, we complain about preachers or Christians who simply preach God’s word. If we are honest, wouldn’t we rather simply try to overcome our giants than honor God who is holy? Isn’t it easier to try setting a standard for living and keep a set of objective rules? Isn’t it easier to separate ourselves from the world and pretend we are righteous? Isn’t it easier to simply focus on overcoming our giants and hoping for greener grass or great rewards? The problem? None of this actually works or really benefits us in the long run.

 Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before.

After his own brother’s harsh reply, David turns and asks his question to others, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” Everyone answers the same way. Whoever overcomes the giant will gain the reward—money, power, and women.

Human nature is bound this way. Even Adam and Eve chose to work in order to gain godly knowledge (Genesis 3). The Gospel calls us to a higher point of view. It calls us to be free from works-based living—the sort of living by which we are constantly trying to overcome, being evaluated, and making sure others measure up to our standards. Samuel records David’s inquiry thrice. He wants readers to understand human depravity. Even when we hear about God, human nature is so set toward works-based righteousness that all we can see is the giant before us and all we can ponder is the reward that awaits the one who is able to slay his or her giant. Consequently, that’s what human-centered religion and living seek to accomplish. So we hear, “Overcome your giants, do things well, and set a standard and things will go well with you.” In this part of God’s story, David is the only one who gets it. The other Israelites don’t have ears to hear even though David is trying to communicate this truth.

The whole point of this story is to show that the giant is insurmountable. You can’t beat Goliath. You can’t defeat whatever giants oppose you in your own life. You can’t win the King’s reward. Welcome to the panic room. Our focus on our insufficiencies and sin’s oppression is represented by Israel. David is a type of Christ. David is concerned about God’s glory and the good of God’s people. Such is Christ’s concern.

We can’t escape Hell’s fire. We can’t overcome our own addictions. We can’t claim victory over our pride. We can’t heal our own sicknesses. We can’t avoid death. We can’t earn comfort for ourselves. We can’t get others to understand. We can’t separate ourselves from the world. We don’t even have ears to hear. Feeling hopeless, yet? That’s a good starting point. God must be the only one to deliver His people. God alone can save. God alone can regenerate hearts. God alone can give ears to hear. Why do we spend so much time focusing on our giants? Who is that giant that he should taunt the living God’s people? He is nothing. If he is nothing, why is he our focus? Why do we not focus on our Father? Why do we not understand that God is the one with authority, not the giant? God has brought the giant so that He might glorify Himself and remind us of our insufficiency and depravity. Such is David’s point. I imagine, just as Israel was unable to understand, many will hear or read this message and still choose only to focus on their giants and possible reward. May God give us ears to hear and eyes to see according to His own ways in His own perfect timing. May we witness a great, genuine, revival in our time.

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