Furthermore, the sheer folly of the preaching of a crucified and resurrected man had power to convince people to believe in Jesus, submit to His claims in allegiance, and be willing to go to their own deaths for holding to such a claim, was further evidence of what was believed to somehow be the case that death, though still present, had truly been overcome. If the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had the power to loose its claimants and adherents from the grip and hold of death, supplanting all fear and replacing it with the hope of eternal life (more than going to heaven, but participating in the ongoing process of bringing the life of the age to come to bear in the present) through a trusting allegiance to Jesus, then yes, Israel, the Creator God’s people through the covenant, had a God.
David continued and said that “all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves!” (17:47a) Of course, it has come to be quite well known that David was armed with only a slingshot and some stones, whereas Goliath was undoubtedly out-fitted with what passed for that day’s state-of-the-art military equipment. Those that were in a position to observe David’s going out to meet Goliath would probably have not thought very highly of David’s hopes of victory.
Since Goliath’s issued challenge had been a man-to-man battle, with two men representing their respective peoples, in which the loser’s people would become slaves to the victor’s people, one can imagine the grumbling that would have been taking place amongst the men of Israel. One must take the time to envision the attitude of the men of Israel’s army as David marched out with no shield, no armor, no sword, no spear, and presumable no hope. It would not be far-fetched to see Saul’s generals and advisors pleading with him to not be so foolish as to allow this boy to determine the fate of Israel. David however, was quite confident of the salvation and vindication that would be his at the hands of the Lord God of Israel.
Jesus, as one could also imagine, would take up similar words to those on offer from David. He was clear and direct in His message to His people, as He would effectively, through both what He did and didn’t do (and said and didn’t say), tell them that “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.” In Jesus’ day, the enemy that embodied death and that also embodied the Creator God’s continued cursing of Israel, was Rome. As long as Israel was in continued subjection to a foreign power, which had been the case for more than half a millennium at that point, then they were still in exile from their land, regardless of the geographic location of the people.
Subjugation to a foreign people was an ongoing implication of their God’s cursing, as outlined in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. With this concept extended to all of mankind and all of God’s creation, subjection to death and its corrupting power implied that man, along with all of the creation which he had been charged to steward as the image of the Creator, continued to stand under the curse inflicted upon him and it by Adam’s rebellion in the Garden. For Israel, because of this understanding of cursing, it was widely believed that a movement must take place to overthrow the Romans and to drive them from their land, so as to re-assert Israel as autonomous and independent. This would come, many believed, through the leadership of their messiah, who would be a king in the mold of their great warrior-king David.