As students of history will remember, Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus, King of Sparta, had his wife, Helen, swept away by Paris. The result was the launching of a thousand ships and a decade long war that eventually saw the citizens of Troy overthrown, not by force, but by deception, as the Greeks supposedly sailed away, leaving a giant wooden horse behind. Just as the Greeks had hoped, this “Trojan horse” was then taken inside the city of Troy by its citizens as an offering to their gods.
After the feasting had died down, and while the Trojans slept, Greek soldiers led by Achilles emerged from hiding within the horse and opened the gates to the city, whereupon the Greeks poured in and sacked the city.
This well-known story is the basis of Homer’s epic Greek poem, The Iliad. After the battle is over, one of the Greek kings who had participated in the battle, Odysseus, sets sail on a ten year journey home. His adventures form the basis of Homer’s second epic poem, The Odyssey. I highly recommend the PG-13 version of Troy; and sorely wish Peterson would produce a follow up film based on The Odyssey.
One of my favorite parts of Troy is the opening scene, wherein Menelaus is in the process of completing the conquest and unification of ancient Greece. He and his army have succeeded in bringing every polis in except Thessaly. As the scene unfolds, the Thessalonian army under King Triopas is situated on one side of a valley and the Greek army under Menelaus is on the other.
Weary of bloodshed, Menelaus proposes his best warrior, Achilles, against Thessaly’s best soldier, Boagrius, who is a giant of a man. After the lead up involving taunts and challenges, Achilles swiftly and surprisingly defeats the much larger man, whereupon, the Thessalonians surrender to King Menelaus and are absorbed into the unified Greek army.
Historians tell us the historical battle of Troy took place sometime between the 11th to the 14th century BC. Sometime in the 11th century BC, likely 1025BC or thereabouts, a similar battle unfolded along the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, a few miles inland at a Valley called Elah.
Here, another giant of man named Goliath, a Philistine form Gath, whom the Bible tells us was over nine feet tall (c. 9’9” by best estimates). He was the champion of the Philistine army, which was encamped on one side of the valley. Opposite them was the army of ancient Israel led by King Saul.
As was the case in Thessaly, the champion of the Philistines taunts the opposition and asks for just one man to come out and fight him. That challenge is answered, not by King Saul or any of his warriors, but by a young Israelite lad named David. First Samuel, chapter seventeen, tells us how the events unfolded that eventful day.
Rather than fight him with traditional armor and weaponry, David takes on the giant armed only with his trusty sling and five smooth stones, with which has earlier dispatched both a lion and a bear while guarding his father’s sheep.
With his very first shot, he fells the giant and then uses the giant’s own sword to finish him off. Thereafter, the Philistine army is completely routed and the Israelites prevail. It is not many years before young David sits on the throne of Israel as King.
How was a young teenager able to take down such a tremendous opponent? Because, by his own testimony, he had trusted God to deliver the giant into his hand. As David himself told the giant Goliath (in I Samuel 17:45-47):
45...“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. 46This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47All 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.”
You see, my friends, David knew a profound secret: that little is much in God’s hands! And we should learn a valuable lesson from this. For it is a principle demonstrated time and again in Holy Scripture. Whether it is…
a little boy’s lunch consisting of just five loaves and two fishes that Jesus uses tow feed 5,000 people lunch (Matthew 14, John 6), or…
a mere 300 men led by Gideon who are able to defeat a massive army consisting of “Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples” (Judges 7), or…
a rod in the hand of Moses (Exo. 4:1-5, 17, 20) or…
an ox goad in the hand of Shamgar (Judges 3:31) or…
a jawbone of a donkey in the hand of Samson (Judg. 15:14-16) or…
two small copper coins in the hand of a poor widow (Mark 12:42-44)…
we must never forget that we are weak; but God is strong! And in His strength, we can prevail, no matter what we are up against.
As the Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians (chapter four, verse thirteen): “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” To this, Christians say, “Amen and amen”. For with the Apostle John (I John 4:4), we affirm that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!