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