18. Do Giants Exist?

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 18. Do Giants Exist?

1 Sam 17:26  David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Whereas yesterday we did an overview of David’s time before becoming king, now we focus on one particular episode of that time – the killing of Goliath. Let’s remind ourselves of the basics of the story:

  • The Philistines gather about 15 miles west of Bethlehem near the Philistine border (1 Sam 17:1). Israel go out to meet them (v.2)
  • The Philistines had a champion named Goliath, a giant of a man in armour who came out each day and challenged Israel to send someone against him (v.4-10).
  • Israel were dismayed by this and the two armies faced each other on hillsides on opposite sides of the valley for 40 days while this continued (v.11,16).
  • David was sent by his father with supplies for his brothers (v.17-20).
  • When David arrived and saw the ‘giant’ he wondered what would be done for the man who takes down Goliath. This annoys his brothers, but he is taken to Saul and reassures him that he can take him (v.23-37).
  • Saul dresses him in armour but he puts it off and goes and kills Goliath with his sling (v.38-50)

Israel’s Expectation: Now those are the basics of the story, but it is David’s attitude behind these facts that are the important thing, his expectations of this situation. Before we look at him we should perhaps observe the expectations of the rest of the army of Israel. When Goliath first appeared, they were “dismayed and terrified” (v.11). They allowed his size to immobilise them and, indeed, whenever he came they “all ran from him in great fear” (v.24) Whenever I read this story I find myself marvelling as to why Saul didn’t just send ten of his best men to take this ‘giant’ down, and I suspect the answer is the same mind set that so often prevailed among kings and generals for centuries, that war was to be carried out in gentlemanly style. There is nothing gentlemanly about war. It is the last resort of sinful men. But my suggestion does give a clue on how to take down ‘giants’. Israel’s expectation? To be killed by the giant.

David’s Expectation: But back to David. Listen to his words. First: What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v.26) Note first of all, “this Philistine” not ‘this giant’. Then, “this uncircumcised Philistine”. Everyone else sees a giant. David just sees him as another enemy of God. That is emphasised by his second reference which implies, “who is this character who has no relationship with the living God like we do?”

When Saul calls him to come and account for his words, and he assures him he can handle it, he concludes, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (v.37) David is confident in his relationship with the Lord. He knows what the Lord has enabled him to do in the past and his expectation is that the Lord will do the same now.

Finally as he approaches Goliath and Goliath mocks him, David delivers the following declaration: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (v.45-47) Brilliant! Wonderful! What an incredible young believer! i.e. this is God’s battle because you attack His people and so He will hand you over to me. You are dead meat! End of story. Let’s get on with it! And he slays him with his sling.

Giants? Now I have titled this particular study, “Do giants exist?” because it is all about expectations and David did not see this Philistine as a ‘giant’. Looking up ‘giant’, the first definition given by Goggle is “an imaginary or mythical being of human form but superhuman size” and only later as “of very great size or force”. A giant, I want to suggest, is anyone or anything we consider to be much bigger than us that has greater power than we have and is a threat to us – and so often, therefore, is worthy of our fear.

All about Perspective: The lesson of this story screams at us, “It’s all about perspective!” David just saw another enemy of God to be taken down by God through him. He had a godly perspective. Saul and the army of Israel had a godless perspective – they gave no thought to God and just saw themselves confronted by a problem far bigger than themselves, and so seriously scary. When Israel’s spies first came back from checking out the Promised Land, they declared, “they are stronger than we are,” (Num 13:31) and “The people are stronger and taller than we are.” (Deut 1:28) [Indeed they went on to suggest there were giants in the Land – Num 13:33] Both references remind us that these were godless excuses. The Lord had told them He was giving them the land but all they could do was focus on the problems to be overcome. They forgot Him.

Our Giants? What are the ‘giants’ in your ‘land’, your life? What are the things that we permit to dominate our thinking and limit our walk with Christ and our spiritual growth? Whatever they are, it is just a matter of perspective. Does God want these things to prevail in your life? No, He doesn’t! He has adopted us and made us part of His family with all of His resources available to us, A ‘giant’ can be anything that dominates our thinking, the sort of things I’ve referred to before – relational breakdowns, rebellious children, unbelieving members of close family, failures, financial difficulties, health problems; all of these sorts of things can blight our lives if we let them and cause anxiety within us.

Towards an Answer: So the first step in the answer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7) It is a promise – peace – but it is conditional on us expressing our relationship with the Lord in prayer. A short while later Paul was to say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13) and elsewhere he said, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) The apostle Peter said the same thing: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet 1:3)

Will we believe these promises of God, will we get a right godly perspective? Oh, I mentioned a clue to help above – you are not alone; you are part of the body of Christ. Find a godly person with whom you can share your heart and your burden and let them bless you. Don’t let the ‘giant’ prevail!

15. 1 Samuel

Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 15.  1 Samuel

1 Sam 16:7   the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

This is all about spiritual realities and as we look into it, we will see various other verses that appear, I believe, as highlight verses in this book, but they all go together. It is about spiritual vision, about what you see with your eyes and understand in your heart.

