Turning Points Magazine & Devotional

May 2024 Issue

From Fascination to Faith

From the February 2023 Issue

A Stone's Throw Away

Online Exclusive: From This Point Forward

A Stone's Throw Away

We’ve all seen television documentaries from the early days of rocket and missile development. We laugh when we see early rockets going wildly off course, corkscrewing through the air and crashing back to earth. I’m sure it wasn’t so funny to have been there—an out-of-control missile can become life threatening when it suddenly turns and heads straight for you!

Progress was made, of course. We now marvel at the idea of Air Force controllers in Nevada operating pilotless drones, deploying missile-bombs with pinpoint accuracy. Using a joystick, like in a video game, they maneuver missiles wherever they want them from thousands of miles away. Science fiction has become science “faction.”

Missile technology went mainstream during World War II when German scientists rained their V-2 rockets down on London. The German scientist who led that development, Dr. Werner von Braun, later led America’s effort to develop rockets capable of landing a man on the moon. Following World War II, during the Cold War, American and Soviet citizens lived with the constant threat of missiles from the opposing side landing on our cities. Guided missiles had become, and have remained, a reality of international life.

Ancient Guided Missiles

As high-tech and amazing as these cylindrical marvels are, missiles are not an invention of the twentieth century. Indeed, the first time someone hurled a rock at something (or someone) thousands of years ago, missiles were born. But they quickly became more accurate when slings came on the scene (as early as 8,000 B.C., based on archaeology)—the precursor of the slingshots most of us played with as kids.

Slings aren’t seen much in our culture, but in the David-and-Goliath days they were like an extension of a militiaman’s arm. Want to see how accurate they were? Among the soldiers of the tribe of Benjamin were seven hundred men with whom you did not want to mess if your body was thicker than a human hair: “Among all this people were seven hundred select men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss” (Judges 20:16). Nobody made fun of these guys for being left-handed!

So when we come to David, the giant-slayer, preparing to take on Goliath with a sling and a staff, we shouldn’t be surprised at his victory. The stones used in slings weighed up to a pound, were round (think of a size between a golf ball and tennis ball) and could travel up to one hundred miles per hour when launched. The sling was “slung” over the head or by the side with two strips of leather held between the fingers of the same hand. At the precise moment, one strip was released, and the stone was launched, like the missile it was, to its target—in the case of David, the forehead of one Goliath where it “sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth” (1 Samuel 17:49).

Preparing for the Giant

The writer of 1 Samuel was very specific in telling us about David’s preparation: “Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag . . . and his sling was in his hand” (17:40). The staff was common for a shepherd—David would have used it as an aid in climbing around the Judean hills, keeping sheep in line, and driving off predators. A man who spent his life walking from place to place would always have a staff.

But why five stones? Why not three—or seven? As much as I would like to know “why five stones?” (I plan on asking David in heaven one day), I have not been able to find any scholar with a ready answer. In fact, most don’t even address the number. Therefore, to say that “five” stands for something spiritual would be purely allegorical—not a law of interpretation with which I am comfortable.

So I’m going to give David credit for choosing five stones for a simple, albeit practical, reason: He was prepared for any outcome. If David had wanted to be cocky, he might have taken just one stone: “God has spoken to me and told me I won’t miss with my first stone. It would show a lack of faith on my part to take more than one!” But I don’t believe David was a cocky young man. I believe he was just like you and me—trying to trust God and be prepared to do his part at the same time.

What were the possibilities? One: There could have been other giants among the Philistine army that might rush David if Goliath fell. (The region was known for having giants—Numbers 13:32-33; Deuteronomy 3:11). Two: Other fierce Philistine soldiers could have rushed David. Three: David could have only injured Goliath or missed him altogether with the first stone. Anything was possible—and I think David was simply doing his best to bring down the giant he was facing whether it took one stone or five.

Preparing for Our Giants

The apostle Paul states clearly that “we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3)—and slings and stones are definitely weapons of the flesh even if they were used in obedience to a spiritual directive from God. So when we battle our giants, what kinds of stones do we need to deposit into our shepherd’s bag or our heart?

Christians face giants all too often: fear, discouragement, loneliness, worry, guilt, temptation, anger, resentment, doubt, procrastination, failure, and jealousy. And there are more. We are not like the Israelite soldiers who were frozen with fear on the battle lines. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We are called to take up our spiritual stones and defeat our giants.

Here are five stones you should have with you at all times:

1. Promise of His Presence. If there was one thing of which David was confident, it was that he was not going to fight Goliath alone—and he wasn’t counting on the Israelite soldiers! He knew that God was with him and had his back. Do you believe these words of Jesus: “Lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)? You should because, if you know Him, He is with you to help you defeat your giants.

2. Power of Prayer. Read what David said to Goliath: “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts” (1 Samuel 17:45). Jesus said, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He [will] give you” if we abide in Him and His words abide in us (John 15:16). Do NOT try to defeat your giants apart from prayer. DO believe you can defeat them through prayer.

3. Provision of Promises. David went to face his giant with five stones; we go to face ours with way more than five promises from God. We have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises” through which we may be “partakers of the divine nature” of God (2 Peter 1:4). If your carnal nature is taunting you, partake of God’s nature through His promises.

4. Practice of Peace. The Israelite soldiers facing Goliath were filled with anxiety for forty days, wondering when Goliath the giant would crush them. They should have done what Paul exhorts: Commit everything by prayer to God, with thanksgiving, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). If you aren’t facing your giants with peace, you can’t face them with power.

5. Preparation of Partners. David and Goliath were leaders—representatives of their respective armies. So David had partners, fearful though they were. But as soon as David gained the advantage, the army rushed to join him and defeat the Philistines. Don’t go into battle alone. Even if you have to take the lead in defeating your giants, make sure you have fellow soldiers to join you in routing the enemy.

Those are your modern spiritual missiles with which you can defeat the giants in your life. Like David, you have to bend down, pick them up, and take them with you into battle. Don’t leave home without them. 

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