May 2012 - Vol. 60

The Battle is the Lord's

Are you ready to fight for him?

by Paul Jordan

Who does God choose to send into battle for his name and for his people? The bravest, the strongest, the best trained, and the first in the bunch?


One of my favorite stories in the Bible – and the Bible is full of stories – is about how God chose to use someone whom no one else would have thought qualified. That person wasn’t even a grown-up, just a teenager from a big family of the tribe of Judah in Israel. He was the youngest of a bunch of brothers and a couple of sisters. His name was David, and he knew God.

David appears in the Bible for the first time when the prophet Samuel is led by the Lord to anoint him as the future king (1 Samuel 16). He was probably only thirteen or so on the day when he was summoned home from the sheep fields to be anointed by this stranger, his bemused brothers looking on. But something happened to David on that day.

“Samuel anointed him and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”

The spirit of the Lord came upon him? – God himself came to live in David in a powerful way.

Saul fighting the Philistines

A nation at war
The narrative then quickly moves to a battle scene (1 Samuel 17). Israel’s King Saul is fighting – again. “King Saul and the men of Israel were gathered in line of battle against the Philistines.” 

Israel? Battle? Philistines? Israel was God’s chosen people. God chose Israel. To be chosen is to be loved. God loved Israel, his people. He wouldn’t give up on them. His love is all about faithfulness.

Battle? Many of the stories of the Bible are about God’s people fighting. Sometimes they fought for survival, but they also fought in order to take land and be established. They fought because God was commanding them and they fought to bring glory to his name.

People only fight for things if they’re worth something. In fact, to fight for something is to declare its worth. It is to say, this king or this cause, this child or this friend, is worth fighting for. Or in other words, I am willing to suffer for this. Ask any winning athlete and they’ll tell you. Great cost, but it was worth it.

Still today, we can see such battles all around us. Everything that costs us in building God’s kingdom is part of the fight. Striving after holiness. Defending God’s ways. Winning souls for God. It’s a fight. These days it’s “not against flesh and blood” but in those days the Philistines were the worst enemies of God’s people and this battle would go down in the history books.

Goliath – a giant of a killer
Picture the drama. “The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side.”

Enter Goliath. “There came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits…”

Six cubits?! Well, these days that’s about 8 feet, 10 inches (2.7 metres). A giant just walked on stage.

The narrator says, “He had a helmet of bronze …and was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.” 

He was armed to the hilt. Just his coat weighed about 100 pounds (45 kg)! Talk about Heavy Metal.  So he’s big and he’s strong.

And then the giant begins his taunt: “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle?’” 

In other words “You really shouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed. I’m going to kill you.”

“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 kill him, then you shall be our servants.” 

Goliath lays down the challenge. In short: let’s save time, if one of your men can kill me, game over, you win. Of course, the odds are not worth betting on. Goliath has never lost.

Knees buckle
Now imagine the effect on God’s army. We’re looking for a volunteer. Everyone takes one step back. Not me – I just need 2 more months to finish my dissertation. Not me, I just got married! Not me, I need to build my career! Not me, I’m too young. Not me, I’m not good enough…

When I was younger we used to play soccer in the park. Noone ever wanted to go in goals. “I have a bad back. It’s not my position. I went in goals last year.” It’s remarkable how quickly young men develop excuses. You can bet there were a few on that day.

But then Goliath raises the stakes further, his outspoken pride unwittingly sealing his fate. “…I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

I defy! Another translation of the word is “blaspheme.” Yes he is taunting Israel. To defy Israel, however, is to defy Israel’s God. But make no mistake, it is no small thing to defy the living God.

So what happens as these words fall on the ears of the King? What happens as Israel hears these words?
“When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” 

Guess what. They start to be afraid. Really afraid. Earlier in the same book it talks about the men of Israel fearfully hiding in caves. You can imagine them having a hard look at the map to the caves again. “For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.”

Day after day, no one even tried to fight. Deeply Afraid. Shrinking soldiers. Impotent Israel. No one will fight. Nothing can be done. There is no hope… Or is there?

The Good Shepherd, by Harold Copping 

And David heard him
Scene change. We’re back in the sheep fields with the teenage shepherd, young David. David’s three eldest brothers were at the battle. His father asks David to take the boys some food. “Take these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers.”

David sets off and comes “to the encampment, as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry.” David went and “greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, behold, the champion …Goliath… came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before.” Once again the giant begins his provoking, defying taunt. 

Then four simple words: “And David heard him.”

David didn’t just hear him like you hear background music in a store. He heard him. He understood. He perceived that there was something significant going on here. It’s the kind of hearing that normally happens in slow motion in movies. Young David’s head slowly turning. His eyes meeting the giant’s.

Who does he think he is?
“And David said to the men who stood by him, What shall be done? …Who is this Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’"

You can hear the indignation rightly rising in David. What are we going to do about this? Who does he think he is? He is defying our God! We have to act, brothers. Why is nobody doing anything about this?!

