1 Samuel 17:11 – Dismayed and terrified
The story of David and Goliath is often discussed as an underdog story. We see a contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much bigger, stronger adversary. David, because of how this story plays out, often gets top billing in sermons and devotionals. However, have you wondered why the God loving, God worshipping, God-fearing Israelites and their King, stood looking at Goliath “dismayed and terrified”. The Hebrew words used to describe their response to Goliath’s presence implies scared, terrified, discouraged, to the point the Israelites fear is portrayed as a reverence for Goliath prowess. King Saul certainly knew God was on his side so what happened to bring about this seemingly lack of faith and trust?
Have you ever been “dismayed and terrified” when facing life? Have you taken a child for a medical checkup and leave the examination frightened at the news your child has a disease or illness that will bring pain and misery to them? Have you sat before a boss and heard the words “you’re a great worker but we are downsizing and your services will no longer be required”? We are horrified at this type of news and can collapse emotionally because the challenge seems impossible to overcome. We struggle with this news even though we have been a faithful follower of Christ for many years. We may have even been a source of encouragement and comfort to many in our church family, yet upon hearing the news of our child or job loss, some can become paralyzed with fear. Some become so disheartened that God becomes an afterthought and they forget the times they experienced His grace, love and support. What happened to bring about this lack of faith in God?
Goliath was certainly known to the Israelites before their encounter that day. He was a fierce foe with strength and power. His physical size and presence was intimidating and brought about the same shock and awe effect that WWI troops experienced when facing the first battlefield tanks. Have you wondered why the Israelites did not rush Goliath and take him down? In their attack strategy, they could have assigned 5, 10 or even 20 men to focus on Goliath while the remainder fought the Philistines? Goliath unsettled them and sought a one-on-one challenge which he certainly would win. For whatever reason the Israelites let that thought get to them. Saul had no solution to the problem facing him and even when David stepped up and accepted Goliath’s challenge, the Israelites mannerism did not seem to change. There was no cheering, back-slapping, or sense of confidence running up and down the Israelite lines. They had given up hope and possibly saw David as the sacrifice needed to delay the eventual onslaught by Goliath. Satan reminded the Israelites of Goliath’s history and presence and they forgot about the God who walked with them, who provided for them, and who promised to be with them if they followed and worshipped Him.
Satan uses real adversaries to bring about doubt. Too often Christians fall into a sense of hopelessness when facing problems. They become overwhelmed because Satan likes to remind us that we don’t have the solution to many of life’s sets backs. But he is a defeated enemy of ours and we need to remember that. We also need to establish habits to help us focus on God both during good times and bad. In fact, how we approach God during the good times will certainly help us seek Him during the rough times.
God does not expect us to face life alone. The Holy Spirit is available to guide and comfort us but we must not forget that God has gifted and blessed others who can help us. We don’t know why Saul responded to Goliath as he did but we do know that God did not leave him to tremble in fear. He provided a solution which Saul could choose to accept or ignore. God does not change and today, when His children are backed into a corner, He offers His presence which we can choose to accept or ignore. Too often we believe our adversaries are bigger and better equipped than us but remember “you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” 1 John 4;4. Seeking God is the most sensible option we have when life gets rough. God wants to replace our fears with hope but we need to ask.