The House of the Philistines

A Game of Thrones  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are reminded that God graciously works indirectly for His people. We are encouraged to trust God in bold ways.

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Double Agents

So today’s message is going to be a little different than it has been. Up until this point, we’ve been looking at individuals. We looked at the House of Saul, we looked at the House of Jonathan, but now we’re looking at the House of the Philistines. Now, despite this school being named after an individual named Philistine, the Philistines were not an individual, rather they were a nation/tribe/group. And if you’re familiar with Game of Thrones, you might have already guessed the “house” I’m going to connect them with.
In the series, there’s a group - I wouldn’t really call them a nation as much as a collection of tribes - called the Wildlings by the rest of the world and free folk by themselves. These Wildlings are identified as people who live north of the Wall and typically thought of as barbarians, an idea supported by some of their tribes being cannibals. They do not trust, for the most part, the people of Westeros and regularly conduct raids on villages and farms that are close to the wall. At one point, one man from Westeros (arguably the hero of the whole series) named John Snow, finds himself among the Wildlings. He joins them to the point that many viewers were convinced he had switched his allegiances. Then, he turns back to the Night’s Watch and discover that much of what he did was for the sake of the people of Westeros.
And as we think about this story, the Philistines and the Wildlings seem to have a lot in common. They’re looked down on by the Israelites, and while I don’t know about the cannibalism bit, they definitely had gods who demanded child sacrifice. They constantly raided and attacked the Israelites, leaving no love lost between the two nations. And I want to think about this story from their perspective. They know about David, he made his name by killing their champion and leading Israel to embarrass their army. From there, he developed a reputation summed up by 1 Samuel 18:7
1 Samuel 18:7 (ESV)
And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
They probably did not like David at all. But they heard rumors that Saul was afraid that David would take his throne, so Saul was trying to kill David. And while they surely didn’t like that David had made his name killing Philistines, they respected him for his strength in battle. So when he defected to Achish, king of Gath, I’m sure they cautiously celebrated. Then, he started to adopt their culture as raiders and he would go out to attack Judah and the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites. Seeing that, Achish and the Philistines started to trust David thinking “after he’s done all of this to the people of Israel, they would never take him back.”
Little did they know, David was lying to them. He didn’t raid any lands of the people of Israel, but instead he raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites - all Philistine tribes. And what’s even more interesting about these three tribes is this, each of them represented nations that Israel had failed to deal with previously in the way God told them to. The Geshurites inhabited part of the Promised Land that Israel had never bothered to conquer, the Girzites were a tribe that God told Israel to drive out and instead Israel had allowed them to stay in the land as forced laborers, and the Amalekites were a group that long ago had mistreated Israel and God had said that they would be punished for it. And David goes out to battle against each of these tribes, wiping them out completely so that Achish doesn’t find out who he’s really raiding. So God used David’s exile to fulfill His plan regarding these tribes as well as to build David up in the eyes of Israel.

What’d We Learn?

So we hear this story about David, about what he did and how he went about it, and I think a very natural questions is “what does this have to do with us” or “what am I supposed to take away from this story?” And that’s something I had to work through myself.
I can tell you what it isn’t. This isn’t some grand metaphor for you working to overcome obstacles in your life, it isn’t some object lesson to encourage you to lie about doing the right thing, it isn’t even just a cool story about the underdog pulling it out. This is a historical account, this is something that happened a few thousand years ago to real people. It’s not just some cleverly imagined story to teach us a lesson, this story is not about us. Which also means, and this maybe should go without saying, that this account isn’t telling you to infiltrate some foreign nation with the intent to raid them from within and lie to them about who you’re raiding.
But this account still has something for us. Because reading about David and the Philistines can teach us something about God, something about what it is to be God’s people. I suspect that there are more things we can learn about the character of God in these events, but two specific things stand out to me.
God follows through on what He says is going to happen.
God takes care of His people, even if sometimes it’s in unexpected, indirect ways.
God follows through. He promised that the Geshurite land would be Israel’s, He promised that the Girzites would be conquered, He promised that the Amalekites would be punished - and it all happened. He promised that David would be king - and he was. And He promised that we would be saved, we would be forgiven, we would be redeemed because of the work that Jesus did on the cross and coming out of the empty tomb. We see in this story that we can trust God to do what He says He’s going to do - so we trust that we will spend eternity in a perfect new creation with Him.
And the second thing that the account of David and the Philistines teaches us is this - God takes care of His people. God took care of David through the Philistines of all people. He kept David safe and secure from Saul by sending Him to a hostile king. And we have God’s promise in Matthew 6 that
Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
It may not look like we’re expecting, but God will take care of us, even if it takes us years to see how He has worked. I mean, I hated soccer growing up but I was convinced to join the team when I went to the Seminary, I made friends there, I practiced, I got invited to an indoor league, my roommate and I wanted to leave the team, and the goodbye dinner is when I started seriously talking to Christ. If you had told me that playing soccer was going to be part of a chain of events that ended with me getting married, I wouldn’t have bought it - but that’s how God worked.
So even when we lose our jobs, when we end up somewhere we don’t want to be, when our friends leave, when our family is crazy, when inflation gets out of control - we know that God is in control and that He will take care of us! Amen.
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