Meditations in 1 Samuel 33. The ways of the enemy
1 Sam 17:1-3 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
We might think observing the Philistines is really a non-productive task but actually as one of the main enemies of Israel at this time they reveal to us something of Satan’s strategies against the people of God. We should notice from the outset that they are almost certainly God’s instrument for stirring Israel and driving them back into His arms. The pattern had continued for a long time, that we observed about the book of judges where the Lord used their surrounding enemies to discipline Israel so they would turn to Him afresh. So in one sense there is nothing new here.
From, a modern perspective what we read in the verses above is almost laughable, it is the style of fighting that continued for very many centuries: two armies lined up and faced each other and then at some predetermined or pre-agreed moment, they lunge at each other and all hell breaks loose. Now that’s how it usually was but this time the Philistines have a got a secret weapon who doesn’t remain secret for very long. We need to read the next paragraph in one piece:
“A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” (1 Sam 17:4-11)
Now just look at this. They have this warrior who makes any TV wrestler look a wimp. He’s over nine feet tall and no doubt as broad as a bus! He’s like an armoured tank with armour completely covering all of him except his face and his weapons are a bronze javelin and a massive spear that would have been good enough to make any whale turn tail and run. And he’s got a man to carry his shield ahead of him which also says, “I will not be touched”, so one way and another he is a seriously formidable warrior.
But it doesn’t stop there: he calls out and challenges Israel to send out their best man (anything less will be hopeless) to come and fight and the outcome of this two-man scrap will determine which army surrenders and which army will be the victors. How economical; one man dies and the war is decided, except the losers will become slaves.
So what can we learn from this? What can it teach us about the enemy and his strategies? Well of course our enemy is Satan and he appears to have an army of demons or fallen angels on his side. Scripture appears to tell us that he is an angel and we know that angels are, by and large, stronger than we are. Moreover Scripture tells us that he is described, among other things, as the Prince of the air and the one who rules over this world (1 Jn 5:19) So he comes and leers at us, mostly through one of his agents and demeans us and makes us feel insignificant by comparison. He presents us with people or circumstances who seem to outweigh us ten to one.
A word in passing. We often hear talk of low self-esteem. Who brings that self esteem? Not God! No, it is Satan and so often it comes through the words of people close to use: “You’re useless, you’re no good, you’re a failure, we don’t care about you, you’re on your own, a loser.” All those things are lies fo the enemy designed to demean you and bring you down.
That is his first strategy, to make us feel small and insignificant, especially in comparison to him who appears to look so big and powerful. His second strategy is to create fear in us. Fear weakens, fear makes you want to run away. Linked with this fear so often are feelings of depression or of darkness, fear makes you impotent. So he conveys power and authority, might and fearsomeness and seeks to stir up fear and other weakening and debilitating emotions. Now although it is not spoken of in this situation he also uses temptation. How many in Israel’s army are hearing the temptation, just run away. It’s a temptation I hear myself so often – run away from these things before you, don’t deal with them, go somewhere else. It’s all part of his general strategy to make us powerless and unable to deal with the things of life.
Now let’s confront some of these things we’ve said above. First, that he is all powerful. OK, he maybe more powerful than you and me but note several things that the Scripture tells us about him. First he is just an angel, created by God. Second, the book of Job 1 & 2 show us that he can only operate so far as God specifically allows him. Third, Revelation 12 shows us that he is defeated by the armies of God and is outnumbered 2 to 1. Fourth, the weapons he is allowed to use are restricted. You can only be demon possessed when you specifically invite him in through occult practice. He can only attack you spiritually if you are purposely sinning. He can only attack you in your thinking as far as you let him. James taught us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) If we are people who are ‘in Christ’ and we ‘abide in him’ as we turn to our Lord Satan realises he has no hold and flees. ‘In Christ’ we are protected from him, it is the ‘fortress language’ of the Old Testament translated into the New.
We’ll see more of this in the next two studies but before we leave, ponder this for a moment: This giant comes out and challenges Israel. Why doesn’t Saul say to his men, “The best ten of you, get out there and take him down and then we can get on with this battle properly”? The reason is because he has allowed the enemy to dictate the terms. We’ll look at this some more but in the meanwhile, don’t let him do it!