David and Goliath; A story that didn’t have to be?

Fear of man always diverts the godly to paths of dishonor.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The stage was set for one of the greatest battles of all time. On one hill, the Army of God, and on the other, the Philistines gathered, both surveying a great valley dividing the two. The Philistines sent out their champion, Goliath, to challenge Israel’s greatest soldier. Every morning for forty days, Goliath would leave his camp, stand in the valley facing the Army of God, and shout, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other”, with only silence birthed from shame as the response. While the Philistines stood firm, as if the victory was already theirs, the Army of God, led by the spiritually embattled King Saul, remained frozen on the opposing hill “dismayed and terrified” (I Sam. 17:11, ESV).  

Four miles away, a young David had been called in from his shepherding duties, by his father, to pack and deliver food for his three older brothers who were serving in King Saul’s army.  Upon arriving at the Israelite camp, David overheard Goliath’s daily challenge. Filled with confusion and anger, David said to his brothers, and all in earshot, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

I am sure you know the rest of this story, but let’s rewind a bit because I don’t believe this was a battle that ever should have happened. Every single commentary, Bible lesson, and sermon I have ever read, studied, or heard, overlooks verses one and two of this account and immediately rushes to the David and Goliath encounter. What if God has another nugget to be mined revealing a more powerful treasure?

According to I Sam. 17:1-2, “Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines.” King Saul had been abandoned by the prophet Samuel for his rebellion against the will of God. Probably hearing this news, the Philistines-one of the oldest enemies of the Nation of God-decided to take advantage of this weakness by launching an attack. Yet Saul seemed to regroup, and with courage marched to meet the Philistine army and “drew up in line of battle,” ready and willing for war.

Picture if you will a Civil War depiction of the battlefield; both armies facing off, ready for the trumpet to blow, calling soldiers to arms as they charged to meet their opponent. A much different picture than what we see by the time we get to verse 11, where King Saul and his entire army were marked with fear, cowering in the shadows with no hope. What happened? One large man with a loud voice of opposition. That’s it. One person struck so much fear into the hearts of God’s people; they even chose to follow his commands and change their direction. Just when King Saul was about to give the order to “charge,” Goliath shouts, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” Why didn’t King Saul shout “charge” anyway? Why did he listen to this smelly, large, blasphemous giant, instead of saying, “Who do you think you are?! Step aside or be trampled upon, God is on our side, and He never loses a battle!” I believe if King Saul and his army had the same attitude as young David, the Army of God might never have even known the name Goliath; as the moment he stepped out of the Philistine ranks, an arrow would have dropped him followed by the feet of a thousand soldiers stomping his flesh to the ground. 

We must not be quick to judge, though; we also struggle with the same temptation that faced King Saul, having a fear of man over trust in God. And, frequently, it is usually only one loud voice of opposition that strikes fear into our hearts, ultimately crippling and rendering us useless in the Army of God. It happened with Elijah when Jezebel sent a letter. It happened when a few families filed a lawsuit to stop prayer in public schools in 1962. Or a year later, in 1963, when one parent complained about the Bible being read in the classroom. How many times in our history have the voices of a few struck fear into hearts that conformed to their commands?

I wonder what would have happened on the battlefield that day if Saul would have trusted in God more than he feared a man. I indeed wonder where we would be as a country today if more of us would have trusted God over our fear of man. Would we still be enjoying the Bible-based curriculum in our schools? Would our children still stand and say the pledge of allegiance followed by morning prayer in our classrooms? Perhaps we are struggling as a nation because we remain on a hill defeated in fear instead of in the valley fighting in the name of God. 

Scripture: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” -Proverbs 29:25, ESV, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” -Psalm 118:6, ESV

Question: Have you allowed fear of man to dictate your actions or justify your inactions? 

Prayer: Father, please open my eyes to your power. There are so many in our current culture that opposes you, your Word, and your people. They are attacking our beliefs, disputing the truth, and persecuting your children. Please give me the strength to stand firm in my faith, no matter how loud the opposition is or how strong they may be. May I rise every morning ready to put on the armor of righteousness and prepare for a battle that you have already won. Father, I want to be a faithful soldier that never cowers or retreats, but one that trusts your promises, relies on your power, and remains in your presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Hooked!

Have you ever considered what a full surrender would do in and through your life?

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

In the 1991 movie Hook, Robin Williams plays the grown-up Peter Pan, who has returned to Neverland and finds himself trying to prove, to the still-young Lost Boys, that he is, in fact, Peter Pan. The Lost Boys cannot recognize Peter as he has grown old, gained weight, wears glasses, and has wrinkles. Tinker Bell, who knows this aged man to be the real Peter Pan, convinces some of the Lost Boys to give Peter a second look.

