Yesterday we traded the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem for the serene and scenic lowlands and valleys.
We saw wheat, barley, and hay fields. Grape vineyards. Shepherds leading their sheep. Camels in the fields. And much of the territory in which the Philistines lived in Bible times. Including the valley in which they returned the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 6).
While stops at Lachish, which fell to the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and Beersheba, which is often mentioned in Genesis in connection with the travels of the Patriarchs were definitely interesting and are the site of many wonderful Biblical narratives, my favorite was the valley of Elah.
In 1 Samuel 17, we read of Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Philistines. This time they are taunted by a giant named Goliath, who challenged any of their men to a winner take all fight. Daily Goliath mocked Israel with these words: “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”
The Bible describes Goliath as a mountain of a man. He was huge. He was a warrior. He was a champion. And as a result, King Saul and the armies of Israel “were dismayed and greatly afraid.”
But along comes young David. A mere lad. A shepherd boy. When he learns the King will reward the man who defeats Goliath with riches, exemption from taxes and the King’s daughter in marriage, David said: “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
Saul tried to discourage David. He said, “You are only a boy, and (Goliath) has been a fighting man from his youth.” Yet, David, through the eye of faith, didn’t see it that way. Then David confidently affirmed, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear (while protecting his father’s sheep) will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Every child knows the rest of the story and has sung the song “Only a Little Boy David. Five little stones he took.” But he only needed one. Goliath was felled with a single shot from David’s sling.
Yesterday we stood in the valley of Elah where the confrontation occurred and where David and Israel won a great victory. Norma Jean took 5 stones from the very brook where David chose his stones.
There are so many thoughts that ran through my mind as Barry Britnell read the Biblical account. In our imagination, we saw the Israelites and Philistines camped on opposite hills while we stood in the valley and watched Goliath’s defeat.
I am reminded of the different attitudes between Saul and his army and young David. They saw a huge obstacle. They envisioned defeat. They felt afraid. And they were paralyzed from acting.
David, on the other hand, looked at Goliath as an opportunity. He focused on his faith in God’s protection. He quelled fears with courage. And don’t miss the fact that David was also motivated by the reward. Three times in the text David asked what the King would do for the man who killed Goliath. David didn’t look at the problem. David saw an opportunity. And with these powerful words, he faced Goliath.
“You come to me with a sword and a spear and a javelin: but I come to you in the name of the Lord of armies, the God of the armies of Israel on which you have put shame. This day the Lord will give you up into my hands, and I will overcome you, and take your head off you; and I will give the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth today, so that all the earth may see that Israel has a God; And all these people who are here today may see that the Lord does not give salvation by sword and spear: for the fight is the Lord’s, and he will give you up into our hands. “(1 Sam 17:45-47
Someone once quipped that Israel looked at Goliath and saw someone so big they couldn’t beat him. But David saw someone so big he couldn’t miss him!
This narrative embodies many qualities needed for victory in Christian living. Faith. Trust. Courage. Focus. Determination. And unwavering confidence in what one can accomplish when he’s on the Lord’s side.
What Goliaths are tormenting you? What obstacles are you facing in your life? What challenges are you dealing with? What cares are pressing you down? What decisions are weighing heavily on your mind? What burdens are you bearing?
Dread. Discouragement. Doubt. Disappointment. Depression. These are negatives that will produce indecision, inaction and ultimately defeat.
You can overcome whatever Goliath you’re facing. Come. Stand with David in the valley of Elah.
Trust God to deliver you. Take the weapons of your spiritual warfare. March forward. And claim the victory.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman