5 Pentecost, June 24
The champion of the Philistines, Goliath, stepped out from the camp of his fellow soldiers and, facing the Israelites, proposed settling a military dispute in hand-to-hand combat between himself and a select warrior of his opponents. Goliath stood, shouted, provoked, and ridiculed. At a mythic height of nearly 10 feet, he was a proud and imposing figure, wearing a helmet of bronze, a coat of mail, and greaves on his leg. He had a javelin slung between his shoulders and held a spear like a weaver’s beam (1 Sam. 17:5-7). He was massive and strong, lumbering and loud, but not invincible. David, a mere shepherd boy, heard of this threat and said, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:32). Thus, armed with nothing more than a sling and five smooth stones he took from a brook, “David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. [He] put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground” (1 Sam. 17:48-49).
Do we have enemies? It is a failure of faith to see every stranger and every new experience as a threat, but it is a grave and foolish error to deny the sinister attack of the powers of evil in this world. Again and again, Jesus engaged in direct conflict with demons, diseases, and a storm of powers that set out to destroy the creatures of God. “Let us go across to the other side,” Jesus said, knowing a great windstorm was in the making (Mark 4:35). Armed with nothing more or less than the power of his Word, Jesus reclines and sleeps as the winds blow and the waves rush into the boat. He sleeps, and yet he never sleeps. He rests, and yet remains a living and active Word. Awakened by the disciples, Jesus rebukes the waves and brings peace to the sea. “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven” (Ps. 107:29-30). With the breath of his mouth, Jesus moved over the face of the waters.
“In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). We take courage with “the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (2 Cor. 6:7). We are called to “put on the whole armor of God, so that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). We fight, but not against flesh and blood. Rather, clothed with truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace, with faith, salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, we stand firm and quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. We race into the valley of the shadow of death where rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers seek the end of the sons and daughters of God.
“There are tribulations in this time of present necessity. We suffer, we are afflicted, we move toward death” (St. Augustine on Ps. 148). Thus St. Augustine teaches even as he proclaims the great Alleluia of Easter. “Be of good courage,” Jesus says, “I have overcome the world.”
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. Go on in good works. Welcome every joy, and expect sorrow. Take nothing for the journey but the smooth stones of grace. Fight boldly and peaceably.
Look It Up
Read 1 Sam. 17:39.
Think About It
One size does not fit all.