“And the Philistine said: ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.” 1 Samuel 17:10

“And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.”  1 Samuel 17:24

Two armies are arrayed against each other.  One the army of the Philistines is camped on a mountainside on one side of a valley.  They want to, at the very least conquer and enslave the Israelite people, if not kill as many as possible and drive the rest from the land.  On the other side of the valley camp the Israelite army under the command of King Saul.  While the bible does not give us definitive numbers, there is nothing to suggest that the armies are not of comparable size numerically.

War is always a very costly ordeal.  During this time, there were very few professional, full time soldiers.  For the most part, when there was a challenge to defend against or a new land to be conquered, the king would call upon able bodied men who would come from the ranks of shepherds, farmers, other tradesman which might be available.  So defeat would not only take away soldiers and land but also incapacitate the ability for the defeated nation to even survive.  So there became a custom where a champion, the best warrior (who indeed would probably be a professional soldier) would come out from each side to do battle.  Whichever champion won would decide the fate of both armies and the nations that they represented.  That would allow for the defeated nation, even if they had to leave the land, to still exist.

So it was that Goliath, the Philistine comes out to challenge and then mock the entire Israelite army.  Goliath is their champion and indeed an imposing champion he is. Depending upon the source you find, Goliath is anywhere from 9 to 11 1/2 feet tall.  His armor and weapons dwarf anything an Israeli champion could bring against him.  Seemingly all they can do is stare at him as day after day, 40 the bible says, he comes out to taunt the Israelite army.  They look at him and then they turn and look at each other, puny in comparison and they shrink back and retreat in terror.

This would be completely understandable if these were two worldly armies.  If let’s say these were two equally matched armies of Philistines and Ammorites.  With only human muscle, skill and courage to call on, Goliath is the winner hands down.

Also, it had been close to 400 years since Israel had been led out of Egypt by Moses.  That means a little over 350 years since Joshua led them initially into the promised land with one amazing victory after another.  And all those victories were attributed to not being an army of men; but an Army of the Almighty God.  While it is true that there were subsequent victories over invaders after that, there were also decades of peace and prosperity.  Perhaps we can understand how the memory of God’s Mighty Right Hand leading them into battle and allowing for miraculous victories might slip from their grasps.  So now they are an army of men facing a giant.  An army of men who, being fixated on this giant foe; to a man, can see no glimmer of hope or path to victory.  They are completely frozen, not able to challenge, unwilling to retreat.  One wonders how long this could have gone on.

Now we might be tempted to be judgmental about the men of the army.  “Shame on them!”; we might feel smug in shouting knowing the eventual outcome.  However, are we justified in that smugness as we look at our own battle lines?  For we are on one side of a valley.  The world view is on the other and is sending many a champion against us.  Some champions come in the guise of personal relations; friends, family, bosses, coworkers  and others who tell us to abandon our faith.  That our beliefs are wrong and the only way for us to survive is to bow down to them in defeat.  Other giant champions come against us in the guise of popular societal opinion, pressures for gain and acceptance and/or physical issues that call out to us demanding we change because our believing is wrong and can never stand up to the strength of their wisdom and power.  Thus we may find ourselves, like that Israelite army of old, frozen in place; too fearful to march out against the foe, yet unwilling to retreat and give up our faith.  One wonders how long this might go on.

Yet take heart and be of good cheer and courage, for no matter where you are today, even frozen, you are a chosen champion of God.  As with Goliath, our foes will not fall to the courage of a person or even an army of people.  No, it all starts and ends with God Almighty.  As He did with a shepherd boy back then, today, He will fill our hearts with courage and cause our minds and spirits to remember that you and I are not a people alone, nor a people left to rely on ourselves.  We belong to God Almighty.  A God who has never been defeated and who has never once given less than is necessary to see His people victorious.  How do we know this?  How much will God give?  When we would have partnered with the enemy in defeat and sin; God came into the world as Jesus Christ, to once and for all time conquer death and the eternal designs of the enemy, that in believing in Him we will see everlasting victory with and in Jesus Christ.

The world longs for us to fixate on it and see it as all powerful, all conquering.  God knows better and longs to pass that knowledge on to us if we will but fix our gaze upon Him.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we come to You in praise and thanksgiving, that You will never forsake us or allow the enemy to defeat us as long as we call upon You.  Forgive us when we fall prey to the message of defeat that this world flings at us.  May it be, Almighty Father, that as we focus on You, that in You we will be victorious over any and all champions this world aligns against us.  That in that victory, we will live a life of honor and praise to You.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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