The Armor of God
February 5th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Samuel 17:1-50
THE ARMOR OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 17:1-11
2-5-61 7:30 p.m.
In our Bibles we turn to 1 Samuel 17, and we read together verses 1 through 11; 1 Samuel 17. The title of the sermon tonight is The Armor of God. And did you know all three of these services are being broadcast now? The eight-thirty service, a live broadcast; the eleven o’clock service, a live broadcast; and this service is broadcast every following Sunday at twelve-fifteen o’clock. First Samuel 17, verses 1 through 11. I shall read the first verse because there are some Hebrew words in there that are personal names and places; and then, our beloved assistant pastor Melvin Carter will lead us while we read through to the eleventh verse.
Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dam-mim.
Now together, reading with Brother Carter:
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.
And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.
And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.
If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.
When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
And the next verse says, "Now David,"
The author, the unknown historian of this passage in the book of God, is drawing in distinct and Rembrandt colors these two men, Saul and David. In the sixteenth chapter, where he introduces David to us for the first time, you find that same vivid, colorful contrast. In First Samuel 16:13, "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of this brethren: and the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward." Now look at the contrasting next verse: "But the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him."
Then you have the story of the two together. Somebody in the servants’ groups that surrounded the king said, "Let our Lord give commandment to thy servants, that we seek out a man who can play with a harp: and it shall be, when the evil spirit from the Lord comes upon you, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well." So they searched through all Israel, and a messenger comes back with the report, "I’ve seen the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, cunning in playing, a mighty man, prudent, comely in person." And they send for him. And there the two stand together: Saul, shoulders and above higher than any other man in Israel; and this lad from the sheep coat of a ruddy face, of a beautiful countenance, goodly to look to, and cunning in playing the harp.
Had it not been too much of a scholastic exercise, I would have brought my volume of Browning here tonight – and did intend to – Browning’s poem "Saul" is one of the great poems of all English literature, and it describes the playing of David in the presence of Saul. The first verse begins when Abner, who’s captain of the host of David, says, "It is well that thou art come. At last thou art come." Then he pictures Saul in that poem, on the inside of the tent, from which he has not appeared for over three days; and the anxious watchers, Abner, and the rest of the army, waiting on the outside. And on the inside, the giant Saul, leaning stolid against the cross prop, the cross arms that held up the pavilion. And for days he’s brooded, without appetite, without recognition, afflicted and troubled by the evil spirit from the Lord. Then Browning describes the singing of David and what he sang; a beautiful and glorious poem.
So the two are brought there together by the historian, and painted in such vivid colors. Saul, who’s rejected God and the Word of God, and from whose heart and life the Spirit of God has flown away; and David, the shepherd boy, singing about the God of glory, and the heavens, and the night, and the storms, and the sheep, and all of the care of his charges, so pure, so fine, so free, so fresh, so given to God, so full of trust in Him. Then after the playing and the refreshment of Saul and the departing of the evil spirit, the boy goes back to his menial task, back to his humble charges and his defenseless flock.
Then you have the story of the vale of Elah. And the story is built around a presentation of these characters, as you would find it in a dramatic presentation, in a drama. First, there is Goliath. The valley of Elah begins up there at Hebron, and goes in a northwesterly direction down to the plain of Philistia. It’s about a mile wide, and in the center of it is a dry "wadi", their word for a ravine, a canyon, an arroyo, a creek, a dry wadi. And it’s about ten to twenty feet wide, and is the bed of a torrent when the heavy rains come in the winter time. And on the western side of the vale, about a mile wide, on the western side, were the armies of Philistia; and on the other side of the valley, the armies of Saul. And it says here that for forty days – now if you will listen to the Pastor as he preaches to you in the morning, every time you come across a number in the Bible it has a deep significance – forty days, forty days did that champion Goliath come out and say, "I defy the armies of the living God, and Jehovah God himself," blaspheming, this uncircumcised, cursing giant. Forty days he did that. Forty? Why didn’t he come out thirty-nine or forty-one or fifty or twenty-five? Forty has a deep significance, the number in the Word of God. The number of this world is four; and increase it ten times and make it emphatic, and it’s forty. And forty is the number of trial. "Forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed…And it rained forty days and forty nights,And the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness where he was tempted of the devil forty days." Forty days this time of trial and challenge.
