Who Was the Underdog? – Sports in the Bible – Javelin – 1 Samuel 17

This installment of sports in the Bible takes us to the story of David vs. Goliath.  This is one of the most well known stories in the Bible.  Almost everyone, regardless of their knowledge of the Bible are at least aware of the story.  We often look at David as a hero in the Bible, and deservedly so – we can learn a lot from his actions and from his love for God.  But an amazing part of David’s story is that he was overlooked, even in his own family.  The story from 1 Samuel 16 shows that Samuel came to anoint the new king – He had been sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons.  Jesse called his boys in and none of them seemed to be the one.  Then he remembered “There is still the youngest – he is tending the sheep” He didn’t even call him in with the other brothers.  Yet, he is the one that is anointed King.  Then, in the next chapter, David is sent to the battle lines, not to fight – he is too young for that – but to deliver food to his brothers.  While he is there, he hears Goliath bad mouthing his people and his God.  David is ready to take him on despite the warnings and pleas of the others in the camp.

Now Goliath was a giant – an intimidating presence and a feared warrior.  He had size, experience and reputation working on his side.  The Bible tells us that the head of his javelin weighed 15 pounds.  This was a big, scary man.  The odds certainly appeared to be in his favor.  Plus, and don’t miss the pressure of the situation,   David was representing his entire nation – if he failed, Israel would be the slaves of the Philistines. There is a lot riding on this battle.

But I believe that we’ve been reading the story wrong all these years though – this is not the ultimate underdog-winning story.  With how the sides were divided, it was an underdog battle but not in the way we think.  The truth is that there was absolutely NO WAY that Goliath could possibly win this battle.  He was up against the creator of the universe.  The one who holds the entire universe in the span of his hand.  The one whose mere words spoke all we can see,including Goliath,  into existence.

You see, in reality, it wasn’t even David who was fighting the battle.  He was the one God worked through, but David was not an amazing, superhuman man.  He was as Perry Noble writes in his book Unleashed   “An ordinary man who believed in an extraordinary God”  He had been overlooked by his own dad, dismissed by his older brothers and annoyed that this pagan would dare insult the God he loved. And he knew that God could do it, and so he trusted God and went forward.

The Point?

When we trust God, He can come through for us in a BIG way.  The hard thing, though, is that we are to trust God, even when the odds are stacked against you. Will he work it out the way we think he will?  Not always – we need to trust that His way is better than ours, even if it seems harder.

David knew that his God was more powerful than any foe he could face on this earth, so he trusted that God would be victorious.

Do you trust God in hard times?  Are you excited that He can do extraordinary things through ordinary you?


Sports in the Bible – Archery

Archery is the 4th sport in the Bible that I featured in my devotional series at AWANA.  Let me  begin by saying that, to my surprise, archery (in a way) is the most talked about sport in the bible.  How, you ask?  Well, there are actual archers in the Bible in some of the war stories (King Saul met his demise to an arrow 1 Samuel 31).  Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar, was an archer (Genesis 21.20).  Esau hunted with a bow and arrow – (Genesis 27).  And perhaps the most well known story involves arrows that are purposely off target.  Jonathan used an arrow to send a message to David, who was in hiding.  (1 Samuel 20).  In all, there are over 50 references to archery, bows or arrows in the bible. But even more than that – one interpretation of both the Hebrew and Greek words for “sin” is “to miss the mark” – to be off target – an archery term.

Imagine, if you will that a king is preparing to go to war.  He calls all the archers in front of him, wanting the best to take on that role in defense of the kingdom.  They have 1 shot to hit the target.  If they miss, they are dismissed – there are no second chances.

That is true with us, too.  Once we miss the mark (sin) there are no second chances for us, we have blown it.  We fall short of God’s standard of perfection.  We are unable to keep from missing the mark.

But, thankfully, God didn’t want to leave us without hope, so He sent Jesus to take the penalty for us, He provided the chances that we need but could never get on our own.

Let’s be thankful and amazed that God can forgive our sins, not just once, but every time that we miss the mark, and let’s gladly embrace the gift of grace that He offers, and tell others that we meet about the Amazing Grace that he offers to all.

