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The Right Equipment

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"Great results can be achieved with small forces.” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There was a tradition in ancient warfare called single combat. It was a way of settling disputes without incurring the bloodshed of a major battle. Author Malcolm Gladwell explores one of the most famous examples of this in his book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants”. The way I grew up hearing this story, David is always portrayed as the underdog, and his victory over Goliath as improbable, if not miraculous. 

But it turns out it was the other way around - against David, Goliath was a dead man walking!

We can read the story in 1 Samuel 17, but the gist of things is that the Philistines - a seafaring people from Crete - had landed an army on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean with the objective of conquering everything on their way to get to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Their objective lay in the high country and to get there they had to cross ever-increasing ridges with valleys in between in an area known as the Shephelah. The Kingdom of Israel, which was headed by King Saul, obviously caught wind of this, and Saul brought his army down from the mountains and he confronted the Philistines in the Valley of Elah, one of the most beautiful of the valleys of the Shephelah. The Israelites dug in along the northern ridge, and the Philistines dug in along the southern ridge, and the two armies just sat there for weeks and stared at each other. They were deadlocked. Neither army could attack the other, because to attack the other side you’d have to come down the mountain into the valley and then up the other side, and you’d be completely exposed.

So to break the deadlock the Philistines send out Goliath, who stands 9’ 9” (about 3 meters) wearing polished bronze armor that weighs about 125 lbs (about 58 kilos) with a spear whose iron tip weighs about 15 lbs (almost 7 kilos). 

Day after day he challenges the Israelites to single combat. He tries to goad them to action by insulting and blaspheming their God and their religion. Saul and his army were scared to death of him, assuming that he would make short work of any champion with inferior stature and armor.

Any medical professional today encountering someone whose height was so far outside accepted norms as Goliath was, would immediately suspect a condition known as acromegaly. This is caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland that causes continual secretion of human growth hormone. Some modern examples include Abraham Lincoln and the wrestler André the Giant. The side effects of this condition include reduced peripheral vision, double vision, joint weakness and a slow lumbering gait. All of these side effects are described in the biblical account! This is probably why Goliath asks David why he comes against him armed with sticks (plural) when David only had one staff. His poor vision is probably why he has to be led into the valley by an attendant carrying his shield.

David, on the other hand, is young, fit and agile and an expert with a sling. Slingers were the first “artillery” and they were incredibly accurate. We know from historical accounts that an experienced slinger could hit a bird in flight! Modern calculations reveal that the release velocity of a projectile from a sling is in excess of 100 mph (45 m/s). Moreover, the stones David picked up in the valley of Elah would be made of very dense and heavy Barium Sulfide. That weight at that speed is equivalent to the stopping power of a modern handgun!

In short, slow, ponderous Goliath stood absolutely no chance against David’s equipment equipment and demonstrated proficiency with a sling. Moreover, David was literally on a mission from God:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”  1 Samuel 17:45-46 NIV

Satan often tries to convince us that we are the underdogs in this world, or that we don’t have the resources to compete with the world’s systems, but as usual this is a lie! We do not have to fight in the way the world wants us to fight or by its rules. We are often strongest when we appear to be most weak. Listen again to Paul’s testimony:

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV

When Moses felt under-equipped in his mission to Pharaoh, God asked him “what’s that in your hand?” And that stick in his hand was used to perform amazing miracles! In the same way David “only” had a sling, but for God’s purpose it became mightier than the most formidable military equipment of the day.

There are many other pieces of scripture which amplify this principle and I encourage you to search them out, but I think that Paul sums them up succinctly:

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:31,37  NIV If you are a follower of Jesus Christ I can assure you that God is most definitely “for” you. If He has asked something of you He has already provided all the equipment you need!  Victory is not only possible, it is guaranteed! Believe it! Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

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