A homily by Rev. Rümatho Nyusou
My dear friends, the Honorable Prime Minister has already announced the introduction of the second phase of national lockdown from April 15 to May 3, 2020. That means there cannot be any congregation of believers for corporate worship in the church for the next three Sundays, besides other usual worship program for the youth, women and children during the weekdays and weekends. As we continue to live in the shadow of covid-19, let me call your attention to the word of God, recorded in I Samuel chapter 17. It is a story about the fight between David and Goliath. Let us see what we can learn from this story.
If you are looking for someone with the best physique in the world, your search will definitely take you to the playground of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), earlier known as WWF. With this interest, I goggle-searched the website of the WWE to find out the most spectacular wrestler, packed with muscle and stature. Amusingly, there is a long queue of contenders with bulging biceps and swelling thighs, vying for the top spot. But out of many, I have shortlisted just five names, the tallest among them.
Standing 7’ tall and coming in the fifth place are Kane, Cass and the Big Show. Occupying the fourth place with 7’1” is The Great Khali. The third position belongs to Giant Silva with a towering height of 7’2”. The second tallest wrestler with a record height of 7’4” is Andre the Giant. The undisputed heavyweight wrestler, standing a clean 8’ tall, and clinching the top number one spot is Giant Gonzales. All five of them belong to the privileged class of seven plus feet. Considering the average height of human beings, which is between five and six feet, anybody standing seven plus feet is definitely a very tall man. No matter how skilled you are trained in any form of martial arts, taking on a man who is seven plus feet definitely requires a second thought.
But mind you, there is a giant in the Old Testament, from Gath. He is head and shoulder above Giant Gonzales. An accomplished warrior and an undisputed champion, standing 9.95 feet is the Philistine war hero, Goliath. I Samuel chapter 17 records the story about this unusual monster. For forty days, twice a day, every morning and every evening, this man stood like a colossal statue, opposite the Israelite camp. Defying the army of Israel, issuing threat and demanding a match for him to settle score with Israel in a fair fight, he waited for a challenger from the ranks of Israelite army.
I Samuel 17: 8-11 reads: Goliath stood and shouted across to the Israelites, “Do you need a whole army to settle this? Choose someone to fight for you, and I will represent the Philistines. We will settle this dispute in a single combat! If your man is able to kill me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the armies of Israel! Send me a man who will fight with me!” When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.
Who or what is Goliath today? Goliath is a symbolic representation of any unresolved issue or a nagging problem, ranging from human relationship to professional occupation, from physical confrontation to spiritual showdown. The fight between David and Goliath is a fight between good and evil, right and wrong, God and Satan. If it is a fight between God and Satan, the victory is a foregone conclusion. On the brighter side, Goliath also represents anything that challenges us to bring out the best in us in order to defeat our enemy. In today’s context, when the whole world is terrified and deeply shaken by the threat of Corona virus, Goliath exactly represents this terrible enemy of the human race.
Every day we wake up to the news about the proliferation of this virus and the growing number of victims it continues to claim. From China, through Europe, to America and the whole world, no nation or no religion on earth is spared. Corona virus has no respect for anyone. A medical personal, a military personal, a priest or prophet, it sweeps away anyone that stands in its way. At a time when the production of a vaccine remains a distant dream, this enemy has already established its presence at the threshold of our state. And still worse, it is possible that this invisible enemy must be walking in our midst incognito. This is our situation and this situation is a reality. The million dollar question now before us is whether we should just keep our fingers crossed and wait for a supernatural intervention or should we tighten our belt and should be prepared for war.
They say there is a solution to every problem. If there was a solution to the threat of war from the Philistines, David was the man of the hour for a situation such as that of the people of Israel. To cut the long story short, we shall look at the Three Practical Battle Strategies David had come up with that finally resulted in turning the table upside-down.
1. David Chose Five Smooth Stones
Let us ask David a few questions. Why picked five stones? Was there not just one Goliath? Was David scared to die? Was he not confident to fight Goliath? Where was his faith in the God of Israel? If he was going to war in the name of God, why did he feel the need to carry arms and ammunition? The Bible tells us that David chose five smooth stones from the stream and carried with him a sling in his hand.
Corona virus has created a lot of confusion and misunderstanding among the public on the street and the congregation in the church. We are witnessing a constant tug of war in churches concerning whether or not corporate worship in the church should be held. Some self-styled prophets are already training their guns on the church leaders over the closure of worship service in the churches. They are using all possible platforms to prophesy that God is not happy with believers not going to church. “Prayer and fasting alone can stop corona virus” is their slogan.
It is absolutely true that we need to be spiritually formidable in any battle, be it a physical or spiritual war. The name of God has tremendous power in fighting a pandemic like covid-19. Yes, David went to war in the name of God, but he did not forget to carry with him five smooth stones and a sling. He knew Goliath was a giant with many years of experience in warfare. Fighting a war veteran of his stature required special tools and even training. David did not just gather ordinary stones found along the road. He walked to a particular stream and carefully handpicked the stones which were smooth. David knew that only a smooth stone would hit the bull’s eye when he hurled his sling in the air.