Sports in the Bible – Man vs. Horse Racing

The Annual 22-mile Horse vs. Man marathon in Wales.

This is my third entry in my series on Sports in the Bible, and it is time for a more obscure sport.  Like many other things in the United Kingdom, it began as the result of a pub wager, but Man vs Horse racing is now an annual event in Wales.  The 22 mile race is shorter than the typical “Marathon” but over much more difficult terrain.  There are riders and  runners.  There used to be cyclists, but they have been banned.2 times has a runner crossed the line first 2004 and 2007.

With all that in mind, the story of Elijah outrunning King Ahab’s chariot is  incredible.  Here is the lead up to this incredible race.  It can be found at the end of  1 Kings 18.

This story is the end of a great chapter.  We have Elijah, standing alone against the prophets and worshipers of Baal.  The Israelites are there, but they have wavered in their faith to God and have followed the lead of their king, worshipping Baal.  Elijah suggests a showdown between Baal and Yahweh.  The bulls are slaughtered, the altars are built and the Baalians get to go first.  They begin worshiping and calling out to Baal.  Predictably, nothing happens.  Elijah begins taunting them “Where is your god?  is he traveling? sleeping? relieving himself?”  They cry out louder, they cut themselves, they rant and rave for hours.  Baal is a no show.

Elijah steps up to take his turn.  He has his bull doused with water 3 times (this must look like a big waste in a country that has been suffering a drought for 3 years).  And then he calls on God Almighty to show His power, and fire falls from heaven, consuming the bull, the altar, and all the water in the trenches around the altar.  All the people saw it and immediately bowed down and said “The Lord is God!”

God reminds his people that He is the one true God.  That is the most important point to this story.  The God of Elijah, the God of Israel, the God that loves us still today is REAL.  He is true, and he is powerful.  Rejoice and celebrate this fact with me!

But the story doesn’t end there.  Elijah, climbs to the top of  Mount Carmel to pray.  His assistant is sent up to the summit 7 times to look out over the water.  Finally, a small cloud appears – the size of a man’s hand.  Elijah has his assistant go and tell Ahab to fire up the Chariots and head to town, or he will get caught in the rain that is coming.  Ahab starts out toward Jezreel  riding his chariot, Elijah, then overcome with the Power of the Lord, hikes up his robe and races the chariot to Jezreel.  How cool is that.  As if Ahab didn’t believe that fire from heaven was enough, now he is eating the dust kicked up by the heels of a man who is outrunning his chariot.  It may be time for him to reconsider which God is all powerful and where he should place his trust.

How does it make you feel to know that the One true God that used Elijah is looking to use you to show His mighty power?  Are you ready to stand alone like Elijah did and proclaim your God as the One true God?

Sports in the Bible – Mountaineering – 1 Samuel 14.

This is my second entry in my kids’ messages series on “Sports in the Bible”  that I am presenting in our AWANA program this fall.  This time, the lesson comes from 1 Samuel 14.1-14.

Sports in the Bible - Mountaineering

It is the story of Jonathan, son of King Saul, and his armor bearer.  We learn at the end of chapter 13 that the Israelite army does not have weapons, because it is too expensive for them.  Only Saul and Jonathan have swords.  The Philistines are strong against them, and Saul decided that the best plan is to wait under a pomegranate tree and wait for something the happen.

Jonathan gets tired of waiting around, and set out with his assistant.  Look at the end of verse 6.

“It’s just the two of us against all those godless men,” Jonathan said. “But the Lord can help a few soldiers win a battle just as easily as he can help a whole army. Maybe the Lord will help us win this battle.”

I love his drive to action in this.  The Lord CAN do it,  maybe he will.  Let’s go.

So off they go, and they have a plan. They will climb the mountain and show themselves to the enemy.  If the enemy, mockingly, calls them closer, that is the sign that God is giving Jonathan and his assistant the victory.

So they start up the mountain and they show themselves to the enemy.  They call them up so they can “teach them a thing or two”.  The 2 Israelites crawl up the hillside and engage in battle, that they win with God’s help.

