Should Persecution Arise — Encouragement For the Weak

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

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How instructive are God’s ways with His people!

Israel demands a king “like all the nations” (I Sam. 8:5), so God gives them the most handsome, imposing man in Israel: Saul, the son of Kish, a full foot taller than anyone around him (I Sam. 9:2).

But—God allows the Philistines to challenge Israel in the person of Goliath, a giant still much taller than Saul. Saul is perhaps seven feet tall, but Goliath is nine! Day after day Goliath chides Israel: “Why should our armies fight each other? Why not send one man to do battle with me? If he wins, we will be your servants; if I win, you will be ours” (See I Sam. 17:8,9).

But the one to whom Israel’s army looks for leadership, powerful, handsome King Saul, is no match for the pagan giant. Though the chosen representative of God and His people, Saul cowers in the background while Israel’s armies fret and worry.

To break the stalemate and teach a much-needed lesson, God now sends to the scene a mere “stripling,” David, the son of Jesse, a young lad with no training whatsoever in warfare. Upon arriving at the scene, the lad is indignant that this Philistine should be allowed to “defy the armies of the living God,” and goes to Saul, declaring that he will fight the giant.

This is humiliating to Saul, the great king who was to have led Israel in victorious battle against all her enemies. Under the circumstances, however, Saul is persuaded to let David face the giant, and provides him with a suit of armour (I Sam. 17:38), but feeling that the armour will prove a hindrance rather than a help, David declines to wear it. Armed only with a staff and a sling, he goes to a nearby brook and, choosing “five smooth stones,” goes forth to meet the giant (Ver. 40).

There they stand, facing each other! The giant, nine feet tall, has a helmet of brass, a heavy coat of armour, a spear “like a weaver’s beam” and a shield to protect himself, while little David has only a staff, a sling—and God! Result: God uses young David to bring the great Goliath down—and to show all that He, the God of Israel, is “mighty to save.”

“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him….And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled” (Vers. 50,51).

Thus God would teach us again the age-old lesson that since He is not impressed with human greatness, neither should we, His children, be overawed by it. Should persecution arise against God’s people, even here in America, it will prove a great encouragement to us to remember that “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory [boast] in His presence” (I Cor. 1:27-29).

How prone we are to forget this! Indeed, while searching among Jesse’s sons for a successor to Saul as Israel’s king, even the godly Samuel had looked at Jesse’s noble-looking firstborn and said: “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him” (I Sam. 16:6). But the Lord reproved Samuel, saying:

“Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (Ver. 7).

And who was the Lord’s choice to succeed Saul as king of Israel? None other than Jesse’s youngest son, a mere lad, called a “stripling” by Saul, and overlooked and left out in the field as the other sons of Jesse were being considered for the position!

The Bible is full of this: God choosing “nobodies” to accomplish His work, while setting aside those who are acclaimed by all as “somebodies.”

This is both a warning and an encouragement to us. Those who are “great,” humanly speaking, may always be overcome by those who are still “greater,” while those who are nothing, but find their all in God, have help that cannot fail.