The ridge where Goliath’s troops stood.
“Why are we stopping in the middle of nowhere for a nothing view?”
I sighed after a long day of sightseeing. Devoid of tourists, in a desolate area, our bus stopped lonely on the side of a narrow lane. The Valley of Elah doesn’t even sound familiar…
The Valley of Elah
I soon repented with a giddy heart. As we stood circled in the middle of this field, the bomb of truth was dropped. There is no dispute, this valley between two craggy ridges with a dry stream running between them is,
The very stream where David walked brave as he searched for five smooth stones.
The very ridges where the Philistines encamped on one side and taunted Saul and his minions hovering fearful on the other.
“Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.” I Samuel 17:2-3
Towering nine and a half feet tall, Goliath, the ultimate bully, tormented them twice a day for forty days. As his voice rumbled menacing through the valley, they scampered like terrified mice before the neighborhood cat.
But young David’s words cut to the chase. He verbalized in a nutshell what the fear-paralyzed men, much older and supposedly wiser should have remembered all along,
God was on their side.
”…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26
Because of David’s youth, Saul dishes out the third degree. But in desperation, backed by an army of cowards, he sends a mere boy to do men’s work.
“Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:40
Goliath belly-laughed in disbelief,
David slung sure in faith,
Goliath fell with a shock,
The lip-curling sneer wiped clean from his face FOREVER.
When Goliath came crashing down, the Israelites found their courage and chased the fleeing Philistines until the dead were strewn all along the road.
I could almost concur up the images of a great battle and hear the scurry of frightened feet as the blood ran thick through the lush green field. The fiery red poppies scattered amongst the emerald expanse nodded in the breeze, as if a memorial to the blood shed three thousand years ago.
The Israelite’s faith in self buckled weak, though armed and trained, they marked themselves lacking in the face of the titan.
Yet, just a nobody shepherd boy from nowhere,
David’s faith in God soared larger than any impossible.
“David…who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised…” Hebrews 11:32
And then there was Joshua.
His life breathed fearless with these words of God echoing loud in his heart,
“I will never leave or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:9
And as I sat high on a camel in Jericho, dating from about 9,000 BC, I note it’s sign which brags of being the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.
Camel ride in Jericho with dear friend Janice Stephenson
And I remembered his bravery.
His willingness to obey in the face of crazy.
March around in circles for seven days?
Remember to bring those horns?
Shout at the top of your lungs?
And somehow those massive walls would tumble for the win?
Yet Joshua never wavered.
“By faith, the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.” Hebrews 11:30
Two bold men.
Brandishing great faith in God.
And obeyed his words
Serving valiant against all odds.
Mere men made mighty because they chose God over fear.
And then there was Herod.
A mighty man made weak because of his lack of faith in God most high.
Given the moniker Herod the Great by men, he was a building genius but a cruel and tyrannical despot.
His building projects were glorious and extraordinary. He remodeled the temple mount with opulent facades and trappings properly befitting a king and his capital city. Also impressive were his monumental projects of Masada and Herodium, his palace fortresses, and Caesarea Maritime, his magnificent port and palace. (See Israel blog #1)
The Temple Mount replica
Here’s a surprise, Herod was raised as a Jew, sort of. Not by birth, his Arab father was forced to convert or leave the country. Living a decadent lifestyle he was always rubbing the Pharisees wrong.
Herod had great faith in himself.
He served the Roman government, fawning and pandering for their favor.
Buddies with Roman leader, Mark Anthony lover of Cleopatra with who he fathered three children, he was made tetrarch of Galilee. He was thrown into a panic when Mark Anthony was defeated and committed suicide.
In a bold move, he confessed to victor Octavian his previous loyalty to Mark Anthony but that his loyalty would now be thrust toward the new Roman ruler. Miraculously landing on his feet, Octavian was swayed by Herod’s persuasive words. Instead of executing him, he was crowned King of all Israel. Bam!
Living in fear of deposition, Herod feared shadows and rumors as he looked over his shoulder, becoming more suspicious and unhinged with age. A murderer of at least seven of his family members, including a wife and sons, he descended the gradual slope into madness.
The chilling account by Matthew lays sorrowful in my heart as a mother. In his eighties, paranoid Herod, “furious at being outwitted by the Magi,” became the slayer of those precious boy babies as tried to erase baby Jesus from the face of the earth.
Assumed to be afflicted with hardening of the arteries, he died close to a year after his encounter with the wisemen and his murderous edict was enacted.
Fear destroyed him flat.
David and Joshua had everything to fear staring stormy in their faces,
Taunts of giant bullies,
And the real prospect of painful extinction.
Instead they clung to God’s promises and refused to be cowed.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Faith in self shatters in a blink like a mirror dropped, leaving treacherous shards of doubt in its wake. Think Saul…
Faith in God is our life preserver in the turbulent seas of life’s junk.
Faith in self will waver when giants loom and we can’t get our fear in check.
Faith in God will get help us soar when the world is hot on our heels, and darkness tries to envelope us.
“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5
I know he will never abandon me to my mess.
And like a batch of sugar cookies fresh from the oven,
He smells like home.