1 Samuel 17: 1-51
David & Goliath
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
When I was pretty young, actually just a couple of years ago now, I remember that on Sunday mornings I would watch, either before or after church, this children’s animated show called “Davey and Goliath”. Maybe some of you will remember that show too. They were simple short fifteen-minute episode stories about this boy named Davey and his talking dog named Goliath that taught about issues like how to deal with racism and prejudice, how to go about true sharing and friendship, and then even about the meanings of life and death, as well as a host of other issues too. And the characters, if you do recall, were these pretty stiff clay figures that young kids today have probably never seen, but the shows themselves were produced by the Lutheran Church as a part of their outreach ministry to children. And all of these were meant to be Christian lessons for those unavoidable issues often found in our lives that really are just day to day occurrences, yet, at the same time, can be ones that can be pretty GOLIATH sized problems for us as individuals and for our society in general. Now today, such productions would probably be laughed at by most kids, but the one thing that those shows did do for at least a couple generations of kids was to familiarize us with this basic notion that’s found in the biblical David and Goliath story that we just now heard, and that of course is, that being the weaker or smaller or being the underdog, doesn’t mean that you have to lay down and give up to those people or situations that in some respects, may be seen as above or stronger than you, because if you have faith, you can do anything.
Now first, I have to remind you all of what we talked about last week, in that we can’t take these stories that we hear in Scripture as literal historically documented events. But rather that we really need to look at the lessons that the stories are trying to teach while, then at the same time, reading in between the lines of these verses to get further and deeper into they’re meanings. And certainly, this story of David and Goliath is a perfect example of a lesson-filled story that most likely has very little historical truth to it. Meaning, there are very few if any actual biblical scholars that believe in Goliath as an actual person that was struck down by a teenage David with his sling shot. Oh there were lots of battles taking place between the Israelites and Philistines and others, and that’s factual enough for sure, but if you want to really believe this account itself to be historically truthful, you’ll probably also believe that the moon is made out of cheese.
And so the first thing that I’d like to point to in dissecting this story is the size of Goliath; according to our verses this morning, he stood at over nine feet tall. And whereas that in and of itself is not a complete impossibility – the tallest recorded person that we know of was almost nine feet himself, however, with that type of abnormal height, physical movement is often a great challenge because of the joint structure in between the bones being essentially abnormal too and then often times quite weak. If there was a Goliath who was such a size as stated in this Scripture at that point in history, chances are that he wouldn’t have been allowed into the army anyway because of the difficulty he would have had with basic movement. Not to mention a host of other reasons that would most likely have made such a person an outcast from everything they’d ever and would ever know, and that’s all IF he wouldn’t have been put to death by his community for the simple yet obvious fear that most everyone would have had of him.
And then the second thing I’d like to point out starts from verse 12. David here is being re-introduced to us… Last week in 1 Samuel 16, Samuel had anointed David with oil and then very soon after David was sent to the courts of Saul in order to play the harp for him when he’d experience anxiety. Remember Saul was so pleased with David that he asked David’s father Jesse to allow David to stay in his courts to serve him.
But now suddenly David is simply this young boy who’s delivering something for his father to his older brothers, a boy that King Saul has never seen before. Clearly this story has been interjected-in to add to the legend of David. In fact, at this point, the story takes on a sense of a mythical type legend – similar to Daniel Boone the legendary frontiersman, Abe Lincoln who never spoke a lie, or a very young George Washington who also couldn’t tell a lie after chopping down that infamous cherry tree. And so with this tale, David now becomes the hero of Israel, braver and embodying the Spirit of God more than any other, and all of this encapsulated in such a young boy that would go down in history to be Israel’s most famous and adored King.
Now theologically, Jewish scholars have reasoned a couple of things from this story their ancestors created. First, they point to Goliath as the fictional representative of the paganism of the Philistines that the Israelites and their God were constantly fighting against. Paganism in the Holy Land at that time was clearly immensely popular and wide spread and clearly the biggest thing that set the Israelites at odds with all of their neighbors who were pagans of one shade or another. And then there was too the ongoing problem with it for Israelite families on a much more personal level – meaning that they were often losing their own children to those beliefs. For sure religious ideologies were at the main center of much of the fighting between peoples at this time and clearly, for the Israelites, they were the weaker of the two, the underdog next to the power that the Philistines and their beliefs had amassed. And as for David, he’s clearly here representing the Israelites who did frame themselves as the weaker less equipped side in all of these battle match-ups. Yet who, at the same time, were able to usually overcome their enemies because they had God on their side.
