The Battle is the Lord's

Alexander Maclaren

“This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all the assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

(1st Sam17:46-47) 


The dialogue before the battle has many parallels in classical times and among savage peoples. Goliath’s bluster is full of contempt of David and truculent (fierce; cruel; savage) self-confidence. Its coarseness is characteristic,—he will make his boyish antagonist food for vultures and jackals. It is exactly what a bully would say. David’s answer throbs with buoyant confidence, and stands as a stimulating example of the temper in which God’s soldiers should go out to every fight, no matter against what odds. It fully recognizes the formidable armoury of the enemy,—sword for close quarters, spear to thrust with, and javelin to fling at a distance, every weapon that ingenuity could fashion and trained skill could wield. Goliath was a walking arsenal, and little David took count of his weapons as they clanked and flashed. It is no part of faith’s triumph to ignore the number and sharpness of the enemy’s arms. But faith sees them all, and keeps unterrified and unashamed of the poor leathern sling and smooth stones. The unarmed hand which grasps God’s hand should never tremble; and he who can say ‘I come…in the name of the Lord of hosts,’ has no need to be afraid of an army of Goliaths, though each bristled with swords and spears like a porcupine.


The great name on which David’s faith rested,, ‘the Lord of hosts,’ appears to have sprung into use in this epoch, and to have one precious fruit of its frequent wars. Conflict is blessed if it teaches the knowledge of the unseen Commander who marshals not only men, but all the forces of the universe and the armies of heaven, for the defence of His servants and the victory of His own cause. The fullness of the divine name is learned by degrees, as our needs impress the various aspects of His character; and the revelation contained in this appellation is the gift of that fierce and stormy time, a possession forever. He who defies the armies of Israel has to reckon with the Lord of those armies, whose name proclaims at once His eternal, self-originated, and self-sustained being, His covenant, His presence with His earthly host, and the infinite ranks of obedient creatures who are His soldiers and their allies. That is ‘the Name’ in the strength of which we may ‘set up our banners’ and be sure of victory. Note how David flings back Goliath’s taunts in his teeth. He is sure that God will conquer through him, and, though he has no sword, that he will somehow hack the big head off; and that it is the host of the Philistines on whom the vultures and jackals are to feed to-day.


His faith sees the victory before the battle is begun, and trusts, not in his own weak power, but only ‘in the name of the Lord’. Note, too, the result which he expects—no glory for himself, though that came unsought, when the shrill songs from the women of Israel met the victors, but to all the world the proof that Israel had a God, and to Israel (‘this assembly’) the renewed lesson of their true weapons and of their Almighty Helper. Such utter suppression of self is inseparable from trust in God, and without it no soldier of His has a right to expect victory. To fight ‘in the name of the Lord’ requires hiding our own name. If we are really going to war for Him, and in His strength, we ought to expect to conquer. Believe that you will be beaten, and you will be. Trust to Him to make you ‘more than conquerors,’ and the trust will bring about its own fulfillment.