(early!) November 7, 2008

It is nearly 2:30 in the morning, and I can't sleep. I felt like I needed to spend some time in the Bible. "What should I read, God?" I was reminded that a couple of weeks ago in church, our pastor mentioned the account of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58). The Philistines and Israelites were at war with each other. Verse 3 says: The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley in between them. The Philistines had a big weapon on their side, and his name was Goliath. He was a giant, standing over 9 feet tall. It says he wore a bronze helmet, his bronze armor coat weighed 125 pounds, armor covering his legs, a spear whose iron point weighed over 15 pounds. And we can't forget the shield. Goliath came out to that battle line and yelled out with all of the intimidation he could gather (which doesn't seem to difficult for someone over 9 feet tall!). 1 Samuel: 8-10 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me.  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us."  Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." This terrified the Israelites. Imagine that you are having a dispute with someone at work, and out comes their 9 foot tall friend basically saying "Bring it on!". Most of us would be rethinking that dispute pretty quickly, realizing how mismatched the fight would be. This went on between the Philistines and Israelites for forty days! No one would step out, not even a group of them would step out together to face Goliath!

Now, there was a man names Jesse who was from Bethlehem, and Jesse had eight sons. His oldest three sons were part of that war, fighting for the Israelites. David was his youngest son and his job was to stay back at home and take care of the few sheep they had. One day, Jesse went to David and asked him to take some food to his brothers in the army. As he approached, the two armies were lining up to face each other, and just like every other day, Goliath stepped out and shouted his usual challenge to the Israelites. The Israelites were talking amongst each other, speaking of all of the rewards the king promised to the one who would defeat this giant. David was overhearing this and  verse 26 says: David asked some soldiers standing nearby, "What will a man get for killing this Philistine and stopping him from insulting our people? Who does that worthless Philistine think he is? He's making fun of the army of the living God!" News of David's words made it back to Saul, and Saul asked for David to be brought to him. Verses 32-37 (Contemporary English Version)

32"Your Majesty," he said, "this Philistine shouldn't turn us into cowards. I'll go out and fight him myself!"

    33"You don't have a chance against him," Saul replied. "You're only a boy, and he's been a soldier all his life."

    34But David told him:

   Your Majesty, I take care of my father's sheep. And when one of them is dragged off by a lion or a bear, 35 I go after it and beat the wild animal until it lets the sheep go. If the wild animal turns and attacks me, I grab it by the throat and kill it.

    36Sir, I have killed lions and bears that way, and I can kill this worthless Philistine. He shouldn't have made fun of the army of the living God! 37The LORD has rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and he will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine.

   "All right," Saul answered, "go ahead and fight him. And I hope the LORD will help you."

Saul tried dressing David, who was just a small boy, with all of his armor which was fit for a man. David tried to walk around in all of this armor, and it was just too big for him so he took it off. Carrying his staff in his hand, five smooth stones, and his sling, David actually approached Goliath. Goliath looked him over and laughed. He must have thought "How easy is this! This is no match!" Goliath actually told him that he would give David's "flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!" (v. 44)

 45 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

Out of that whole story, one thing in particular stood out that never seemed so significant to me before. After having said this Goliath began to move towards David. And David actually ran towards him! That is courage! David was not just using words, but his actions proved his trust in the Lord was real. With that, he took out one stone and put it in his sling, and with that one stone, Goliath was killed.  (V. 50) So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

I have heard this story over and over from the time I was young. It's actually not just a story, if you believe in the Bible, (which I do) then it is a true account of an actual event. By the time I finished reading this tonight, the tears were running down my face to the point that I could barely see to continue reading. Never before have I felt like this story applies to my life as much as it does right now.

I feel like I am standing on one hill, and the enemy is standing on another. We are at war with each other, and the valley is our battleground. Satan thinks he has this great  weapon called cancer. I am sure the Philistines were in their camp laughing as they said "Let's see how they react when we send out Goliath!" And in that same way, I am sure that Satan has laughed many times when cancer meets us at that line and taunts us. "Is there anyone out there who would dare to fight me?"

 I am standing at that line drawn in the valley. I am standing here facing the enemy's weapon named cancer. He's laughing at me, saying "Who do you think you are?! You are just a girl. You can't possibly think that you are of any match for me!"

And I reply:  "You come against me with illness and sickness and threats of death, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have failed to obey. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and I will hold the proof of your defeat, and the whole world will know that there is a God! All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

To the world, I could look like a mismatch for this fight. But why? Why would it be so crazy to think that we could pray for God to move in such a way that the enemy would be defeated, and that cancer would no longer call out its taunts? I am standing in this valley, the lowest place I can be. Behind me is the hill that I have come from, and I won't run back. No, I will choose to run towards the one who taunts me, and I do it in the name of the Lord Almighty.

In one of my last entries I mentioned how I kept getting the word "vengeance" in my mind. Well, a couple of days ago, the word "avenge" kept coming to me. As I always do, I looked up its exact meaning, which is: to take vengeance on behalf of. In movies, I can remember people saying "I am here to avenge my brother's death!" Even the example the dictionary gave of avenge was: He avenged his brother. In many ways, this is how I feel. I know that God's perfect plan held my brother, Jeff, so tight and my brother's death was not for lack of prayers for his healing. But I still feel like I am fighting this fight, in part, to avenge him. To take back what Satan has tried to steal. My mom met my brother Brian for lunch the other day. I was on the phone with her as she pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant they were meeting at. I heard her gasp and say "Oh my gosh!". She started to cry as she told me that as Brian got out of the car, she said she thought it was Jeff. This still makes my eyes tear up to think about. I had a dream the other night that my family was on vacation at the beach. Jeff was there as he was back in 2004, yet Emily was there as well as the 2 year old that she is now. A huge storm came in all of a sudden, with multiple tornadoes over the beach and huge water spouts. The black clouds were so low that if you stood up, your head would literally go into them. My family got split up, some down at the beach, some in the hotel, etc as emergency crews started to try to evacuate the area in little boats. It was so black out that all you could see was the headlights on the boats shipping people to safety. I stood there, watching the boats come in and I was just frantically screaming "Rhineharts!! Rhineharts!!". I was so desperate to make sure my family was all safe and together. I can still feel how much my heart ached in that dream.

I feel like sometimes when I stand up, my head is in those black clouds. But, instead of running and hiding, I will run into this battle, and I will take back the ground that has been promised. And not by relying on the strength of earthly weapons alone, but by God's power and authority.

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