Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 1 Samuel 17.8-10.
The armies of the Israelites and the Philistines were in an equally no-win situation. They were lined up on opposite hills with a valley between them (1 Samuel 17.3) so that, whichever army was to make the first move by going down into the valley, it would put itself at the mercy of the other army and be defeated. The Philistines sought to break the impasse by putting forward Goliath as their “champion” (1 Samuel 17.4) and calling for Israel to appoint a champion of their own to do battle with Goliath.
Although in current parlance, the word “champion” is generally used to mean a winner of a contest or competition, its original meaning was, of course, “a person who does battle on behalf of another person or group of persons” — which is precisely how the word is used here.
Unfortunately, the Israelites could find no one whom they could put forward against Goliath as their champion … until, that is, young David turned up to bring some home comforts for his older brothers who were serving in the Israelite army, and ended up volunteering himself as Israel’s champion. We all know the outcome. “David and Goliath” has passed into the language as a term used to describe any situation in which weakness is pitted against strength and weakness wins.
But, for me, the David and Goliath story always points forward to one “weakness against strength” story in particular. That greatest story ever told in which, a thousand years after the shepherd boy with his sling took on the Philistine giant, Jesus, a carpenter’s son from Galilee, takes on the powers of darkness … and wins. As David steps forward to face Goliath, I see Jesus stepping out into the wilderness to face the devil. As David whirls his sling and Goliath laughs, I see Jesus go to the cross. And as David cuts off the head of Goliath and holds it aloft, I see Jesus striding victorious from the tomb on that first Easter day.
But what I really need to remember this morning is that he did it all as a champion — my champion. He fought on my behalf a battle that I could never fight and win, and won it on my behalf. Just as, when David struck down Goliath, all Israel could say “We‘ve won” so now all those who hold Jesus as their representative, including me, can say “We‘ve won” too. For Jesus — great David’s greater son — came into the world as champion of the whole human race.
Lord Jesus, give me grace to live this day as one who shares in your victory over sin, the world, the flesh and the devil. Amen.