The Forgotten Giant
Everybody remembers the famous story of David and Goliath; but few people remember that there was one giant that David could not kill. His name was Ishbi-benob, and he almost killed David! “But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.”
There are several practical lessons from this story of the “forgotten giant” that I would like to share with you.
Giants Keep Multiplying
David killed a giant in his youth, but he had to face another giant in his adult years. We somehow have the idea that young people face all the giants, but this is not true. People who have been saved for many years still have to fight battles, because giants keep multiplying. Moses was no teenager when he lost his temper and forfeited his place in the Promised Land. Noah was no young man when he got drunk. Age is no protection against giants.
This is why we must constantly “watch and pray.” Peter boasted that he would never forsake the Lord, and yet he went to sleep when he should have been praying, and he fought when he should have been surrendering, and he denied when he should have been standing true. Peter’s self-confidence led to his fall. He thought he had defeated all the giants! “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”
We Cannot Live On Past Victories
David’s victory over Goliath made him a national hero; yet that victory years before could not give him victory when Ishbi-benob attacked him. You cannot live on past history, and you cannot fight with past victories. Samson went out to fight and said to himself, “I will go out as at other times!” But the tragedy was that his strength was gone, and he fell into defeat—see Judges 16:20ff.
Years ago I read about a man who had a great spiritual experience which he wrote down and kept in a box. Often he would take out the manuscript and read again what God had done for him. One day he opened the box and discovered that the mice had eaten his “Experience!”
Certainly there is nothing wrong with recalling what God did in the past. “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee” (Deuteronomy 8:2). But we must keep in mind that we cannot live on past victories. Each new giant demands that we trust the Lord anew and win a new victory.
We Need Each Other
David killed Goliath by himself, but he was unable to kill Ishbi-benob; and David’s nephew, Abishai, had to rescue the king. Abishai was the younger brother of Joab, and we must confess that he was not a great spiritual leader. It was Abishai who wanted David to kill King Saul in the cave, and who plotted against Abner. But Abishai loved David and risked his life to protect him. David learned, as you and I must learn, that we need each other.
It is this truth that Paul tried to teach to the Christians in Corinth. The church was divided and was not functioning as one body in Christ. Paul used the illustration of the body to impress on them the fact that all Christians belong to each other and need each other. “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Each part of the body needs the other parts, and each Christian needs other Christians.
We may be surprised one day to discover that those Christians we thought were the most “useless” in the church really had the greatest ministries. And we may be surprised to learn how much these “unknowns” contributed to our own lives. This is what the local church is all about: Christians belonging to each other and ministering to each other to the glory of God.
God Changes His Methods
When God helped David kill Goliath, it was with a stone and a sling; but Ishbi-benob was slain with a sword. David’s Goliath victory was a miracle of God; but Abishai’s victory was just a matter of good swordsmanship. Of course, God worked in both cases; but He changed His methods. Had they tried to duplicate the slaying of Goliath, both David and Abishai would have been killed!
What is there about us that wants to put God into a formula or a piece of organizational machinery? Sometimes God does the extraordinary; sometimes He uses the ordinary. We should not limit God either by doubting the extraordinary or despising the ordinary. It is wrong for us to try to keep duplicating the past, as though God has run out of new ideas! Too many people are looking at the future in a rear-view mirror, and they miss the opportunities of the present.
Even The Greatest Will Faint
If any man knew how to fight, it was King David. “Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten-thousands!” Yet here David grows faint and is in danger of being slain. As I read my Bible, as well as Christian biography and church history, I discover that even the greatest will occasionally faint. Moses became discouraged and wanted to quit; so did Elijah. Even Paul “despaired of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9).
It was a friend at his side that brought David through the battle. You and I have a merciful and gracious High Priest Who has promised to help us when we faint. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). If we depend on our own strength, we will fail; but if we draw upon His power at the Throne of Grace, then He will see us through.
David’s leaders gave him a wise piece of advice when they told him to stay off the battlefield. He was more valuable to them as their king than as a soldier. No doubt this broke the king’s heart, because David wanted to keep his armor on as long as possible; but he wisely accepted their counsel. It is a good man who knows when his work is done and when God has a new work for him to perform. It is never easy for us to hand the sword to somebody else, but it is usually the wisest—and safest—thing to do.
Our Victories Encourage Others
As you read the closing verses of 2 Samuel 21, you discover that David’s men killed several giants after Abishai killed Ishbi-benob. No doubt Abishai’s courage encouraged others. This is the way it is in the Christian life: as we win victories, we help others to win, too. But if we are defeated, we discourage those who are fighting with us. Abishai did not kill just one giant: he helped to kill several giants!
We may think that we “live our own lives,” but this is not true. We belong to each other, and we affect each other. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Win that victory—not only for Jesus’ sake and your own sake, but also for the sake of your fellow Christians who are in the battle too.
Our David Has Slain Our Last Enemy
According to 1 Corinthians 15:26, the last enemy you and I will face is death.But Jesus Christ has already defeated this giant for us! He has “abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). That word “abolished” means that He has robbed death of all its power, He has disarmed the giant!
What an encouragement it is to know that death has been disarmed! When we walk through that valley, we do not have to be afraid. “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” At that solemn hour, no human can assist us; only the Son of God will be able to take us through that valley into the Lord’s, our Heavenly Father’s house. Not a thing—not even death—can separate us from the love of God!
No matter how old you are, or how experienced in the Lord, expect to face giants. And let God give you the victory the way He has planned, and not according to your plans. Christ is able to give you the victory because He has defeated every enemy, and He reigns far above all powers and authorities, visible and invisible. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me!”