In the book of 1 Samuel, we have probably one of the most well-known stories in the Bible; that of the battles of David and Goliath. It has been portrayed in movies, cartoons, children’s books, and is one of the most frequently told Sunday school lessons around.
This morning I would like to take a look at the story in a bit of detail, as well as some other verses, as we touch on courage, fear and the sovereignty of God. Let’s take a look at 1 Samuel – which I have slightly edited in arrangement to focus on relevant points:
Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.
And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.
And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. (v 1-4)
So, we can envision the scenario: two armies, each on a hill, with a valley between them. Then, from out of the enemy’s camp comes this giant – whose height is six cubits and a span.
They say a cubit is the measurement of distance from the tip of the middle finger down to the elbow, and can be anywhere from 17 to 22 inches in length. A span is roughly 9 inches – and is the measurement from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinky. So, Goliath stood in height somewhere between about 9’3” and as high as 11’9”.
This surely sounds pretty crazy to us these days, but back then it was not so out of the ordinary. Even secular historians back in the day, like Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and other, write of persons as high as seven cubits; making them pretty much twice the height of normal men.
Now, as the leader of the armies of Israel, the description of Saul places him as a very tall man himself. We are told in 1 Sam. 9:2:
… Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. (1 Sam. 9:2 ESV)
So Saul was not only one of the most handsome of men at the time, but was tallest among them, with some commentators guesstimating him to be just under seven foot tall. So even as the tallest of the men, he was still at least more than two foot shorter than Goliath, and possibly even shorter. Still, you would think of all the men of the army, Saul was still the best option to fight Goliath.
The verses continue telling us more about this giant:
He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. (vs. 5-7)
So, we are given a description of what his armor was like, and we find it pretty impressive indeed. A bronze helmet, and a coat of mail armor, which weighed about 78 pounds. Because of his height, his legs would have been the most likely target for those of shorter stature, so his legs were covered with bronze armor too.
Strapped on his back, between his shoulders, similar to a quiver of arrows, he had a spear that was the size of a beam, with a head on it that weighed about 17 pounds. And with all of this armor on, and his great size, the narrative continues:
He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel , “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”
And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. (vs. 8-11, 16)
Now, we leave the battle lines for a moment to travel over to another part of town, and we meet David, the son of Jesse:
Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah , named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. (vs. 12-15)
So, we find that David has been somewhat of an errand boy, running things back and forth from home to his brothers in battle. Now, in another, not so unusual trip, he is about to do so again.
And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.” (vs. 17-18)
And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. (vs. 20-21)
And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. (vs. 22-23)
All the men of Israel , when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel . And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel .” (vs 24-25)
So, they assume the positions on the battle line as they probably did each day, and again, Goliath comes out, and the men scatter like mice. This time, David is there for his brothers, and he overhears the words of Goliath. Here is a boy, too young for war, and in the face of such a great danger, his response is:
Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (vs 26)
When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” (vs. 31-33)
From here, we all pretty much know how the story goes. David makes a case about how he has fought and killed a lion and bear to protect his sheep, and that he is confident he can take down this giant. I am still a little shocked that Saul would agree to let him, even after his explanation about bears and lions, but I guess the thrust of the words that helped convince Saul was when David said:
Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” - “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!” (vs. 36-37)
It seems a bit shocking to here we have King Saul, the largest man in the company, with the very freedom of the nation on the line; yet he felt it fit to put all that was at stake into the hands of this young boy.
The story continues as David finds no armor suitable for his stature, so he takes his staff, a sling, and five smooth stones in his pouch. Goliath approaches, laughs, mocks and curses at David. Then, it is David’s response that should be the battle cry of us all when we’re faced with overwhelming odds:
Then David said to the Philistine, “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 armies of Israel , whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.
And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds 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 that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (vs. 45-47)
And of course, we know he was triumphant in battle, and indeed took down the giant.
