Summary: Why did Saul think that God was not a part of the battle?
We are in the book of 1st Samuel, up to chapter 17. What has happened up to this point?
The Jewish people demanded a king, a king so that they could be “Just like everyone else”. So God gave them a King, who was like the world, and the world’s view of a great king. Saul was the very picture of a the world’s best, a compromiser who, when it comes to a pinch, takes the world’s way out instead of god’s way.
God rejects Saul as their king and chooses David. Someone who will not typlify his life by paying attention to the world; but someone who is after the heart of God.
After God chooses Saul, God troubles Saul with a spirit that can only be soothed by the playing of a harp by David, so David receives his introduction into the courts of the king, and brings him close to the thrown of Israel.
This brings us to chapter 17.
But first, in 1917, a sergeant named Savage was leading a group of men through the Argon Forrest in France during WW1. He could not understand why his commander, Captain Danforth, had promoted a young man to Corporal. This Corporal was uneducated, he did not smoke, drink or rough and tumble with the other men. When all the other men would go out carousing, this man would stay back at the barracks and read his Bible. To make matters worse, this man who Capt. Danforth had promoted to corporal had tried to get out of the Army by being a conscientious objector. How could this man be a real fighter?
When confronted by enemy fire and the loss of several men during an offensive, Sgt Savage was himself injured. The offensive was a disaster and the entire squad was threatened by several German machine gun nests. It was then that the Bible-reading corporal jumped up, charged the machine gun nests and won the day. He killed 28 German solders and captured several German solders, including a major. When the corporal and 8 remaining men brought their prisoners back to headquarters, Brigadier General Lindsey saw the prisoners and said to the corporal, “Have you captured the entire German army?” The corporal answered back, “No sir, just 132 of them.”
The corporal was Alvin York, who was later promoted and known as Sgt York. Sgt Savage had failed to see the value and dedication of York.
And today, this chapter is about how everybody but one failed to see the reality of what was really happening around them.
For in chapter 17, things are not as they seem for the solders of King Saul’s army.
Let’s read the first 3 verses.
1. Positioning of Players verses 1-3
1 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at So-coh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between So-coh and Aze-kah, in Ephes-dammim.
2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.
3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them.
Here is the area that we are talking about (MAP)
This is sort of a Napoleonic arrangement, two sides, occupying each side of a valley. The Philistines must have had some sort of numerical superiority, Or neither side wished to give up the tactical advantage of fighting up hill, as would be the case if one or the other went through the valley to meet the other side. So, the fighting did not occur for some time, we learn later that this went on for 40 days! In the mean time, the Philistines decided to taunt Israel.