Let’s observe the context first of all. This is the first illustration of at least five that we will look at in this book. Saul is king and has failed at the job so God is going to appoint a new king and he sends Samuel, the prophet, down to Bethlehem to the family of Jesse because He has chosen one of his sons to be the new king. The story that follows is quite hilarious. Samuel gets the sons lined up, starting with the eldest who looks big and strong. This must be the one, thinks Samuel, but then the Lord speaks the verse above. No, don’t go on looks. This is not the one. So he works his way along the line and at each of the seven sons before him, he gets a “No!” from heaven. You can imagine him at the last one thinking, “Lord, I’ve run out of sons. What do I do?” Ask if there are any more, is the answer, and David is revealed, the eighth son out on the hillside looking after sheep for his father. He’s the one!

But the principle has been laid down and it’s one that has already been seen earlier in the book. The second illustration comes before Samuel was born, his mother-to-be is crying out to the Lord because she seems unable to conceive. She is in the tabernacle praying, but not out loud. Old man Eli is the chief priest and he sees her lips moving. He jumps to a wrong conclusion: “Eli thought she was drink”. (1 Sam 1:13). No, Eli, she is praying her heart out! Don’t judge by outward appearances.

A third illustration perhaps, as an extension of this, can be seen in some of the most spiritually poignant words which are found in 1 Sam 3: “The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.” (v.1-3) Spiritual reality? Prophetic words were rare and there were few visions from God. Physical outworking, if you like? Eli could barely see and was lying down. The physical reality reflected the spiritual reality. The lamp of God had not yet gone out – physical reality in the tabernacle, but reflected the spiritual reality; God has the next carrier of His light also in there, Samuel, who is also lying down at the moment. He’ll get up and into action as soon as he learns to hear God’s voice, so God’s light will shine brightly in Israel again.

The fourth illustration comes many years later, when Israel decide they want a king instead of the judges they have had, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (8:19,20) i.e. we can’t see God; we want someone we can see who will go before us to fight, just like the other nations have. But you’re not like the other nations, you’re better off, you have the Lord! But they persist and so the Lord allows them to have just what they want, a big, tough looking guy to be their king, a guy who was head and shoulders (as some older versions put it) above all others (10:23). That was exactly what Israel wanted except he didn’t live up to the job. Possibly the most memorable Bible Week series of teaching I have ever heard was called, I believe, ‘The King and his army’, given by an elderly Canadian, Pentecostal preacher, called Ern Baxter, back in 1975, who spoke of the transition from the head and shoulders man (head referring to human intellect and shoulders referring to human strength) to the heart man, David (a man after God’s own heart – 1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22) Israel wanted a big tough man, but human wisdom and human strength aren’t up to the job; it needed a heart man! It’s not looks, it’s the heart!

A fifth illustration that comes  to mind, revealing this same principle, is that involving a giant Philistine named Goliath who came with the Philistine army to attack Israel and challenged Israel to put up their best man to fight him, and the winner would designate the victorious nation. This petrified Israel who were cowed into inaction. What always surprises me about this was that Saul didn’t refuse the challenge and send ten of his best men to bring this threat down. But size seemed to hypnotize Saul and his people and so for forty days the two armies just faced each other while Goliath came out and roared out his challenge – the Philistines as an army couldn’t have been feeling too sure of themselves. (see 1 Sam 17:4-16). David turns up and is surprised that size is the criteria that brings Israel to a standstill. As far as he is concerned it is all about relationship: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v.26) We’re the people of God, this guy isn’t! He knows God has helped him in the past (see v.34-37) and so He will do so in the present. It’s nothing to do with how big the problem looks! It’s all about relationship with the Lord.

And there is the same lesson, five times over in this book. Will we be a people who look and see only material things, or will we open our hearts to discern the spiritual realities of the world in which we live. Will we look at people’s appearances and write them off, or will we look with Jesus’ eyes and see the spiritually hungry and thirsty and be open to bring his love to them (Zacchaeus was a good example of this – Luke 19). The lovely thing about the New Testament gift of prophecy is that it looks past the outward appearance and sees the inner reality and the future potential. Dare we be a people who give up on ‘outward appearance Christianity’, and cry to the Lord to become heart and Spirit people who discern true spiritual realities?

God who Delivers

God in the Psalms No.4 

Psa 3:8 From the LORD comes deliverance.

So we have seen previously that the Lord reigns from heaven, and that He sees and acts, and the things He does affect us here and now. In fact David was able to say that God was a shield to him, as He came and stood between David and those who would harm him. Thus God was not ‘out there’ but ‘down here’ right now.

Now, at the end of that same psalm comes this claim, that from the LORD comes deliverance. This phrase is worth pondering upon because it is an extension of what we considered in the previous meditation. God doesn’t stand outside our affairs when people rise against us, but He stands between them and us. But He doesn’t just stand there, maintaining the situation as it was, He changes it, and He delivers us.