“Eli'ab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, ‘Why have you come down?’” Eliab was David’s oldest brother. No.1 meets No. 8.

I actually grew up with six younger brothers so I’m no stranger to the clashes. But older brothers, like Eliab and I, can too easily douse the youthful fire. David’s response to his ‘big brother’ is so human it’s almost comical.

“’What have I done now?’ …And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way.” David won’t stop. Eventually even King Saul hears about David…. “and he sent for him.” 

Give me a place in the battle
After a heated discussion in the royal war room, David says: “Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” In other words: “with all respect King Saul, send me to fight Goliath!”

Saul retorts, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” You can’t do it David. Why? Well Saul gives a couple of reasons. Firstly, you’re too young. And secondly, he’s a pro. This guy Goliath has made a career from killing people and you don’t even know what a Gillette Mach III is!

Now Saul’s reasoning isn’t all that bad but he’s missing two crucial truths. Firstly, David has experience that Saul doesn’t know about – Saul underestimates David. But more significantly Saul misses the spiritual truth. 

David answers, “Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”

David believes that because Goliath has defied God, Goliath simply has no chance. The battle is the Lord’s. It’s not blind faith or youthful rashness, it’s truth-based courage.

Saul put his armor upon David, by James Tissot

Your clothes don’t fit
 “And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’” So Saul agrees. Exasperated or exhorting? Hard to tell.

“Then Saul clothed David with his armor.” Maybe a sign of official commission? Maybe it made him look more impressive? Maybe Saul just wants to protect him? Maybe the boy is so hidden in the armour as to reduce the embarrassment factor for Saul? All we know is that it doesn’t fit.

“David then said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them.’” Perhaps Saul expects David to do things the way he would. But David is young and he’s going to take an innovative approach. The goals remain, but the method looks different.

Instead “he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the brook.” 

Imagine the scene. The young boy appears on the battle field, the underdog gladiator on whom rests Israel’s future. “He drew near to the Philistine.” 

Much at stake. Hollywood can’t match this moment. 

Who knows if his brothers were aware of what was going on. Gasps. It’s David. What’s he doing? I can’t believe you let him out of your sight. Dad’s going to kill us… But this is David’s day. He is on stage. And no one else can take his turn.

Approaching, Goliath sees him. “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 …” You are not serious? Sending a little boy? A babe cannot win a war!

David boldly proclaims: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head.” 

Quite a speech. And then, the motor of his zeal, “…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” 

So that all the earth may know that God is alive! David declares his love. The fuel in David’s heart is the Spirit of God. And his seemingly risky, selfless action is so that God can be known. And so it begins.

David cuts off the head of Goliath, by James Tissot

The battle is the Lord’s
He runs at him. He doesn’t even tentatively pick his steps like a predator about to pounce. He runs. “The battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. …David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” 

Interestingly, David doesn’t say he will give you into my hand this time but our hand. Not only is he doing this so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, he is also doing this on behalf of his people. “David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.” A thud echoes in a stunned valley as six cubits of warrior hit the dust. Disbelief gives way to glory. What a day! What a victory! 

David has taken his turn!

The Spirit spreads
The giant is down and David quickly finishes the job. But now look what happens to the spectator peoples: “When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout …” A few verses ago Israel was dismayed. Deeply afraid. But now Israel lets out a great shout. You can bet there was some dancing that night. 

Since God lives, David lives and as David lives out his call, the people around him come to life. 

Happy day
What a story. You would tell your children about it. And your children’s children. And your children’s children would tell their friends. “My Grandfather was there when David took out Goliath. The Philistines ran away that day!”

On that day David remembered the truth that God is alive. And it fired his hope. Whilst the people hid in their mental caves David rose to be fully alive.

On that day young David stepped out – even against popular opinion. Whilst many preferred to wallow in selfish fear, David carried the flag, confident in God.

On that day David took his place in the battle, he put himself on the line to bring glory to the name of the Lord. 

Fast forward
The simple truth is that the Kingdom of God is built on the backs of men and women like David. With a hope that fires courage in the face of fear. Who take steps confident in the promises of the Lord. And who are, above all, ready to sacrifice for the sake of the glory of the Lord. For that is what it means to love him.

The story of David and Goliath ends with a brief interchange between David and the King: “And King Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse from Bethlehem.’”

Israel had more battles to fight, but years later a baby would be born in Bethlehem who would win once and for all. An anointed shepherd king, a descendant of David, would be born. One who would battle “Goliath” with a cross and usher in a new age for the whole human race.

The battle is, and always was, the Lord’s.

This article is adapted from a presentation given at the “He is Alive” youth festival in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

Paul Jordan directs the work of Kairos in Europe and the Middle East. He lives in Leuven, Belgium with his wife, Noemi and their two children. 

 (c) copyright 2012  The Sword of the Spirit
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