Imagine the scene: a scrawny sixteen year old shepherd boy takes out a 9’9” tall giant with one rock and a sling.
You may not have a gigantic giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you like the Hulk. It could be low self-esteem or insecurity or child abuse in your past. But you have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to learn from David.
He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”
David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. He mentions Goliath two times and God nine times. He knew the giant was there and recognized his presence. But his thoughts were twice as much on God. That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challenge Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him. It helps to have someone in your corner that believes in you.
David had his Jonathan. You need yours. You need at least one person who believes in you and that also believes in God. Someone who can encourage your faith—give you courage—when you most need it. And you will need it. Because after you slay one giant, there will be more. You may wonder why David picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his use of the sling.
2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He could take on one giant. You might say knew how to get a head of his giant. And then he was ready for more.And you can too. Just follow the shepherd from Bethlehem
Ever since Peter Stuyvesant visited the Palace of Versailles the world has had a distorted view of itself. Peter was the governor of New Amsterdam—later to be renamed New York City—beginning in 1647.
He was visiting France to discuss colonial land agreements. While at Versailles he was awed by the Hall of Mirrors. Peter was determined to bring a similarly amazing showcase to his city. In 1651 he founded the Peter Stuyvesant’s House of Mirrors. He charged one Dutch gulden for admission.
This house of mirrors eventually morphed into what we know as a Fun House of Mirrors seen at many carnivals. For a few tickets the fun begins by walking into a maze of mirrors, both convex and concave.
We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images of our figure.
Today you don’t even have to go to the carnival for this experience. A laptop with a webcam and a silly photo feature will allow you to take a picture of yourself that you can manipulate to look odd.It’s all fun. But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise for God’s people.
It was parked at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but holiness was found there.
Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22).
Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.
Just like Eli and his sons we are representatives of God. We represent Jesus to others. You may have heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”
Anyone with college-aged kids knows the inundating routine that is college applications. Visitcampuses. Choose a few schools to focus on. Make applications. Fill out forms. Write essays.For anyone who hasn’t “been there, done that,” the filing of the application and financial aid forms is nothing compared to the waiting. It’s like the first time you look at your girlfriend or boyfriend and say, ‘I love you.” You’ve made the first move. And then you wait. You wait to see if they respond in turn.
For the college applicant, the end of the waiting is signaled with a letter in the mailbox – hopefullysaying “You have been accepted.”
We all have a desire to be accepted, don’t we? In fact, that desire made it into Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs. He theorized that acceptance is basic to our nature and to our psychological health.
Ruth had the same need as we do. She was a Moabite living in Bethlehem who we meet in The Story. She ended up there with her mother-in-law Naomi when her husband died. And she found herself picking up the leftovers after the harvest in a field owned by Boaz.
Boaz discovered she was an outsider—a Moabite—the same people who would oppress his nation for eighteen years. You’d expect fireworks when they met. Instead, Boaz tells Ruth, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
His acceptance of Ruth goes a step further. Ruth finds him asleep on the threshing floor and lies down at his feet. When he awakens, Ruth asks him to “spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a family guardian.” The word for “garment” is the same Hebrew word for “wings” in the blessing Boaz had pronounced over Ruth. God’s acceptance came to Ruth through Boaz.
Your acceptance did too. You see, Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David.
In Matthew’s genealogy the lineage of Jesus is traced through David. Boaz is there too along with
his mother Rahab (Matt. 1:5). Yes, that Rahab. The prostitute that lived in Canaan and sheltered the two spies Joshua sent into the land.
Have you ever had to own up for something you did wrong? Maybe you remember sneaking out to see an R-rated movie or go to a party as a teen and then confessing the truth to your seething parents after you crept in the house past curfew. Or maybe, more recently, you lied to your boss and had to face the consequences once you were found out.
We have all had to come face-to-face with an authority and own up to what we’ve done wrong. Palms sweat, stomach twists and turns. It can feel like you’re going before the judge in a court martial.
