Sunday, 20 July 2014

Getting a Victory (1 Samuel 17)

In 1 Samuel 17 we have the story from David’s life that is probably the best known about him. Goliath was an enemy who created fear by his presence, by his weapons and by his voice. In these details, he is an example of the spiritual enemies that we face in our contemporary world.

As far as their presence is concerned, we know that they are everywhere. Sometimes the opposition is public, at other times it is more restrained. Their weapons seem very strong and certainly they are confident of their effectiveness as they wield them in the intellectual and social areas of life. Often the opposition is expressed in well-chosen words, stated with emphasis and direction, and we can feel the sharpness of their attacks.

How do we respond to the conflict? There is little point imitating the methods of Saul’s army, which was to line up daily and listen to the bragging of Goliath. All that did was create fear and confusion and despair in the soldiers of Saul. Instead we should imitate the response of David.

David knew who God was and he knew who Goliath was. For David, the Lord was the living God and uncircumcised Goliath was not in a relationship with him. These two details gave David great hope of defeating the enemy.

Of course, it is easy to stand up among God’s people, even among those who are afraid, and affirm that he is the living God. I suppose any of Saul’s soldiers could have said so. Yet it looks as if none of them had any previous experience of divine help in situations in which the circumstances were all against them. In contrast to them, David had known such situations, in private when he was guarding his father’s sheep and protecting them from wild animals. Those experiences had told David that his God was really alive. It was not merely a theological opinion for him.

Moreover, David realised that simple steps can achieve great victories if God is on your side. Saul wanted David to wear the latest armour, but David did not know how to employ it. Instead he preferred to make do with the sling and stones that he had already used effectively.

Inevitably, Goliath treated David and his methods with contempt because as a giant he was accustomed to using his own strength. In contrast, David was confident in the Lord because he was accustomed to experiencing the Lord’s help. We all know the outcome. David triumphed and Goliath lost his head.

The question that faces us is how we react to the Goliaths that confront us. Are we merely like the soldiers of Israel who lined up every day pretending to fight and listened to the same repetitive victory speech from an enemy that they had deduced they could not defeat? Or are we like David who, because he knew God’s power at work in his life, was able to use a simple means to bring great victory? After all, Paul does remind us that the weapons (the gospel) of our warfare can and should pull down enemy strongholds.

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