David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. And Ishbi-benob . . . said he would kill David. But Abishai, son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue. He struck the Philistine down and killed him (2 Samuel 21:15-17).
The people had never forgotten what David did that day in the Valley of Elah. There David had made a name for himself as a giant-slayer.
Valiant David. Refusing the King’s armor, he faced Goliath with his sling and hand–picked stones from the brook. Having felled the Philistine, he put the sling away long enough to lift the giant’s own sword and then he held Goliath’s bloody mane up high for Israel to see.
The feat was celebrated in song. “Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands.” The song didn’t go over so well with Saul, but it said plenty about David’s rock-star status. David was a warrior among warriors. As both obscure shepherd and then later as Israel’s King, David was the Philistines’ worst nightmare.
Until one day David encountered a giant he could not kill.
A Philistine by the name of Ishbi-benob, armed with a new sword, toting a spear with a spearhead weighing three hundred shekels, intended to do what Goliath had not done. In the course of battle, we are simply told that David became exhausted. No details are given. We don’t know if David faltered in combat or if he gave ground to the advancing Philistine. All we are told is that in his state of exhaustion, David had a friend. Abishai came to David’s rescue and killed the Philistine.
This scene from 2 Samuel is often overlooked. In the sweep of the David stories, it is a scene of little consequence. But it gives us a picture that differs significantly from the one we see when the shepherd David faced Goliath.
In the Valley of Elah we see the underdog walking out to face the giant, a solitary figure dwarfed by the Philistine’s vulgar presence. This picture lends drama to the battle. This picture emboldened Israel’s army once David had slain the giant.
But years later, against Ishbi-benob, things are different. David is surrounded by his men. The fight has exhausted him and he cannot hold his own against the Philistine. Abishai comes to the rescue.
Many of us live life in the Valley of Elah. We live in a place where we bravely walk out each day and face our giants alone. We see ourselves facing challenges that no one can face for us; we walk every day into that valley trusting God and relying on our best weapons. We don’t want to drag anyone else into our depression or share our financial worries or admit how we think we’ve messed up at parenting.
But eventually we face a giant that we cannot kill. We get tired. We need help. We need someone like Abishai to come alongside and slay the giant.
So what are the giants you’re facing today – and how are you facing them? Are you walking into the day as a solitary figure facing significant threat and challenge? Is there someone who has your back, someone who knows your life and cares enough to step in and help you face whatever you’re facing? We all need someone like Abishai. Who is that for you?
We give you thanks, O God, for friends who stand with us as we face the different troubles and threats life brings our way. Teach us how to reach out to others, honestly admitting our need for friendship, and help us to be there for others who face giants they can’t handle alone. Amen.