Sermon – March 25, 2020 – Wednesday Lent 5

Printable PDF:  3-25-2020 Midweek 5 Sermon

The Promised Warrior  ~  Pastor Lincoln Albrecht  ~  Isaiah 42:13  ~  March 25, 2020

Our Champion Is Committed & Victorious

They stood there, on the edge of blood. The Israelites assembled on one hill. The Philistines on another. Frightened men could find plenty of cover in the Valley of Elah, and the Israelite men were frightened. During the days of Saul, the enmity between the Israelites and the Philistines had reached a fevered pitch.

The Philistines were famously powerful, tall warriors from the southern part of the Canaanite coast. They had been a thorn in the side of Israel for at least 100 years. The Philistines inflicted some of Israel’s worst losses. They captured the strong-man Samson and gouged out his eyes. The Philistines, in one day, killed 4,000 Israelite soldiers. The next day, when the Israelite army brought the Ark of the Covenant to battle as a good luck charm, 30,000 men were killed and the Ark was stolen. The Philistines were organized, experienced in warfare, and armed to the teeth. The Philistines had thousands of archers, cavalrymen, and charioteers. From the days of Samson through the reign of King David, the Philistines were public enemy number one.

As they assembled there at Ephes Dammim (literally “The Border of Blood) these powerful people sent out just one man. A man who cut a frightening figure. Almost 10 feet tall and covered in bronze nearly from head to toe, he was hard to miss. With a javelin on his back, a sword at his side, a massive spear in his hand, & a shield-carrying servant by his side, he was more fortress than man. But for forty days—morning and evening—he dared the Israelites to fight him. He mocked them for lining up for battle, shouting their war cries, and then doing nothing. For more than a month straight, Goliath challenged the children of Israel. 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 prevail over him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.

For forty days, no one stepped up to the challenge. Everyone cowered in fear. Everyone except David. And you know how the story ends. In fact, today, Goliath, that massive and mighty warrior, is overshadowed by a small shepherd-boy. A boy whose own father didn’t think much of him. A boy whose brother questioned why he was even there at the battlefield. A boy whose own king underestimated him saying you’re only a youth, and Goliath has been a warrior from his youth. 

A boy who was so unremarkable, that—even though David had served as Saul’s personal musician, and had just tried on Saul’s own armor moments earlier—king Saul didn’t know whose son he was or where he came from. Yet, through this young man, the Lord delivered his people.

And today the story of David and Goliath is almost legendary. Sportscasters and political pundits reference it as they describe the fierce battles they cover professionally. Coaches and CEO’s leverage David’s victory for their own purposes, too. They hope to inspire the people they lead to see that plucky underdogs have their day when they are bold and courageous and determined.

While David vs. Goliath has become a rallying cry for many leaders ever since, so many have missed the point. David’s triumph over Goliath is not the story of a brave underdog beating the odds. David’s victory over Goliath is not about how one well-placed stone can defeat an imposing enemy. David’s victory over Goliath is about how God responds to the boastful and blasphemous defiance of the evil one. David’s victory over Goliath is an example of how the Lord rescues his people from evil. David’s triumph anticipates God’s greatest delivery when the Lord himself marches out to the battlefield and triumphs over his enemies.

The Lord our God draws upon these war themes in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Like during the days of king Saul, Israel was suffering because of their sinful choices…again! They had forsaken the Lord’s way and done what seemed best to them. And that created problems far bigger than Goliath…again. Problems that we face today, too.

Ever since Satan’s first strike in the Garden of Eden, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve have been facing evils that are far more powerful and frightening than even Goliath and the Philistine armies were—sin, death, and the devil. This unholy trinity has waged war on every aspect of life in this world. They are the reason our lives are filled with so much pain and suffering. They are the reason that our world is filled with so much violence and greed. They are the reason that our own homes are filled with so much heartbreak and unhappiness.

And much like the Israelite soldiers in the Valley of Elah, we are too afraid to confront our foe head on. Deep down, we know we don’t stand a chance against evil that powerful. Not when we’re this weak. Not when we’re this overmatched. Not when we’re this mortal.

