I Samuel 17:4-11
4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armoured with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ 10 And the Philistine said, ‘Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.’ 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
Let us use our imaginations today and imagine that we are all ancient Israelites, and Saul has called us up to join his army to fight against the Philistines. We are not really soldiers. We are probably farmers, and we have brought whatever we could find that looked like a weapon. Some brought axes, some knives; some had hunting weapons like spears and bows, some brought pitchforks and scythes. We do not have any armor. Armor is far too expensive for a farmer. Saul has armor but then he is the king. In any case, we march down to Socoh to a valley called Elah.
Maybe we had a few peaceful days there enjoying the scenery, but then the Philistines showed up, and they were a nasty bunch of people. We are probably telling ourselves that the Philistines are just people, that when it comes to battle we have as much chance of killing them as they do of killing us. However, we soon learn that is not true. We did not count on Goliath of Gath. He is a giant, not only that he is an armored giant. He stands 9 feet tall and is covered with bronze—bronze helmet, bronze coat of mail, bronze greaves to protect his legs. He is carrying a throwing javelin slung over his back. In his hand, he has this massive spear. We are told the shaft is like a weaver’s beam. The author of I Samuel assumes that we know what that is, but probably most people today do not. Weavers of ancient times formed a primitive loom with two stout staves or beams hung horizontally. The beams were separated by several feet and yarn was looped around the beams many times. This formed the vertical part of the cloth. Then another piece of yarn was interlaced horizontally through the vertical yarn. This was done was done until you had a completed piece of cloth. Then the beams were removed from the loops and you were done. But how big was as weaver’s beam? It depended upon the size of the piece of cloth you were making. It was not an exact measurement. However, we gather that Goliath’s spear a big chunk of wood. His spearhead “weighed six hundred shekels of iron,” which I am told is about 15 pounds. To top it all off his shield was so big and bulky that he had a shield bearer to carry it for him.
To the average Israelite farmer turned soldier, Goliath must have looked like an armored tank. If we are standing in the battle line with our pitchfork, which we got out of the barn, we know that if we go against Goliath we are not going to win. To make a modern comparison it would be sort of like attacking an Abrams tank with a cavalry saber. That is not going to result in a good outcome.
Furthermore, 1 Samuel 17 is discussing a battle that occurred about 3000 years ago and they had a different approach to battle than we do. It was common for champions on one side to challenge the champions of the other side to individual combat.
We see the same sort of thing in the Iliad, the great Greek epic poem about the Trojan War, which dates probably from a century, or so later that I Samuel 17. In the Iliad, for example, the Greek hero Achilles challenges the Trojan hero Hector to a duel to the death.
Goliath is doing the same sort of thing. He says, “Send out your best guy. I will take him on.” Now if we are Israelites this morning. It is you and me standing over there listening to this challenge. What are we going to do?
We have a giant problem. We are dirt farmers. We are not going to defeat Goliath. We do not have the equipment or the size or the experience. We are probably already thinking about going home. But one person there has a chance against this giant--Saul. When giant issues his challenge, he does not call us Israelites. There is no nation of Israel at that time, just a collection of hill tribes, Judah and Ephraim and Manassas and so on. Saul has raised an army of sorts from these tribes, and thus Goliath calls us “Servants of Saul.” Saul is the focus here. He is the heart and soul of the resistance against Philistine aggression. If Goliath can kill him, the Philistines think that will be the end of any armed resistance, and they are probably right.
But Saul has a chance against Goliath. Goliath is big but Saul is a big man also. He stands head and shoulders above the rest of the Israelites, and Saul has armor, not as much armor as Goliath, but he has a chance, not much chance, but when Goliath issued his challenge everyone on both sides expected Saul to come forth in full armor, ready to fight to the death.
But Saul was also terrified. Saul and his whole army quaked in fear and dismay before this strutting idol worshipper. The giant from Gath was not just defying Saul and his soldiers; he was challenging their faith in God. “Is there one among you who would dare to fight? Let him step forward and you can watch him die?”
No one stepped forward. Saul was hiding in his tent; hiding behind guards who were just as afraid as he was. Who could blame them? When you look at what was happening in the valley of Elah that day, this giant problem was hopeless.
We all have giant problems sometimes--giants of sickness, giants of loneliness, giants of pain, giants of despair, giants of financial need, giants of doubt, fear and frustration.
With giant problems, the closer you get to them the bigger they look. I can imagine being an spearman in Saul’s army, watching Goliath coming across the valley and as he approaches, you look up and up and up. It is the same with all of the problems we face. If we could see that problem coming then we could have made plans to escape it, but that’s not the way it happens. We are just cruising along, enjoying life when suddenly, square in the middle of the road, there stands a giant of a problem.
