Friday, July 14, 2017


And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. (1 Samuel 17:41-43)

Why does Goliath disdain David?  Because David was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.  So, what has happened, in Goliath's eyes, is that these petrified Israelites, who have been quivering and shaking for 40 days, who have obviously no mode of resistance, no answer to Goliath's challenge, have now put forth a young, small, prettyboy, without sword or spear, without shield, without armor, who presents himself as nothing threatening.  And Goliath is absolutely insulted.  He even chides David.  He uses a metaphor of someone throwing a dog a stick to go fetch, Goliath being the dog, and the owners (Saul and the Israelites) throwing David (a stick and easy prey) to the giant to pick up off the ground.  Goliath perceives Israel as making fun of him.  He does not know the Lord, and to those outside of the Church, yes, the things the Lord has done throughout history to save his elect, look like foolishness.  "The cross is foolishness," Paul claims, "to those who are perishing."

And we see this again and again in scripture. God uses the foolish things of the earth to shame the wise.  In the Old Testament, the Lord has demonstrated his power in the ten plagues.  He throws the most terrifying horrors at the Egyptians, including boils, locust that eat all their grain, hail that kills anything outside, and all these horrors culminate in the first born sons of Egypt dying.  When the Egyptians try to fight the Israelites, God shows his power in a huge pillar of fire.  He then splits a sea in half and causes the halves to crash down on the onrushing army.  God has shown great power.  He is a force to be reckoned with.  Unbelievers everywhere are in shock.  They gossip among themselves and are filled with great fear of this true God.

And then it seems that God has fun with everyone.  Besides the David and Goliath match, we have incidents that seem completely foolish, and yet the Lord's redeeming power comes out of them, too.  Naaman from Syria, a great general, goes to Elisha for a cure to his leprosy.  Elisha refuses to see him but sends him a message to wash in the Jordan.  Here is Naaman's response:

But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:11-14)

It's like God is toying with unbelievers, and so he is.  It's like a Loony Tunes cartoon where one fighter is trying harder and harder to beat the other fighter, who is so strong, that he resists with his baby toe while filing his fingernails.  We see this again and again and again, and the purpose is to show us, remind us that we are not merely worshiping the strongest God among many but the only God, who is sovereign over all that has been made, all inside the church and all outside the church.

It is amusing but also glorifying to God to see how he interacts with the hostile, unbelieving world.  It strengthens our own belief.  The God, who utterly destroyed Egypt, who showed the world his mettle, who exuded power in every interaction with mankind, reveals his ultimate rescue of his elect from eternal death by incarnating himself as a baby, not as a huge strong man, but as someone "whom I could probably beat at basketball," as one of my professors told me.  When Will Ferrell prays to specifically the infant Jesus in one of his films, we find it amusing, and rightly so, because on the surface it is ironic.  Who is going to save us?  A baby!  A baby?  Yes, a baby!

And the world is insulted and angry.  Herod wipes out all the children in Bethlehem under two years of age, but before that he was greatly troubled when the wise men told him about the baby.  It made no sense.  When the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, the temptations are boorish and pedestrian.  In the end, Satan falls into the ultimate trap, as he tempts mankind to crucify the Son of God, and as a result initiates the process of salvation.  Satan believed he was being treated as a dog and Jesus was the paltry stick that God was flinging at his feet.

Many times, even those who believed would ask, "who is this?"  It made no sense.  Isn't this the carpenter's son?  We know his family.  We have seen his mother and father and his sisters and brothers.  Jesus taught as one who had authority, but he didn't have the tassels and ornaments that showed he was a learned man.  His answers to these questions always pointed straight to God. "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. (John 7:16-18)"  Also, "You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me. (John 7:28-29)"  Jesus' evangelism included this important aspect: he pointed to the one who sent him.  Likewise, we, as disciples of Christ who are hated for Christ's sake, who are called fools on account of him, who baffle the "logical" and "wise" world, we are to never make assertions without the support of scripture.  We ask the world to clarify its position, and we take the unbelieving souls who confront us to the pages of scripture so that the Holy Spirit of God will handle them completely.  The good works that the Lord has given us to do are to love our neighbors as ourselves, where we demonstrate that we love God.  The hard tasks of the world God handles himself.  Our only role in that effort is to proclaim him and draw others into his word.

One final "foolish" thing that God did to toy with the world will show this more clearly.  The Lord took the man who was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1)," and made him into his greatest champion.  When Ananias is sent to heal Saul's eyes, he is confused.  He has heard about this evil man.  Surely, Lord, you cannot mean him!  He did mean him.  When Paul is healed, he immediately begins proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God (Acts 9:20)."  And all who heard him were amazed, because they knew his past.  God must have been laughing uproariously at the circumstances. Meanwhile, Paul keeps confronting those who oppose him, confounding them with proofs that Jesus was the Christ.  His words are scripture, as Peter attests, and in those powerful words, Paul always brings us back to the one who sent him, bringing out the scriptures as a platform for the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of the unbelievers and strengthen the hearts of the believers.

And this is exactly what David does: Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Samuel 17:45-49)

David's words to Goliath bring all who hear to God and his word.  Everything is about God.  David considers himself as nothing, only God is the one who fights.  David is merely his instrument.  The reason?  So that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.  The battle is already the Lord's.  It's over before it has begun, because God is sovereign and not a sparrow falls unless he knows about it.  Yes, God has thrown a stick at the dog's feet, so that the world can see the stick rise up and beat the dog down.  Only through Christ can there be such a victory.