|Volume 22 Number 3 March 2020||
Philistine! The very name conjures up images of brutes committing acts of wanton violence across the holy land. Known as the sea people, they were the descendants of Mycenaean Greeks. During their voyages, they found the gentle rolling fertile lands of southern Israel very attractive. The coast of the Promised Land, with its open plains of bountiful orchards filled with pears and almonds, with rich grazing lands for horses and cattle, was a prize of worth for which they were willing to fight.
The name Philistine in Hebrew means, “the invader.” The Israelites and the Philistines clashed for hundreds of years over ownership of the coastal plan and the hill country before the central range of mountains occupied by Israel. To the Greek mind, and therefore that of the Philistines, the thinking was, “Let the heroes fight and whoever wins gets all the spoils!“ In 1 Samuel 17:5-7, we encounter Goliath, a giant of a man, his bronze armor gleaming in the sun, as he shouted his defiance. Scripture tells us:
He stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, “Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” (1 Samuel 17:8-10)
This was the Homeric warrior system. Warriors would battle in their finest armor, testing each other’s skill in a fight to the death, with glory for the victor. The religious aspect cannot be underplayed here; it was much in their minds a battle of the gods as of men. In Homeric culture, they felt that the arms and the armor worn were often gifts of the gods. Contrariwise, a young shepherd rose to the challenge, armored with the greatest defense of all—the true and living God.
For forty days, Goliath made the challenge, and yet, no Israelite came forward. Scripture tells us that when young David saw the shame brought upon Israel, he said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). If a similar challenge had been made to a Philistine, he would have responded immediately by strapping on armor and heading out to fight. King Saul even tried to get David to wear the king’s armor, but David refused. This shepherd boy from the wilds of Judah would not fight on Goliaths terms but on Gods terms—an example for us all today. Here we see an overturning of the Homeric norm expected by the Philistine. Instead of a foe in bronze, he faced an unarmored boy with a sling in his hand. When David came forward, he was not boasting of his own greatness, wearing the finest bronze and wielding an expensive sword. The 40 days of shouting and insults did not end with the clash of bronze, and for all of his boasting, the giant was about to fall. Then, David said to the Philistine, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Samuel 17:45).
The Philistines have long since passed into history, but the enemies of God’s people have not. Like David, we may not be fitted with physical weapons of war, but we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. In Ephesians 6, we read of the armor of God. It is one fitting for any warrior, but notice in its list there is no backplate! There is no provision for retreat but only for advancement for the kingdom! We, just like David, are to be defiant of the boasting of the enemy; we do not have the luxury of surrender! Like David, we are to have no fear of our enemy. We must meet him on God’s terms. Remember that God is on our side, and that is the greatest armor of all.
Yes, the name Philistine may have struck terror into the heart of God’s people long ago, but now the name of our blessed Redeemer strikes terror into our enemies. In James 4:7, we read, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Whatever giant you face in your life, remember that you have the sling of God, and He will make your aim true!
and Spiritual Needs
Ronald D. Reeves
The ideal congregation concerns itself with the physical and spiritual needs of others. Paul said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). We are thus commended to extend acts of moral excellence to the mass of society, with a special obligation unto members of the Lord’s church (1 Timothy 3:15). In so doing, let us be wise to avoid the extreme of failing to be good stewards of our possessions (1 Corinthians 4:2) as we actively employ a benevolent spirit both individually and congregationally. The people in our community will value us more as they realize that we are a giving and caring people. I trust that they will witness such commendable spiritual characteristics in our daily lives as we intermingle with society on a daily basis and as we continue to fulfill our mission of taking the Word of God to those about us (1 Corinthians 15:58). May our evangelistic spirit be enhanced by our benevolent spirit and benevolent actions. Yes, the community will care how much we know when they know how much we care. May we carefully craft a wholesome image in the community for our congregation.