Saturday, July 11, 2020

Five Smooth Stones

The young shepherd boy David, youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, was faithful and courageous in his mission from God even when his elder brothers were fearful. Their fear seemed to be justified and shared by all the mighty warriors of Israel, for their enemies the Philistines were a nation of giants, led by the dreadful Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

But when God calls us for His purpose, He will see us through it (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 13:21), for all things are possible with Him! His perfect love casts out all fear! (1 John 4:18) 

Goliath, who had been a man of war from his youth (1 Samuel 17:33), stood nearly 9 feet tall, and he was armed to the teeth, including a coat of brass armor that weighed about 78 pounds. He taunted the Israelites to choose an opponent for him, setting high stakes that the nation of whichever man would be defeated would become the servants of the victor’s nation. 

Saul, king of Israel, and all his generals were “dismayed and greatly afraid.” Jesse’s eldest sons followed Saul to the battle, while David was discounted, overlooked, and sent home to tend his father’s sheep. After a prolonged battle, army to army, Jesse sent David on an errand, to bring food to Israel’s troops. Little did Jesse realize that God’s plan was for David to bring spiritual as well as physical sustenance! 

There David overheard the repeated threat of Goliath, which again struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites, who fled the scene. But only David kept the proper perspective, recognizing that this pagan was no match for the armies of the living God (v. 26). Perhaps embarrassed, and definitely angered by David’s brashness that contrasted with his own fear, Eliab his eldest brother scolded him for leaving his sheep (v. 28). 

To which David replied, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? (v. 29). 

When the others heard this they finally sent David to Saul, who was reluctant to send the lad into battle. But David told Saul of how he had defended his flock against attack by a lion and a bear, killing them with his bare hands through supernatural strength given by God. He had faith that God would do the same, and more, through David against the enemy of His chosen people. 

When finally persuaded, Saul outfitted David with his own armor, but David had no experience with this cumbersome gear. Instead, he approached Goliath armed only with his shepherd’s staff, a sling, and five smooth stones. Goliath laughed contemptuously at this seemingly weak adversary, but David had the last laugh as he slung the first stone deep into Goliath’s forehead, striking him dead and bringing terror into the Philistines’ hearts. Then he used his sword to behead him. 

The success of David’s mission was assured, because he sought victory not for his own glory but for that of God, and he refused to cave in to fear, trusting not in his own power but in God’s faithfulness: 

v. 46 This day will the Lord deliver thee [Goliath] into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 

47 And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands. 

As my husband and I read this chapter during our daily devotional time, the Lord was speaking to my heart about the battle we face today during this coronavirus pandemic. Through no choice of our own, we are engaged in a battle against a deadly foe, mighty and dangerous even though unseen and invisible to the naked eye. 

Electron microscopy photos reveal the virus to be armed with long spikes each topped by a crown, which the virus uses to invade human cells. It looks much like a wrecking ball, and surely it has destroyed the health, peace, financial security, freedoms and lives of many. It has led many to be fearful, even those who are God’s children through their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). 

Physical threats abound, and we are daily drawn into spiritual battles (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Many feel unproductive and even useless in their work for the Lord, which seems to be “on hold” while waiting upon Him (Psalm 27:14; 37:34; Proverbs 20:22) to end the pandemic and restore some semblance of normalcy. Yet we should remember that David spent many days tending sheep until God revealed His perfect plan and called him to battle, to be a champion of God’s cause. 

During this pandemic, we keep looking and praying for the invincible coat of armor – silver bullet drugs, preventive vaccines, accurate antibody testing – that would allow us to resume our normal way of life. Yet God has already equipped us with His full armor to protect us from the traps of the devil, and we must prayerfully put it on each day, particularly the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:10-18). 

We look forward to the day we can fully return to and feel safe while working, attending school, traveling, visiting friends and family, attending celebrations, and greeting our loved ones with hugs and kisses. In the meantime, we may feel “castaway” – placed on the shelf as the apostle Paul feared (1 Corinthians 9:27) – when we are unable to attend church, fellowship with believers, and minister in person in the various missions God has so graciously appointed to us (1 Corinthians 12:28). 

