Below is a link to 8 audio lectures I gave for Reformed Baptist Seminary a few years ago critiquing what is called the New Perspective. These were recently put up by Dr. Robert Gonzales the dean of RBS.
1 Sam. 17:26, “Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
We are all familiar with the story of David and Goliath recorded for us in 1 Sam. 17:20-58. David arrives on the scene just at that time when Goliath chose to issue his daily challenge. He hears the words of this giant as Goliath stands to blaspheme and to defy the armies of God. David sees that no one is doing anything about it. Everyone is afraid and hiding. Some of the men tell David what has been going on and then he asks the questions in the text at the head of this post, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God”. Notice the spirit of his questions. Especially take note of these two words, “reproach and defy”. These are the key words. They both come from the same Hebrew root and you’ll find some form of this root six times in this narrative. It appears in v.10 where Goliath says, “I defy the armies of Israel this day”. It’s found in v.25, “Surely he has come up to defy Israel. It’s found here in v.26 twice, “What shall be done to the man who takes away the reproach from Israel…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God”. We see it again later in v.36 and v.45. As Dale Ralph Davis argues in his commentary this is really the key word in this entire narrative. Goliath is not merely some big bully from Philistia, there is something much more fundamental happening here and David saw it and deeply felt it. This giant is dishonoring God’s people, and in doing that, he is dishonoring God. He is defying God. The honor of God is at stake in this.
Here in v.26 this is the first time David says anything in first Samuel and his first words introduce us to the great passion that was burning in his heart for God’s honor. David had come to know God even as a boy. He had walked with God throughout many a solitary day among the sheep on the Judean hillsides. He had worshipped the unseen but always present Jehovah. He had contemplated his greatness and his glory with a deep and reverent joy. He was a lover of God and a worshipper of God and as he walks into the camp and he hears this uncircumcised blasphemer defying God’s people, he can hardly believe his ears. It seems as though his innocent heart had never imagined that any living being would have the audacity to speak in such a blasphemous manner. Immediately his ire is up, a holy emotion of anger wells up in his heart, the very depths of his soul are stirred. As he speaks to the men, and then to his brothers, he seems to be shocked that no one is trying to do something about this. Only David, it seems, recognizes what is really at stake here. It is David who brings into the camp an entirely different world view. He injects a theological perspective, a God centered perspective into the situation. “Don’t you see what is happening? Have you forgotten about God’s honor? Doesn’t God make a difference in all of this? Don’t you see that this man is mocking God? If God has so identified himself with Israel, do you think that He’s indifferent toward these slurs upon his reputation? Well, as for me, I just can’t stand by and allow this uncircumcised Philistine to trample God’s name in the mud. I’ve go to do something about this,” So do you see, friends, the concern by which David was animated? It was his burning passion for the honor of God.
Now in our warfare as Christians this must be our burning passion also. This is the thing that must animate and move us more than anything else. As we wrestle with remaining sin, as we wrestle with the temptations of the devil, as we strive against evil, as we face many trials and difficulties and hardships along the way, as we engage in the great work of the gospel and seek to assault Satan’s Kingdom by evangelism and missionary endeavor, we must always be reminding ourselves that in this warfare the glory and the honor of God is at stake. There is something much bigger than you and me and our needs and our problems. This is not merely a personal fight that we are engaged in. The warfare we are in is ultimately between God and the devil. The battle that we are fighting is the Lord’s battle. Remember who you’re fighting for, remember the cause. This is the cause of Christ that we’re fighting for. The honor and the glory of God and the honor of the faith that we hold dear and the honor of the church is at stake in this. So we must get our eyes off ourselves and think about that.
These Israelites had forgotten this and it made them all cowards. Their love for God was either not there, or it had grown terribly cold. And with the absence of that love there was the absence of a proper zeal for his glory. God forbid that we would be like them. We must think about the kingdom to which we belong, the God we represent. Think of what a privilege it is to be in this fight, to be enrolled in God’s army. Think of the tremendous cost that was paid to redeem us. Now, my friend, do you want to let God down? When you’re tempted to give in to sin or to give in to despair or to give up, think about this! Do you want the glory and honor of God to be blasphemed because you played the coward? Do you want to bring reproach upon Christ and upon the gospel? We must quit focusing on ourselves and our problems and our difficulties. We must stop feeling sorry for ourselves and think about God and his glory. What will your children think of Christ if you fail to fight and you give in to the devil? What will your family members think of Christ? What will your work associates think of Christ? What will happen to the reputation and honor of God and of his church and of his gospel among those who know you? Brothers and sisters, this should be our great concern. It’s the honor of and glory of God!
This is the consideration that so stirred the heart of David. Here was the entire army of Israel cowering down and defeated and scared to death. But then here comes this young shepherd. When he saw what was going on, what did he say? What stirred his heart, what made his blood boil with holy zeal? He said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of God?” And when he was reproved by his brother he said, “Is there not a cause?”
