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Invocabit, First Sunday in Lent

February 18, 2024; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
1 Lent david-with-the-head-of-goliath-caravaggio.jpg

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Victory in the Name

Dear people anointed with the Spirit in Holy Baptism,


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



They stood facing one another, each looking the other up and down. Intimidation was the tactic. The grizzled veteran warrior was a giant of a man, standing far taller than David’s soldier brothers Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah, even taller than king Saul who stead head and shoulders above the rest of the Israelites. The giant carried weapons that most people wouldn’t be able to wield in battle, but he could use them to deal out deadly blows of horrendous destruction.


Facing his enemy, the trash talking resumed. “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” And he threw in some language that was not fit to print or to preach. He continued: “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (1 Samuel 17:43,44)


Facing this giant champion of the Philistines, was not King Saul, the tallest of the Israelites and commander of the army; not Eliab, Abinadab, or Shammah, the sons of Jesse that Samuel would have chosen to replace Saul; but their littlest brother, David, who was not even a soldier, but a young errand boy sent by his father to bring some cheese to the officer over his brothers. He could not move in any of Kings Saul’s armour or wield any proper weapons of war. He walked toward his experienced opponent with only a few smooth stones in his pouch.


But David was not shy in returning the verbal challenge: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of [Sabaoth], the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the [army] of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword or spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hand” (17:45-47)


Young David was quite vocal in the face-off with his enemy. But David’s fight talk was quite a bit different from that of the wicked Goliath, even though they used some of the same words. Goliath tried to ridicule David and his defences. David did not do that in return, but rather pointed out to Goliath that as great as the giant’s weapons were, David believed he had a defence and a weapon far greater: “the name of the LORD of Sabaoth.”


The Philistine boasted about what he thought he would do to David by his own power, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” David did not boast in himself, but in the LORD who would give him the victory: “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand.” And David already began to give the LORD all of the glory for the victory: “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword or spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hand.”


The ongoing battles between the nation of Israel and the Philistines were a part of the continual enmity between the Church and the wicked, a great war that began when the serpent had a war of words with Eve in the Garden of Eden. While the old evil foe used tantalizing words at that time in order to gain his victory, the LORD pointed out that it was an enemy attack that would go on through history.


The LORD’s words to the ancient serpent, the devil, that is Satan, were: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). The wicked of the world are the offspring of Satan, his brood of vipers; and those who cling to forgiveness and deliverance in the LORD are the offspring of the woman, the faithful who look to her Son for salvation.


The face-off between David and Goliath was an example of how this age-old war is sometimes reduced to a one-on-one contest. The champion of one side faces off with the champion of the other, and the victory is given not only to the individual but to the entire army which they represent. Goliath was the obvious champion of the Philistines for single-handed combat. No one could look him in the eye or stand face to face or match up in any physical way. He was taller and stronger. His weapons were heavier and more destructive.


David was the unlikely champion for the armies of the LORD. Despite his small size and inexperience it was he who stepped forward to face the wicked Philistine champion. He was not chosen as the champion of the army of Israel. He was reluctantly offered up by King Saul when there were no other volunteers, and Saul himself was certainly not brave enough to take up the challenge. But the young David was not just a volunteer. He was chosen.


David was the LORD’s choice to represent his people. Last Sunday, the Old Testament reading related to us how the LORD sent the prophet and priest, Samuel, to anoint this youngest of the sons of Jesse to be the next King of Israel. This little lad would replace the tall and imposing King Saul. Saul was given to the people as king because they wanted a king like the nations around them. God warned them about that, and when it was becoming obvious that the people’s choice was failing, the LORD made His choice and He had David anointed.


David then did not rely on his own stature, strength, or experience. He would have been a fool to do so. He couldn’t match up to the great Goliath of Gath. He relied on the fact that He had the LORD’s promise through his anointing. He relied on the history that the LORD had delivered him in the past from the attack of wild beasts while he was defending his father’s sheep.


So, when David was facing off with the Philistine champion, he did not ridicule his opponent’s ability or weapons, which far exceeded his own. But David did confidently declare that despite the weapons of war that were wielded by the wicked, the LORD would give the victory. David’s weapon was the name of the LORD of Sabaoth, the Lord of armies, who had anointed him to be king, defender, and deliverer of His people.


You also are the LORD’s anointed. He has anointed you with the Holy Spirit at your baptism, not be King and Defender, but to be His child, His defended. The old evil foe and the sinful world that he champions still mean you deadly woe. The deep guile he used to deceive Eve in the garden and the great might he mustered against David and Israel’s army are still his dread weapons in the fight.


But you are the LORD’s anointed and the LORD has given to you the same weapon that He gave to David—the name of the LORD of Sabaoth, the name into which you were baptized. One little word can fell your foe, the word of promise and protection that were poured out upon you at the baptismal font.


As David, the LORD’s anointed, stepped forward to fight on behalf of the kingdom of Israel, so an anointed one has stepped forward to fight on your behalf, and on behalf of all your brothers and sisters in Christ in the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ, the promised descendant of David, was anointed at His baptism to be your champion. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him visibly in the form of a dove and remained upon Him so that all might know that He is the champion in God’s Kingdom. The battle is His.


After His Baptism the Lord Jesus went into the wilderness to face off against our enemy, just like David after his anointing went to the battle and faced down the Philistine champion. They stood facing one another. Intimidation was the tactic. The grizzled veteran warrior looked his enemy up and down and the trash talking resumed. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3).


Jesus did not stoop down to gather five smooth stones from the riverbed. He knew the devil was tempting him to make use of them, rather than to rely on the one true weapon. Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (v. 4). It was in the word and promises of God that David had the victory. It was in the word and promises of God that Jesus holds the field forever.


The devil grows ever more crafty in twisting words and leading us to doubt the promises of God. “If you are the child of God...” is still his opening attack. “If you are a child of God, why are you hungry; if you are a child of God why do have fears... if you are a child of God why do you not possess all things?”


But Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the only stone needed in our sling. Hold onto that little rock. The most often quoted verse in the New Testament talks about that stone. From Psalm 118(:22-23): “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”


Jesus quoted that verse to show the wicked of His day that although the mighty and powerful and influential had rejected Him, it is upon Him that the Church of God is built, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. They rejected Him by casting Him outside of the city and nailing Him on a cross to die in humiliation. But on the third day He rose from the dead and has been the cornerstone of the Christian Church upon whose victory over sin, death, and devil we stand firm and resolute.


He is the stone with which we resist the incessant attacks of the old evil foe. He is our rock of refuge in a world full of the wicked who are happy to watch the children of God under attack and falling to temptations, trickery, persecution, and violence. The odds seem to be against us. The foe is so much more cunning and crafty and experienced in his attack. But we have a champion, who even when it looked like He was crushed in death, burst forth with victory to show that the battle is His. Victory is not won with sword or spear, but with the word and promises of God. The Word sinks like a slung stone into the forehead of your foe. He falls and you stand over him in triumph. The LORD has won the victory and His name is your defense.



The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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