written by Tim Strickland, Director of Christ in the Smokies
On a recent trip to Israel, we visited the Elah Valley to see where David, as a young shepherd boy, slew Goliath who mocked David—but more importantly, mocked David’s God. The short version is that the Philistines gathered their armies for battle and stood on the mountain on one side, and the Israelites stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them (the Elah Valley).
Goliath, a Philistine, was perhaps nine feet tall, dressed in heavy armor, calling out to Israel to send out a man to fight him. He proposed that if he won, the Israelites would become their slaves. However, if the Israelites prevailed, the Philistines would become their servants. Needless to say, the Israelites were “dismayed and greatly afraid.” For 40 days, this scene was repeated. David—the youngest son of Jesse—heard of the challenge, saw the fear of the grown men around him, and offered to fight Goliath.
King Saul initially protested David’s offer because of his age, but David was set against fighting this man who had “defied the armies of the living God.” Eventually King Saul relented, but not before trying to load David down with all sorts of armor. But the armor proved too much for David, and instead, he stood before Goliath with five smooth stones he found in a nearby stream. Goliath mocked David and his God, but David responded to the giant, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the army of Israel…” And with one stone flung from David’s slingshot, the giant was felled, and David prevailed.
Hearing David’s story in that setting, seeing the intimidating landscape, and imagining what that moment was like for a young man, reminded me of the young men who come to camp each summer. Sure, their giants are different. But all of God’s examples are for instruction, and this aligned so well with what we want to impart to young men. Yes, you are young. But you know who you are. Do not try to be someone else. Be you. Others may not believe in you or tell that you are too young, but don’t let that stop you from doing what God has called you to do. Jesus, our King, subdues and conquers all of our enemies.
As we left the valley, passing through the riverbed where David chose his five stones, I saw smooth stones just like the ones described in the story. Gathering 12 stones—one for each of the sons who would be attending camp in the next few weeks—was a favorite memory of our trip. At camp during one of our sessions, we went around the room and read the story. Afterward, each son received a stone as a keepsake of David’s story, so that they might remember that they are uniquely made for special purposes.. and to remember this moment in time with their fathers.