Saturday, January 18, 2014

President's Weekly Letter # 70

When my son was in 7th Grade, 12 years old attending Fillmore Middle School, he was assigned Mr. Bailey as his home room teacher who was particularly tall and imposing; a previous college basketball player.  Like many kids, my son found class work difficult.  I happened to be the Sunday school teacher for him and 11 other kids of that age group in my Ward.  I prepared a great lesson about the Old Testament story of David and Goliath to metaphorically emphasize our ability to overcome obstacles, or giants, in our lives as we stay focused on our cause.  At the end of the lesson, when I asked the class to name some of the giants in their lives, my son spoke up and said, “Mr. Bailey.”  It was then that I realized my great lesson had gone right over his head.

The story of David and Goliath is fascinating and teaches many valuable lessons.  King Saul was commanded by the Lord to utterly destroy Amalek.  He was commanded to slay everything including men, women, infants, ox, sheep, camel and ass.  Saul was not obedient.  He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive along with the best of the sheep, lambs and all that was good.  Saul then reported to Samuel the prophet, “I have performed the commandments of the Lord.” Samuel then asked the famous question, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul then provided the classic excuse of blame:  “…the people spared the animals to offer up as sacrifice.”  He later became more honest:  “I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”  (1Sam15:13-21)  But still the lesson to be learned is:

“22 … Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
23 For rebellion is as…witchcraft and stubbornness is as …idolatry” (1Sam15:22-23)

Samuel announced to Saul that the Lord hath rejected him from being King over Israel.  The Lord told Samuel he had provided a king among the sons of Jesse and sent him to identify and anoint him.  The first of Jesse’s sons, Eliab, was trotted out.  He looked good to Samuel, but the Lord taught an eternal principle:

“7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”  (1Sam16:7)

After presenting all 7 of his sons, Jesse admitted there remained the youngest son, David, who was keeping the sheep.  Samuel anointed David.  The scriptures say David was ruddy with a beautiful countenance and goodly to look to.  That is as we would say today; he was handsome.

Saul was troubled because of his sins.  He recruited David to play the harp for him.  Saul developed a short lived love for David, while David maintained throughout his life his love and respect for Saul.  A war began between the Philistines and Israel.

“3 And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
 4 ¶And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.” (1Sam17:3-4)

Goliath was an estimated 9 ½ foot tall (3 meters) giant who came down to the valley every morning and evening for 40 days and issued a challenge to the Israelites.  Choose a man; let him fight me to the death.  The army of the looser will become the servant of the army of the winner.  Because of his size the Israelites were greatly afraid.  The three oldest sons of Jesse had jointed the Israelite army.  David was sent by his father with food for his brothers.  As David talked to his brothers, Goliath came down and David heard the challenge.

David asked a simple question, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  He oldest brother, Eliab, ridiculed him saying,

28 … Why camest thou down hither? And with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” (1Sam17:28-29)

David then asked the great question, “Is there not a cause?”  With unbelievable faith in God that he would prevail, David then told Saul that he would go fight with this Philistine and related how he had slew a lion and a bear while protecting the sheep and the Philistine would be as one of them.  Saul approved.  The scripture then states:

“40 And he [David] took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.”

45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

 48 … David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.
 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

 51 … And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.” (1Sam17:40-51)

You are serving as a missionary and God is on your side.  Jesus Christ and Angels are on your right hand and on our left protecting and guiding you.  There are as many challenges in the mission as there are missionaries. The story of David and Goliath relates spiritually to each of you in your own way with what difficulties and opportunities you are facing. 

Like Saul, do you make excuses or justify disobedience to mission rules or programs to satisfy your own comfort or habits?

Saul sought relief from guilt and shame of sin with harp music. We all sin so what do you do for relief?  What is the Lords way of relief?

Like Saul, are you stubborn to your companion, the work or to the Lord?  Stubbornness is as idolatry and rebellion is as witchcraft.  Stubbornness takes the form of impatient, failure to trust the Lord, and an exaggerated opinion of your own power and importance.

Do you exercise your ability in your relationships with others to see beyond the outward appearance and look on the heart including your companion, other missionaries, members, investigators and people?

David’s victory over a lion and a bear helped prepare him to face greater challenges such as Goliath.  As you defeat the lions and bears in your life, you will develop the confidence, character and faith to defeat your Goliaths.  Afterwards your enemy will flee. 

David trusted the Lord to help him fight Goliath.  Do you show such faith in the Lord in your daily challenges as well as the Goliaths in your life?  Do you run forward to attack your Goliath?

Do you not have a cause?  Your mission Vision is clear and that work remains before you.  What other personal causes are you engaged in and do these causes motivate you?  Elders and Sisters your cause is just and you and your team will win.

“But you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in your hands.  You have been counseled and taught and advised.  You have the stones of virtue and honor and integrity to use against these enemies who would like to conquer you…You can triumph over them by disciplining yourselves to avoid them…Victory will be yours…you have His power within you to sustain you...You have the right to ministering angels about you to protect you.  Do not let Goliath frighten you.  Stand your ground and hold your place, and you will be triumphant.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1983, p.46, 51)
President Robinson

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