2011 Advent III – Confirmation

The Third Sunday in Advent
December 11, 2011
Verses 2 & 3 of Isaiah 11:1-5
“Outsmarting the Enemy”

This morning I have chosen to speak from down here rather than up there – from this podium rather than up in the pulpit. The message I have to share is for the four young men
seated here before me. I’ve asked them to sit in the front row because I wish to impress upon them that the message I’m about to present is personal. It is primarily for their hearing; but you are most welcome to listen in!

I want to speak with you about strategy: how to engage in battle and come out the victor.
Most boys and even young men like to read adventure stories (from Huck Finn to Harry
Potter) and most of them also like to read stories about great heroes and outstanding athletes, and even important military battles. I like to read about great battles that took place at sea.

Do you recall from history class hearing of a great military contest at sea; which took place in 1588 when the Spanish Armada sailed north toward England to bring down the reign of Elizabeth I? The Spanish sailing fleet was comprised of 130 massive battle ships (called galleons) – powerful, but slow to maneuver at sea!

The English ships were smaller, lighter; far easier to maneuver. They drew Spanish canon fire; but stayed out of enemy range. Then suddenly they swiftly closed range and fired volleys of broadside shots into the Spanish ships. In the end the English won! Those fewer and smaller English ships in essence sank the larger and greater Spanish Armada!

Another great sea battle took place during the American Civil War. A new maritime weapon appeared on the scene – the ‘iron clad’! A warship having sides fitted out with protective steel-clad armor plate. The Confederate version was originally called the Merrimac (later renamed the Virginia). The Union version was named the Monitor.

Both had taken advantage of the best of maritime technology; with the use of being powered, not by sail, but by steam, and both being fitted out with protective steel plating.
But the Union vessel was smaller and sleeker in size, with greater maneuverability.

Whereas the rebel Merrimac had a complement of 14 fixed canon ports; the Union ship had but 1 canon; housed within a round turret that could be rotated quickly to any desired position. Though the Union sailors aboard the Monitor were fearful for her small size and minimal fire-power she could move and turn faster, and her gun load, aim and fire faster. In the end the smaller but more efficient Union ‘iron-clad’ won by sinking the Merrimac.

Let’s go back now to ancient history, to biblical times. Back to a battlefield where two great armies had faced off each other for days, preparing but hesitant to do battle. Each had its own ‘secret weapon.’ The Israelites had heard of the Philistines ‘secret weapon’; but they hadn’t seen it until Goliath until his appearance before them – how could they miss him?
Many feet taller than any of the Philistines, he was big, burly, a ferocious sight. All clad in armor of bronze and carrying a huge javelin: his armor and spear so heavy as to be described in pounds weight. It was a wonder he could even budge in all that; let alone fight in it!

The Israelites were stymied and in dread fear of him. Each day as they waited to finally engage in mortal combat, Goliath would parade in front of his troops and taunt the army of Israel. David had been sent by his father to supply some cheeses to his brothers in the battle-field. And David heard Golaith taunting the army of Israel. And he said to his brothers: who is this uncircumcised fellow who thinks he can defy the armies of the Living God? How dare he! Let me go to battle against him!

Now David was no giant; just a ruddy-looking kid with big bright eyes. Someone in the crowd that had gathered round him believed in him and brought him before Saul, where David again attested he could defeat the Philistine and give victory to Israel! Why, as a shepherd he had taken on lions and bears and had dispatched and disposed them.

Saul was impressed with David’s courage and veracity. And so he agreed. Well after all, why not? But David must not go into battle without body armor and a weapon. So Saul had David dress in his personal armor, strapped with Saul’s sword upon him. David could barely budge, and took it off.

He said he would go into battle ARMED WITH PROTECTION OF THE LIVING GOD!
God will deliver this uncircumcised Philistine into my hands! Indeed God would! David went down by a brook and selected some stones; not some big jagged nasty mamas, but 5 smooth pebbles from the stream. All small ones, marble-sized ‘peewees’, and put them in his pouch. And he took sling in hand! A sling: David’s ‘secret weapon.’

At sight of David stepping forward to announce to Goliath that he would that day kill him and cut off his head, Goliath was insulted. He mocked David and his God; saying that David resembled a little yelping dog, sent to fight with him, a seasoned, mighty, victorious warrior!

Well, as Goliath stood there ‘gassing’ about himself, David began to run toward him, running faster and faster, and began swinging his pebble-loaded sling faster and faster – until at close range he let loose its missile – which promptly imbedded itself into Goliath’s skull! (In effect he shot him in the head!). Thud went the heavy spear to the ground, as Goliath’s legs buckled beneath him and he fell face-first to the ground.

Goliath had trusted in his military might and his spear. David trusted in his sling and his

arm, his aim and his experience using a sling, and his unswerving faith in the LIVING GOD of Israel.

(Addressing the four) So what exactly is the point of this brief lesson in history? Simply this! Strategy in facing the enemy! Strategy in using one’s being smaller, swifter, with one’s ability to outmaneuver, to outwit and to win. Trusting not in physical force alone; but in the Divine Strength that comes from God!

You four received that Divine Strength that comes from God just minutes ago! God put into your keeping and for your use several ‘smooth stones’ – seven to be exact! Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fear of the Lord, Piety and Strength!

You see, in this life one needs MORE than physical weapons to outsmart and to defeat the enemy, and win the battle, and have the victory. The ‘Goliath’ we have to face in daily battle is none other than Satan, and his army of fallen minions. A boastful and cunning enemy he is; who would try and defeat us with the size and number of his temptations.

So this morning you four young men have been armed for battle against the Evil One – for all the contests that will come your way throughout your adult life – some greater, some lesser – as Satan does his best to take you off course and defeat you.

We’re not done yet with David! Sooner than later, David forgot his trust in God. He began to trust increasingly in himself and his own judgment. And it got him into deep trouble.
Not long ago the shepherd’s sling was all he needed; now the one who had refused use of the armor and sword of Saul seeks use of a sword to protect himself from Saul’s pursuit. To do so David lied to the priest Ahimelech, and lied again to get use of fallen Goliath’s sword. And too he began to trust solely in the small army that had banded themselves around himself.

Later he would get involved with the married woman Bathsheba and impregnate her; and unable to beguile her husband Uriah to visit his wife, in order to cover his tail and his sin David plotted and had him killed in battle. There were other instances too when David lost his way. Because he lost his God-focus! And when you lose your God-focus bad decisions are made. And disasters will follow but a short time and distance away.

(Addressing the four) Keep your focus ever on God, and remember He has provided in your pouch, for your life, 7 weapons to halt and defeat your spiritual Enemy. Most of all use them: Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Piety, Fear of the Lord, and Ghostly Strength. And you’ll find that the more you use them; the better will be your aim and the surer your eventual eternal victory!