And Goliath, what a man: nine feet six inches tall, the Bible says. Man, what a world of pigmies we have today; and these evolutionists say we’re getting up and up and on and on. Man, give us time and we’ll be mice some of these days. Nine feet six inches tall, and he made an impression upon Israel. As you know, his armor and his headgear and his sword and his shield and everything he had fell into the hands of Israel; and they minutely and closely examined it and weighed it, and looked at every piece of it. And it says here that the coat of mail of that giant weighed four thousand shekels of brass; in our weight, two hundred pounds. I never saw one of our pigmies around here that we call men, I don’t care who he was; if you were to put two hundred pounds of mail of armor upon him, he’d stagger around in his boots, he couldn’t move, much less could he fight. Two hundred pounds, the armor of mail, beside his staff and his javelin and his sword, and his brass greaves upon his legs, and the great shield, "target" they called it, between his shoulders. What a man; nine feet six inches tall. And for forty days he came out there on the side of that mountain, where all of the armies of Israel could hear him, and he cursed God, and he cursed the armies of God, and he defied the armies of Jehovah God, and ridiculed them and spit in contempt upon them. That’s the first character introduced.
Now the next verse, "When Saul," then you have Saul introduced; "And Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistines, and they were terrified and affrighted." You have it "dismayed and greatly afraid." Saul. Why Saul himself was a giant; not as big as a Goliath, but he was a great, vigorous, mighty man. From his shoulders and upward he stood higher than anybody else in Israel; and a choice person. What has happened to Saul? As Goliath comes out there, this uncircumcised, blaspheming, cursing Philistine defies the armies of God and curses God, Saul trembles and is afraid. What’s the matter with him?
That’s not the Saul that I’ve read about over here in this eleventh chapter of First Samuel, when Nahash the Ammonite, besieged Jabesh-gilead and said, "Come out here, I’m going to put out all of your right eyes, I’m going to punch out all of your right eyes, just to show my contempt for Israel and for Israel’s God," to lay a reproach upon Israel, "Come out here and let me put out your right eye;" Nahash the Ammonite said that as he sent his armies around Jabesh-gilead. And the men of Jabesh-gilead sent word across the Jordan River into Gibeah of Saul, and throughout Israel; and all Israel began to cry and to lament because of the reproach of this heathen, Nahash the Ammonite against God. And the Book says, and you read it there in the sixth verse, "And when Saul heard it, the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he took his yoke of oxen, and he cut them in pieces, and he sent the pieces throughout Israel and said, Thus may God do to every man who doesn’t mean to follow me." And all Israel gathered with Saul, and unafraid and fearless and a champion of God, Saul is on his feet and blowing the trumpets, and the great victory over Nahash around Jabesh-gilead is placed in his hands.
What’s the matter with him now? What’s the matter with him now? "And Saul, when he heard the words of Goliath, was terrified and affrighted." You see, he’d lost the Spirit of God in power upon him; and he was afraid. Any man’s afraid when he doesn’t have God in his soul and God in his heart, doesn’t have the power and the Spirit of the Lord upon him. He’s afraid. And there’s no small part of our ministry that is scared to death at any kind of a challenge. They might offend somebody, or they might have something said about them, or they might not be as popular with their congregations as they’d like to be and a thousand other reasons and they are afraid; they are afraid; they are afraid. Just like Saul: he was afraid, he was scared, he was terrified, for he didn’t have the Spirit of the Lord God upon him.
Now the third character: "And David,Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem. And the father called him and said, Your three brothers, Eliab and Abinadab, and Shammah, your three brothers are there in the vale of Elah, fighting with the Philistines." The father had a happy persuasion about his boy, didn’t he? Isn’t that like a father? "My son’s out there whipping the Germans," or, "He’s over there whipping the Japanese," when actually he’s peeling potatoes or something, and scared to death in a tent somewhere. Well that’s a father for you, isn’t that right? That’s a father. These three sons are out there fighting the Philistines. Man they weren’t fighting; they were trembling and scared to death, and turned pale every time Goliath walked down the valley and said, "If one of you will come out here and fight, let him fight." Well, the little boy called from the sheep coat, given this humble task, to take these loaves and parched corn – shows you how poor the family was – "And take them to your brethren, and take this to the division commander, the C.O., and come back and tell me how they fare."
