ARA Crisis in the Israelite CampIt seemed like a stalemate - two armies encamped on two mountains, one facing the other, with only a valley separating them. There on two mountains that flanked the Valley of Elah, the Israelite camp stood against the Philistines. Upon closer examination, the situation resembled more a checkmate rather than a stalemate. On one side of the valley, "a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath" (1 Sam 17:4). On the other side, "Saul and all Israel... were dismayed and greatly afraid" (v. 11). Without a doubt, there was a crisis in the Israelite camp.What made David so sure that he could win his battle with Goliath? What did he realize that the rest of the Israelites didn't? This is a bible study of the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines at the Valley of Elah. The Israelites lost their confidence and faith when they saw the great Philistine warrior, Goliath. It was David who delivered them from their enemies. What was the difference between David and the rest of the Israelites? It was his faith in God's power, his fear of God's anger, and his inner spiritual mettle.
The history of the Israelite nation is punctuated by countless battles, many
of which serve as parallels to the spiritual battle Christians face today. The
battle against Goliath provides a few noteworthy points that we may reflect upon
and learn from.
In this well-known battle, the real polarity is actually not found in the
physical opposition between the Philistines and the Israelites¡Xit is within the
Israelite camp. By revisiting this all-too-familiar story, some reminders may
surface about our tactics in the spiritual war that we, the children of God,
inevitably are engaged in.
The Failure of the Israelites
It was a military checkmate. The Israelite army could see no way of defeating
the Philistines, at least not with Goliath around. Towering to a height of about
nine feet, his very appearance probably sent chills down the spines of the
Israelites and paralyzed their morale.
On top of that, Goliath wore a bronze helmet, armor on his legs, and a coat
of mail weighing five thousand shekels. He also carried a spear (1 Sam 17: 5-7).
When they saw him, "all the men of Israel... fled from him and were dreadfully
afraid" (v. 24). Physically, it was impossible for any Israelite soldier to
fight and prevail over him.
Goliath's challenge was simple and straightforward:
Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able
to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But, if I
prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve
us. (vv. 8- 9)
Pathetically, but understandably, not a single Israelite soldier dared to
fight him. Even Saul, the king whom they had chosen to rule over them so they
could be "like all the nations" (1 Sam 8:7), was completely helpless. The
Israelite camp must have been in a state of frenzied panic with the expectation
of doom threatening to become a reality.
The Israelites did not resign themselves to the fate that seemed to await
them. There were desperate attempts to improve their chances of averting
imminent doom. The king proclaimed that the one who killed Goliath would be
endowed with riches, tax exemption, and even the hand of the princess in
marriage (v. 25).
This was certainly more than a generous offer. And, no doubt, this is a
strategy that has endured the test of time, for such still remains the most
effective method of attracting human resources of the highest caliber. It was a
frantic but clever attempt to solve the problem that was at hand.
The news of the reward spread throughout the camp; however, there was simply
no man who accepted the challenge. Who could fight the menacing giant who was
armed from head to toe? No one wanted to volunteer for what seemed like
The clever, time-tested strategy did not work.
A Boy Called David
Against this backdrop of a chaotic and frightened army, David the young
shepherd boy appeared on the scene. Calmly and firmly, he declared that he would
go and fight Goliath (v. 32).
Yes, one little lad volunteered to battle the seasoned warrior who had been "a
man of war from his youth" (v. 33).
Impossible. Sheer insolence. Overbearing pride. These were the reactions from
the soldiers and even his very own brothers (v. 30).
How easy it is to label someone who has true zeal for God! How easy it is to
disregard the other person's point of view and believe that one's own
understanding is right! This is the common response to someone who operates out
of pure, simple faith from a majority accustomed to handling situations via
well-thought-out human strategies.
Saul agreed to let David go into battle, but not without some good
reinforcements. So "Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze
helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail" (v. 38). It must
have been the best armor, for it was the armor fit for a king.
Unfortunately, the armor was more a hassle than help. David was unable to
walk under the bulk and the weight, so he took them off (v. 39). David would go
fight Goliath without the armaments that seemed essential from the human
There were many good-willed strategies that emerged in the Israelite camp,
from rewards for bravery to adorning David with the best armor. Nevertheless,
all of these human strategies wrought no success. Ultimately, it was a young
David, coming in the name of the Lord and wielding a little stone and sling, who
saved the Israelites.