So here is a young boy, who takes on this overwhelming obstacle, based solely on a faith and trust in the power and protection of the Lord. He knew that if the Lord had given him victory as he stood up along against a lion as well as a bear, in a situation where the name and reputation of the Lord were not even under attack, that surely he would bring the victory when it was under attack.
I am sure David grew up hearing the tales and becoming well versed in the writings on YHWH from his forefathers, and their battles in earlier times. Like the story in Duet. 20:
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’(Duet. 20:1-4 ESV)
Then there is the story of Gideon, from the book of Judges, where God made it especially clear that the battle would be won by him and not by the might of the army. When they came up against the Midianites the army of Gideon numbered 22,000 troops.
The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ (Judges 7:2 ESV)
So, Gideon told the people that whoever was fearful should return home, and 12,000 departed, leaving the army at 10,000. Now that was a lot of scared people there.
And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.”
So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.
And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” (Judges 7:4-7 ESV)
So with 300 men, Gideon went forth and chased down the Midianites and destroyed them.
The Lord had fought for his people numerous times in the past, with one of the largest being how he brought them out of Egypt ; and surely these stories were probably quite well known in the tribes.
Though one should question why Saul and those in the army did not have the same type of faith as David. Why was there not one godly, confident man amongst the entire army that was willing to stand up for the name of the Lord? Of course, in reading the book of Samuel up until this part, I guess we can see how the past was filled with idolatry and ignoring YHWH, plus their demanding of a king in His place – so they are not too far from that disastrous past, which may explain their lack of trust at this time.
Now, as we consider David and his actions, we must remember why David took the actions to begin with. Author David Leithart states it like this:
Though the story of David and Goliath is popularly known as an example of a great underdog triumphing over great odds, the accent in the biblical account is not on David’s heroism or his glory. Of course, he did receive honor, as the women sang his praises on his return from battle (18:7). But David’s heroism was not like the heroism of an Achilles or an Odysseus. David did not fight because his honor had been violated, but to vindicate the honor of the Lord. (Peter Leithart, A Son to Me, pg. 97)
David knew that his Lord was all powerful and sovereign over all men, even this giant, and while the Lord had the power to strike Goliath down where he stood without the aid of man, there were plenty of stories of old where the Lord required man to be faithful and act, and he would grant them the victory. For the people of God, these things were not left up to chance, and they lived in the comfort of that faith.
Since the time of David, we have additional stories of how the Lord has continued to do battle for his people. Like in 2 Chronicles 20:
And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” (2 Chron. 20:15)
These are but a few examples of the great and powerful sovereign Lord that Christians everywhere today worship and follow. However, in today’s day and age, acknowledging the sovereignty of God in all things is so misunderstood, ignored, or outright disbelieved; and so we find the church is weakened and crippled by fear.
This morning, I am not going to go into any long discussion to prove the sovereignty of God in all things. That is a topic that gets hammered from this pulpit almost weekly, and I feel there is no need to rehash it now. I simply wish to discuss some of the effects of having and not having a strong faith in our sovereign Lord.
The Scriptures tell us much about fear, and we are exhorted time and time again to cast out all fear. Fear is a big enemy to people, and it is fear that causes us to often ignore our duty and hope someone else steps in to do it.
There is only one kind of fear we should all strive to have, and that fear will dispel the others and keep all things in perspective – that one fear is of course, the fear of the Lord. Probably the most well know verse on the fear of the Lord for most Christians, comes from Proverbs and Psalms:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! (Ps 111:10 ESV)
Even in Job, one of supposedly the earliest stories in the Bible, we are told the same thing:
And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'" (Job 28:28 ESV)
Of course, the Lord warns of the flip side of this later in the chapter from Proverbs:
If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster." (Proverbs 1:23-33)
In Malachi we have a similar teaching as the Lord speaks of His judgment:
"Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:5 ESV)
Now, when we speak of the fear the Lord, it is not in a manner of dread and terror as we normally think of when we consider fear. The word here for fear is a noun of the same origin as the word reverend. So to fear the Lord is to have reverence for him, to worship and acknowledge him as Lord.
