“To Jehovah Belongs the Battle”
“I am coming to you with the name of Jehovah of armies, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have taunted.”—1 SAMUEL 17:45.
1, 2. (a) What challenge faces the army of Israel under the command of King Saul? (b) How do the men of the army of Israel react to Goliath’s challenge, and who now appears on the scene?
TWO mighty armies confront each other across the valley of Elah, southwest of Jerusalem. On one side is the army of Israel, led by the fearful King Saul. On the other side is the Philistine army with its gigantic champion, Goliath. Likely, Goliath’s name means “Conspicuous.” He is some nine feet [2.7 m] tall and is armed to the hilt. Goliath is shouting blasphemous defiance at Israel.—1 Samuel 17:1-11.
2 Who will meet Goliath’s challenge? “As for all the men of Israel, on their seeing the man, why, they went fleeing on account of him and were very much afraid.” But look—a mere stripling youth appears on the scene! His name is David, which means “Beloved.” He proved to be “beloved” also to Jehovah because of his courageous devotion to righteousness. Samuel has already anointed David to be Israel’s future king, and Jehovah’s spirit is operating powerfully upon him.—1 Samuel 16:12, 13, 18-21; 17:24; Psalm 11:7; 108:6.
3. How does David equip himself for battle, but how is Goliath equipped?
3 On hearing Goliath “taunt the battle lines of the living God,” David offers himself to fight the giant. When Saul consents, David sallies forth but not with the traditional armor and weapons offered by Saul. He is equipped only with a staff, a sling, and five smooth stones—in contrast with Goliath, who is carrying a spear with a 15-pound [7 kg] head and wearing a 126-pound [57 kg] copper coat of mail! As the mighty Goliath and his shield bearer advance, ‘the Philistine calls down evil upon David by his gods.’—1 Samuel 17:12-44.
4. How does David reply to the giant’s challenge?
4 How does David reply? He hurls back the giant’s challenge, crying out: “You are coming to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I am coming to you with the name of Jehovah of armies, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day Jehovah will surrender you into my hand, and I shall certainly strike you down and remove your head off you; and I shall certainly give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines this day to the fowls of the heavens and to the wild beasts of the earth; and people of all the earth will know that there exists a God belonging to Israel. And all this congregation will know that neither with sword nor with spear does Jehovah save, because TO JEHOVAH BELONGS THE BATTLE, and he must give you men into our hand.”—1 Samuel 17:45-47.
5. What is the outcome of the battle, and to whom goes the credit?
5 David boldly advances to the battle. His slingstone flies toward its mark, and Goliath slumps to the earth. Yes, Jehovah has rewarded David’s faith and courage by directing that small missile unerringly to the giant’s forehead! David runs forward, unsheathes Goliath’s own sword, and strikes off the bully’s head. The Philistines flee in confusion. Truly, it could be said: “TO JEHOVAH BELONGS THE BATTLE”!—1 Samuel 17:47-51.
6. (a) Why has Jehovah preserved the details of this ancient battle? (b) What assurance do God’s servants need when enduring persecution from foes who may be compared to Goliath?
6 Why has Jehovah preserved this detailed battle account in his Word, even though the battle was fought some 3,000 years ago? The apostle Paul tells us: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Today, many faithful servants of God are enduring reproach and outright persecution from foes who may be compared to Goliath. As enemy pressures increase, all of us need the comforting assurance that “TO JEHOVAH BELONGS THE BATTLE.”
The Issue of Sovereignty
7. What issue is of concern to all of God’s people in all nations, and why?
7 Goliath strode forth in defiance of the God of Israel. Similarly, in this 20th century the totalitarian political system of government has come to the fore, challenging Jehovah’s sovereignty and trying to bully his servants into worshipful submission to the State. This issue is of concern to God’s people in all nations. Why so? Because the prophesied Gentile Times, or “appointed times of the nations,” ended in 1914, ushering in the present period of “distress of nations, with perplexity.” (Luke 21:24-26; NW, King James Version) The Gentile Times started when the nations began to trample on earthly Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and covered the next 2,520 years up to 1914, when Jehovah enthroned Jesus as his Messianic King in heavenly Jerusalem.—Hebrews 12:22, 28; Revelation 11:15, 17.*
8. (a) How did the kings of the earth respond to the prophetic command to “serve Jehovah with fear”? (b) What worldly champions today taunt Jehovah and bully his witnesses?
8 A great change took place in 1914. No longer could the Gentile nations rule without divine interference. But did “the kings” then ruling obey the prophetic command to “serve Jehovah with fear,” acknowledging his newly installed King? No! Instead, they “massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one,” Jesus. Pursuing their own ambitions, they came to be “in tumult” in the Great War of 1914-18. (Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12) To this day, world domination is a burning issue before mankind. Satan’s world continues to produce political champions, comparable to Goliath’s kinsmen, the Rephaim. These dictatorial rulerships taunt Jehovah and try to bully his witnesses into submission, but as always, the battle and the victory belong to Jehovah.—2 Samuel 21:15-22.
