Sunday, April 24, 2011
David and Goliath
The Goliath of our Time
The Steward Prevailed
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
The people were reminded of the assault that was imminent. “See how the waters are rising in the north. They will become an overflowing torrent. They will overflow the land and everything in it. The people will cry out . . . Fathers will reach for their children . . . and their hand will hang limp.”
Was the reference to the waters of the north a forecast of a flood that is expected to inundate low lying farmland? Was it this month . . . or was it 2500 years ago?
Regardless of the date, the normal reaction that comes from any suggestion of an overpowering torrent strikes fear in all people who face any onslaught with unknowns and uncertainties. It creates universal dread.
The Biblical Giant
Christian children are taught the story of David and Goliath. The story is a fascinating reminder of strength as judged by the power of temporal human strength and the power of faith. If their parents are intent on an expanded Biblical education, those children might even be taught the number of smooth stones that David carefully selected as he crossed the creek on his way into the meadow where the giant, Goliath, had come to taunt the assembled army of Israelites. “Come out you cowards and face the wrath of my power and my might,” Goliath yelled repeatedly across the expanse.
Jewish children are taught the same version of the story with emphasis on the foes that Goliath stood with, the Philistines. The Philistines were from the sea or at least from unseen islands or lands beyond the sea. They had arrived and great conflict between them and the Israelites occurred. For many years the conflict raged.
At one point, the Israelites became enamored by the gods and objects worshipped by the Philistines and lost favor with the living God. God was so displeased he delivered his people to the Philistines where they remained for 40 years.
This was the time of one of the great Bible stories. Samson was born of a Jewish family among the Philistines. He would even seek a Philistine bride, but it was another woman, Delilah, that would cause his downfall. She would discover the secret of his great strength and when his hair was cut he was rendered too weak to prevail against his antagonists. It was when he regained his strength that he would topple the temple, killing himself and hated Philistine leaders.
In the subsequent conflicts, the Philistines would capture the Ark of the Covenant. It would prove to be a great mistake. God’s wrath was revealed when he took matters unto himself and wrought his displeasure on the Philistines. Their leader lost his head and his arms as a result.
When the source of the problem became apparent, the Philistines were determined to give the Ark back. It was sent back along with a guilt offering to make amends, but another 70 Philistines would die when they opened the Ark to view its contents.
The Israelites finally made peace again with God at Mizpah. They would be strengthened by his love in subsequent battles. One of those would be the epic battle between David and Goliath.
The younger brother’s courage
Goliath was not a Philistine. Rather, he was a nine foot giant mercenary who fought for them. In modern parlance he was a hired gun . . . on steroids.
For 40 straight days he came out onto the plain between the assembled armies. He taunted the Israelites to leave their fortifications and come and fight. The impact left them shaken and afraid.
David was a boy from Bethlehem. His brothers had joined the army of the Israelites. Being younger, David was expected to tend the family’s flocks, but his curiosity and interest prompted him to return to the battlefield time and again.
On one of those occasions, he witnessed Goliath’s challenge. His reaction was unlikely. Rather than being afraid his response was inspirational. “Let no one lose heart because of this Philistine,” he yelled. “This uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of the lions (I have slain) because he threatens the army of the living God!”
Called to face Saul, the commanding Israelite, for his bold remarks, he was asked why he was so sure of himself. His answer would be understood by only a few, but one would be a true steward of livestock. He had, by necessity, dealt with and killed “lions and bears” threatening his father’s flocks. This giant was no different from one of those most feared carnivores.
“Well, you trot out there and show us your stuff, Hotshot!” the loose interpretation must have been from the skeptical Saul. David did.
When Weakness is more than Strength
David’s lesson had been learned before the day he stepped out on that battlefield with that fearsome giant. His lesson had to have taken place in various settings, where no discouragement could be offered, and where no eyes diminished his focus. He had dealt with at least two terrifying situations, and he had prevailed. He was probably lucky the first time, but the success had given him confidence and added skill. He had prepared for this deadly encounter and he was ready. In dealing with the threats to his father’s flocks, he had learned he didn’t need to be as powerful as his challenger, but . . . he had to be deliberate, he had to be smart . . . and he had to accurate.
When he crossed the stream he knew what he was looking for. He needed projectiles that would fly straight and they needed to be substantial enough to deliver a stunning blow.
The scriptures offer few words from the point of selecting the stones until the giant was lying dazed on the ground. David likely knew he still needed some degree of surprise so he probably didn’t engage the giant with conversation. Walking into range he probably seated the rock by feel in that very familiar sling all the while watching the giant intently. When the exact opportunity for a shot occurred, he let fly striking the giant between the eyes.
It was then the most critical and dangerous moments occurred! He had to get to the giant before he could recover. David quickly ran to the fallen victim, took his sword, and with all his might swung it severing the head from the body. It would have been then that the adrenaline flowed in abundance. It would have been then . . . that he felt fear.
The modern Goliath
Are we witnessing the warnings of an ominous modern day torrent of inundation? Is that what we face with the Environmental agenda?
David would become King of Israel. He would face many more challenges on the battlefield. The Scriptures remind us that he would again face the Philistines at Baal Perzin and, again, he would prevail. It was there that his foes abandoned their idols and fled the field. David’s preparation, his faith in God, and his constant prayers assured victory for his people. A symbolic giant was again slain.
The Bible reminds us time and again of the power of faith and the strength of the individual in times of great turmoil and strife. Today, on this most holy of all holidays for Christians, we must reflect on the lives and the difficulties faced by those who came before us. Our dilemmas are not new. Our dilemmas are recapitulations of age old dramas.
The Environmental agenda is proving to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing that many, many fair minded Americans have feared. It is dangerous and it threatens our families, our way of life, and our existence. The question must be asked how many mercenary giants we must face before we are slain or . . . a David appears in our midst.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Lord, God . . . we pray that America is alert to the dangers of the world, that our military is foremost in our prayers, and that our leaders are cognizant the cornerstone of our existence is predicated on an individual . . . not a political agenda . . . God bless this day . . . and God bless the United States of America.”