Fearing the Lord in this manner produces love, because we know the Lord is on our side and protects the ones who revere and honor him alone. We see in the first testament, following after the declaring the law of God in Duet. 5, that the people are told:
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. …take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. (Duet 6:5-6, 12-13 ESV)
The people were to love and obey the one true Lord, and in the same breath they should fear him. So love and fear are not so far apart that they cannot be reconciled, but in fact they should flow from one another when it comes to the Lord. If we love and fear him alone, what else have we to fear? In Kings we see the people exhorted again to this reverence and worship:
…but you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. (2 Kings 17:36 ESV)
The people are to worship and give reverence only to the Lord for he has done mighty works for them. The Lord promised peace to the nation if they continued to fear the Lord.
If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well. (1 Sam. 12:14 ESV)
In the ancient world there were many gods that were worshipped by the nations. Throughout the Scriptures, there are exhortations to give fear or reverence to only one, and that is YHWH our Lord. The first testament is filled with what this reverential fear brings to the people:
…but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies. (2 Kings 17:39 ESV)
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psa. 25:14 ESV)
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. (Psa. 33:18-19 ESV)
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him (Psa. 103:17 ESV)
What can be implied from this verse as far as the love of God and those who do not fear him? So the steadfast love of the Lord is NOT on those who do not fear him. But….I thought God loved everyone? That is what most churches teach, right? Well, I won’t go down that path at this time. Let’s look at just a few more verses, these from the book of Proverbs:
The fear of the LORD prolongs life (Pro. 10:27 ESV)
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. (Pro. 14:27 ESV)
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. (Pro. 19:23 ESV)
The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. (Pro. 22:4 ESV)
With all of the health and wealth, name it / claim it, mark it / park it preachers out there with their claims that God wants you to be rich, I wonder how many of them connect that richness to humility and the fear of the Lord as we see here in Proverbs?
As I just said, most in the church teach nothing but the love of God, and rarely teach on what it means to fear God. Now admittedly there are still plenty of hellfire and brimstone preachers teaching a more extreme view of anger and fear, and that is not the type of fear we speak of – but in general but the majority of mainline teachers are all about the love of God.
After all, God is not to be feared, he is the one providing blessings to us they say, and it is the devil who is out to get us at every turn. So they blame every bad thing on Satan, and attribute every good thing to God. I assume they haven’t read or understood the book of Job and even the works of Satan being under the Lord authority, but that is a whole other discussion.
I would like to just mention two biblical stories, one from each testament, both with similar results. The first is from Leviticus 10 and the story of two of Aaron’s sons, who were just ordained as priests in the Lord’s service:
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ (Lev. 10 1-3 ESV)
Two new priests, sons of Aaron, on their first duty in the temple, and what do they do? They stray from what they are supposed to do. Now, it says they offered “unauthorized fire” – or as the KJV puts it “strange fire.”
Theologians go back and forth on what this fire was, and what made it unacceptable, but without going into detail on that, we know that it was fire that was not supposed to be used in the temple service. God expected all aspects of the service to be specifically what he laid out, and this was obviously not what he had specified; and it cost them their life.
Then we jump to the familiar story in Acts of 5:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. (Acts 5:1-5 ESV)
Obviously Ananias lacked the fear of God, but the people around got it real quick. And as the story continues, three hours later the wife arrives, not knowing what happened to her husband before, and she repeats the lie and drops dead too. And we are then told again:
And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:11 ESV)
Instead of fearing the Lord, this husband and wife feared what those around them might think of them, so they concocted this lie to impress people. So, in both of these stories lives were lost for crossing the Lord, and that is a fearful thing for sure. In both cases a wrong was committed, and a lack of fear on the part of the involved parties could be partly to blame. May we always take heed that:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31 ESV)
While I do not want this to become a message on the fear of the Lord, I do feel it obligatory to at least show the same type of language appear in the New Testament:
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1 ESV)
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Pet. 2:15-17)
The fear of the Lord is what we should all be living under. Fear that drives us to reverence, awe, love and worship of the one true Lord. Fear that knows we serve the Lord that rules over all of mankind, over the actions of everyone from rulers to animals, each step is guided by a supreme hand that loves those who fear him. When we live in that fear, we have no need to feed anything around us.
