This spring, my wife and I stood on the hills overlooking the valley of Elah, where the armies of Israel and Philistia once fought. It's a weathered valley. A small creek wanders along during the rainy season; smooth stones can still be dug from its bed. As our guide read the dramatic confrontation between David and Goliath, I visualized frightened clans of nomadic tribesmen, huddled around a cowardly king, staring across the shallow valley at the swords and shields of Philistine giants. The victory of David and his God never seemed more heroic.

This scene prompted considerable reflection about Old Testament culture: plunder and pillage as a way of life; enemy foreskins the trophies of success; little boys dreaming of becoming "mighty men of valor." Winning was more than a Vince Lombardi concept. Winning meant survival; losing meant death.

Survival depended upon two things: the blessing of God and the man who fought by your side. God's blessing was sought before battle and wildly celebrated ...

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