New Giants for a New Generation (A Graduate Recognition Sermon)

Graduate Recognition, 2023: New Giants for a New Generation (2 Samuel 21:15-22)

Good morning! I invite you to turn to 2 Samuel 21 this morning.

One of my favorite Sundays of the year is when we do our Graduate recognition. We had a great time last night with these representatives of the class of 2023 and their families. We went to Fat Boys and ate barbecue. Martha Ellis planned it. [Shout out to Martha and Deborah].

I love this Sunday because it celebrates a great accomplishment, but it also recognizes that there are a lot more milestones in the future. There will be more adventures, more achievements, more milestones. And yes, there will be more challenges.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to preach on this morning. I knew I wanted to stick to our reading plan, But I was also looking for something that would encourage you guys as you complete your high school career, but would also give our entire church a challenge as we have our Serve Fair today. Was there a passage in this week’s plan that could do both those things.

Well, it wasn’t until Friday’s reading that I found it. It’s the story of David and the Giants.

You’re like, wait. You mean David and the Giant, right? Not giants.

Everyone knows that when David was a teenager, probably about the same age as many of you this morning, he squared off against a giant named Goliath, right? We talked about this a few weeks ago when we got to first Samuel 17.You remember the story. David’s brothers go off to fight the Philistines while David stays home to take care of the sheep. His father Jesse sends him to the battlefield to bring food to his brothers. And while he is there, he hears the taunts of the giant Goliath, and he goes to King Saul and says, “Let me take a crack at him.” King Saul kind of laughs him off, but when David keeps insisting, Saul is like, “Well, this should be fun,” and he sends this scrappy little teenager out to fight Goliath. At first, Saul dresses David in Saul’s own armor, but it doesn’t fit. 1 Samuel 17:40 says he ran down to the brook and picked out five smooth stones, put them in his bag, grabbed the sling, and ran to meet the giant.

Then he took one of the stones, slung it at Goliath, and killed him.

Now, most of us would probably say, “Man, that was the battle of a lifetime!” We’d be like, “Ok, I’ve killed my Goliath. One’s enough… right?

But as most people older people in this room could tell you, there’s never just one giant. Maybe that’s why David took five stones. Maybe it was in case four other giants showed up.

Well, in 2 Samuel 21, they finally did. Let’s read this together. If you are physically able to stand, please stand to honor the reading of God’s Word.

[Read 2 Samuel 21:15-22]

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Let’s pray.

This year is my 28th read through of the Bible. But I have to admit to you that until it came up in our reading plan a couple of days ago, I had never even paid attention to this little story in the Bible. Am I the only one? Raise your hand if up until this week you had no idea that after Goliath, David would face not one, not two, not three, but four more giants? Raise them up. Yeah. Honestly, I think we are at the point in the reading plan where any time we see a bunch of names we can’t pronounce, our eyes kind of glaze over and we miss the details. But I promise you, the longer you study God’s Word, the more you are going to realize that you are never going to get to the bottom of it. The Holy Spirit will always take you deeper.

That’s the first thing you can write down on your listening guide:

The battle will never be Over (vv. 15, 18, 19, 20)

  • “The Philistines again waged war against Israel” (v. 15)
  • 18 After this, there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob.
  • 19 Once again there was a battle with the Philistines at Gob,
  • 20 At Gath there was still another battle.  

Full disclosure—not all Bible scholars agree that these battles happened late in David’s life. Some look at it as a compilation of battles throughout David’s lifetime. Some even say that the Goliath in verse 19 is the same one we all know about, and that Elhanan is just a nickname for David. I’m not going to try to answer that this morning. This morning I’m just going to go with what the Bible says in the order the Bible says it, and assume that these four battles came decades after the story of David and Goliath. David is at the end of his life. We get his last words just two chapters later, in 2 Samuel 23. So he’s captured Jerusalem, got the ark back from the Philistines, had the moral failure with Bathsheba, and watched his own son Absalom wage war against him until he was finally killed by David’s number one general.

He’s already had enough battles both physical and spiritual. He’s at that point where he’s looking at retirement communities. Instead, he is facing four more giants:

1. There was Ishbi-Benob. In the CSB, verse 16 says that he was descended from “the giant.” Who is “the giant?” Right. That would be Goliath.  Notice when he showed up. Verse 15 says that it was when David was exhausted.

Students (and adults too), realize that your temptations are often going to come when you are physically exhausted. That’s when your defenses are down.

2. Then there was Saph, another descendant of Goliath. When did he show up? In the middle of the second battle in a row. I imagine David is pretty busy at the time, don’t you?

Students, I promise you there are going to be days and weeks in college where you feel like your professors don’t care that you have lots of assignments for lots of other classes. And, spoiler alert—they don’t. And there is a whole different set of temptations that come when we are overwhelmed and busy. That’s when the temptation comes to cut corners, or plagiarize, or cheat on a final. Or to procrastinate.