And so the little boy goes, and while he is there, to the little boy’s surprise, out walks that giant. And the boy listened to him, and he couldn’t believe his ears. For that boy had never heard a man curse God. He’d been out there in the pasture, with the sheep coat. He’d been out there with the flocks. That’s the first time in his life he ever heard a man curse; it was the first time he ever heard a man defy God, and his blood ran hot. And steel entered his soul. He said, "What? What? Is there no man in the armies of Israel to accept the challenge of this heathen, blaspheming, uncircumcised, cursing Philistine?" And the men were scared and terrified and affrighted even at the thought of facing Goliath. And the boy said, "Then I, then I."
Now you think he won his battle with Goliath; I want to show you where the boy won his battle. I want you to look at this boy. I want you to look at him carefully. "And when David said those words, then Eliab," look at this, "then Eliab," First Samuel 17:28, "then Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said," in sarcasm and in scorn, and in contempt, "Why comest thou down hither?" He knew why; the father had sent him down there with a gift for him. "Why comest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the haughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle." What battle? But Eliab looks with contempt on David, who keeps the sheep, those few sheep, he says, in the wilderness. And there’s where David won his war; and there’s where I’ve lost the battle a thousand times.
David, when he heard Goliath curse God, David stood up, made of iron. But when he heard his eldest brother Eliab speak in disdain and scorn of his supposed pride – and he was the humblest boy that ever lived – David said, "Eliab, what have I done? Is there not a cause? What have I said, Eliab. I didn’t mean to hurt." What does the book say? "He that controlleth his spirit is mightier than he that takes a city." He’s a great man, and a mighty man, and a victorious man, and he’s God’s man, who can keep his anger. And when people speak contemptuously of him, he’s not full of reproach; and when people say bad things about him, he’s not full of bitterness and hatred. And when people don’t do, say, as he likes, he’s always gracious and kind. That’s David. He won his battle there, in his heart; for his life and his soul and his heart were right with God, and he need not fear what man would do or say unto him.
Isn’t that a wonderful thing? Did you ever try it? Did you ever try it? All of us have these things in our lives. They’re in our houses, they’re in our homes, they’re in our businesses, they’re everywhere. And the man that can control his spirit is better, as the Book says, than a man that takes a city. So, he turns from Eliab, and then has that second meeting with Saul. And Saul says, "Why this man is a man of war from his youth, and you are but a youth. You can’t fight Goliath." And David said, "I never saw a giant before, and I never heard a man cuss God before. But thy servant was out in the wilderness with the sheep. And isn’t it remarkable how we are trained for great ministries in humble, menial tasks? A fellow’s that’s going out here to train himself for a great hero part; he’s going to be a knave. But the man that goes out here to do those faithful, menial things, he’s the man God’s looking at for a great task and a great place. Now look at David: "Thy servant was out keeping the sheep, keeping the sheep;" what in the world was there out keeping the sheep to train a man to fight Goliath? Why bless you, he was out there keeping the sheep, he says,
And there came first a lion, and I delivered a trembling lamb out of his paw. And there came a bear, and I delivered another trembling lamb out of the hug and the jaw of the bear. And the same Lord God that was with me when I delivered the trembling lamb, and overcome the lion and the bear, that same God will be with me when I face Goliath.
Oh, what a boy.
So Saul armed David, and it looked as though David was going out to fight Goliath with the Lord and the armor of Saul. And when David put it on he said, "Not so, never trusted in armor in my life, never leaned on something manmade in my life. When I faced the lion, when I faced the bear, I just had God alone with me." So he put off the armor, and it was no longer the armor and the Lord; it was the Lord alone. He had a breastplate of righteousness, and a helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit of God. And there the boy stood.