I am an ordinary layman when it comes to medical knowledge and I cannot speak with the same authority as a medical expert does, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that corona virus is not an ordinary virus. We have to be extra cautious in selecting and using the necessary equipments. David also carefully chose five smooth stones. In the language of medical science, the five smooth stones include maintaining social distance, regular hand washing with sanitizer, coughing or sneezing on a fabric, maintaining personal hygiene, eating healthy food to boost your immune system and so on. This is what it is meant by choosing smooth stones.
2. David Hit the Enemy on the Forehead
Let us ask David again another set of questions. Of all the body parts, why target the forehead. Is the heart not more vulnerable? How about his eyes? Did he not consider that? A huge body like Goliath is an easy target even for an amateur archer. Remember, the other day when he went to drop food ration for his brothers, he saw Goliath in his full military armor. In the evening when he returned to his father, he recollected the structure and strategy of the enemy and he began his homework in preparation for the ultimate challenge. He knew that Goliath was protected from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet with heavy body armor. Besides, he had his own bodyguard. Where on Goliath’s body should his bullet of stone hit? After much prayer and planning, he ultimately zeroed in on the soft target- the forehead. Bingo!
Corona virus is not an enemy that is scared of our high-end military arsenal. It is not bothered by our war cry. No amount of superstitious penance or a concoction of magic potion will keep this virus at bay. We need to be smart and swift if we should outsmart covid-19. Talking about the need for us to be smart, what comes to my mind is “Smartphone.” I have to tell you that many Smartphone users are not really smart in their fight against covid-19. I wonder why people fight to be the first to forward baseless information in social media. Although it is acknowledged that information has power, this power is being misused. A whole lot of messages being circulated in the social media are doing more harm than good. Knowing full well that many of these contents are speculative and scientifically unfounded, many gullible public are quick to buy those cheap stories.
The whole world is impatiently waiting for good news to come out from the medical experts, working hard on a smart vaccine to deal with corona virus. Until such time comes, we should be more patient and continue to do what we must do. Taking shortcut steps in panic will not shorten even an inch of our suffering. What we need to do at the moment is to be more focused and stay alert. God has his own time and in his own time he will reward our concentration and devotion.
3. David Cut off the Enemy’s Head with the Enemy’s Sword
How does this sound to your ears that David had cut off the enemy’s head with the enemy’s sword? It is like saying corona virus that was killing human beings is now killing corona virus. With his improvised weapon and with the precision of a surgical strike, David had knocked down a giant. The longtime reigning champion had finally kissed the dust when a stone flying from the sling of an amateur private hit his forehead. Is it not too easy that a military champion is defeated by a newcomer with no military background? Well, it is easier said than done. Yes, it barely took a couple of seconds for the stone to hit Goliath’s forehead, but it took long hours of planning, strategizing, and putting them into professional precision.
Eventually, Goliath had fallen but the actual war had just begun. What if Goliath had just experienced a blackout and he regained consciousness? What if the Philistine armies unleashed their fury on the Israelites and declare a full-scale war on its citizens? The aftermath would be devastating and their happiness would be short-lived. On seeing Goliath falling down, David lost no time to finish him off. He ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. Goliath is finally killed, and the war is finally over. It is finished!
The war on Covid-19 is a long-drawn-out war. It is far from over. There might be some good news popping up here and there about the recovery of some people and the decline in the rate of infection. In our impatience to socialize and lead a normal life, we might want the government to lift the lockdown. But there is no room for laxity. Until and unless the last virus is eliminated from the face of the earth, the threat to human health and life will remain. In medical term, when the condition of a patient deteriorates after a period of improvement, it is called “relapse.” More often than not, a relapse is even more dangerous than a new infection. Until we have come to a point in time when we can say we have chopped off the last head of corona virus, humanity should persistently pursue this dreaded enemy till the end.
My dear friends, at the end of this story about the war of the world against diseases, poverty and political conflict what is our spiritual takeaway? At the surface level, corona virus is a physical problem and a major health issue. Likewise hunger and poverty in the world is a huge economic issue. No doubt, nations go to war against nations over these issues. But if we follow the root of all the problems in the world, underneath the ground, our problem is the problem of sin. If we try to address the social, economic and political problems in the world without addressing the issue of sin, we will end up treating the symptoms and not the root cause. And the danger is that it will resurface again from time to time in different forms. As a good prognosis is the result of a good diagnosis, we should first diagnose the spiritual condition of human society before we jump into conclusion by prescribing physical and material solution to the broken world. Paul has rightly said that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the dark forces and evil principalities of the world.
May the God who watched over the extraordinary situation of pestilence in Egypt more than two thousand years ago watch over the present situation of our world today. The God who delivered Noah and his family from the flood of sinful world will deliver us in our time.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Rev. Rümatho Nyusou is the Executive Secretary, Pochury Baptist Church Council, Yisisotha, Meluri.