504 Java Profile

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Friday, November 16, 2012

On God Sized Challenges and the Valley of Elah

I am blessed to be on a trip to Israel with a group of men at the seminary. We will go to various sites, some familiar and some not. It is an amazing opportunity to experience the Bible. We have spent our first two days in and around Tel Aviv. Unfortunately we are. Also here at a time of heightened tension between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. There have been reports of rockets being launched towards Tel Aviv, but we have not felt threatened in any way. We heard some explosions but we believe they were quite a ways off. 

Today we ended up in the Valley of Elah and on the ridge forming one boundary of the valley. Valley. Khirbet Qeiyafa, southwest of Jerusalem where Yosef Garfinkel (a friend of my colleague Jim Parker)  has discovered a fortified Judahite city. The reason Qeiyafa is kind of cool is that it is likely where Saul tried to get David to wear his armor for the battle with Goliath. We were where the Bible introduces the story in 1 Samuel 17. 

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.  Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.  The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them.  Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six  cubits and a span.  He had  a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. (1 Samuel 17:1-5 NASB)

I was asked to do the devotion at this particular site which is timely because of what God is teaching me on this trip. The truth is that I do a lot of ministry things, but maybe not all that many of them really need God's help. I am pretty competent in some things and reasonably adequate in others. I can preach and teach and administrate and be a husband and father--in my own strength. 

David sneaks up on this idea as he approaches the battle, initially to bring food to his brothers. The word among the troops is that the person who could defeat the NBA shoulda been in battle would receive fabulous riches for doing so. David appears to inquire about the promised loot:

Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26 NASB)

But what David was really saying is that it wasn't about reward since the task was humanly impossible. Goliath was too big and too strong. David had experienced being overmatched before as he had apparently protected his sheep against a lion and a bear. 

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God."  And David said, "The LORD  who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and may the LORD  be with you."

So David gave credit where credit is due. God accomplished the impossible through His servant in battles with lions, bears and giants. Oh my!  David is so confident that The Lord had his back that he traded a little smack talk with the giant:

Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come
 to you in the name of the LORD  of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.  
This day the LORD  will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, (1 Samuel 17:36, 37, 45, 46 NASB)

Did you see it? The actor in all of the triumph is God.  The Lord will deliver. I will strike down and remove your head because this thing which is humanly possible is a day at the office for an omnipotent God. My prayer is that all of us in the faith community will quit attempting mediocre things and saying we need God to help when we really don't. What if we pick up some rocks and charge towards the giant like we've been there before?

Keep praying for us on this trip. I am concerned about mortar fire from Gaza but I am terrified at the thought that I would only attempt Allen-sized tasks. Now where are those smooth stones?

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