The Philistines had gathered for war. They had pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelite army had 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 as no-man’s-land.
The two opposing armies were equally matched. They had been battling on and off for some time, with no results. Therefore, the Philistines had chosen Goliath as their champion to represent them in one-on-one combat. According to ancient rules of war, if two armies were locked in an equal stand-off, they could opt for a duel between two champions, fought in no-man’s-land. In what was often known as champion warfare, whichever man was left standing would win the battle for his army.
Goliath was a giant of a man, standing at 3 meters tall. His bronze coat of scale armour weighed 58kg. He wore bronze greaves on his legs, and had a bronze javelin slung on his back. The iron point of his spear weighed 7kg.
Goliath shouted obscenities to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Choose a man and let 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.” King Saul and his men were dismayed and terrified.
Now, an elderly Ephrathite named Jesse had three sons in the ranks of the Israelite army in that stand-off against the Philistines. They were strapping lads, but remained silent when the giant provoked his enemy. Jesse was concerned for his boys’ safety, so he sent for his youngest son, David who was caring for his sheep in the hills of Bethlehem. “I want you to take these supplies to your brothers,” said Jesse, “and bring back report of the battle for me.” Thrilled to have the opportunity to witness the battlefront, young David packed the supplies and set off for the frontline.
For 40 days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand against the Israelites, hurling abuse and curses at God’s terrified people. David reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions. Leaving the supplies with the keeper of supplies, the boy ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, the Philistine champion, Goliath stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” young David asked his brothers.
What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. “Who are you?” asked the king. “I am the youngest son of your servant, Jesse,” replied David. Then he said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; I, your servant, will go and fight him.”
Saul was astounded at the young man’s courage, and when he questioned David, David described how, as a shepherd, he had been able to protect his father’s sheep against the lion and the bear. “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 rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Vainly, Saul attempted to don David in his own suit of armour, but the boy was too small to be agile enough in such gear, so he approached the giant with little more than a stone and a slingshot.
Meanwhile, the Philistine, in full battle attire, kept drawing closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, and he despised him. “Do you think I’m a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” he said, roaring with laughter. David replied, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands and 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!”
As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him. Taking one stone out of his shepherd’s bag, he inserted it in the leather pouch of his sling and began swinging it around his head at speed. At the precise moment, David released one end of the sling. The smooth stone flew straight and true. It and struck the giant on the forehead and sank into his skull. Goliath, the champion of Philistia, fell face down on the ground. Running up to his fallen foe, the boy drew the giant’s mighty sword and killed him.
So, young David, the champion of Israel, triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. By faith in the name of the Lord God Almighty, without a sword in his hand, he struck down the enemy. David, a mere humble boy, made a laughingstock – a public spectacle – of the enemy of God’s people.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. David’s brothers and the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued their enemy and overcame its forces.
The young champion, David had conquered the enemy of Israel. David fought a duel and won the fight. His brothers, in the ranks of Israelite army had not raised a sword, yet through David, they had gained the victory. David was the conqueror, while through him, his brothers were more than conquerors.
Jesus lay face down in the dirt of the olive grove. It was well past midnight. A few yards away His three friends, whom He’d asked to support Him in prayer, had fallen asleep. Jesus prayed again, “Abba, I know all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from Me.” Capillaries in the skin of His face burst and blood seeped from His pores, under the strain of facing the wrath of God on behalf of a world steeped in sin. Perspiration mixed with His blood and wet the fingers covering his face. “Ah.. Father… yet not what I will, but what You will.”
Jesus, our Champion faced one of the greatest temptations of His 33 years on this earth. He could have simply stood up, collected His friends and gone home to bed. It was late, and they were all tired. Jesus knew He was about to be arrested and sentenced to death for crimes He’d never committed. He could have made a hasty escape. Yet, He submitted to God’s will and waited in the garden until His accusers arrived to drag Him away to be crucified.
In the garden, Jesus faced a giant. Death, the champion of God’s enemy, stood before Christ, brazenly shouting obscenities and abuse at God’s Champion. However, in a one-on-one duel with Death for the sins of mankind, Jesus stood His ground. As David, the humble champion of Israel, had advanced singlehanded against his giant on the battle fields of Judah, so Jesus, God’s Champion, advanced alone against His formidable foe. Jesus was unjustly arrested and sentenced to death.
For all intents and purposes, it seemed that God’s Champion was losing the fight. The giant was gaining the upper hand. He’d come against Jesus with false accusations and lies, while Jesus had remained silent. Was Christ losing the battle? Was Death going to overcome God’s Champion? Finally, on the Cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished!” and gave up His life. Death seemed victorious. Had the Champion of Life lost His battle against Death?
Suddenly, a great earthquake rocked the land. At the death of God’s Champion, the temple curtain was ripped in two, exposing the holy place of God. For the first time, God’s mercy was freely available; Heaven had been opened to all who would come to God through the blood of the Lamb – Jesus Christ.
The great opponent of Life had apparently triumphed. But the battle raged on. Jesus, the sinless Son of God lay entombed for three days. On the third day, a blinding light erupted from the tomb where the body of God’s Champion lay. The stone seal was broken, and Jesus rose from the dead. The wages of sin is death and Jesus died. But, because He is the sinless Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus our Champion rose from the dead, defeating sin, Satan and Satan’s champion, Death! Oh, death where is your sting!
What a glorious moment. Mercy had triumphed over judgement as Life triumphed over Death. Heaven was opened and God’s mercy freely available. The giant, Death was dead! Our Champion had won the battle in a one-one-one duel with Death. Through the humility of the Cross, Jesus made a spectacle – a laughingstock – of the forces of darkness. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them, on the cross.
Our Champion, Jesus, had conquered the enemy of Life. Jesus fought a duel and won the fight. You and I, in the ranks and files of His army, have not raised a sword in this battle, yet through Jesus, we have gained the victory. Jesus is the conqueror, while through Christ, we are more than conquerors.
Stand Your Ground
David, a champion like Jesus, declared, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands and 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!” David knew the source of his strength did not rest in his young teenage arms, but it rested in the Name above all names. By the authority and power of the name of Yahweh, young David conquered the enemy of Israel. His brothers did no fighting, but through David, they gained the victory.
Jesus Christ has conquered sin, Satan and death on your behalf. The sinless Son of God paid the price for sin when He died and enabled our salvation when rose again from the dead. In Christ, we have the hope of abundant life. Jesus conquered our enemy. We did nothing to defeat death, but through Jesus, we gained the victory.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. As it is written, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”