The truth is, on our own, we’re even weaker than we realize. More overmatched than we might think. Because the evil that dwells in our hearts and minds by nature—that predisposition to sin—is too much for us. For a moment, take your eyes off of the victories evil has won and is winning in our world and in our communities. Just look at your own past. Your own life. You will see personal battles against specific sins that seem like they’ve been going on as long as you can remember.

Each of us faces a fierce battle against a remarkably formidable temptation. Maybe it is against anger or lust. The fight against those fiery passions of the flesh doesn’t ever seem to really die down, does it? Perhaps you have a penchant for jealousy or greed or some other form of selfishness. Each time you see another person experience a measure of success, or receive some kind of blessing, you find yourself straining to rejoice with or for them.

It could be that you’re a very prideful person. You think you’re humble, but you’re most motivated to work when there is praise or respect to be won. You’ve always struggled to accept any criticism, to forgive those who’ve wronged you, and to pray without ceasing. Or maybe you are the opposite. You wage war against worry and anxiety. Your life is filled with poor choices made in an effort to please others. You’ve lived like a cat on hot bricks, stepping carefully everywhere you go. Always fixated on what people are thinking and saying about you. Your timidity has caused you to be silent in situations when you should have spoken up and to accept the unacceptable—and only now do you see all the damage that stems from your inactivity. Now you spend sleepless nights worried about this thing and that person. Even after hours in prayer—you feel exhausted, instead of soothed.

The battle against the evil in ourselves is fierce. And sometimes, just like the Israelites gathered in the valley of Elah, we are content just to draw battle lines, raise war cries, and hope evil will just go away. But it won’t. And God knows that. This is why he sent his champion. The one the Scriptures said would be David’s son and David’s Lord. Isaiah 42:13 – The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. 

Like David did for the Israelites that day, the Lord marches out as our champion, our representative. He stands in our place in the fight against sin, death, and the devil. Jesus had an unmistakable commitment to righteousness. Jesus faced all the temptations we face and triumphed over them. His love for people never became lustful. His righteous anger, of which we only see flashes, never wandered into arrogant wrath or pettiness. Jesus was generous and humble, selfless to the point of troubling and insulting his disciples. When his disciples thought little children were a bother to their Teacher, he rebuked them and said, “Let the little children come to me.” On Maundy Thursday evening, Jesus stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet. Peter took exception, but Jesus insisted, telling Peter that unless you let me wash you, you have no part with me. The Son of Man came to serve sinners.

In all situations, Jesus was never prideful, but also never was steered by public opinion. He didn’t stop eating with prostitutes, tax collectors, or other sinners because it affected his reputation. Instead he said: It is the sick who need a doctor. It’s sinners who desperately need a Savior. It’s those held hostage by the evil one who desperately need to be rescued.

Isaiah 42:13 tell us that the Lord in his zeal to win back those he made in his own image got mad and went to work. Isaiah 59:17 says, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate and the helmet of salvation on his head. He wrapped himself in garments of vengeance and zeal as his cloak.” And then he delivered us through weakness. By allowing himself to be arrested and mocked. He let temple guards take him captive and Roman soldiers make fun of him. He allowed himself to be whipped and wounded because there was no other way to deliver us from the evil of our sins. There on the cross he suffered for us and he did what even David did not. He died. But before he died he raised his battle cry. In John 19:30, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. By his death and resurrection, death was swallowed up. Our champion triumphed over the one who holds the power of death, the devil.

And we do not need to be afraid. We know we are weak. But he is strong. We know we are sinful. But he is righteous. We know we have lost, time and again. But he has triumphed. By God’s grace, through the faith he has worked in our hearts, we share in his triumph. All your guilt, all your shame, all your iniquities have been scrubbed clean. You are God’s own victorious child. David’s Son has won the victory and like David’s fellow soldiers, we pursue evil and plunder all the good things sin has taken away from us. Our zealous Lord has raised his battle cry. It is finished! Psalm 118:15 says, “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’” He has triumphed over all our enemies. Now and forever. Amen.