Text 1 Sam 17:2-3 &48-51 “And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them . . . And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith.”
Having been ushered into the presence of the king, David declares his willingness to descend into the valley to face the giant; “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (vs.32). In an effort to discourage what Saul thought was youthful exuberance, Saul said, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (vs.33). Saul’s comment emphasizes the preparation that has gone into making Goliath a man of war. In the early stages of Goliath’s childhood, numerous people began to invest their time and talent in the preparation process of developing a champion.
The day that the Philistines and the Israelites set their battle in motion was the moment that Goliath had been prepared for! Years of preparation had been invested in making a champion. While we are unsure of Goliath’s exact age, it appears from the text that he has reached an age of maturity. He has surpassed the impulsive age of adolescence and is declared to be a “man of war.” From the time of his birth until now countless people have played a part in the preparation process.
Within the text we discover that while Goliath had been prepared for the sunshine on the mountain, he was not prepared for the shadow of the valley! All those that invested their time and talents into the life of Goliath had prepared him to live, but had failed to prepare him to die. Unlike Goliath, David was prepared to live; “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3), and he was prepared to die, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
In contemplating the institutions of the world, it becomes evident that most are designed for the single purpose of preparing individuals to live. Yet, we as the servants of Christ are to not only prepare people to live; we are to prepare them to die. A physician speaking to Charles Wesley, a leader of the Methodist movement in the mid 1700’s, said, “Most people die for fear of dying, but I never met with such people as yours. They are none of them afraid of death, but are calm, and patient, and resigned to the last.” Wesley responded, “Our people die well.” The truth is, “An individual is never really ready to live until first he is ready to die!” When the Hebrew children were faced with the fiery furnace, part of their calm demeanor can be attributed to the fact that they were ready for both life and death; “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
With respect to Goliath’s mentors, they had prepared him to enter the valley, but failed to prepare him to exit the valley. Knowing the certainty of death, “as it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27), may we not be found negligent in preparing men to die as well as live.