At this point I would like to jump forward in time and take a look at a character not too far removed from our time in history, and how his faith and belief caused him to do his duty with little to no fear.
On January 21, 1824, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksville, Virginia, and at age three he became an orphan and was bounced around between relatives and other homes. At age 18, he entered into West Point and began his training that would make him well known in history. While at school there, another of his fellow cadets shared with him the gospel message. For some time afterwards, he investigated Christianity, and eventually made his public profession of faith at the Presbyterian Church in Lexington, VA.
After graduation he went on to serve with distinction in the Mexican war, and eventually because a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute, were he taught from 1851-1861.
On Sunday, April 21, 1861, he and his cadets received orders to join the Confederate army. He and his wife knelt in their bedroom and prayed, and afterward he stood up, marched out – never to return home again.
Thomas had become quite a student of the Bible, believing that every need in life could be met through it. Many of his military strategies that made him famous had been taken out of the book of Joshua. He read the Bible and lived his life as much as he could be what was contained within it.
Those who fought with him used to say "He lives by the New Testament and fights by the Old."
As he read his Bible, or when his wife read it to him, he would often stop and underline passages. That Bible is now preserved in a museum, and you can see his underlining matched how he sought to live.
During the war, he sought to always provide a good example to those under his command, and he witnessed to them also, leading many of them to the message and life of salvation.
Thomas was a man of prayer, never entering a battle without first praying, and many give testimony of his praying during battles. He said prayer had become a habitual permanent fixture in his life.
Thomas had a strong unshakable belief in the sovereignty of God, that God is always in control even when it seems the world around is falling apart. At the first battle of Bull Run, while shells and bullets were flying around, Thomas stayed on his horse and remained calm and collected like nothing was going on. Brigadier General Bernard Bee saw this and told his own troops “There stands Jackson like a Stonewall. Men, let’s determine to die here with him.” After that battle Tom Jackson’s brigade became known as the Stonewall Brigade, and he would forever be known as Stonewall Jackson.
Jackson’s courage and composure really came out in this great battle. During the heat of the battle a messenger came and handed Jackson a letter to sign. He dismounted and when he did a canon ball blew up a tree that was near by. Wood chips rained down on Jackson, but without missing a step, he calmly brushed the wood chips from the paper and continued reading. He then mounted his horse like nothing happened.
Others saw this and were amazed at his composure when danger was all around. Someone asked him how he could do it. Jackson’s response was right on, and if you are one that lives in fear of those things going on around you - if people are bigger to you than God is - I pray that you’ll take to heart Jackson’s words, because they are true, Biblical, and reliable.
“My religious belief teaches me that I’m just as safe on the battlefield as I am in my bed. The Lord has already appointed the day of my death so I need not worry about that. I live my life and prepare myself so I will always be ready to meet my Lord, when death does overtake me.” - Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson
If we rest in the sovereignty of the Lord, what do we have to fear? If we believe all is under his control and providence, and nothing can be done to change that path, then what can we possibly fear or seek to change by our fear?
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7 ESV)
So, as Christians we do not have a spirit of fear, but of love and control. We can march forth into life knowing that while the battle is the Lord’s, we are the instruments by which he has established to take down the Goliath’s around us.
However, instead of this peace in the face of fear, most people today have no fear of God, and so they fear for their life most everyday.
About five or six weeks ago, I was notified of my filling in to teach today. As I pondered what topic to pursue, I set out with the idea of teaching on the direction of the battle being the Lord’s. About a week after this decision was made, a couple of events caused me to change my mind and head into a different direction. Then a couple weeks ago, the news was filled with a terrible tragedy that brought me back in my mind to my initial thoughts on what to teach.
