Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In The Valley Of Ellah

We watched a video that claims to be inspired by a true story. What this means, one never really knows. How much is actually inspired from the true events and how much is inspired by the motivations of the movie maker?

This movie includes a telling of the account of David and Goliath, and like the movie itself, the telling of the account has some changes from the truly inspired account. The account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 is told in the movie from a different perspective. In the movie the story is told to inspire a little boy to find courage from within himself, courage to face imaginary monsters and whatever else may be encountered in the boy’s life.

But Samuel, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs the reader and hearer of this account to a different kind of courage. David truly does act with incredible courage. No one else demonstrated such courage when Goliath challenged the people of Israel, the Lord’s chosen people of faith and salvation. All the men of Israel’s army and even King Saul shrank back in fear at this giant who mocked both the Lord’s people as well as the Lord Himself.

David, however, upon hearing the blasphemous and arrogant challenges of this uncircumcised and unbelieving Philistine, volunteered to slay the enemy of God’s people. Truly this was courageous beyond imagination. Goliath stood six cubits and a span tall, approximately nine feet and nine inches tall. His coat of mail alone likely weighed more than David, weighing about 160 pounds. The head of his spear weighed about 19 pounds.

Yes, for David to face Goliath required extraordinary courage. But what was the source of David’s courage?

David’s courage was based in his confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord his God, the God of Israel. David knew the Scriptures and all the promises of God. David knew the mighty acts of salvation that the Lord had worked throughout the ages, even as he had learned from the Holy Scriptures.

But David’s faith was more than an internal belief in the Lord. David knew the Lord his God. His faith was more than his own belief. His faith was produced in him from beyond his own reason and strength. For David, faith was the assurance of things not seen, the absolute confidence that comes from living in the relationship that God establishes with those who are His own. David knew the faithfulness of God, and thus while all the other men shrank back, David stepped forward.

David also had another matter driving him forward. In chapter 16 we read that the Lord had proclaimed David to be His anointed one. By the Lord’s command, Samuel had anointed David to be Saul’s successor as the one to lead the people in the name of the Lord. David trusted that the Lord is true to His promise. The Lord anointed David to lead the people, and so, even though he was not yet king, when Saul faltered in his unbelief, David stepped forward in the name of the Lord.

In the early days of his service to the Word of God Saul had demonstrated great faith, too. He began his time of leadership as a true servant of the Word. But in time, Saul began to rely upon his own reason and strength. He began to do what seemed right in his own eyes and made certain changes in what God had ordained. When this happened, his faith became compromised, and his relationship of true faith in the Lord and His Word died. His faith had become his own work of believing, and no one has this power in himself. Therefore, Saul could no longer lead the people of God in the victorious walk of true faith, as his fear of Goliath demonstrated. Saul now feared Goliath more than he feared God. Saul had more confidence in the strength that Goliath demonstrated than in the strength of the Lord his God.

Since David truly feared the Lord, he had no fear of Goliath. He did not have to fight back his fears, for his only fear was of the Lord his God, and David knew the Lord as his faithful God of never ending mercy and love. He knew that this was not his own personal battle, but the Lord’s battle, and that the Lord cannot fail.

Sadly this is not the kind of courage that most people recognize in this amazing account of the Gospel. Most people look at David as a man who found courage in his own faith. And so, like the father in this Hollywood inspired story, they teach their children how they need to gather up their strength and to stand in the confidence of their faith. “You must believe in yourself,” they say. Sometimes they even go the next step and say, “You must trust God.”

David, however, shows us the meaning of true trust in God. For David did not stand in the confidence of his own faith. Rather, David proclaimed the saving works of the Lord. When Goliath mocked David and cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods, David replied,

Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands.

What a contrast! This is an amazing contrast even from what most Christians imagine to be the way of true faith. Most Christians imagine that they must muster up courage by praying diligently and by believing more firmly. But dear David simply lived by the faith that he received from the Lord. His confidence was not in his prayers or in his faith. His confidence was the Lord. Fearing the Lord David knew no other fear. And even as David boldly declared, the Lord was true to His Word and saved not only David, but all of Israel, and ultimately all the world.

Truly on Good Friday, the Lord made His final declaration of victory, crushing the head of the enemy just as surly as He did with the stone from David’s sling against Goliath. Only our Lord Jesus faced a much greater giant than Goliath. Our Lord Jesus crushed the serpent’s head, Satan, and delivered us from the fear of death and damnation forever. He cried out mightily saying, “It is finished!” so that now we join David in walking in the fear of God and none other. Such courage never fails.

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