Judges elicit a sense of fear, don’t they? They never call you in for something you have done right.We think of them as someone who harshly tells us what we did wrong. And they seem to be everywhere these days on television. There’s Judge Judy and Hatchett. Mathis and Christina. Judge Brown. Then there are some judges you may not know. They even have a book in the Bible with their name on it. Judges. These judges appeared on the scene to help sort out right and wrong.
They also helped people get out of trouble.
God’s people kept putting themselves into a never ending cycle of disobedience, discipline, declaration of wrong, and deliverance. Judges like Deborah and Gideon and Samson helped them find their way back to God.
What did the people do that was so bad they needed judges? Two things. First, they failed to put God first in their lives (Judges 1:28). And secondly, they did not teach their children to know God (Judges 2:10).
These two “sins” led to their downfall and ruin.
Are you making the same mistakes they made? If so, you have a judge that can help you––Jesus.The good news is that when he “calls” you into his office after you’ve messed up, you will look up to see your judge’s face and see your savior there.
When someone keeps telling you to “be strong and courageous,” you might suspect you are up against something big. And the Israelites were.
About to enter the land that had been promised them 600 years before, they had a giant-sized task awaiting them. Literally. Forty years earlier ten spies had come back and told the Israelites that the inhabitants of the land were so big they felt like they were the size of a grasshopper in comparison. Fear took them captive without a battle and sent them off as a group to wander around in a wilderness where they took their chances against wild animals rather than face their giants.
They wandered so long that those who had grasshopper-sized faith died out. Forty years later their children were ready to take the land. They were physically no taller than their parents had been. The enemies in the land were no smaller than before. But the Israelites’ faith muscles had grown.
There were two spies who had reported the land was theirs for the taking. One of them, Joshua, is now the Israelites’ leader. He was courageous. And God wanted to keep him that way. So God tells him three times in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” He also reminds him “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
My guess is you have a few giants in your life too. Some uphill battles that appear insurmountable. A task demanding more than you think you have to give. One too many things on your “to do” list than you have the time or energy to do. Unemployment is staring you down. Depression has a grip on you. Bills have raided your bank account and left it empty. An illness hovers in your life like a threatening storm.
You’d rather just run and wander.
Instead, be strong and courageous. You have a Joshua that will lead the way. The New Testament equivalent of the name “Joshua” is “Jesus.” And he has promised to be with you always (Matthew 28:20). Jesus knows how to lead you through battles. He had a few of his own while he was on this earth. Enemies attacking him with accusations (Mark 3:22). No home and no bed (Luke 9:58). Crowds and expectations pressing in on him (Luke 8:45). The religious establishment eventually insuring he was sentenced to a brutal death. (Mark 15:14).
Yet he took on the most barbaric giant there is, death, and lived to tell about it. He can help you do the same. You need only be strong and courageous in your faith.
Every parent has been there. The trip ahead is long. The travel schedule is tight. You hit the road with a full tank, confident the plan you have crafted beats anything AAA could muster. But twenty minutes down the highway you hear a small, squeaky voice from the backseat. The artillery begins to bombard you. The questions.
Some you expected. Are we there yet? How much longer? Can we get something to eat?The next barrage is unexpected. Who was the first person to decide to squeeze those things on a cow and drink whatever came out? Why does our dog get mad at us when we blow in his face but when we take him on a car ride he sticks his head out the window?
Every parent has been there. Questions from the backseat. You come to expect them. Every journey to a destination includes them. The same is true for the journey of faith.
Just like kids on a trip we get tired of the journey. We want to know when we can stop. We get tired of serving. We get tired of waiting. We get tired of the people we’re traveling with.And we grumble. The Israelites did. They complained about the food, about the place they were traveling, and about their ‘driver’ Moses.
Grumbling does not set well with God. In fact, our grumbling can lead to our wandering. When offered the chance to leave Kadesh and enter the Promised Land, the Israelites listened to the fear-filled report from ten spies instead of the faith-full report of Joshua and Caleb.
Kadesh means “Spring of Decision” and it was time for one. They were in the right place to make the right decision. But the majority made the wrong one. The people wished they had died in the desert. So God told them they would get their wish. They would wander until the unbelieving generation died out.
And they did. They wandered in the Wilderness for forty years. And their children were impacted by their decisions.