The news event I speak of is was the shooting that took place in Aurora, Co. when James Holmes opened fire on the movie crowd during the opening night of the new Batman movie.
Now, let me say before going any further, that I agree this was a great tragedy, and my prayers go out for the families who suffered through that. Please do not construe anything I am not saying as a way of playing down that disaster at all. I simply wish to use this as a recent example, and toss out some observations that can be applied to this or any similar tragedy.
Actually, what I am saying is not really necessarily directly connected to this item, but it was this item that caused me to rethink some things that brought me back to the direction of teaching on this topic today. I have not followed the story beyond what was said those first couple of days, so please excuse me if I state anything that has since been changed as far as the details. But really, the details are not as relevant to my point today.
As the news reported, the man entered the theater, and then at some point during the movie, went to the emergency exit door, opened them, where he had awaiting for him weapons. He then re-entered the theater, tossed a gas grenade into the theater, and entered wearing a gas mask, and started shooting weapons into the unsuspecting audience.
Some witnesses who escaped reported that the shooter slowly stalked the aisles of the theater, shooting people at random, as panicked movie-watchers in the packed auditorium tried to escape.
One survivor stated to a news crew. “I froze up…I was scared. I honestly thought I was going to die!”
Now, I was not there, I have not heard all of the reports of what happened, or all that the survivors reported. I have no way of knowing what all of the details were or what thoughts went through the minds of the participants. That is why I use the example as strictly an example, not a detailed look at this event.
So, in strictly taking a look at the scenario in general, I couldn’t help but think to myself, where were the men in that theater - men who feared the Lord and not just fearing for their own safety? Out of a theater of probably a hundred people or more, you would expect at least one, if not a mob of people to attempt to go after the one man that was against them?
Instead, in these types of cases, fear grips them – fear for their lives, and they panicked and fled; kind of like the armies of Israel fleeing before Goliath. It just made me think of how much fear has become so prevalent in the hearts of man these days, and how the fear of the Lord, which leads to courage and fighting for protection, has dissipated in general.
Years ago I kind of wondered a similar thing about the 9/11 plane ordeals. A plane full of people, and a few men with razor knives they said, you would think in such tight quarters as they were in, that it would be fairly easy to overpower the men. Sure, in doing so someone might get hurt, but bravery and a trust in God’s protection should cause people to do their duty of protecting others.
People have lost the knowledge of what God’s word tells us:
Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27: 1 ESV)
In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Ps 56:11 ESV)
Of course, I cannot fully blame just them for this inaction and mentality. This is pretty much exactly the type of people and reaction that was planned all along for the last 150 plus years.
One of the last major rebellions against tyranny and oppression – one of the last major battles for truth and freedom, took place in the middle of the nineteenth century. Properly referred to as the War Between the States – it is more commonly known by the inaccurate title of the Civil War.
Following the war, the government “thinkers” and humanistic “educators” knew that in order to prevent a future war where the people would again take up arms to fight against government tyranny, they needed to weed out the spirit of truth and justice, and to replace it with submission and passivity in the people.
The way they set out to accomplish this was through a compulsory state education system. You see, up until a little while before that time, our country did not have any state sponsored public schools.
In the 1620’s, when the Pilgrims and Puritans came to this country seeking religious freedom, they were products of the Protestant Reformation. So, for the roughly 220 years from 1620 to 1840, American education had a distinct moral character, and stemmed from an almost entirely Christian and Calvinistic orientation.
In America, education was seen as always including religious principals, as we find plainly stated in the definition of the word education as found in the first American dictionary, Noah Webster’s 1828 edition:
Education: The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.
The Reformed Martin Luther, even back in his time and country plainly stated:
I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution, in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God, must become corrupt.
Luther’s sentiment is what the early American settlers held to in their thoughts on education. Even the early American colleges, like Harvard, were started and based upon orthodox Christian principals. Harvard’s original mission statement was:
Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ at the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.
