Dad’s Advice

Heritage Presbyterian Church

June 20, 2021
4th Sunday after Pentecost
Father’s Day
Scripture reading: 1st Samuel 17: 1-49

Because today is Father’s Day, I thought it might be appropriate to organize today’s message around three pieces of advice that most dads probably give at one time or another.  My own dad gave LOTS and LOTS of advice…sometimes it was even good stuff.  But no matter what your relationship was with your own father, no matter what kind of dad you observe on various television shows and movies, here are three pieces of fatherly advice you may recognize:

  1.  Keep your nose clean.
  2.  Use your head.
  3.  Never forget who you are.

Now let’s see how these three pieces of wisdom fit in today’s reading of that most familiar Old Testament story: David and Goliath.

We almost all skip quickly in our hearing and in our minds to the scene where David and Goliath actually meet face to face; we all know what happens from there, and we all recognize how the phrase “David vs. Goliath” is used to describe modern encounters in which the small, outgunned participant cleverly and suddenly wins against a much more powerful and intimidating foe.  But let’s slow down and look a little harder at the preliminary information.

Did you notice David was NOT supposed to be at this battle in the first place?  David’s father, Jesse, had 8 sons, and his three eldest ones were at the battle with Saul.  Jesse wanted to know what was going on, so he sent David with about 90 cups of flour and 10 cheeses; the flour was for the sons to supplement their food, and the 10 cheeses were for their commander as a gift.

In sending David to do this small chore, Jesse was also telling David – whether he actually said it or not – “keep your nose clean.”  What does THAT mean?

For those of you who haven’t heard this one, it’s usually the last thing a dad will say – especially to his son – just before the son ventures out where the dad can’t keep an eye on him.  “Keep your nose clean” means “stay out of trouble.”  Good advice, and Jesse would not have sent David into this scene without David understanding on some level that he was NOT to cause any trouble for his brothers…or for himself.

But when David arrived and heard Goliath talking smack against the entire army of the Israelites, he started asking those annoying questions that younger siblings often ask at the worst times!  And his eldest brother, Eliab, really got ticked at David for even showing up.  And David gave that response that all younger siblings love to give: “What’s the big deal?  I’m just asking a question!”

So, we already know that the first of our dad’s advice for today didn’t exactly work out, did it?  Let’s try the next one.

Use your head.  Saul heard about what David had to say to his elder brother, and he sent for David.  I have to wonder why; didn’t Saul know David was just a scrawny kid?  Was Saul hoping that whoever was talking would become their champion and go against Goliath?  Was Saul impressed by David’s words (which were certainly more than any of the other Israelites were saying at this time!)?  Or could it have been that – despite all the mistakes Saul made as king – this one time he sensed something special in this situation and in this daring kid?

So, next we have the obvious conversation between Saul and David.  David, being the kid, makes his emotional case that he be allowed to take on Goliath.  Saul responds to this with the reasonable case for why David must not do this.

Classic…you counter an emotional argument with reason, and you counter a reasonable argument with emotion.  Not a version of dad’s advice, but it’s a good point to keep in mind.

Now for our second piece of dad’s advice:  Use your head.  Saul just made the reasonable argument as to why David must not battle Goliath.  So now David used his head; he pivoted the discussion with Saul and made his own reasonable argument.  David pointed out how he had previous battled many wild animals when protecting his father’s sheep, including both lions and bears; Goliath would be just like them.  

A good tactic for David to use…but David wasn’t done just yet.

To finish his reasonable argument David reminded Saul of who both of them were supposed to be serving:  the Lord God.  Now, at last, Saul replied, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.”  

That’s using your head, David!

Now, we have the final piece of dad’s advice:  Never forget who you are.  David had just made the case for why he should battle Goliath, but Saul proceeded as if David was just another warrior – albeit one with spirit and bravery.  Saul tried to put his own armor and war weapons on David to prepare him for this suicide mission.  But David quickly recognized this would never work; he was not your typical Israelite warrior, he was not King Saul, and he was not going to accomplish anything if he tried to go out to battle dressed like that. 

Here is where David owned the situation: he never forgot who he was.  Previously, he fought wild animals with his wits, his sling, and the Lord by his side.  David was better armed than Saul or anyone else could recognize, and that was how he wanted to battle Goliath.  

Before we finish this part, let’s notice how Goliath was described; Scripture used common words such as six cubits and a span for his height, wearing 5000 shekels of bronze armor for his dress, and that he taunted the Israelite army for 40 days.  Legend also tells us that Goliath had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.  And if that weren’t scary enough, he had only one eye (no…not in the middle of his forehead.  He probably lost one in battle).  

But notice what is missing: there were NO descriptive adjectives used in the description of this warrior.  No words like “big” or “strong” or “mighty” or even “bold.”  Those words described David in other ways, but none were used to describe the Philistine champion.

In fact, when you look closely at this whole story, Goliath never stood a chance!

David remembered who he was, and that was how he was able to defeat Goliath.

We all know the rest: 

  • David went out with his staff and five smooth stones.
  • Goliath vowed to tear him apart and feed him to the birds.
  • David responded with a reminder to the reader that the Lord was with him, not the Philistines.
  • David used his sling to hit Goliath in the forehead and either killed him or knocked him cold.
  • David cut off Goliath’s big head using Goliath’s own sword and held it up to show both armies what had happened.
  • God’s side won, big time…the other side lost, big time.

As expected, the three types of dad’s advice worked perfectly in this passage.

Now perhaps your own dad wasn’t that much for giving good advice.  Perhaps you got your own useful advice from others who loved you and were wiser.  But perhaps your Heavenly Dad has been keeping a close eye on you since your first breath, and that Heavenly Dad does NOT want you to fail.

Sometimes we need some correction, sometimes we need a little push, sometimes we need to slow down, sometimes we need to get up and get going.

But I think we could all acknowledge that we need to:

  1.  Keep your nose clean.
  2.  Use your head.
  3.  Never forget who you are.

It is in living this way that our Heavenly Dad can work with us more easily.

It is in living this way that we stand the best chance to serve properly, well, and for our entire lives.