After everyone has given up, the smallest of the Lost Boys makes his way over to Peter, guides him down to his knees so that he can be face to face, and gives Peter a closer look. He removes Peter’s glasses, and with both hands, pushes back the wrinkles on his forehead, straightens out the lines surrounding his eyes, and then pushes the fat on his cheeks far out of the way to remove the many years. While holding the wrinkles back, he looks into Peter’s eyes. He declares, “Oh, there you are, Peter!”—a revelation that causes many of the cynical and unbelieving Lost Boys to rush over with joy and become filled once again with hope.

I believe this to be the problem with the bride of Christ today. We have allowed complacency to fatten the church, selfishness to add many wrinkles, organization, legalism, and politics to dull her vision. Meanwhile, the world around us still hears and sees us but cannot recognize the once purpose-driven organism that had the power to change the world. I am convinced that once we surrender again to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the lost people in this world will give us a closer look, push back our wrinkles, dysfunction, and sin, and declare, “Oh, there you are Church!”

Stepping off a ship, D.L. Moody arrived back in America from a trip to Europe, where he attended a revival held by Reverend Varley. During that revival, Varley challenged the congregation with the statement, “This world has yet to see what God could do with someone totally surrendered to Him.” With those words still resonating in his heart, Moody took his first step off that ship and uttered, “God, with your help, I aim to be that man.” 

What would happen to the world around us if the One within us could be seen free from distractions, distortions, and dysfunction? What if this world could see the church? 

Scripture: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” -Romans 12:1, ESV

Question: Would you be willing to admit that over the years, your dedication to Christ and passion for His mission have been weakened by the things of this world?

Prayer: Father, I confess that I am not who I was when I first professed you as Lord and was baptized. I used to be so excited, passionate, and willing to be used for your glory, but lately, I have been struggling. I confess there to be things in my life that ought not to be there and some things I should be doing yet choose not to do. I want to reclaim my joy and fulfill my purpose to bring you glory and worship you in spirit and in truth. Please help me overcome every obstacle in your way, and may I be the change agent you have called and empowered me to be. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

He Knows

Having Someone above you, that knows what’s going on inside you, makes all the difference.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“If you really want to quit, give me 15 minutes, and I will lay out a plan guaranteed to work”, said my fellow shipmate in response to my struggle with trying to lay down a two-pack a day smoking habit. My wife Laurie and I had been transferred to Guam and were now caring for two young children through the foster care program, and Laurie did not want me smoking in the house, and in that tropical environment, I didn’t want to smoke outside! So, I set out to stop something I had been doing since high school. So, there I sat, listening to John confidently lay out his 15-minute plan, with hopeful expectation. John’s plan was well presented, even included a diagram on a piece of copy paper, and when he was finished, I asked the million-dollar question, “John, how long has it been since you’ve been free of this habit?”, “Well,” he replied, “I’ll have you know I never smoked a day in my life; I take care of my body.” Here was this man, giving out advice on stopping something he never struggled over. Needless to say, I threw that cartoonish diagram in the trashcan and went my way.

Was his advice sound? Perhaps. Would that advice, if taken at full value, have worked? Maybe. But what I could not get over was that he did not know what it was like to be huddled on all fours in the kitchen the night before crying out to God for the strength to stay home and not rush out to the store for more cigarettes. John didn’t personally know the struggle and had never experienced the personal pain, and for me, that was a deal-breaker. No wonder he made it sound so easy to simply stop something that had its roots in me for years, something that had provided comfort, made me feel good, and had been with me through some tough times; he was on the outside looking in. I did end up finding Someone that understood, offered advice, and gave me the power to overcome that obstacle, Jesus Christ.

Writing to a group of Christians who had endured suffering and faced even more, the author of the book of Hebrews writes, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” The author may have had some good advice on how they should respond when their loved ones were dragged out of the home, beaten, and thrown into an arena where wild animals would tear the flesh from their bones. Or how they should keep the faith when thrown in prison, scheduled for execution, and separated from their children. But what the author could not say with integrity was, “I know how you feel” therefore, he pointed them to Who could say that very thing, Jesus. While we all can appreciate the sentiment when someone uses “I know how you feel” as a springboard to giving advice, it often falls on deaf ears since it’s spoken from the outside looking in. But with Jesus, He has been there and done that and knows how we feel in every situation or struggle. He always speaks from the inside; therefore, He speaks with authority, credibility, confidence, and power.

Whatever you are going through, there is one true thing; no one around you knows how you feel. There is, however, One above you that does know how you feel. Before you shed that tear, God knows why. Before you open your mouth, He knows the request. And, knowing that God knows makes all the difference. Perhaps today, you would be willing to consider this all-knowing, all-loving, and all-caring Father that went through the ultimate suffering so that He could be with you today not only to hear you but help you. 

Scripture: “You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” -Psalm 139:3-4 ESV

Question: Do you feel like you are walking a trail of trials alone? Would you be willing to call out to Jesus today to find hope in a God with inexhaustible resources?

Prayer: Father, I am going through a trial and feel so alone, like no one understands how I feel. Please remind me that you are with me, you care about me, and you know how I feel. Remind me today that I am not alone. Please draw close to me, and may I find comfort and strength through your presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.