Even Daniel Webster (not to be confused with Noah Webster mentioned above), an admired politician for 40 years in the early 1800’s stated:
In what age, by what sect, where, when, by whom, has religious truth been excluded from the education of youth? Nowhere; never. Every-where, and at all times, it has been and is regarded as essential. It is of the essence, the vitality of useful instruction.
The great Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney, who had served as chaplain to the armies under Stonewall Jackson for a time, said this at the time when the public education was beginning to rear its ugly head in the states:
The Yankees have had this “nostrum” of free school education, in full force, for two generations.
Nostrum – for those not familiar with the term, is usually used to mean amedicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value; quack medicine.
Did not this very system rear us that very generation, which, in its blind ignorance and brutal passion, has recently wrecked the institutions of America; has filled our country with destitution, woe and murder; and, with a stupid blindness, only equaled by its wickedness, has stripped its own Commonwealths, in order to wreak its mad spite on ours, of the whole safeguards for their own freedom and peace? These are the fruits of this Yankee system of State primary education… I have not yet learned enough of that type of “intelligence” which this system seems to foster, to repudiate my Savior’s infallible maxim, “the tree is known by its fruits.”
So, Dabney sees that because of the state education system, which had already been in place in many northern states, a whole generation of people rose up to fight the war that destroyed much of the foundational values of America . Of course, this sentiment is further enforced when we consider a conversation that was had between the aforementioned Senator Daniel Webster and two Virginians, years before the war. The story is related by Dabney after the war had ended:
Webster’s return towards an impartial course had then gained him some respect in the South, and my two friends paid their respects to him. While conversing with them he fixed his dark eyes on them, and with great earnestness asked: “Can’t you Southern gentlemen consent, upon some sort of inducement or plan, to surrender slavery?” They replied firmly: “Not to the interference or dictation of the Federal Government. And this not on account of mercenary or motives, but because to allow outside interference in this vital matter would forfeit the liberties and other rights of the South.”
“Are you fixed in that?” asked Webster.
“Well,” he said, with an awful solemnity, “I cannot say you are wrong, but if you are fixed in that, go home and get ready for weapons.” They asked him what on earth he meant. He replied that the parson and common-school teachers and school-marms had diligently educated a whole Northern generation into a passionate, hatred of slavery, who would, as certainly as destiny, attack Southern institutions. So that if Southern men were determined not to surrender their institutions they had better prepare for war. Thus, according to Mr. Webster, the crimes, woes, and horrors of the last fifteen years (the War Between the States) are all partly due to this school system.
Many of those “great minds” behind this “indoctrination” system felt that it was the differences in the education between classes of men that caused such evil in the world, and that if the education of the masses was more leveled, it could remove evil from society.
European scholar George Hagel and Scotsman Robert Dale Owen, often referred to as the father of socialism, came in with a whole new idea for education. They believed that the basic tenants of the Christian religion hindered man’s evolution. Some in this camp believed that with the proper education, and the eradication of religion, man could evolve to eliminate the evil in the world. A colleague of Owen’s states the following:
The great object was to get rid of Christianity and to convert our churches to halls of science... the plan was not to make open attacks upon religion — although we might belabor the clergy and bring them into contempt where we could — but to establish a system of state — we said national — schools; from which all religion would be excluded and to which all parents were to be compelled by law to send their children.
By the turn of this century, these fellows had heavily influenced American educators like John Dewey and his colleagues. They sought to change America through public education. Knowing they could not sway the mature adults from their views, they sought instead to change the future generation by re-educating the children.
They sought to change the nation, once high in literacy, by shifting the education system from emphasizing intellectual and academic skills, to rather emphasizing social skills. Get them to deal with activities, rather than the mind. This leads to the eventual addition of psychology to the school system, which has happened in our life time.
Socialist H.G. Wells stated it truthfully in his 1933 book The Shape of Things to Come when he said “no revolution could be a real and assured revolution until it has completely altered the educational system of the community.”