I talk to people all the time about some of the giants that they face. I do not care how much faith you have, there will likely come a time when your faith will waver. You can rest assured that your faith is going to be tested to the limit. A giant problem will show up. A problem that just gets bigger and bigger the longer you look at it.
And our hearts fail us. We want to hide in our tents like Saul. Sometimes, it is not that the giants are so big but our fear and cowardice makes them seem that way. Sometimes we do not have Giant problems; we have “midget Mentality.” When you have a midget mentality, every obstacle seems gigantic.
Now we have all had problems. It does not matter whether the problems are real or only seem real, they are still real to us. Sometimes the problems we face are so huge that they obscure our vision of Christ. I have been there. I have seen times when the giants came flooding into my life. I felt the cold grip of doubt. None of us are immune to the attacks of the enemy. Satan is always hanging nearby, just waiting for an opportune moment to rise up against you.
Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 17:20, You could not cast out that devil, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
We want much more than a mustard seed’s worth of faith, but there are times when our faith seems much smaller than any mustard seed. There are times when we develop “midget mentality.”
What is “midget mentality”? You think too small; your faith is too small; your commitment to the Lord is too small; your trust in God is too small.
Now this is not in any sense a politically incorrect jab at people who are born with a physical condition called dwarfism that causes them to remain small their whole lives. There is a program on TLC called “Little People Big World.” It is the real life story of Matt and Amy Roloff who are both little people -- 4 feet tall – who are determined to succeed in a world that is, in many ways, alien to them. Matt lost his job in Silicon Valley and is now trying to run his own business—Roloff Farms, a 34-acre farm in Oregon. Amy has two jobs, and she is struggling to raise four children. Every day is a challenge to the Roloffs. Driving a car, seeing over the counter at a bank or even making a simple trip to the grocery store is a test in a world that was not made for them. They face a culture with all of its giant cars, homes and everything else, and they take it all in stride and do whatever they have to do to build a happy life.
A “Midget Mentality” has nothing to do with the size of your body, but it has everything to do with the size of your heart, and the size of your faith. You can have Midget Mentality even if you are six feet tall.
So how do people with “Midget Mentality” see the world around them? Every obstacle is a giant standing in the way. Their favorite words in every conversation are “can’t,” “won’t,” “why,” “no.” These are not words of power. These are words that keep us thinking small.
Do you remember the original Twelve-Step Program of AA. It was, and is, a good program, but it was developed specifically for helping alcoholics. Perhaps we need to have a twelve-step program for those with ‘midget mentality.” Try these:
1. Negative thoughts make me feel bad about myself, my life, my church and even my God.
2. I admit that having “Midget Mentality” and thinking negative thoughts serves no useful purpose.
3. Dwelling on the bad things in my life only tends to strengthen their hold on my life. I must determine to see the good in everything.
4. My own way of thinking has been the cause of much of my physical and emotional pain.
5. I must learn to take full responsibility for my life and thoughts.
6. I have no one to blame for the condition of my life but myself. The life that I am living now is the result of both past and present choices that I have made.
7. God is my help.
8. God will help me be an “overcomer.”
9. I will make a daily list of all of the blessings that God has bestowed upon me; I will quit complaining and start adoring.
10. I will surround myself with people of faith; people who will build me up, not people who tear me down. The best place to do this is at church.
11. I will be an encourager. I will speak words of encouragement to everyone I meet.
12. I will pray every day. I will talk to God, get help from God, lean on God.
Now those are just some thoughts I jotted down. I do not claim any originality for them, but we all need thoughts like that to apply to our lives, so that we can deal with giant problems. Certainly David knew how to deal with problems.
I suspect you already know the story of David and Goliath. Saul and his army are terrified. There is no solution to Goliath. David shows up with a solution that everyone there knew about. Everyone knew about the shepherd’s sling that could throw a rock like a major league pitcher’s fast ball. It was a common weapon of the time. Probably there were other people in both armies who had slings. It is not the weapon that is the major factor here. It is David’s absolute faith in God. Everyone else is so terrified that they are locked into a box of thinking that says the only way to fight Goliath is the way Goliath wants to fight--armor to armor, shield to shield, spear to spear. David’s faith gives him clarity of mind and he can see that there is another way, a way that Goliath has never thought about. Faith also gives him courage to carry out this unique solution to his giant problem. He kills the giant with a rock from his sling.
Even so, faith can give us clarity of mind to find solutions to our giant problems and faith can give us the courage to carry out those solutions.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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