Dear friends, let us each ask ourselves, why do I go to church? Why do I pray? Why do I engage in service and ministry, and gospel efforts? Why do I resist the devil and fight sin and seek to live a holy life? Is it merely to get certain benefits for myself? That’s fine, in part, but is that all it is? That’s not to be our first motive and our chief concern in this warfare. Our greatest concern is to be the glory and honor of God and of Christ. David, in effect, says to Israel and to us, “Jehovah’s reputation is at stake and that matters to me. In fact, it matters so much that I’m even willing to risk my life for it”. Now the question is can you and I say that? Can you say and can I say that what matters most to me is not my own advantage or my own reputation or my own security. What matters most to me is the honor of God. May God grant that we can we say that. Insofar as this is true of us we will know something of the courage and zeal for God’s kingdom and cause that marked the young man David.
Excellent discussion on Cessationism and the Strange Fire Conference at the link below. MacArthur’s responses are very helpful.
1 Kings 18:42-45, “And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And seven times he said, ‘Go, again.’ Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, ‘There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!’ So he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain.”
Notice several characteristics of Elijah’s prayer that we should imitate:
1. It was prayer based on the word of God
In v.1 of this 18th chapter of 1 Kings we read, “And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.’” Elijah’s prayer found its inspiration from the Word of the Lord. It was based upon God’s promise. Like Elijah we should let the Word of God shape and guide our prayers. Someone says, “But if God has promised something why do we need to pray for it?” One answer is that the God who has purposed the end has also purposed the means and one of the means by which his promises are brought to fruition is the prayers of his people. I think it was Spurgeon who compared the promises of God to checks. We endorse the check by faith and present it to the bank of heaven to be cashed by prayer.
2. It was marked by humility and reverence
We read that Elijah “bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees”. This is a posture of humility and reverence. Now, of course, humility and reverence are internal spiritual graces and attitudes. The issue is not so much the posture as it is the attitude reflected in it. Whatever the physical posture of our bodies when we pray, (and there are any number of legitimate postures) the attitude that should mark us when we draw near to God is one of humility and reverence. Remember how the Lord’s prayer begins. “Our Father”, we are his adopted children in Christ and, therefore, there should be a childlike confidence when we draw near to him. However, remember he is, “Our Father who is in heaven.” That confidence must be mingled with profound reverence.
3. Elijah’s prayer was very specific and to the point
Many times we pray prayers that can’t be answered specifically, because we don’t ask anything specifically. Elijah knew what he was praying for and that’s what he prayed for. He prayed for rain. Often, particularly in public prayer meetings, there is too much praying with vague generalities. Spurgeon speaks to this in his humorous way:
“I know a church which is endowed with an excellent deacon, a real godly man, but he will pray without ceasing at every meeting, and I fear he will pray the prayer meeting down to nothing unless he is soon taken home. The other night, when he had talked for a full twenty minutes, he intimated, both to heaven and earth, that all he had said was merely a preface, a drawing near as he called it, and that he was then going to begin. None of his friends were pleased to receive that information, for they had begun to cherish the hope that he would soon have done. They were all too sadly aware that now he would pray for ‘our beloved country’, ‘from the Queen upon the throne to the peasant in the cottage’, then for Australia and all the Colonies, and then for China and India, starting off afresh with kindly expressions for the young and for the old, for the sick, for sailors, and for the Jews. As a rule, nothing was really asked for by this estimable brother, but he uttered several pious remarks on all subjects and many more”
Notice, nothing was really asked for, just pious remarks.
4. Elijah’s prayer was marked by expectancy
He kept sending his servant to look and to see if God had answered. Do you ever pray about certain things but then get up and forget about it? How often, I fear, we’re not really expecting an answer and looking for it. The prayer that expects no answer will probably never receive an answer. When you send someone an important email what do you do? You keep going back to check your inbox for a response. Or when you send an important letter, you go out to the mailbox everyday looking for a return. If you really believe that getting an answer is important and you really believe that the person to whom you sent the email, or the letter, will eventually respond you keep looking for that response. That’s what Elijah was doing, and that’s what we must do in prayer.
5. Elijah was persistent in his prayer
Six times Elijah’s servant came back with the answer that nothing was happening. It wasn’t until the seventh time that Elijah received an encouraging report. Why does God sometimes delay? Why did God delay in answering Elijah’s prayer in our text? We can’t always know. But this example, and others like it in scripture, are intended to teach us a lesson. They teach us that we must continue in prayer and be persistent. We’re not to be silenced by the apparent silence of our Lord. We’re not to give up in the face of hindrances. The Lord Jesus, over and over in the gospels, calls us to importunity, to persistence. He tells us to ask and to seek and to knock. The answer may be delayed but the promise is true and it will come if we faint not. Remember the parable of the persistent widow and the parable of the persistent friend.
God would sometimes test our faith. He would stretch our faith, and perfect our faith, and better prepare us to receive what we ask for by delaying the answer for a time. As we are laboring in prayer working on God, as we think, God is, in fact, working on us. He is probing our hearts. He is causing us to search our motives. He is revealing to us hidden obstacles that stand in the way in our very own hearts. And all the time, while we continue to pray, God is conditioning us to receive the blessing to our maximum benefit and to His maximum glory when the time is right.
Well may God help us to learn to pray like Elijah!