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Monday, November 5, 2012

Not. . .by Sword or Spear

Knowing God~God fights my battles

"You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down. . .so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD's and He will give you into our hand." ~I Samuel 17: 45-47

1 Samuel 17 is a really neat chapter. Actually, anything I read in my little NRSV is fun to read because somehow I really click with the language, and it reads more like a story than old English that is hard to understand, even though the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) is a literal translation. It's the well-known story of David and Goliath, which I've heard a million times since I was knee-high in Sabbath School singing "Only a boy named David" but the fun little details help me to picture what it must actually have been like. 

So the Israelites and the Philistines were busy fighting each other, and they drew up camp across from each other on a mountain, one on either side of the mountain, with a valley between them. Goliath, the champion and super tall big guy, came out and challenged the Israelites to send someone to fight him. He defied the Israelite army and they were pretty scared.

David was out and about one day, taking some bread to his three oldest brothers and some cheese to their captain, when he heard the challenge from Goliath. I wonder if David wanted to fight as well, but couldn't because he was too young. Goliath had been taunting the Israelite army for over a month now, and nobody dared do anything about it. David stood there, curious about what was going on, and asked someone who was standing nearby, "Who is this man? Why is he defying God's army? What kind of reward is there for the person who kills him and restores the glory to Israel?"

While he was talking, his oldest brother heard him and got really angry. I'm guessing David was seen as a little pest to the older brothers, or perhaps Eliab was upset because he didn't have enough courage himself to go out and fight Goliath. Eliab glared at David and said, "Why are you here? What about your responsibilities at home? Who did you leave your few sheep with, to take care of them in the wilderness? I know the real reason why you're here, you just want to see the battle." David said, and this I don't have to paraphrase because it's said so perfectly I can see his face, "What have I done now? It was only a question." 

Fast forward, past David accepting the challenge, Saul outfitting him with his own armour but David refusing to use it because it was too awkward, and David picking up 5 smooth stones from the wadi and approaching Goliath. Goliath mocks him, this young man, but David confidently replies. "You fight with a sword and spear and javelin, but I fight in God's name, whom you have defied by defying the army of Israel. God will deliver you into my hand today, I will kill you and cut off your head and the wild animals and birds will eat the dead bodies of the Philistine army today, to show the whole earth that there is a God in Israel. This will show that God doesn't save with a sword and a spear; this is God's battle and He will deliver you into our hand."

Moments later, Goliath is dead, stuck by a stone in his forehead. David then runs over and uses Goliath's own sword to cut off his head, not to kill him, as the giant is already dead from the mortal blow of that smooth stone, but to prove to the Philistine army that their champion is dead, the victory belongs to the Israelite army, and to bring the head to Saul and then to Jerusalem.

It's kind of a gory story when you think about it, but that isn't the cool part of the story. I think it's pretty amazing that David has such fearlessness in confronting a challenge that scares the entire Israelites army. He has a boldness that isn't seen in anyone else, but he also has a very good reason for his boldness: he is defending God's honor. He has great confidence in approaching the giant with 5 stones, not any kind of equal match whatsoever (spear, sword & javelin vs. stones; helmet, coat of armour, leg coverings vs. a shepherd's bag and a simple robe?). If you're wondering where this confidence and fearlessness comes from, look back a few verses to see David explaining to Saul his qualifications to fight this giant. David said whenever a lion or a bear came and took a lamb, he would go after that animal, hit it to rescue the lamb, and if the animal turned to fight him, he would catch it by the jaw, hit it and kill it. He recognized that God was the one who rescued him from the lion and bear, and believed that God would also save him from Goliath.

Each of us have our own lions and bears to content with in life. We're out there, doing our job, taking care of what has been entrusted to us, whether it be our children, our ministry, our spouse, or any of the other responsibilities in life. There are far too many times that those lions and bears come sneaking up, trying to destroy those things that are precious to us, and we have to fight to get them back. But every now and then, we see the giant of all giants standing in front of us. Lions and bears are scary, yes, but after fighting them for a while we're more confident that God is in control of our lives and our circumstances and we've grown accustomed to the kinds of challenges thrown our way. We've developed strategies to meet those challenges and have a pretty mean arm now.

Then we turn a corner and there's our Goliath. This one seems about impossible to handle, after all, everyone else is turning and running the opposite direction. I don't know what your giant is, perhaps it's cancer, job loss, death, a broken relationship, but whatever it is, no one around you has the slightest bit of confidence that this giant can be slain. It stands there, tall, strong, in an impenetrable fortress of armour, mocking you and mocking your God.

But there's one small place on that giant that is defenseless, one patch of skin that is vulnerable to attack, one place that if you hit it right, that giant will crumple faster than an autumn leaf turns to dust in your hand.

David ran quickly towards the battle line. As Goliath approached him, David did not run away from the giant, but towards him. He did what he had done a thousand times as a shepherd boy, he put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung his slingshot, and hit the Philistine right in the forehead.

Do I have that kind of fearlessness?

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