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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Giant Slaying Faith – Part 1

On a trip to Israel one of the places toured is often the Valley of Elah where David met and defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. Most people have heard of David and Goliath. I remember as a young boy watching Davey and Goliath a religious cartoon about a boy “Davey” and his dog “Goliath. Goliath the dog was a clumsy slow witted yet loyal companion of his smart often courageous and adaptive human master. They helped each other out of a myriad of difficult situations to the delight of viewers. There were character building lessons in each episode. You can still find this cartoon on television today. But David’s confrontation with the real giant Goliath is a true story found in 1 Samuel 17. It is a great account of the faith of David and how he was fearless even at a young age, because of his faith in God.

 The Philistines, who had invaded the land of Judah by “Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim” (17:1 - about 15 miles southwest of Jerusalem) were an innovative and technologically advanced people who invented such things as the round bottom of jugs which were stronger than the common square edged containers. They invented squared bricks for building instead of simply using stones. They invented the crows-nest for ships so they could see an enemy or land far away. And they were expert metallurgists who were the first to invent iron from a combination of metals; a much stronger metal than the bronze used by the Israelites at that time in history. The inventiveness of the Philistines made them a formidable perennial enemy of the Israelites. So formidable and constant were the Philistines in there attacks against Israel that they grew to be the most hated enemy of Israel. (This is why the Romans named the area of Israel Palestine after the 70 AD uprising and defeat of the Jews. The Romans wanted to add further grief and insult to injury to God’s people by naming their land after a hated enemy.)

 With all of this in mind its no wonder the soldiers of Israel led by Saul, and even Saul himself were fearful and intimidated. Saul and the army of Israel were situated in the Valley of Elah on another mountain across from the Philistines (17:2-3). The source of their intimidation and fear was the Philistine champion Goliath who was literally head and shoulders over his contemporaries. Goliath is estimated to have been nine and a half feet tall. He was possibly one of the last descendents of the Anakim (1 Sam. 17:4; Judges 16:22).

The Philistine champion called out the Israelite champion to a deciding match to the death (17:8-9). Goliath was equipped with state of the art weaponry. He wore a bronze helmet on his head, a coat of bronze mail (a type of flak jacket of his day)  weighing approximately 125 pounds (17:5 - a shekel is approximately .4 ounces; there are 16 ounces in a pound; 40 shekels equal one pound; therefore 5000 shekels divided by 40 = 125 pounds approximately). He wore bronze armor on his legs and a javelin of bronze between his shoulders (17:6). His javelin had a shaft described as a weaver’s beam, a long thick rod, and the spearhead was made of bronze piercing iron weighing 15 pounds (17:7).

 Not only was Goliath a huge man equipped with state of the art weaponry, but he had a bad attitude and was looking for a fight. So confident was Goliath that he was willing (and apparently had permission from his superiors) to stake the entire battle on his prowess against any warrior of the Israelite camp (17:8-9). He boldly defied the entire army of Israel (17:10). When Saul and the soldiers of Israel heard this challenge they were shaking in their boots and afraid to go out against Goliath (17:11). This went on for forty days “morning and evening” Goliath shouting his defiant challenge to Israel (17:16).

 Enter David the shepherd boy of Bethlehem in Judah. He was the youngest of eight brothers, three of which were already at the battle sight (17:12-14). David occasionally came into contact with Saul and the army while going about his business of feeding his father’s sheep (17:15). On this occasion David was following orders from his father to bring food to his older brothers serving in Saul’s army and at the battle with the Philistines (17:17-18).

 Once on the site of the battle it didn’t take David long to assess the situation. He heard the defying challenge of the giant and inquired about it and the reward for going out against him (17:19-27). He even revealed his righteous indignation for anyone who would defy “the armies of the living God” (17:26). And there is a key insight into the victorious faith of David. The God he knew was the “living God.” He did not know or serve a stone cold statue of a god. He knew and served the living God. That makes all the difference in the world. When your God is living and on your side it doesn’t matter how big your giant is, you can take him (compare 1 Peter 1:3ff.).

 Word of David’s courageous faithful response and willingness to go up against the giant reached king Saul. The king sent for David (17:31). The first thing David did when before the king was to speak a word of encouragement to Saul (17:32). Faith is contagious and faith always aims at dispelling fear. Faith and fear are mortal foes. They are in constant war against one another.

 Saul’s initial response to David was to try and discourage him. Saul looked at this young man and saw youth and smallness. David, by faith, looked at what God had already done in his life and shared with Saul. God helped him take on lions and bears singlehandedly! No doubt God was preparing him for a giant task. David was so persuasive that he was able to convince the king to allow him to go out against Goliath. Remember this contest would decide the outcome of the battle for all involved. Slavery was the sentence for the losers. A lot was resting on David. There is an unction, a persuasiveness, an anointing in the words of those who speak from a strong faith in God (17:33-37).

 There is a lesson to be learned here about giant defeating faith. Saul, like so many before him (compare Numbers 14) and after him (Matthew 6:20; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8),  focused only on the human and worldly resources. David, the man of faith, focused on God. It should be noted here that Saul himself was a tall man and physically gifted (1 Samuel 9:2) But Saul was also one prone to hiding from things (1 Samuel 10:21-23). Saul had great potential, but history shows he never realized it. He was not about to go out against Goliath. The bottom line is when you focus on God you can slay your giant; you can do all things (Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Philippians 4:13).. That’s what we see in David and his faithful actions. King Saul’s inaction teaches us that  when you focus on your giant you will falter and fail before you start. Faith faces the foe. Fear keeps us from entering the fray.

Saul tried to equip David with his own armor. David, perhaps in obedience to the king, put the armor on (17:38). But David knew right away that he couldn’t go out to battle with this worldly armor (17:39). Saul’s armor just didn’t fit. The only weapon he needed was the one God had taught him to use, a sling and five stones (17:40). Why five stones? Some believe it was one stone for Goliath and four more for his giant brothers just in case they came out to help their big brother (2 Samuel 21:15-22). It didn’t matter to David if the Philistines sent out a whole family or army of giants. David  had God and that was all he needed.

 Life is filled with scary giant obstacles. If we are to overcome those obstacles and press on with the Lord, we need to trust the Lord. David’s confrontation with Goliath shows us there is a way to overcome those giants. There’s more to learn about slaying giants as we continue in Part 2 of Giant Slaying Faith. You’re invited to consider such faith. We all need giant slaying faith at some point in life. Until then keep your eyes on the Lord not your giants!

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