A Modern-Day “Saul”
9. Who today have corresponded with King Saul’s style of action, and in what ways?
9 Where does King Saul come into this picture? Earlier, because of his rebelliousness, Jehovah had determined to ‘rip away from him the royal rule of Israel.’ (1 Samuel 15:22, 28) Now, Saul had failed to uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty in the face of Goliath’s challenge. Furthermore, he proceeded next to persecute David, Goliath’s conqueror and the one anointed by Jehovah to replace Saul’s line of rulership. How strikingly the clergy of Christendom have fitted into this style of action! They have rebelled against Bible truth, being part of the great apostasy that ‘does not obey the good news’ about our Lord Jesus and his incoming Kingdom. They have utterly failed to advocate Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and have bitterly persecuted Jehovah’s anointed witnesses and their companions, the great crowd. Jehovah will take those apostates away ‘in his fury.’—2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; 2:3; Hosea 13:11.
10. (a) In 1918, what manifesto was published in London by a group of prominent clergymen? (b) Instead of following through on the 1918 manifesto, what course have the clergy pursued?
10 During the first world war, the compromising ways of Christendom’s clergy became clearly apparent. Obviously, Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, and Luke chapter 21 was being fulfilled. In fact, in 1918 a group of prominent clergymen in London, England, representing the Baptist, Congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist Churches, published a manifesto. This stated: “The present crisis points toward the close of the times of the Gentiles.” But they did not follow through on that declaration. Already, the clergy of Christendom had been deeply involved in supporting both sides of the first world war. Instead of recognizing Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power, they submitted to the thinking of worldly nations—that the people should continue to be dominated by divisive Gentile political powers, even by tyrants like Goliath, rather than unite under God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 25:31-33.
11. Who have not compromised on the issue of sovereignty, and whose example do they follow?
11 Do God’s devoted servants compromise on this issue of sovereignty? Far from it, as the Bible record clearly shows! (Daniel 3:28; 6:25-27; Hebrews 11:32-38; Revelation 2:2, 3, 13, 19) Loyal Christians today uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty and Kingdom despite all the cruel reproaches and persecutions that the bullying modern-day Goliath heaps upon them. Thus, they follow in the steps of Jesus, “the Son of David,” who boldly waged spiritual warfare in behalf of Jehovah’s sovereignty, while at the same time maintaining strict neutrality toward the world’s conflicts and politics. In prayer to his Father, Jesus stated that his followers, true Christians, are also “no part of the world.”—Matthew 4:8-10, 17; 21:9; John 6:15; 17:14, 16; 18:36, 37; 1 Peter 2:21.
12. (a) Who have struck down the modern-day Goliath, and how so? (b) Their viewing “Goliath” as dead has had what effect on Jehovah’s people?
12 The Davidlike remnant of anointed Christians today have struck down the modern-day Goliath. How so? In that they have declared themselves unequivocally on Jehovah’s side of the controversy over world domination. A “RESOLUTION (Adopted by the International Bible Students Association in Convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, Sunday, September 10, 1922)” set the pattern. It included the following:
“10. We further hold and testify that this is the day of God’s vengeance against Satan’s empire visible and invisible;
“11. That the reestablishment of the old world or order is an impossibility; that the time is here for the establishment of the kingdom of God through Christ Jesus; and that all the powers and organizations that do not willingly submit to the righteous reign of the Lord will be destroyed.”
“The Son of David,” as Head of the Christian congregation, no doubt directed the hurling of that “stone” of Kingdom truth. (Matthew 12:23; John 16:33; Colossians 1:18) Resolutions adopted at annual conventions from 1922 to 1928 underlined this position. From the viewpoint of Jehovah’s people, “Goliath” lay dead, beheaded. Dictatorial human rulership has been powerless to coerce the courageous advocates of Jehovah’s sovereignty into compromising.—Compare Revelation 20:4.
13. (a) How did Christendom’s clergy compromise during the oppression in Hitler’s Germany? (b) What did the book Mothers in the Fatherland report about the uncompromising Witnesses?
13 An outstanding modern example of bullying by Goliathlike political rulerships took place in Hitler’s Germany. The mainline religions, both Catholic and Protestant, compromised woefully in paying homage to Nazism, idolizing the führer, saluting his swastika flag, and blessing his troops as they sallied forth to slaughter their fellow believers in neighboring nations. So-called Christians of all faiths—but not Jehovah’s Witnesses—were caught up in the patriotic fervor. The book Mothers in the Fatherland reported: “[Jehovah’s Witnesses] were sent to concentration camps, a thousand of them were executed, and another thousand died between 1933 and 1945. . . . Catholics and Protestants heard their clergy urge them to cooperate with Hitler. If they resisted, they did so against orders from both church and state.” How bloodguilty both Church and State became!—Jeremiah 2:34.*
14. Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses often persecuted?