And second, Jewish scholars believe that from this story, we are also supposed to clearly understand that, Saul no longer had any ability to be Israel’s real king – he’d lost God’s blessing – while at the same time, it should be just as clear to us that David was the one who was ready to be that leader of God’s people, God’s blessing was obviously upon him. While Saul and all the other Israelite soldiers were quivering with fear at the threat of the Philistine’s Goliath, remember they had run and hid at the thought of this Goliath who was threatening and challenging Israel, David was ready to stand up to him. To such a rival, the leader, or the king, is the one who would naturally stand up to defend his people. Saul couldn’t do that, David could and did and succeeded.
Now that’s what Jewish theologians put out about these verses. Christian theologians, as I’ve already kind of mentioned, focus more on the lesson here of not only Israel as the underdog, but also very much on the belief that with God on your side, absolutely anything is possible. It was told to us in Scripture that David in this scene was a young boy, probably around twelve or thirteen, maybe a little bit older but not by much, he’s still being treated by his brother like an immature errand boy before his bar mitzvah. After the bar mitzvah he’s considered as a man and is given adult responsibilities that go along with adult respect.
And so here is a pretty young David who is perhaps being more brave than smart, and believes that he can take on the giant that is Goliath. He claims that he can take on such a soldier because he has taken on lions and bear that have come after his sheep out in the fields. Saul agrees to let this young boy stand up to this challenge, and even gives him his armor. That right there is quite telling, here Saul is willing to give to David the armaments that he himself would use, these symbols of power. Clearly they’re too big for this young David, but not because of that, David rejects them. David has the armor of God which is much more powerful. He chooses a few stones and puts them in his satchel and then goes into battle. Goliath sees this young boy and responds by not just hurling insults, but by being insulted himself. How dare Israel throw this young boy in against him, could Israel really be thinking that something so weak could destroy the great Goliath? How dare they!
But within a few minutes, the battle is over. David hurls a single stone at Goliath and Goliath falls. Clearly the power of God’s spirit is with this warrior David who is so brave and so skilled. David was able to overcome the great Goliath because God was clearly on his side, clearly David’s faith in God made him not only able to push down any fear that may have been creating in him doubts in his own abilities, but it was that faith that was shown so strong, that enabled him to overcome an incredible challenge that very well would have destroyed any others without that faith in place.
And now just what is it that we can learn from what probably is one of the most famous stories to come out of the entire Old Testament? I think we all know the answer.
Has anyone here ever been faced with a challenge that you had no idea how you might be able to overcome, a challenge that presented you with so much worry, so much stress and anxiety that what was in front of you just simply seemed impossible. And perhaps you lost hope that you would be able to deal, and perhaps you gave up trying to deal with what was in front of you…
I know that we’ve all been there, we’ve all had these tests put in front of us that seemed to be just simply unobtainable or unbeatable. But did you forge ahead? Where was God in your thinking? Well like David, believe it or not, we too have to have that faith to see us through in dealing with the challenges of this life. Am I saying that that’s easy? Am I saying that it won’t be hard? No, of course not. Try to remember, the harder the obstacle, the more important it is to call on God to deal with it. And then have the faith that it takes to forge ahead. I do believe that our God does give us all that we need, that our God does give us the hope that is required and almost always needed for this life. We just have to overcome our usual notions of complete self-reliance, we have to rely on God too. We have to get over ourselves and go to God and know that he will deal with our struggles, IF WE ALLOW HIM TO. And I know that that may be easier said than done, we’ve gotten very much out of the practice of putting our lives in the hands of God. But try it, and see what happens. That is the lesson of David and Goliath. We’ve all had Goliaths, and probably will have more Goliaths. But we have to be faithful, and hopeful, and aware that our God has no limitations. Our God, as any good and loving parent, is always there for us. Our God wants us to live abundantly and joyfully, even in the face of our hurdles.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.