But He had a plan for David that did not involve impenetrable armor, nor even a powerful offensive weapon. David carried a sword but delivered the deadly blow with a sling and stone. He knew that there is a cause worth championing, which is whatever purpose God intends for us (Ephesians 2:10; Jeremiah 29:11). He knew that the battle is the Lord’s, and that defeat is impossible when He has called us to that battle. 

Five smooth stones. With God’s power and direction, that is all David needed, and in truth, the very first stone accomplished its purpose. What might these five smooth stones represent? As I contemplated this, I glanced down at my hand marking the Bible passage I was reading, and noticed my five fingernails, rounded and smooth like pebbles found at the seashore. 

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), down to the five nails on each finger and toe. Before David was even called to defend his nation, God empowered him to use these “five smooth stones” to defend his flock from a lion and bear, using only his bare hands. In these trying times, we may not be able to engage in many of our usual activities involving sophisticated tools or machinery, but most of us are blessed with four working limbs, each embellished and protected by “five smooth stones.” 

During our stay-at-home, we can still use these to turn the pages of our Bible, to clasp our hands together in prayer, to use the keyboard of our computer to spread God’s Word or encourage others. We can still use these to minister to our household by cooking, cleaning, showing love to our spouse or child with a gentle caress, or even teaching little ones at home or playing an instrument to lift others’ spirits, much as David did with his harp (1 Samuel 16:23). 

May we not be discouraged in these trying times, but instead trust in God to use us and whatever He has provided to us to glorify and honor Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). Praise God that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that with Him, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26

© 2020 Laurie Collett


Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
For decades I have always been fascinated with the story of David and Goliath.
May I add my thoughts here about my conclusions gotten from the narrative?
I did read from one respected late author that the reason why David picked up five stones was that Goliath had four brothers, all of them on the battlefront in support. Another idea, which is my own, is that the five stones might have represented the five governing lords of the Philistines as was the case in Samson's day (although by David's day there was a king, perhaps the chief of the other four). Then again the five stones representing the five fingers of a human hand could also be true.
I also believe that his faith in God grew out of years of practice with the slingshot (the equivalent of the gun today) and that what he had used to kill the lion and the bear.
I hope you find these thoughts helpful to your excellent post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank you so much for sharing your insights regarding this chapter. Both alternative theories seem quite plausible, and seem to foreshadow David's future victories over other Philistines. It is amazing to look back on the lives of people described in the Bible, or even on our own lives, and see how God has equipped us for the specific purpose He planned for each of us since before the beginning of time. God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.

As you mentioned, even many Christians have become fearful as a result of the pandemic. Because they are afraid, like Eliab, many attack those who trust God for not living in constant fear, desperately trying to avoid any possible exposure to the virus, not understanding that immunity can only result from exposure, whether in daily life or from some vaccine. The virus will still be around when they end the lockdowns, and if people have not developed immunity, there will be a second or third wave. While we need to limit our exposure, we cannot completely avoid it. God designed our immune system to deal with low levels of such things.

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I agree with what you are saying here.
I do not fear what the spiritual enemy is causing in this world as my times, as are all those who put their trust in the Lord, are in His hands, and His thoughts are for my welfare and not to harm us. The battle is spiritual and belongs to the Lord, Who has already won that battle through His sacrifice. All we have to do is trust, taking every thought captive and bring it into obedience to the Word the Lord is speaking through the mind of Christ, not what the enemy is trying to get us to believe through the carnal mind.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Donald,
Thanks for your encouragement and insights. I agree that while trusting God and letting His perfect love cast out fear, it may be best to take a moderate stance, taking precautions and using common sense. We can't live in a bubble, but it would be testing God to throw all caution to the wind and live irresponsibly. God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Amen -- the battle is the Lord's, and He has already won the victory. May we trust in Him more and be more like Him every day until He comes again.
God bless you,