Do you remember the story of David and Goliath? When David came to his brothers at the battlefront, he found the two armies in a place of stalemate, or of stand-off. For forty days Goliath came out and taunted the Israelites and nothing happened (1 Sam 17:16). It needed someone to DO something, to change the situation, to deliver Israel from this place. You sometimes see it in a playground at school, two groups of children challenging each other, but no one actually wanting to provoke the situation further because they are unsure of the outcome. That’s what happens to us sometimes. Something happens and a bad situation forms. We want to do something about it but we don’t know how. We’d love to break through to change the thing but we feel powerless. We need delivering out of this situation, and that’s what the Lord does.

Paul conveyed the same sense in his letter to the Colossians: he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13). We had been in darkness but God came and lifted us up and transferred – or delivered – us from that into a place of great light; in other words into Jesus’ kingdom.

The thing about deliverance, is that it is something we couldn’t do ourselves. Israel couldn’t get themselves out of slavery in Egypt (Ex 1:11 -14). Only God could do it – I have come down to rescue them (Ex 3:8). Peter couldn’t get himself out of prison (Acts 12:5) but as the church prayed, an angel from God came and rescued him (Acts 12:11). This is deliverance, being rescued from a bad place that you cannot get free from on your own, God stepping in and taking you out.

We couldn’t get free from sin (Rom 7:24) but Jesus came and, by his work on the Cross and by the power of his Spirit, he set us free (Rom 8:2). We couldn’t do it but he did. As Paul put it when writing to the Ephesians, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (Eph 2:4,5). Paul says it was like we were dead (spiritually at least) when we lived self-centred lives, doing wrong. We were powerless to change that, but God came and delivered us by making us alive with Christ by the power of his Spirit, released in us simply because we accepted what Jesus had done for us.

Believing didn’t suddenly make us capable of change (like self-help courses suggest), but believing opened the door for God to come by His Spirit and empower us so that we were no longer spiritually dead, and we now had His power to live as His children (Jn 1:12). David knew that God, who was his shield, was also his deliverer. Deliverance is God’s business because He knows that we are incapable of delivering ourselves. Have you reached this same glorious conclusion?   Have you known this wonderful deliverance?

Walk of Confidence

WALKING WITH GOD. No.19

1 Sam 17:45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

This is a delightful story of a young man who is full of confidence in his God. There is courage and boldness in this young man that perhaps puts many of us to shame. David, as we have seen previously, has been chosen by God to be the next king – but that is not generally known. It will be a number of years and some perilous adventures before that happens in reality. Meanwhile he is looking after his father’s sheep. Saul is gathering all the potential fighting men to come against the Philistines who had been oppressing them for so long, and so most of David’s brothers have gone and joined the army and are camped out in a place of stalemate opposite the Philistines. It is at this point that providence pushes David into the foreground. His father decides to send him with supplies for his brothers at the battlefront.

When he arrives, he finds nothing is happening. Apparently the Philistines had a giant who came out every morning and challenged an Israelite to fight him. Being so big, no one had the courage to take him on. What is so bizarre about this is that Israel allowed this giant to intimidate them. Why did they settle for his terms? Why didn’t six of them go out and kill this giant? The answer seems to be that, like many Christians today, they allowed themselves to be intimidated by the enemy and allowed him to set the agenda.

When David arrives, he’s rather like the boy in Hans Anderson’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, who hasn’t been told about the supposedly invisible clothes. David hasn’t picked up the fear. He knows what he knows and wonders whatever is going on: “David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v.26). Observe his language: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine? He is saying, who is this man who has no relationship with the Lord that he should insult Israel?

The story then takes us through the process of David being brought to King Saul where we find: “David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (v.37-37). Again see his language that highlights relationship with the Lord. David is simply stating what he knows. I’ve killed lions and bears when they’ve come after my father’s flock, so what difference is this character? Saul then equips him with his armour but David is not a fighter with armour and he puts it off. He’s a man with a slingshot and that’s all he needs.

When the Philistine giant comes out next day, David goes out to him and we see the peak of his confidence in our verse today. You come with sword and spear? Huh, I come with the name of the Lord. As David walks out onto the battle field and as he walks towards with giant, it is a walk of confidence, a walk that is secure in the knowledge of his God. David knows that he is on God’s side and this giant isn’t. David knows that the Lord is jealous for His name, and David knows that the Lord has trained him and equipped him to deal with predators. He looked after his father’s flock at home, and he’s going to look after God’s flock here before the Philistines. There is nothing brash or arrogant about this young man, he’s just confident in his God. He kills the giant. End of story!

Have you come to know the Lord like this? Is your confidence in life established in God, like David’s was? Have you come to a place where you know your abilities in God, where you know what the Lord can do through you? This is just all about faith and trust that comes out of a living relationship with the Lord. When you walk in the service of the Lord, is it a walk of confidence in Him and in His calling of you? Know these things and be assured in them. Walk in confidence of who you are because of who He is!