The stage was set long before a shepherd boy set foot in this valley with a sling, a staff, and five smooth stones from the stream bed (1 Sam 17). Israel stood before an enemy that defied the people of God and thereby defied God himself. It was Israel’s disobedience that brought them to this place – their lack of faith when it came to driving out the inhabitants of the land during the period of the conquest. However, the disobedience did not start with Israel. It was a result of a heart stained by iniquity that has plagued man since the time of Genesis 3.
The Philistines were a thorn in Israel’s side. Saul failed in his attempts to subdue this enemy just as Adam and Eve failed in their encounter with the Serpent. However, at the battle in this valley, David would have victory over the external enemy. Though the success would lead to victory over the Philistines, iniquity would still reign in the heart of man – sinfulness as seen in David’s adulterous pursuit of Bathsheba and the murder of her husband.
As the Israelites stood listening to the condemnation and blasphemy of Goliath, there was one who would battle for their freedom. However, this battle was not the end. This fight was not the moment when the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. The shepherd boy born in Bethlehem that would become king was but a foreshadow of the Eternal King that would become flesh as a baby in the town of Bethlehem.
It was Jesus, God incarnate, that would not only crush the head of the serpent, but also remove the iniquity of his people through the blood he shed on the cross. Christ would defeat death through death, and grant his people freedom from guilt and condemnation.
The battle at Elah was not the beginning of the fight, and it was not the end of the war. The account of David and Goliath point forward to the victory of Jesus Christ.