14 To this day, cruel oppression of Jehovah’s Witnesses continues in many lands, just as Jesus foretold. But under all circumstances, these Christians zealously keep on preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:9, 13, 14) The irony of the situation is that the Witnesses are recognized in most countries as honest, clean-living citizens, exemplary in upholding law and order. (Romans 13:1-7) Yet they are often persecuted. Why? Since worship belongs exclusively to Jehovah, they refrain from bowing to representations of the State or hailing them. (Deuteronomy 4:23, 24; 5:8-10; 6:13-15) Uncompromisingly, they worship Jehovah, “him alone,” making Jehovah the Sovereign Lord of their lives. (Matthew 4:8-10; Psalm 71:5; 73:28) Being “no part of the world,” they maintain Christian neutrality toward the world’s politics and wars.—John 15:18-21; 16:33.
15, 16. (a) Whose example can Witnesses of all ages follow when the modern-day Goliath threatens them, and how was this illustrated by a six-year-old Christian girl? (b) Christian parents want to train their little ones to be like whom?
15 The modern-day Goliath often threatens these integrity keepers, who put the worship of Jehovah ahead of idolatrous practices. (Compare Revelation 13:16, 17.) But Witnesses, young and old, can follow David’s example by fearlessly answering the challenge. In a Latin-American land, a six-year-old Christian girl had received fine home training from infancy. (Compare Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:14, 15.) This had contributed to making her the brightest student in her class at school. But her Bible-trained conscience caused her to refrain from taking part in idolatrous class ceremonies. When she explained her stand, the teacher exclaimed that a girl of her age was too young to have a conscience! The six-year-old proved the teacher wrong by giving an impressive witness.
16 It is hoped that all Christian parents will train their little ones so that these may follow youthful David’s example by taking their stand when Goliathlike worldly authority threatens them. May they be like the three faithful Hebrew children, like Daniel and many others of Bible record in courageously ‘holding a good conscience’ in harmony with Bible principles.—1 Peter 2:19; 3:16; Daniel 3:16-18.
As Historians See It
17. (a) English historian Toynbee warned of the development of what? (b) How does the modern-day Goliath class test the loyalty of God’s people?
17 The well-known English historian Arnold Toynbee warned of the development in our time of the “grim shape of a pagan worship of sovereign national states,” describing this also as “a sour ferment of the new wine of democracy in the old bottles of tribalism.” Those who claim that their own nation is superior to all others, even to the point of worshiping the State, have been manipulated by rulers and regimented in order to carry out their policies, whether good or bad. As a result, the Goliath class has arisen to test the loyalty of God’s people, who love the land of their birth but decline to worship the State and its symbols.
18. What searching questions does the conscientious Christian need to answer?
18 As was the case in Nazi Germany, today there are searching questions for the conscientious Christian to answer: Should I believe that the nation I live in is favored by God more than any other? Especially now, in this most dangerous period of human history, is it logical and sensible to view one small portion of the earth as superior to all other portions? Or to view one segment of the human family as superior to all other segments?
19. What does the greatest Historian of all, Jehovah, tell us about thinking and acting as though one nation of men were superior to every other nation?
19 Let us consider the viewpoint of the greatest Historian of all—Jehovah God, Author of the Bible. The apostle Peter tells us: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” And should we not always act in harmony with the apostle Paul’s inspired statement that God “made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth”? Why should one nation of men think and act as though it were superior to every other nation? Speaking of all men, Paul said: “We are the progeny of God.”—Acts 10:34, 35; 17:26, 29.
20. By what will God’s people no longer be challenged in Jehovah’s new system, and what will our next study discuss?
20 In Jehovah’s new system, lovers of righteousness will no longer be challenged by the Goliathlike totalitarian political systems, for partisan pride and hatred will be things of the past. (Psalm 11:5-7) Wherever they live on earth, God’s people have already put such nationalism behind them, in obedience to Jesus’ command to ‘love one another just as he loved them.’ (John 13:34, 35; Isaiah 2:4) Our next study shows what kind of love that is!
For a detailed discussion of this Bible chronology, see pages 129-39 of the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
For stirring examples of the integrity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, young and old, in answering the challenge of the Nazi “Goliath,” see the 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 117-21, 164-9.
Questions for Review
◻ What is pictured by the giant bully Goliath?
◻ In what ways do God’s servants show no compromise on the issue of sovereignty?
◻ Why can God’s people say that the modern-day Goliath has been struck down?
◻ Who follow King Saul’s style of action, and how?
◻ How have Jehovah’s people acted like David in the face of oppression by the modern-day Goliath?