God of the Valleys – The Valley of David and Goliath

God of the Valleys – The Valley of David and Goliath

God of the Valleys – The Valley of David and Goliath.

“Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.”  (1 Samuel 17:2-3). 

The Valley of Elah was a long, shallow valley that has gone down in biblical history as the site of a famous battle, a short-lived fight between a boy and a giant. Like many ancient wars, each side of the war sent out a representative, their best warrior, to fight one-on-one. The winner of this fight between champions would determine which side was the victor in the war. This war between the Israelites and the Philistines was intended to be champion versus champion. The problem was that no one on Israel’s side wanted to take on that behemoth standing in the middle of the valley representing the Philistines. It’s understandable at a practical level… estimates of Goliath’s actual size vary from seven feet to over nine feet tall. He was outfitted in total battle gear, with a brass helmet, a coat of brass mail, brass leg guards, and a huge brass breastplate. Goliath’s spear had a shaft that was the size of a “weaver’s beam,'” which might have been longer than David was tall. After giving his brothers their lunch and then noticing Goliath taunting Israel, David was outraged.

Is there anything more audacious than a basically empty-handed boy, with no battle gear and only a sling with five stones, facing off with a fully armed bully of a grown man? And a very large bully who was also an experienced soldier. But this was no ordinary boy. This was an anointed shepherd boy who had already killed a lion and a bear in his defense of the sheep (1 Samuel 17:36-37). Word was already out that David was a “brave man and a warrior” even while a very young man (1 Samuel 16:18). And since the day of his anointing by Samuel, David “had the Spirit of Yahweh on him in power.” (1 Samuel 16:13). So David was extraordinary even before he challenged Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

So maybe it wasn’t so surprising that young David was brazen enough to have a duel with the Philistine giant. One of the qualities that sets David apart from practically everyone else is his overflowing confidence in God, learned and ingrained as a boy in the fields. To get a sense of his confidence in God, look briefly at his song of praise in 2 Samuel 22.  David composed this song after God rescued him from his enemies and from Saul. The song displays his unshakable confidence in God to support, strengthen and rescue him. This confidence was a dominant part of his personality his whole life. He developed this confidence as a shepherd boy, as a warrior, and as King of Israel. In this song, which is virtually identical to Psalm 18, David states that Yahweh saved him, rescued him, supported him, restored him, helped him, preserved him, and delivered him. David acknowledged that God faithfully kept him from defeat. The song triumphantly exults in his Rescuer by calling the Lord his rock, fortress, deliverance, refuge, shield, strength, salvation, stronghold, lamp and champion. In this song David rejoiced in the LORD, that “with your help I can crush any army, I can leap over any wall.” (22:30). With this overwhelming confidence in Yahweh, David wouldn’t shy from any conflict that involved the Lord’s honor and name and reputation. St. Paul reflects David’s confidence and trust when he said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). David no doubt was thinking the same thing as he approached this giant soldier. He’s a mere pagan giant? Bring him on! With God on David’s side, Goliath was doomed from the start.

… The Philistine, preceded by his shield-bearer, came nearer and nearer to David. When the Philistine looked David up and down, what he saw filled him with scorn, because David was only a lad, with ruddy cheeks and an attractive appearance. The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog for you to come after me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. David retorted to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword, spear and scimitar, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh-sabaoth, the LORD of the Angel Armies, and the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have challenged. Today, Yahweh will deliver you into my hand; and the whole assembly shall know that Yahweh does not give victory by means of sword and spear – for Yahweh is Lord of the battle and He will deliver you into our power.’”  (1 Samuel 17:41-47, NJB).

Yahweh-sabaoth = LORD of Hosts; LORD of the Angel Armies; Commander of Heaven’s Armies; Leader of Angelic Warriors; a host of angelic forces massing together for battle at the command of the LORD. This name of God is the most frequently used compound name for God in the Hebrew Bible. It is used over 280 times, most of them found in the biblical Prophets, especially JeremiahIsaiah, and in many of the Psalms.

Young David was outraged that a pagan Philistine would challenge the troops of Israel. Goliath was taunting Israel, he was strutting his impudence to Israel and to Israel’s God. David couldn’t understand why this heathen was allowed to defy “the armies of the living God.” When David confronted Goliath, the giant sneered and cursed David by calling on the names of his pagan gods. Goliath called on those demonic spirits they worshiped. David confidently challenged Goliath in the Name of Israel’s God, Yahweh-sabaoth, the LORD of the Angel Warriors. The spiritual war has begun! And in the strength of Yahweh, David was victorious. Above the human battle between giant and boy was a spiritual battle, and Yahweh-sabaoth defeated the enemy.

“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sunk in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran.” (1 Samuel 17:48-51).

The Valley of Elah was the site of maybe the biggest upset in military history. But there were many more to come, with God’s help, and many of them occurred in valleys.