Psalm 110; 1 Samuel 17:32-58; John 3:27-36

Psalm 110: This David psalm appears to have been written by a court poet, recording that God has spoken to the king, “Sit at My right hand till I make your enemies / a stool for your feet.” (1) in preparation for battle. The verses are meant, I think, to encourage troops heading off to war as their king comes forward to exhort them, “Hold sway over your enemies. Your people rally to battle” (3).

The centerpiece of the psalm is the single line, “The LORD has sworn, He will not change heart.” (4). When we head off to battle, either figuratively or literally, the key to our courage is remembering that God is ever-faithful. He will not “change heart” and abandon us in the midst of our trials.

1 Samuel 17:32-58: In this most famous story, one of the first we encounter in Sunday School, we tend to think it’s David’s sling shot skills that save the day for Israel. But as the author makes clear, David’s ability, which he explains to Saul as having come from years of protecting sheep from bears and lions, rests on one very firm foundation. As he tells Saul, “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.” (37).

And again, when David confronts Goliath himself, he endures the giant’s mocking replying, “You come to me with sword and spear and 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.” (45) He then prophecies Goliath’s doom, reminding him, “the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” (47) And proceeds to slay Goliath

The lesson for us is obvious, but we too often forget it. David tells Saul and he tells Goliath that the “battle is the Lord’s.” David was willing to confront the wrath of Saul and the physical intimidation of Goliath with complete confidence because he had surrendered himself fully to God. David became God’s instrument of justice. The question is, are we willing to do the same? To totally give up our ego and our passion for control and turn it entirely over to God?

But notice, too, that more than mere surrender is involved here. David is prepared and able to slay Goliath and he is skilled at using the sling shot. This is no deus ex machina divine intervention. It occurs because David’s surrender to God has given him a serene courage and his years of practice have given him remarkable skill. The Christian life is no different. We surrender to God so that God can deploy our personalities and our skills. But they are still our skills, gifts, talents. When that convergence happens, great (dare we say “giant”?) things can be accomplished.

John 3:27-36: John’s gospel reveals much more of John the Baptist’s personality than the synoptics. Here, we learn that John has two great gifts of leadership. The first is that he is charismatic and inspirational, and in calling people to repent he has demonstrated both qualities. As a result he has become the greatest celebrity of his day.

But his second gift is perhaps even better. He is willing to yield the spotlight to someone greater than he, saying, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.” (29) John is willing to step aside and let Jesus minister without competition.

John’s magnanimous wisdom comes to mind when we reflect on modern day “celebrity pastors,” who become intoxicated by fame. Unwilling to yield the stage to Jesus, they come believe their own breathless press releases and ultimately become parodies of themselves–all to the detriment of carrying the Gospel message into the world at large. Like David, who surrendered to God but used his skill to God’s glory, we are to let Jesus speak and act through us, not to speak on his behalf.

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