The decisions you make affect those around you, just like the decisions the Israelites made at Kadesh. You can decide to grumble or be thankful. You can decide to turn away from God or turn toward God.
You can decide to wander without purpose through life or follow God’s vision for your life.Just don’t forget that those in the backseat will be affected by your decisions.
It was perhaps the greatest opportunity ever. God tells Moses that he wants to come to his people and dwell right in the middle of their camp. Not on the outskirts. Not in the ‘burbs. But right in the middle of where they were living.
You might wonder, “What preparations would a people need to make for God to live in their midst?” Would it be like getting ready for weekend guests or someone special coming to dinner? You feel compelled to make sure your home looks as good as possible. You want to make a good impression and you want your guest to feel welcome.
God anticipated the question and told Moses what needed to be in place for his coming. First, he wanted to be close to them but there was the problem of sin that created a breach between them. So God provided Moses with instructions about the practice of sacrificing, offering a covering for the people’s indiscretions before a Holy God. Sin is serious stuff, not to be taken lightly, and the sacrifice of unblemished animals was necessary to give the people a picture of sin.Second, he wanted to stay close to them. Moses was given the blueprints for the building of the Tabernacle.
It’s a big word for “tent.” A portable place of worship. Kind of a mobile Motel 6. And he wantedto camp out right in the middle of where they were camping. God wanted to be close to his people. But he also wanted them to be close to each other. So he declared a third thing to get ready. He gave them Ten Commandments concerning relationships. The first four commandments focus on how we are to demonstrate our love to God.
The second set of six have to do with how to show love to other people. In seeing these relationships of love it was God’s desire that people would come to know Him too. Jesus said the same in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. . .By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God gave the Israelites guidelines so that, when they sought to live by them, other nations would see them as different and know that they were God’s people. God gave us Jesus so that, when we live like him, others will know that we are his people.
For those who know him, God took care of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. He tabernacles in the hearts of those who have drawn near to him. Could it be then that the degree to which we are obedient to him in this command to love each other is the degree of his presence we will find among us?
It could be our greatest opportunity ever.
There’s a wall in front of you. Behind you is a past you are running from. Beyond the wall awaits the promise of a new life. But you’re not moving because there is this “wall.” You feel trapped. No way out.
This is just the sort of situation in which God does some of his finest work.
You need only ask the Israelites. Behind them was a life of back-breaking work and slavery. Ahead of them was a life in the land of Promise. Behind them was the fierce army of a fanatical Pharaoh coming towards them. Ahead of them was a wall. Their obstruction was made of water.Your “wall” may be a fear of failure. Or maybe it’s a lack of confidence that has grinded your progress to a halt.
Or it could merely be too many problems that have piled up in front of you at the same time. Andyou have no clue which one to tackle first. So you stopped. And you aren’t sure if there is a way over, around, or under this imposing impediment.
At this point many people panic. Anxiety courses its way through the body, atrophies the movement muscles, and rigor mortis overtakes their resolve. Eyes which once had clear focus now only focus on the wall just inches away.
But some look elsewhere. The Israelites looked to Moses. They began belting him with blame. Have you done the same? Blame the boss. Blame a co-worker. Blame your dog. Blame God. Maybe even blame yourself? Blame all you want but the wall remains.
While the Israelites were body punching Moses, he opted to look elsewhere. His options? He could have looked at the enemy’s army. He could have looked at the ungrateful people he led. He could have looked at the wall of water spread out before him, sat down, and given up.
Instead he looked to God. And God opened an unlikely route through the wall of water. Safely on the other side, the very wall that had halted their steps closed in on and covered the sources of their fears.
The very name of the book where we find this story serves as a reminder when we face our “walls.” “Exodus” is a compound Greek word meaning “the way out.” And in case you might have missed it, the way out was not a better job, a different spouse, or a victim mentality.
No, the way out is God. Next time you find yourself up against a wall try looking to him.
People nearing mid-life often crash into some startling and unexpected observations. For instance, we all dreamed big dreams when we were younger. But as we move at a break-neck pace through our twenties, thirties, and forties, we eventually slam head on into the realization that some of our dreams will never be realized.
