This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand. – 1 Samuel 17:46-47
Thursday, March 6, 2014
God On Deck
Bold talk, we might say, for a kid with a pocketful of rocks, but unlike Rooster Cogburn, David isn’t depending on his own skill and nerve. Will Sonnet used to say, “No brag. Just fact.” If David is bragging, it isn’t on himself. It is the Lord who delivered him from “the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear”, and David must have figured arrogant Philistine giants were more or less in the same category.
No doubt David practiced with his sling. He was a shepherd so he was in the field with this silent, ranged weapon constantly at his side. He used it in deadly earnest against predators. If he was anything like most men, he also used it for entertainment. I’m sure there was a lot of readily available ammunition out there in the Judean hills. We all enjoy challenging and enhancing our skills, whether we are musicians or programmers, artists or cyclists, poets or woodworkers.
Maybe we are good at what we do for a living, which makes it easy to start thinking that our knowledge and expertise provides for us. Moses warned us about that: Beware lest you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth (Deuteronomy 8:17). I am guilty -- which is bad enough, but it gets worse if God decides to let me see how I do on my own. If it is all on me, it can get pretty stressful.
This is especially the case when there is so much of what goes on that is unquestionably beyond my control. If I work for someone else, I probably have little input and less control over the decisions made by corporate officers. If I’m self-employed, I need someone to come by and buy what I’m selling. My business or my investments may be dependent on and impacted by weather, by changes in laws, by international trade, fluctuations in markets, monetary policy – all kinds of things that are far beyond me. The other night, I watched Shooter with Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger. A person can have a computer-controlled rifle, but as a bullet travels over the course of a mile, the target can move, the wind can gust or even change direction, and the outcome will not be what was intended.
Life is like that. If we think too much about it, we might never leave the house, or we might develop OCD, trying to allay and appease “chance” by ritual and superstitious routines. There is a way to be free of such potentially immobilizing fear.
Keep in mind that Goliath had been coming out for days with his challenge, seeking a one-on-one fight with a champion from among the Israelites. The army of Israel, filled with experienced men of war, stood and listened to that challenge and could not respond. Were they all cowards?
No, Saul might have been a fool in some ways, but he was no coward. Neither was his son, Jonathan, who had proved himself in earlier battles when the odds were against him. Jonathan and many others, including some of David’s brothers, would have gone up singly against any two or three or five of their opponents. Goliath, though, was the Philistine’s version of Samson, a seemingly invincible cypher of sneering confidence. Each man hearing that daily challenge looked at his own stature, strength, and skill, considered the consequences to his nation if he failed, and refused to step forward.
David changed the equation. He said, this is not my problem. Goliath is not challenging me. He’s challenging my God. He is defying the God of Israel, mocking and ridiculing, not puny men, but the Almighty. Therefore, if he is challenging the Lord, it is really the Lord who will go out to battle against him, and, from God’s perspective, 9-foot-5 is no different than 5-foot-9.
All the things in life that are beyond my ability and beyond my control -- all the things that are out of my hands are in the hands of the Lord. If I can but trust in that truth, I need no longer live with dread.
The Lord took what David was good at and used it to defeat an invincible foe, to bring a blessing out of an impossible situation. We don’t have to be able to handle everything, be able to fix every problem. You get up and go out, faithfully doing what you do -- with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free (Ephesians 6:5-8).
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).