In 1918, the book The Science of Power by Benjamin Kidd is printed, in which he declares:
The main cause of those deep dividing differences which separate peoples and nationalities and classes from each other and which prevent or stultify (to render futile) collective effort in all its most powerful forms... could all be swept away if civilization put before itself the will to impose on the young, the ideal of subordination to the common aims of organized humanity... it can only be imposed in all its strength through the young. So to impose it has become the chief end of education in the future.
Oh, you blind leaders who seek to convert the world by labored disputations! Step out of the way or the world must fling you aside. Give us the young. Give us the young and we will create a new mind and new earth in a single generation.
Kidd quotes Masonic Carbonari leader Giuseppe Mazzini (1805‑1872) in this regard, who stated:
Your task is to form the universal family.... Education, this is the great word that sums up our whole doctrine. (Giuseppe Mazzinis, On the Duties of Man)
Kidd refers to Mazzini's distinction that “education is addressed through emotion to the moral faculties in the young and instruction to the intellectual (faculties),” and Kidd claims “Power centers in emotion.”
Well, it has been just over a hundred years since all of these things were planned and said, and if you look back, you can see the radical changes in this nation over that time period. Little by little, generation by generation, the inner desire for truth and justice, and that inner fight, has slowly dwindled just as they expected it to with their education system. Through a series of indoctrination methods, and in stripping the Lord out of the classroom, they churn out more and more students of the state.
Well, without turning this into a expose’ of the education system, let me begin to close by saying that hopefully you can see the connection between how in times past, the fear of the Lord, which included bravery and the understanding and responding to duty, was more prevalent, and how that has slowly been on the spiral downward for the past hundred years or so.
This can be seen to coincide with a concerted effort to educate it out of people if you simply read the history of this education system’s founding. And for all intents and purposes, it is fair to say that they have succeeded in their goal, turning more and more American’s into sheep that can be led around, never questioning the moves or motives of the leaders, never calling them into account, and never rebelling or taking action against them.
This education has also removed the words of God from the lives of men, and instead of being an integral part of education, has been stripped totally from it. With kids spending the majority of their daytime hours under this education system, and parents pending less and less time providing religious training in the off hours; it is no wonder why the fear of God is gone.
Add to that the modern church’s fascination with health, wealth and the love of God, while ignoring the deeper things like the fear of the Lord and the doctrine of total sovereignty. Add to that a faulty view of eschatology, and an escapist attitude in that realm, and is it a surprise that the church has become pretty much stagnant and obsolete today?
Most churches have an average sermon length of twenty minutes, so the people get pep-talks devoid of any substance or teaching, and with less and less people engaging in reading of great theological works, or even their own bibles, it is no wonder the church is in the state it is in.
Reports show that more and more people who have been regular attendees in church for many years, are leaving the organized church each year; and more and more children brought up in Christian homes, leave the faith entirely by their college years.
All of that combined, produces a generation more ignorant and fearful than the last, creating more people who are easily herded where needed, and rarely question of push back against injustice and wickedness in our lives, society, or government.
This was all by design, and as long as Christians support this free education system, it will continue to be the case.
As long as Christians refuse to read their Bible and dig into it – this will continue to happen.
As long as Christians put up with mediocre churches that teach little to nothing about the depths of the whole Bible message – this will continue to be the case.
As long as Christian parents leave it solely up to the school or church to provide their children with religious training – this will continue to be the case.
So, in closing, we need to consider first that as Christians who follow a living God, we have not been given a spirit of fear, but one of security and reliance in our sovereign Lord. Our duty is to stand up against whatever Goliath comes forth in our life, standing for truth, justice, and in love for others, and make sure that we teach that to our children, for they will get it nowhere else.
When we come up against an obstacle, we are not to turn in fear, but we are to do our duty, and to rest assured that whatever the outcome, it was all we can do – because the battle is not ours – the battle is the Lords!
Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. (2 Chron. 19:7)