That observation throws some people into a mid-life crisis. Some don’t make it that far with their aspirations, having already given them up somewhere along the way. Some run into conflict that makes them weary and they settle for less. Still others make bold decisions to trade one dream in for another.
That’s what Joseph did. Talk about dreams! He had some big ones. At seventeen he dreamed his ten older brothers would bow down to him. It’s enough he dreamed that dream. What makes it worse is that he told his brothers about it.
The older brothers already had issues with the younger son. Their father favored Joseph. He had even given him a valuable, multi-colored coat. That’s the modern-day equivalent of a parent of four teenagers giving one an iPhone and the other three a stack of quarters each for a pay phone (assuming they could find one on their travels). The brothers banded together and tossed the dreamer in a ditch, eventually selling him into slavery at the first opportunity. The next thing Joseph knew he was waking up in Egypt.
From there his life was a rollercoaster thrill ride. One minute a slave. The next in charge of an Egyptian official’s house. The next in prison. The next in charge of the prison. Then he found himself in front of Pharaoh, called upon to interpret the leader’s dreams. With God’s help he was able to warn Pharaoh he would have seven years of abundant crops that he should be put in storehouses in anticipation of seven years of famine. Recognizing his wisdom, Pharaoh put Joseph second in command of all of Egypt.
And because of God’s personal involvement in his life, he was was able to save his family. The same family that God was building into a nation. Joseph was in position to bring his family to Egypt and give them the most fertile land to work. And it was definitely fertile. In the time they were there they were “fruitful and increased greatly” (Exodus 1:7).
Joseph could have lost his life getting caught up in the details of his life, chasing his dreams and desires. Instead, he chose a better story. God’s story.
You can do the same. If your life’s dream has stalled, look to God. If your dream now realized is not all you thought it would be, look to God. He can give you another dream. A better one, not according to the world’s standard but God’s criterion. Just like Joseph’s. Then you’ll have a story to tell.
The casting agent enters the room with her top picks for the show’s leading man and lady. The new series will follow the spellbinding story of a clan that builds a powerful, world-impacting family tree. This is the pilot, and it is crucial to make the right call on the individuals who will fall in love and launch this Kennedy-like family of influence and fame.
Producers and writers alike have waited breathlessly for this moment, the moment when who they have envisioned as the leading characters will be finally realized in an actor and actress. But when they turn to see who has been tapped for these most special of roles, the thud of their collective jaws hitting the majestic mahogany conference table muffles their mutual groans.
There before their wide eyes, instead of the expected vibrant, young couple with gleaming white teeth and tanned and toned bodies, stand a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman. Not what they had pictured for their production. And yet, this is what God has chosen. His screenplay called for a couple to launch a new nation, one that would impact the entire world. As he would say, a nation through whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Abram and Sarai stand there, adorned perhaps by dusty old robes and crowned with wispy white hair and loosely fitting skin and as befuddled as anyone else. God chose them to begin a nation. An unlikely pair, especially after factoring in the fact that Sarai was barren. How could God expect to start a nation with a woman who could not bear children?
To complicate the story line, it will be 25 more years before they actually have their child of promise. By that time Abram and Sarai will be 100 years old and 90 years old, respectively (and their names will be changed to Abraham and Sarah). Perhaps Social Security checks will help this special couple decorate the baby’s tent and they’ll be able take naps when the baby does. And the rest, as they say, is history. His story.
God picks people you and I wouldn’t necessarily select to take part in his story. In fact sometimes we are shocked who plays the starring roles in his stories. Unlike the way we do business, he taps people, not merely because of their abilities, but for their availability. God searches for people who are open to be used by him. Since he uses only those who are willing to be used for his purposes, there is no doubt that it is he who is doing the the wonder- working. Let there be no doubt, throughout history he is the one making things happen.
That’s good news, isn’t it? In the business world, you may not have a great pedigree. In academics, you may not be a Rhodes Scholar. You may not have a lot of money and you may have average looks. But you may be sitting in a pretty good position to be a top pick for God’s work.