God’s answers are not always discernible.
David’s successful encounter against Goliath has been an inspiration to believers and unbelievers alike since the event took place and was recorded. A small shepherd boy vanquishes the enormous, battle-hardened warrior Goliath, brandishing sword and spear. The victory is an affirmation of God’s power and His love for David.
Unfortunately, there is often a misunderstanding, and sadly, false teaching regarding this pivotal event in the history of the people of Israel. Many place themselves in the role of David, and identify challenges in their lives with Goliath. My failing marriage is the hulking Philistine, his sword my job loss, and his spear a drug-addicted son. I am weak, but God is strong enough to solve these challenges in my life. If I just believe firmly and pray fervently, God will fulfill my requests as I have offered them. Although it is true that we are weak and God is strong and does have the power to solve the problems of life, to teach that God’s work depends on the strength of our faith and the fervency of our prayers is wicked and dangerous.
What are we to assume when the husband works feverishly to restore his marriage, worshiping, reading his Bible and praying, and yet his wife divorces him just the same? What shall we gather about God when a wife prays day and night for her husband to wake from his coma, yet days later he dies? Aside from being brokenhearted, the husband and wife will make one or more assumptions. Either God is not strong enough to solve my problems, He doesn’t care, or I didn’t have enough faith or sufficiently fervent prayers. Therefore, my marriage failed, and my husband died. What quicker path to bitterness toward the Lord, or walking away from Jesus altogether.
There are at least three correct interpretations of this event.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with 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 defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (ESV).
- Firstly, God was protecting His people physically. Recall that God released the people from slavery, delivered them through the Red Sea, provided for them in the desert, and protected them from enemies. One of these was the Philistines. The Philistines were pagans who had no regard for the one true God. This group of people sought to subjugate and pillage the Israelites. God promised that salvation would come through the people of Israel. In protecting them from the Philistines, God was keeping His promise.
- Secondly, God was protecting them spiritually. When God brought the people to the edge of the Promised Land, He charged them to wipe out all the nations therein. God is not bloodthirsty, but He knew that were the Israelites to intermingle with pagans, they would fall into idolatry and false religions. Through David, God defeated the Philistines and guarded the Israelites from the pagan faith of the Philistines.
- Thirdly, God was showing the people of Israel (and us) His coming victory over sin and Satan. Recall that Jesus descended from David in the flesh. Goliath represents sin. Christ would come through David, and through His sinless life, innocent death, and victorious resurrection, conquer sin.
Law and Gospel
- God does have the power to solve the problems of this life. Yet we must submit our requests to His will. Jesus may allow my job to move to another state, yet He will provide for my needs. God may not prevent your wife from divorcing me, yet He will abide with you through the process. God may choose to heal your husband by taking Him to heaven. Through it all, we understand that God works to develop our faith, that through it we would derive greater peace and joy in Him.
- Keep in mind Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed that the cup of death would pass from Him. The Father said no. Through the suffering and death of His Son, God redeemed the world. This is not only an excellent example of God working out His good and gracious will through challenges, but also the greatest hope as we encounter and pass through them, that in Christ we have the final victory.
Struggling to see the will of God in your trials? Seek encouragement in Finding Hope: From Brokenness to Restoration.