Goliath Terrorizes Israel

1 Samuel 17:1–11 (ESV) – 1 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 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.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

As we read today’s passage we get a very detailed description of a Philistine warrior named Goliath. The writer wants us to know exactly how large and intimidating this man was. He is big, he is strong, he has strong armor and weapons. No one standing alone was going to be any challenge for Goliath!

We have likely heard this story before. It is well-known even to those who do not go to Sunday school. What are we to learn from it? In today’s reading, we are drawn to the reaction of Israel and Israel’s king, Saul. Verse 11 tells us that when Saul and the Israelites saw and heard the words of Goliath, “they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” They did not know what they were going to do. Defeat seemed imminent. They knew that they could not defeat Goliath in their strength so all confidence was gone.

Saul and the Israelites were missing something. They lacked faith in God and all that he could do. They were looking at their situation from a worldly perspective, which is what many of us also do in our own present circumstances. We wonder how we can get through and forget that the Lord is with us. Let us learn from Saul’s mistake and remember that God is near and a very present help in times of trouble.

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