What can we learn from this story, and from mountaineering about our walk with God.

Important things that mountaineering needs:

1- Hand holds.  A place to grasp on to to help climb, and to hold on to for dear life when everything else slips or begins to fail.  – We have the word of God – the bible that is filled with verses that we are learning in AWANA.  That is the foundation for what we know about God.  It is full of stories of his faithfulness and promises that He makes to his followers.  We can hold on to our bibles, literally and we can hold on for dear life to the truth that we find in the Word of God. When everything around us fails, we can hold on to the promises of His Word.

2- Footholds. This is a place to set ourselves on so we can move up the mountain.  If our feet are on solid rock, then the chances of us slipping are very slim.  Our chances of slipping away when God is the foundation of our life in slimmer than slim.  It is non-existent.  He invites us to make Him the foundation of our lives.  Like we read in Matthew 7.24-27, with God as our foundation, our Solid Rock as he is called in Psalms, then even when we face the wind and the rain that life brings our way, we will be able to stand firm.

3- Boldness – To reach the top of a mountain, we need to believe that it is possible.  We also know that “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew  19.26) Jonathan and his assistant are just 2 people against the outpost of an army.  There is no way that they should advance against the army when they are so outnumbered, but they listened to God and followed even when it seemed crazy.  That boldness of Faith allowed them to see God deliver an amazing victory.  When we live for God whole-heartedly, and follow Him even when it seems crazy, we will see Him do the impossible.

Thank you God for who you are.  Help me to hold on to the truth of your Word, to stand strong with You as my foundation and move boldly where You lead me, knowing that you can do all things!

Sports in the Bible – Wrestling – Genesis 32.22-30

This is the first message in my series of Sports in the Bible that I am sharing with the AWANA Sparks group (k-2).  As this is a new series, I want to focus this first post on the word “New” (It applied to them because it was the start of a new year in AWANA).

Our story, and the first example of Sports in the Bible that I am going to share is taken from Genesis, 32

It is the story of Jacob.  Now Jacob had a twin brother – Esau.  Esau was older, by about a minute.  In fact, the bible tells us that Jacob was born holding the foot of Esau.  And they had a typical brotherly relationship.

The Bible tells us that Esau was a great hunter, and Jacob was a good cook.  One day Esau is hungry after a hunting trip.  He asks Jacob for some stew that he has made, Jacob offers the stew in exchange for Esau’s “birthright” (a special status that went to the oldest in each family.  Esau did it, and it became an issue as Esau hated his birthright.

Next, we see Jacob tricking his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Again, this involved food, as well as deception, covering his body with fur to seem like his harrier brother. Esau came back to find that his father’s blessing had been given to Jacob.  He held a grudge against Jacob and planned to kill him.  Jacob fled and that is where things stood between them when we get to Genesis 32.

Years go by, and the time has come when the two brothers will meet face to face again.  Jacob is nervous, and sends gifts and gifts ahead of him to try and make peace with Esau. “And Jacob was alone…” the bible tells us.

And that’s where the sporting begins.  The bible tells us that Jacob wrestled a man (later on the Man is referred to as an angel of God) And they grapples and wrestled until morning light began to break through the dark night.

The man asks to be released, Jacob says “not until you bless me”

Then the man asks a strange question – “Who are you”.  The answer is given “Jacob”  And that is how I’d always heard the story.  But then someone read it for me in the Amplified Bible.  Here is what it says:

27 [The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!

Jacob realizes who he is.  He is a trickster, swindler, deceiver.  He realizes that he is not a good guy.  He has hurt others, including his brother, who he is getting ready to meet.  The other wrestler says…

No longer will you be Jacob, now you will be called Israel28 And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed.

Jacob is given a new identity.  His old ways are forgotten and his new identity is left.  Now read 2 Corinthians 5.17

17 Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.

God has offered each of us a new start, just like Jacob.  When we realize who we are without God, we are in shock, too, like Jacob.  But through Jesus, God is able to forget our past and make us new again.  He has created a way for our old self to be forgotten and a new identity created.

Praise God for making all things new!  Let’s be excited about this new person God makes us.