We parked on a small turn-around off of a highway in the Galilean countryside. Men were sitting next to their ice cream truck, hoping to gain some customers from the traffic and tourists like us. We walked down an overgrown, steep path through a tree-covered area where people were camping. Then, after walking down another steep, overgrown path, I found myself standing by the Jordan River. Immediately, I was struck by the almost cobblestoned riverbed, half inundated and half exposed. This detail shed new light on a familiar story...
In his momentous battle against Goliath in the Elah Valley, David went to the stream and picked up five smooth stones (1 Samuel 17:40). I always assumed it took some time to find those stones. I assumed this without much thought because in my part of the world, not all streams have a surplus of stones. However, here I stood looking down at a riverbed covered in stones. I was able to find five smooth stones in about two minutes.
American Christians hear this story and often see themselves in David. We all have "giants" to face in our lives. However, David does not represent us in the story. We are Goliath. Goliath mocked God and in effect was attempting to defeat God and His people. We tend to reject God as well. We reject His authority over our lives and we often challenge His will and His commands for our lives. Like Goliath, we can be boastful, inflated idolaters.
David, however, represents what Christ would eventually do for us. Christ has slain the idolatry that can control our lives; he has slain the self-reliant boasting of our hearts and the forces of evil in our lives that encourage us to reject God. Christ's death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb has paid the debt of our sins. He gives us forgiveness, freedom, and an imperishable inheritance. But these benefits are only available to those who surrender to Christ as Lord and Savior by seeking and receiving His forgiveness. These benefits also see fuller degrees of fruition the more we surrender to His Lordship each day.
While in Israel, I eventually saw a creek bed in the Elah Valley where David defeated Goliath. I picked up five stones from there as well. These stones were not as symmetrical as the sling stones we saw at the dig and in the museum. The "military grade" stones were about the size of tennis balls and shaped to be as symmetrical as possible for straighter flight and accuracy. David's experience as a shepherd likely helped him gain accuracy with his sling even from the natural river stones that were not as "perfect" as military grade stones. David did not use Saul's armor or any prepared sling stones. Instead, David trusted God's power and provision as Christ did in His ministry.
No, David did not pick his stones from the Jordan as I have, but it helps me connect Christ to David's story. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and this heralded His baptism on the cross for my sins. These five stones remind me that Jesus has not only slain my pride, but the forces of evil that encourage me to wander from God. These five smooth stones remind me to continually turn back to the grace and forgiveness of God through Christ. These five smooth stones remind me that Christ's grace transforms every aspect of my life.