Overcoming Impossible Odds

There are many stories in the Bible about overcoming impossible odds. Some of these stories have to do with overcoming the number six, others with overcoming the number sixty, but in the final generation, the issue will be concerned with overcoming the number 666, the number of anti-christ.

A few hundred years after the children of Israel overcame their enemies and had settled in the land of Canaan, the time came when they demanded that they have a king, like all the other nations around them. So the Lord granted them a king in response to their request. Samuel the prophet anointed a man by the name of Saul as the first king of Israel. They found out later that they had been much better off when the Lord had been their only king, and having a human king turned out to be a real disaster. It is similar to starting down the road of socialism; once you begin that journey, it is very hard to retrace your steps. The time came when Saul had not only rebelled against the Lord, but he had committed the unpardonable sin. This caused much anxiety for Samuel, but the Lord told Samuel that he was to not fret about this anymore.

Now that Saul had been rejected, Samuel was directed to anoint another person as the king. The conversation went this way: “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.’ And Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.’ ” I Samuel 16:1–3.

Samuel did as the Lord had bidden him to do. He went to Bethlehem, where Jesse lived, and told him that they would have a sacrifice there. Not all of the plan was revealed, but Jesse was asked to call his sons who came to be seen of Samuel, who requested that they come to him in order of their age, beginning with the oldest. Eliab was so good-looking and had such a handsome stature that Samuel thought surely this was the one. However, when Samuel wanted to anoint Eliab, God told him something very interesting. “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ” Verse 7.

There is no beauty of appearance, there is no outward manifestation of handsomeness, or beauty, or desirableness that can recommend any man or woman to God. What He is interested in is the character, a man’s inner worth, the excellency in his heart; that is what determines acceptance with the Lord of hosts. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 KJV.

We see in this story the mistake that Samuel, a very wise prophet, made; how vain it is for us to make estimations about a person because of the beauty of face or nobility of their stature. We also see how incapable we are of understanding the secrets of the heart, or of comprehending the counsels of God without special enlightenment from heaven.

After Eliab passed before Samuel, then Jesse had the second oldest son pass before him, and they kept this going until finally, seven of Jessie’s sons had passed before the prophet. The Lord did not consent for any of them to be anointed to be the king of Israel. Samuel was perplexed, for the Lord had told him specifically to go there because He had chosen for Himself a king from the sons of Jessie. But as they all passed before him, the Lord said no to each one.

Finally, Samuel asked Jessie: “ ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.’ So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ ” Verses 11, 12.

Samuel anointed David with the horn of oil in the presence of his brothers and “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” Verse 13. Samuel went back home and David, after being anointed as the king of Israel, went back to herding his sheep. He was not king yet. Saul was still king, and was determined that nobody else was going to be king except him.

A short time after this, a terrible crisis happened in the land of Israel, the Israelites and the Philistines went to war with each other. In this war, the Bible says that the Philistines had in their army a giant, a man by the name of Goliath; his height was six cubits and a span. A cubit is approximately eighteen inches, so this man was over nine feet tall. He was a very strong man and a trained warrior. He came out against the children of Israel and threatened them.

“And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.

“Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, ‘Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.’ ” I Samuel 17:4–10.

He kept uttering this boastful charge and sneering accusation against the armies of Israel, saying, “You don’t have anybody. You don’t have anybody that can fight me. If you do, just send them out. We’ll fight, and whoever wins, the other side will be their servants.” Well, this went on day, after day, after day. There was no man of the children of Israel that wanted to venture to fight against the giant. In fact, the Bible says this went on for forty days, but before the forty days were over, God had in mind a way to deliver His people. God always has a plan and a way in mind to accomplish His purpose.

Often, though, we don’t understand what that plan is. We are bewildered because we cannot understand the outcome of affairs or events, and think everything is going to ruin. That is what Saul and his army thought. But God, as is always the case, had a plan in mind to defeat this boastful enemy. The person that He had in mind to defeat this giant was the boy, David, who was out herding his father’s sheep. David’s three oldest brothers were in the army; they were with Saul and listened to the defiant speech of Goliath day, after day, after day.

The time came when David’s father, Jesse, gave him food to take for his brothers and to check out if they were doing well and how the battle was going. “So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. So the men of Israel said, ‘Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.’ ” Verses 20–25.

David was indignant when he heard the speech. He said, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Verse 26.