3. The third one was either Goliath’s brother or another giant named Goliath. Bible translators are mixed on this point, but the parallel account of this in 1 Chronicles 20:5 says it was Goliath’s brother, so we will go with that. So for this guy, the fight with David is personal.

Students, grown ups, let’s face it. There are going to be people who just plain don’t like you. Maybe there’s something in the past between you. But for whatever reason, there will be people who attack you personally. It’s another giant we all face.

4. Finally, there was a giant who isn’t named. Let’s just call him “freak,” because  Verse 20 says there was another battle, and a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot faced off against David and his men. And I think he’s in the story to remind us that we are all going to encounter things and people that are just scary. Especially at a liberal arts college, you are going to be around people who think differently, who didn’t grow up the same way you did, or have different values, or are just plain weird. They might even be your roommate. So you can try to avoid them. You can find your tribe at school and keep your distance from all the people who aren’t like you. But sometimes you can’t avoid them, and I would say as a Christian you aren’t supposed to. Some of the most enriching relationships you will have are with people from an entirely different background.

So understand first off that the battle is never over. But students, understand, second of all, that

It’s your turn to fight (v. 15)

In this story, David represents the previous generation. And verse 15 says, “David became exhausted.” I think there is a lot in that one little statement. Students, every generation comes to a point when they don’t have the energy or the strength or the insights or the innovation they once did. But I praise God that He raises up new giant killers in every generation.

Abishai, son of Zeruiah. His name literally means “gift of God.”

He was the younger brother of David’s number one general, Joab.

There’s Sibbecai the Hushathite. This is the first time he is mentioned in Scripture. We don’t know anything else about him. We don’t even know what a Hushathite is, because the only time that people group is mentioned is in reference to Sibbecai. His name means “weaver,” so maybe that was his occupation. But he rose up and killed a giant.

There’s Elhanan, whose name means “God has been gracious.” This is also the first time he is mentioned. He is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:24 as one of David’s mighty men (I think he’s the one in the picture with the Captain America shield. He looks like an Elhanan, doesn’t he?)

Finally, there’s Jonathan, David’s nephew. He did the same thing uncle David did decades before this. When a giant taunted Israel, he killed him. His name, wait for it, means “Gift of God.”

Do you see a pattern here? Three out of four of these giant killers has a name that is related to God’s grace and God’s gifts. I think this is a reminder that God renews his promises to every generation.

People often talk about how the church is declining. That more people are choosing “None” as a religious preference, and that within just a couple of generations Christianity will die out.

But Jesus promised that His church would never fail. Individual churches might shut their doors. The center of Christianity may shift, just as it shifted from the middle east, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to what is now called the Global South.

And this new generation of giant killers are all gifts of God for the next generation. They are a reminder, number three, that,

God’s promises will never be broken (v. 17)

Look back up at verse 17, When David was exhausted, and Abishai killed the giant, David’s men said to him, You must never again go out with us to battle. Then they say something really beautiful:

You must not extinguish the lamp of Israel”

David’s men probably didn’t even know how profound this was. In their mind, they just wanted to protect their king. They knew if the king died in battle, the whole nation would be demoralized.

But let’s take the long view. God promised David back in 2 Samuel 7 that there would never fail to be a son of David on the throne of Israel.

Through Jesus, the Son of David, God has kept that promise for all eternity. Notice what David’s men call him. The lamp of Israel.

What did Simeon say when Jesus was born? In Luke 2:32, he said that Jesus would be “a light of revelation to the nations.” In John 1, the apostle John said that “In Him was life, and that light was the light of men.” He said that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness won’t overcome it.

What David’s men didn’t know in 2 Samuel 21 is that even if David did die in battle, the lamp of Israel would not be extinguished. Because David wasn’t the lamp of Israel. Jesus said in John 8:12 that he was the light of the world. And even when Jesus Himself died in battle, three days later, He rose again. The lamp of Israel will never be extinguished!

Jesus said something else too though. Not only is He the light of the world according to John 8:12, but in Matthew 5 he says that we are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill that can’t be hidden. So if Jesus is the light of revelation to the nations, guess who gets to carry that light?

We do! Lee Lee is going to carry that light to South Asia. We get to carry that light to hundreds of orphans around the world that we help feed every single day. We get to carry that light to Townsend Tennessee, and Dauphin Island in Alabama, and to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, and to Jesusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth!

The lamp of Israel will never be extinguished, because Jesus will never die.

The battle will never be over. Students, it’s your turn to fight. God’s promises will never be broken. And lastly,

God always gets the glory (v. 22)

Notice how this passage ends in verse 22.

“These four descended from the giant in Gath and were killed by David and his soldiers.”

Do you see anything weird in that statement? Look back through the passage. How many giants did David kill.

And yet, these soldiers were in service to the king. Which means the king gets credit for every victory.

Students, God is going to use you in mighty ways. Glynwood, when we get serious about our mission to the nations, God is going to use us in mighty ways. But he is always, always, going to get the glory.


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