In the Valley of Elah a forty day stalemate remained unbroken. On one hill the army of Israel had taken position and lined up for battle. On the opposite hill the army of the Philistines was in battle formation. Between them lay the valley floor, a wide empty space (1 Sam. 17:1-3).
It is often the distant threats that disturb us most. The threat that ambushes us and confronts us with imminent harm calls for immediate action. We must either fight or flee, but inaction is not an option. But the enemy we see from afar, the danger that awaits us, the confrontation that loiters in our future – that’s what keeps us up at night. Those wide open spaces are gaps to which our fears run. Such was the Valley of Elah for the army of Israel.
The fears of Israel were stoked morning and evening by the presence of a Philistine giant. Goliath came out every day and went through the same routine. With the rising sun, Goliath’s taunts filled the valley space. And as the sun sank low and threw shadows across the valley floor, he repeated his vulgar mocking of Israel and Israel’s God. “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Sam. 17:11).
One day Jesse sent David to the battle lines to deliver bread and cheese to his enlisted brothers. As he fulfilled the errand his father had assigned him, David heard Goliath’s taunts and the challenge he proposed: “Choose a man and have him come down to me.” To David’s amazement, no one moved. No one stepped up. The God of Israel was being mocked and the army of Israel dismissed, and nothing was being done about it. So David raised his hand before King Saul. “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (1 Sam. 17:32).
Saul objected. David persisted. David won. And in an effort to help David, Saul gave him his armor and sword and placed his helmet upon David’s head. It was a kind gesture, a nice thought, but totally useless as far as David was concerned. David could barely walk around under the weight of the armor. Thanks but no thanks. David returned the armor and the helmet and the sword. He took instead his shepherd’s staff and his slingshot. At a nearby stream he found five smooth stones. And then he made his way toward Goliath (1 Sam. 17:38-40).
David went to the fight knowing that he had just what he needed. He did not want. He did not anxiously try to stockpile another weapon or shield himself with someone else’s armor. David had exactly what he needed. He knew exactly who he was. And more importantly he knew who God was – and that was enough.
The words “I shall not want” will not be spoken truthfully by the anxious and fearful. They are words of deep confidence and they reflect a profound courage. In our fears we are constantly wanting, never sure that we have what we need, never at peace with the sufficiency of grace.
“I shall not want” is first of all an expression of confidence in God. That was truly at the core of David’s life and it shaped his approach to the defining battle of his early career. David knew that God was able to deliver him. He had learned it in other smaller battles: battles with enemies that threatened his flock. David the shepherd had fought for his sheep. He knew that God would do the same for him and his people Israel.
From this confidence in God flows our sense of satisfaction with this day. It is a satisfaction born of God’s abundance. Because God is sufficient, we know that we have what we need for whatever we face at any given time. Just as the stones and the sling were adequate for David, you too have what you need to walk boldly to the fight.
The kind of satisfaction that does not “want” shows itself in a deeply grounded and confident life. You can live that way today. Stop trying to walk around in borrowed armor, securing your own life with someone else’s plans for you. You have what you need by God’s grace, and God is sufficient for the day.
You, O Lord, are our shepherd, and we have just what we need. We give you thanks for your faithfulness and for your sufficiency in all things. Grant us grace to live confidently today, firmly grounded in your power to deliver us and sustain us in whatever this day may bring. W will be satisfied, knowing that you are able, knowing that you are good. Amen.