And so, the people began to talk about what David had said. He said, “Who is this man? He is not a follower of the Creator of the heavens and the earth; he is a worshiper of idols. Why should he defy the armies of people who worship the God of heaven?” Finally, the report reached King Saul. And Saul said, “Send that young man in to see me. I want to see him.”

When David came in to see King Saul, he told the king that he was willing to go and fight Goliath and they got into a little argument. The Bible records it this way: “Then David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.’ ” Verses 32, 33.

Then David gave his credentials. He told Saul why he believed he was qualified to go and fight with Goliath. “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.’ Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’ ” Verses 34–37.

Saul did not really believe that David would be victorious. He thought he would end up being killed, but he was willing to let him give it a try. They had been enduring Goliath’s mockery for forty days. Saul put his own armor on David and sent him out to face the giant. After David had gone out a little ways, he came back. All those watching thought he had decided that it was just too dangerous a venture; he would not take his life in his hands and get killed trying to kill that giant!

But actually, that wasn’t what David had in mind at all. When he came back, “David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David took them off.” It’s not good to try to fight in armor with which you are unfamiliar. David took only what he was familiar with, what he knew. The Bible says, “He took his staff in his hand [used for herding the sheep]; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.” Verses 39, 40.

As the two unlikely contestants drew closer, the Philistine looked to see who it was that had come out against him expecting to see the most powerful warrior in the Israelite army. Instead, he sees what is apparently a teenager, a young man with no armor, no bow, no sword and no spear. “And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine [being quite insulted] said to David, ‘Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!’

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.’ ” Verses 42–47.

When David had made such a speech, the rage of Goliath seemed to be intense. He became so outraged and so angry that the Bible says, “The Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.” Verse 48. Goliath was so angry and so outraged he failed to properly protect himself with his head armor. Approaching the giant whose face was exposed with his visor up, “David put his hand into his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.” Verse 49.

The watching army expected that in just a moment, they would see David killed, decapitated by Goliath’s sword, but now everyone stood shocked, and in amazement as they watch the stone go whizzing through the air, straight to the mark. It hit the target in the forehead so hard, that it sank into his forehead. Goliath suddenly staggered, and fell to the ground. David did not hesitate. “Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.” Verse 51. David prevailed over the Philistine giant with nothing more than a sling and a smooth stone that he picked up out of the brook.

David was faced with impossible odds against him yet he prevailed, because he had faith in God and he was prepared to do what he knew he could do. He’d had some experience. God had sent him some trials in life beforehand to prepare him for this very event. God had allowed him to meet up with a lion, and to meet up with a bear. He had successfully killed those ferocious animals to protect his flock. He knew that the same God Who delivered him from the lion and the bear could deliver him from Goliath. Perhaps you noticed that the number six appeared often in the description of Goliath, concerning his spearhead and also his height.

A deeper Bible study on Goliath reveals several other sixes related to him. Several hundred years later, three of God’s children, had to come to an image that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. This image was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide. David had to meet a man that was six cubits and a span tall. The three Hebrew worthies, written about in Daniel 3, had to come with all the people gathered from all over the earth to a golden image that was sixty cubits high, and six cubits wide. They were commanded to kneel down and worship it at the sound of music. However, the second commandment says that you are not to worship, you are not to bow down before any image (Exodus 20:4–6). The second commandment is the second longest commandment in the law. God said that we are not to bow down or worship any graven image or anything we have made in His likeness.

The three Hebrew worthies refused to bow down, even under the threat of being thrown into the fiery furnace for disobeying the command of King Nebuchadnezzar to worship his image. They fearlessly remained standing when all others bowed. When brought before the king, they said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16–18. When they were thrown into the fiery furnace, the same God that delivered David out of the hand of Goliath, delivered the three Hebrew worthies. They walked out of the fiery furnace when Nebuchadnezzar asked them to, no longer bound and unharmed. God delivered them. With David it was six, with the three Hebrew worthies it was sixty. But, God’s children will have to meet a crisis at the very end of the world, having to do with the number 666, the number of anti-christ.

Christ can give you the grace to be an overcomer against impossible odds. Will you have the kind of faith that David had? Will you have the kind of faith that the three Hebrew worthies did so that you will able to say, “I know God is able to deliver me from your power, but if He does not, and whether you kill me or whatever you do, I will continue to worship the God of heaven. I will keep His commandments; I will do His will.” The time to develop that kind of faith is now. Now is the time to say, “Lord, I’m choosing to follow and obey You, and I pray that You will give me the strength to follow You, to be obedient to You, no matter the outcome.”

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.