Lessons behind the Victory
The Power of God
In David's mind, it was not an impossibility to defeat Goliath. It had
nothing to do with ignorance, insolence, or unrestrained pride. To David, the
crisis was fundamentally an issue of whether or not God was included in the
From the beginning, when he inquired about the situation at the battlefront,
David defined the problem as a God-related matter: "For who is this
uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
(vv. 26, 36).
Unlike the rest of the Israelites, David did not see God as separate from the
problems that arose. Even in his daily life as a shepherd, he recognized the
role of God in his triumph over the lion and the bear (v. 37).
On the contrary, the Israelite army saw only Goliath's size and their
impending doom. They came up with one strategy after another, all to no avail.
Even when David offered himself, they failed to see beyond his physical
In essence, they failed to see things at the spiritual level. When this
happens, one inevitably fails to see God and His power. This was the crucial
difference that set David apart from the rest of the Israelites: the ability to
This is also the fundamental dividing line between Christians who are
victorious through God and those who are locked in stalemates with problems that
Do we act like the Israelites and simply react to issues and events as they
crop up? Or do we see things as part of the big picture¡Xa spiritual battle
between the soldiers of God and the devil?
How we define problems determines how we delve into them, and hence, how we
attempt to solve them. The spiritual insight that David possessed is something
absolutely necessary in all our spiritual endeavors for God.
Inner Spiritual Mettle
David was not only able to see God amidst crises and define problems in terms
of God's power, but he also possessed the courage to say "no" to human methods.
When Saul adorned him with kingly armor, David found himself bogged down by
its weight. Even though it was the king's well-meaning offer, David was bold
enough to reject it (v. 39).
Put in today's context, it is important that believers and servants of God
possess the right mentality with regard to the weaponry we use.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this
age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph
The work of God cannot be accomplished if we rely on human strategies and
allow other factors to take greater importance than God's power. When there is a
need to say "no" to human ways, we have to be bold and say "no," or we will not
see the victory that David received.
In place of the full armor, David brought his staff, his sling, and five
smooth stones from a brook. There was nothing magical about those stones. It
could have been any stone from anywhere that David used to hit Goliath right on
his forehead. What was instrumental in David's defeat of Goliath was simple:
[Goliath] come[s] to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin.
But I come... in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of
Israel... know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear. (vv. 45¡V47)
It was pure-hearted zeal to defend the name of God and complete confidence in
God and His power.
Today, in the search for workers of God, it is tempting to recruit those with
expertise rather than spiritual character and knowledge of God's word and power.
How easy it is to forget that true spiritual battles are never won by skills or
expertise but by the power of God!
The message from times of old still holds true today: "This is the word of
the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,'" (Zech
David's faith in God and His power did not come at the spur of the moment,
serendipitously driven by the occasion. True faith does not rise and abate with
the rising and falling of events or the call of the occasion.
David's faith in God came from his experiences with God while he tended his
father's sheep. Working alone, David probably had time to reflect upon the ways
of God. This was quite similar to Moses' character-building in the wilderness of
Extended stretches of time alone, with God as the only form of reliance, make
a good platform for building up one's faith. When the lion and the bear attacked
the flock, David had only himself to fight these wild beasts. God was the only
source of help. Such experiences fostered a relationship of trust and reliance.
These times of quietude and reliance on God are crucial to bringing forth a
strong, inner spiritual mettle required of anyone who wishes to possess God's
endorsement and abidance to work for Him.
True Spiritual Victory
David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck
the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David...when
the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. (vv. 50-51)
The crisis was over. The Israelites prevailed.
At the end of it all, it was inner spiritual substance that won the day.
There were no "heroes" that came forward because of the reward offered, no
heroes who fit the standard definition of conventional wisdom. There was no room
for any praise of human-tested strategies. This was true victory, for God, by
David's victory over Goliath was not inexplicable magic or coincidence. There
were good reasons behind the glorious defeat of Goliath. David's winning
formulae were precisely what the Israelites fail to seize hold of. They also
simply did not possess David's spiritual mettle.
When we examine the success of David, we also see the contrast depicted by
the reactions of the other Israelites. In our daily lives, do we handle
situations the way David did, or are we often tossed and thrown about like the
frenzied and rowdy Israelites?
In our service to the Lord, are we little "Davids"¡Xwith real approval from
God and allowing Him to work? Or do we operate by human will and project that
upon God, as if it were His will also?
May God bless us with spiritual wisdom and inner strength like David, so that
we have true spiritual victory against any form of Goliath.