Now, I want to show you something, got it here in my pocket. I said, "I want to go to the vale of Elah." So the missionary in Israel took me to the vale of Elah. Now, I was going on a trip around the world, and I couldn’t get me a big stone like David would put in his scrip, but I got me two typical little round rocks from the vale of Elah to show you, if I ever preached on this text. And the time has come. You know they write such unusual things. There’s a geologist, there’s a geologist that I read who made a report, and said, that every one of the stones in Elah are round and smooth, every one of them. He said, "It is the only place in the world where every stone is round and smooth." I read that. So I went down into that dry wadi, and walked up and down it – and I can show you a picture of me stooping down, picking up those stones and looking at them – and I give you my word, every stone in that brook is round and smooth, just like this, just like that, every one of them. It beats anything you ever saw.
So David, the ruddy, comely boy, goes down into the vale of Elah, and he took his staff and his sling and his shepherd’s scrip, his shepherd’s bag, and he picked five smooth stones. Now the preachers always say, "Five, why did he have five? Why did he have five?" Did he think he might miss on the first? And then maybe miss on the second? And did he think he might miss on the third, and he needed five to be sure? "Oh no," the preachers reply, "Goliath had four other brothers, and he took five stones for all five of them." That’s what they say. That’s what they say. Five smooth stones, just like that. Can you all see that stone? Five smooth stones, just like that, only they’d be a little larger. And he put them in the scrip of his bag. And when Goliath came out and looked at him he was insulted. "Me, nine feet six inches tall, with a staff like a weaver’s beam, and two hundred pounds of mail, and this insect comes out here to fight me as champion of God." He was insulted. Man a’livin’, here I am, the Jack Dempsey of the world, going to fight for the Golden Diamond belt, and there is a peewee in the ring with me. My, my, I’m insulted; I could step on him, I could,insulted, and he told him so.
What did David answer? He said, "You come to me with a staff and a spear and a javelin and a shield: but I come unto you in the name of the LORD of hosts," I want you to look at that, "the LORD of the hosts, and the God of the armies of Israel." What was he talking about? Was he talking about that bunch of bleached, anemic, scared, terrified Israelites up there on the eastern side of the vale? No sir, he was talking about God’s armies all around him. That boy lived in the presence of God and in the consciousness of the Lord. Like Elisha said, "Lord open his eyes," and there were mountains full of chariots of fire round about Elisha. That’s what he’s talking about. Why the little boy looked like he was by himself; he wasn’t by himself. The Lord of hosts and the armies of God everywhere, fighting on the side of that lad.
And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, apparently when David came out, the Philistine sat down; he just sat down. "And the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David," and David, fearless, oh, fearless, absolutely unafraid, unafraid, absolutely unafraid, "And David ran to meet him. And as he ran, he put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone. And as he ran," can’t you see him, oh, there in the pasture land, and there by the sheep coat, and there with his few charges, many and many and many and many a time, he’d learn to aim accurately, and to hit the bullseye with that rock. And as he ran he began to sling that rock round and around, and then when that exact moment came, and he was close to the giant, he let go the thong of the cord. And the Philistine was smitten in his forehead, and the stone sank into his head. And he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine, with a sling and with a stone, and may I add, and with God!
What an assurance, what a victory. Like Paul describes us, "more than conquerors through him that loves us, more than conquerors." Hupernikao, more than conquerors, above conquerors. A sling and a stone and God.
My good blade carves the casks of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure
Is there a schoolboy can tell me who wrote that and where it’s found? Is there? That’s Alfred Lord Tennyson’s first stanza in "Sir Galahad, Who Found the Holy Grail." I love it.
"My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure."
Well, let’s sing our song of appeal. Somebody give his heart to Jesus tonight, somebody come into the fellowship of the church; a family, you, or one somebody, you. Taking Jesus as Savior, as the Spirit of the Lord shall lead the way and open the door, would you make it tonight? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
THE ARMOR OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 17:1-11
I. David in contrast to others
1. David anointed, Saul troubled
2. David trusts God, Saul doubts God
II. Valley of Elah
1. Goliath – giant, blasphemer, intimidating
2. Saul – afraid
3. David – no fear, trusts God
III. David vs Goliath
1. David’s older brother contemptuous, scornful, sarcastic
2. David already won the battle long before
3. David trusted God, not Saul’s armor
4. The victory is God’s