The Battle Is the Lord’s
From the top of Tel Azekah, the Elah Valley spreads out to the east. Though often ignored by groups touring Israel, the area near the modern day Azekah Junction is the site of one of the most drama packed events in ancient Israel’s history.
It isn’t hard to envision the scene. Militarily, the situation should never have unfolded the way it did. The Philistines had moved toward the heartland of Israel from Gath on the coastal plane. Israel’s army blocked Philistine advancement toward the population centers of Judea, but stopped short of engagement.
With customary battle lines already established, the Philistines broke protocol. A hulking giant named Goliath stepped out onto the field. Rather than face a full-fledged military conflict, he bawled out a proposal:
“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” (1 Sam. 17:8-9).
No one accepted Goliath’s challenge, not even King Saul, whom the Bible describes as standing a head taller than most (9:2). Paralyzed with fear, Israel did not attack either. It became an intense standoff.
You know the story. For forty long days, Goliath harangued the army of Israel every morning and evening. He was an intimidating figure standing more than 9’ 9” and even taller wearing a helmet. Encased in 125 pounds of brass body armor and lugging a solid iron spear weighing nearly 20 pounds, he appeared invincible.
His tactic was successful until the morning of the 41st day when young David arrived at the base camp with supplies from his father. David arrived in time to hear Goliath’s defiant early morning challenge after a 15-mile trek from Bethlehem.
Unlike the fainthearted soldiers surrounding him, David was incensed by what he heard! It was bad enough that an insolent Philistine was bellowing verbal abuse and defying the God of Israel from the valley. The cowering fear exhibited by Saul’s army was more than David could take. Almost involuntarily, David exclaimed, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26).
We aren’t given many details in the text. But, we do know that David was standing before King Saul shortly after making the comment. He courageously assured, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (17:32). Saul had not taken the initiative; and, his army was trembling in fear. For David, there was no other option.
Leaving the presence of Saul, the young sheepherder made his way to meet Goliath. With five stones, a sling and his shepherd’s staff, David emerged onto the battlefield.
Goliath roared, “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks? Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field (17:42-44). Then Goliath, “cursed David by his gods” (17:43).
In cursing a descendant of Abraham, Goliath brought God’s bitter curse against himself and unwittingly sealed his own fate (Gen. 12:3). (1) David barely stopped to respond,
“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand . . . for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (17:45-47).
A split second later, David’s stone left his sling and found its mark. Goliath tumbled falling face-first to the ground (v. 49). Within minutes, David was walking back to the encampment of Israel.
The battle was over. Goliath’s braggadocio was not enough to assure victory. Despite the size of the opposing army or Goliath’s impressive personage, David understood what everyone else missed that day—the battle belongs to the Lord.
What giants are you facing in your life? Does conflict loom large in your daily experience? The key to David’s victory was not the slingshot or smooth stones, but the power of the God he trusted. Like David, when we grasp this profound truth, we can trust God to meet the biggest challenges in life.
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, commentary only. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1) Elah Valley. Charles E. McCracken Archives © 2011.