He was a relic of a time better forgotten; an aberration of all things ordered. He was an ogre, an enemy of God and a thorn in the flesh of God’s army. He was daring and not a gentle reminder that God had good reasons for drawing strict, clear lines in all matters. Angels crossed that line. The daughters of men indulged them. Between these they gave birth to David’s nemesis. Scripture calls them all sorts: giants, Nephilims, Anakims, sons of wickedness, take your pick. I prefer Goliath 1Chronicles 20:1-8.
Hold on! You might say. Didn’t David overcome Goliath? I also will put to you Christ’s question to the rich young man: How readest thou scripture?Luke 10:26
As far as enemies go, the Philistine was a non-starter. When he came at David, he had two things on offer: victory or martyrdom. Either way, it was always going to be glory and immortality for the young David. That’s not what enemies aim to achieve. Enemies seek to conquer, subjugate or annihilate. The Philistine was not David’s enemy. He was divinely contrived to prepare David for the battles ahead. He was a prop to catapult David to mythic realms. He was a blessing.
The challenges and conflicts we come across are designed to equip us for enemies with potential to drag both our form and essence to Sheol.
As with all the called of God, David needed to be prepared for life’s challenges. God in His infinite wisdom leaves one challenge or the other strewn here and there to teach his army to fight.Judges 3:1-2 Each new challenge is designed to be slightly trickier than the previous. They reflect the size of the calling, destiny and glory. As they say: The size of a man’s head is the size of his headache. For David, this graduated scheme of destiny-shaping started with a bear, which he quickly dispatched. Then a lion: no problem.
Then the Philistine came, six cubits and a span, that’s nine feet, nine inches in English language. He was well armed with a visage that humbled the army of God. And he was mad as hell. Why? He was offended, and rightly so, that Israel sent a boy to fight him. Out of anger, he invited his gods to curse this slip of a boy for him.1Samuel 17:43
That was David’s cue. David had no illusions about his chances with this gargantuan edifice. If he hoped to live, he also must invite his own God to take charge.
“Then said David to the Philistine, thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.”1Samuel 17:45
So it became the battle of… well, there was only ever going to be one God. It’s a winner-take-all affair in the spiritual sphere. When the Philistine’s mass of flesh hit the canvas, no one was left in doubt who was God.
Our enemies are those elements that cause us to fail God. Often they are within and not without.
But as I wrote above, the Philistine was not the real deal. The worst he could achieve would be pyrrhic in the larger scheme of things. Our training in the camp of God is not to prepare us against enemies whose greatest achievement will be no more than destroying sooner what time is bound to destroy at some point anyway. As Christ admonished:
“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.Matthew 10:28
The challenges and conflicts we come across are designed to equip us for enemies with potential to drag both our form and essence to Sheol. They are arranged that we might face them and come out established in the knowledge that we might only triumph by the word of God.Deuteronomy 8:2-3
The sad thing is despite years of exposure to these challenges and even a glorious record of victories in conflicts, only a few recognise the real enemy when he shows up. When the enemy returned David was caught napping. He lacked the growl of a bear or the fangs of a lion. He was not beating his breast nor asking to be counted, as the Philistine. In fact, he had shed the mass of flesh and took on an invisible form. As always he had a variety of names: some say lust and others evil concupiscence. I prefer Goliath. He lurked inside the anointed of God and tore him to bits. There was rolling and tumbling and then a massive, massive fall.
All the years of preparation, training, grooming and rivers of anointing oil lay buried in the supple bosom of Bathsheba. When it mattered most, the man of God did not invite his God to battle. This time it wasn’t the curse of Goliath he had to deal with. It was the displeasure of his God. Not for the more obvious sins of adultery and murder. As soon as he confessed his culpability he was forgiven. There was a lot more at stake.
Remember we are set apart to be God’s peculiar treasure to show forth the glory of God. When he called Abraham, he gave him one charge: raise a generation who would walk in the ways of God, to do justice and judgement. ‘Little gods’, if you like.Genesis 18:19 We are the planting of God, trees of righteousness, that God might be glorified. As it is written:
“I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”Leviticus 10:3
The enemy therefore are the elements in and around us that would deprive us of our calling as witnesses for God. The enemy is not the neighbourhood witch with which the Church in Africa has an obsession. Nor is it the powers, real or imagined, that hinder us from ‘taking dominion’ or ‘possessing our possessions’ or ‘coming into our seasons’. As the Lord my God said:
“A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”Luke 12:15
Our enemies are those elements that cause us to fail God. Often they are within and not without. As Christ said: …”those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemiesMatthew 15:19 David ran into a spot of bother because he caved under the pressure of these base instincts.2Samuel 12:13-14 But it all could be so different.
If we remember to cry out to God in times of temptation, we could all bring down our Goliaths. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
God has no illusions about his children. He did not make super humans. His choice of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, warts and all, is instructive enough. In addition, he knows the enemy is formidable; giants in all respects; Powers, Principalities and agencies of spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Against these only a few stand a chance.
That’s why he told Zerubbabel that it’s not by power nor by might but by the spirit of the Lord.Zechariah 4:6 That’s why he told Jehoshaphat that the battle was the Lord’s.2Chronicles 20:15 That’s why when Peter cried out that he was about to drown, he reached out and saved him.Matthew 14:30-31 If only we remember to cry out for his help at times of temptation. Then we could all bring down our Goliaths, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.Romans 10:13