By Horatius Bonar
"And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father 's house free in Israel." -- 1 Samuel 17:25
HERE are two men, and in these men two nations, two religions; two bodies or companies,--the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. Israel and Philistia are now brought face to face. There must be war, not peace; not even an alliance, not even a truce. The world's table is not spread for the church, nor the church's table for the world. The "earth" may sometimes help the woman, and swallow up the floods which would overwhelm her; but friendship with the earth is not to be cultivated or sought after. The friendship of the world is enmity with God.
Here are two men,--the one the personification of power, the other of weakness; the one of self-reliance, the other of confidence in God. We see man, nothing but man, in the one; God, nothing but God in the other. In the Philistine we see man fighting against God, in David man fighting for God. What the world admires and prizes is to be found in the one, what it despises in the other.
One thing marks them both: they are full of courage and of confidence; both equally sure of success, though the one boasts, and the other boasts not. The sources and grounds of their confidence are very different; but their confidence itself seems very much alike.
The object of each is, in one respect, different; in another, the same. They meet for battle,--each bent on the overthrow of the other. But Israel has not provoked nor challenged the conflict; nor is Israel desirous of seizing Philistia. She has Jerusalem: why should she seek Gaza? But Philistia would fain have Israel and her land in her power, and she makes continual inroads for this end. She is not content with Gaza and Ashkelon; she must have Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
But it is not the Gentile giant that I ask you specially to, notice, but the Jewish boy, the stripling of Bethlehem. In him we have--
I. The rejection of human weapons. He was fully aware (1.) of the greatness of the issue depending on this combat; (2.) of the strength of the adversary; (3.) of his own weakness; (4.) of the great things to which he had pledged himself. Yet he declines to avail himself of any of those things which would have helped to make up his deficiency, and made him, as man would say, adequate for the struggle. He takes only that which is expressive of feebleness,--which would make him incur the imputation of being a fool, like the apostle in after years. He had to become "weak" as well as a "fool," that he might be both wise and strong. His taking unlikely and unsuitable human weapons was more expressive of his faith than if he had taken none; for, through such, God got the opportunity of shewing His power,--His power, not as directly coming down from heaven, but as coming through the feeble instrumentality of a shepherd, and a shepherd's sling. It was God identifying Himself with David, and using the sling as His own two-edged sword. Thus the true beginning of all strength is weakness; the starting-point for success is the abnegation of self-power and human appliances. How often is it true, of individuals, and of churches, and of societies, that they are too strong for God to work by or with; too well equipped, or too well organised; too rich, or too numerous, or too great, for God to get glory from! He must have His work done by hands, regarding which there will be no mistake as to who is the doer of the whole work, and the author of all the success. David did not reject these weapons because they were sinful. He often used the sword, and the spear, and the shield, in fighting the battles of the Lord. He had builded a tower for an armoury, wherein there hung a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. But, in certain cases, that which is lawful is not expedient. Lawful instruments sometimes become, if not unlawful, at least inexpedient and useless, when they give God no room to make bare His arm. We are, generally speaking, far too solicitous about our strength, and forget that it is always by weakness that God works. We are too solicitous about intellect, learning, numbers, money, as if we could have no hope of success without these. No one is too weak to work the work of God; many are too strong. We are slow to believe this, slow to act on it. Yet it is one of the great truths on which God has set His seal during the ages past.
II. The adoption of divine weapons. David leaves the human weapons to the Philistine; he prefers the divine. The sight of human weapons in his adversary had not made him afraid to do battle with him, nor made him say, Oh that I had a sword like his! And as he drew nearer, and saw his whole strength and array, his confidence does not sink; it rises. He sees in the giant an enemy of the living God, and his weapons as, therefore, directed against Him. That sword, that spear, that shield, are used against Jehovah, God of Israel. David is not dismayed, but goes forward triumphantly, assured of being more than conqueror. He has a weapon,--only one,--framed by no human hand, brought out of no earthly armoury. It is called "the name of the Lord." With this he can face, not only Goliath and the Philistian armies, but Satan and the hosts of hell. This "name" is our weapon still. It is sword, and shield, and spear. Armed with it we can do any work, fight any battle, engage any foe. Only let us be sure that we are on God's side, and our enemy against Him, we can go forward with confidence. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" is one side of the maxim. "If we be for God, who can be against us?" is the other. In using this name as a weapon, or as a plea, I come as if God and I were one; as if God, and not I, were on the battle-field. We stand in God's stead, and He in ours. We fight in God's stead, and He in ours. It is not so much we that work as He. Using His name, is simply confiding in His revealed character and sure word, and in nothing of ourselves,--making use of no arm of flesh, no power of man's arm or man's intellect, but Jehovah's alone, the Lord God of Israel. Have faith in God! Not in man, nor in the flesh, nor in genius, nor in science, nor in numbers, nor in rank, nor in influential names, nor in great schemes, but in the living God--David's God and ours.