“Go, And May the Lord Be With You”
1 Samuel 17: 32-37
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”
Time after time in this story, people see David as someone who is helpless, someone who is too small, too young, too insignificant, someone who will never accomplish anything. He is “just a boy.” He is “only a youth.” When he tries to wear King Saul’s armor he stumbles and cannot walk, because it’s too big and heavy for him. When Goliath sees him, he jokes and mocks him. Even his own brothers hear him talking about fighting the giant and think it is the most ridiculous thing they have ever heard and tell him to go back home.
This story of David is the story of every person who has ever been looked at and judged and told, “You will never accomplish anything.” It’s the story of everyone who has been told, “You have nothing to offer.” It’s the story of those who are short, those who are young, those who have done time, those who know poverty, those who are labeled victim and worse, those who are don’t fit into the right box, those who have known doubts and judgments and questions. All of us at some point in our lives have known it is to feel like David. Not David after this fight. Not David after the victory. But David before. David when no one believed in him. David when all the power and outward signs and forces and ways of the world all looked against him.
This story is about all those Davids out there in the world. But more than that, it is about how God sees those Davids and how God is at work in them. While the world sees “just a boy,” God sees someone who protects sheep and fights off lions and bears. While the world sees just a youth who can’t even walk in proper armor, God sees a skilled marksman with stones and a slingshot. While the world sees a young brother it just wants to cast away, God sees this human being full of faith and courage.
It’s easy to see David’s gifts and talents and value after the fight. Its easy once the accomplishment has happened. It is so much harder before. But before is the most important time. Because before is when we are called like David to act.
I don’t think that David is more of a hero than anyone in this room. We find out very soon after this passage that he can be just as greedy, just as lustful, just as full of sin and hurt and error as anyone else. Probably even more so. It’s definitely not that he is without blemish.
But David knows something about himself that we often forget in our own lives. David remembers that the Lord is with him. He remembers God is at work in this world and God is at work him. He remembers that God sees us in our difficult times, and doesn’t just help us externally, but moves in us internally, to do things we never thought we could do, like fight off bears and lions and giants. David remembers that God saves, God loves us, God acts, and God has given us gifts to be a part of that action.
When I read this story of David I think of so many people I have met in my life who so could have easily given in to other voices and said, “I don’t have anything to offer. I’m just…whatever.” I think of Jonny, who when I met him could have been labled “just a picture framer with a lot of questions to ask.” That his job, framing pictures (which he did excellently). And whenever he came into contact with a person of faith, he immediately asked a million questions. To some it was offputting. To others, they would say, “You’re not supposed to ask questions.” Well those questions moved him to faith, then to youth ministry where he taught me a lot, then to serving the homeless of his city, then to overseas mission work, then to seminary, and now as a pastor in Belfast.
I think of another person named Dwayne, who for many people, was seen as “just an ex-con. Just another person who got out of prison.” But by the time I had met Dwayne, another voice had spoken to him, another message had broken through. And Dwayne now spends all day everyday caring for the homeless in a church in downtown Philadelphia, making sure the building is safe for all, making sure it is clean, making sure people are welcomed, making sure they know that they are loved by God in the same way God has loved him.
And I think about our students here at Stone House Presbyterian. In just over an hour, a group of them will be heading out on a week long mission trip. They too are “just youth” who our world finds all too easy to pick at and blame and question. But over these next few days, these “just youth” are going to show me some things about life, about faith, about God, about love that I’ve been missing. They are going to be painting homes, feeding neighbors, cleaning up communities, serving complete strangers, singing songs, bringing joy, and doing it in their own unique ways that neither you nor I could ever duplicate.
My favorite line from this story of David and Goliath doesn’t come from either of the two title characters. Instead it comes from someone who doesn’t get a lot of great highlights in scripture, King Saul. And even in this, he begins by scoffing at the idea that David could ever accomplish anything great. But then he listens to David’s story and he remembers his own story and the times God has watched over and called and blessed him. He remembers that the Lord is alive and at work and can do amazing things, even in those we judge by their cover. And then he says to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”
Those are words for all of us here today. For all who have doubts, for all who have been judged, for all who are to short or too young or too anything. God is still alive in the world. And God is at work in you. You are never “just anything.” You are a fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a child of God. You are someone God wants to do great things in and through. So go. Go and Battle lions, fight off bears, feed those are hungry, protect those who are vulnerable and under attack, restore communities, preach good news, love your neighbor. Go and be as amazing as God knows you to be. Just go, and may the Lord be with you. Amen.