“David and Goliath”Dr. Marion D. Aldridge I Samuel 17: 32-49 Year B: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
“David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’
Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’
But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’
Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you.’
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So, he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield-bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!’
David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.’
As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.”
(I Samuel 17: 32-49)
The story of little David slaying giant Goliath needs little introduction in Jewish, Christian, or American culture. It’s an iconic morality tale of the overmatched underdogs who have God on their side overcoming great odds to be victorious over incredibly powerful opponents.
Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, has written a secular book for managers titled David and Goliath. Gladwell instructs his readers about how to use the story of young David as motivation to take on the economic behemoths that are their adversaries.
His chapters have titles such as “The Advantages of Disadvantages (and the Disadvantages of Advantages). The book doesn’t provide much insight for Christians and Jews trying to understand this ancient narrative from the Hebrew Scriptures, but it’s a reminder of the timelessness and universality of what we sometimes refer to very glibly as “the word of God.”
The story of David and Goliath is so obvious and complete as truth, as a parable, as a legend, and as an allegory, we tell it to our children—and they understand it! There is a time and a way to take on a bully. It’s not necessary for good kids to cower and shake in the presence of an intimidating and unscrupulous enemy.
We need to tell the whole story. Before we sing “Victory in Jesus,” we need to examine a few details in the text. This is more than an inspirational illustration. A war is going on, the Israelites versus the Philistines. For whatever real or imagined reasons, these two nations in the eleventh century before Christ were engaged in battle. People were going to die.
This was not a publicity stunt for the Guinness Book of World Records. Goliath was not a paper tiger. I don’t want to get caught in the kind of debate literalists love: Was Goliath eight feet tall or nine feet tall? Instead of getting sucked into a rabbit hole of useless information, just picture Hall of Fame basketball star Shaquille O’Neal at seven feet and one inch tall, three hundred and twenty-five pounds, taking on a middle school kid in any physical challenge. You would expect the big guy to win. That’s what was happening in this confrontation.
The stakes were high. There was a half-hearted agreement that whichever champion won, his side would be declared the victor. I never trusted that arrangement. In fact, it turned out not to be true. When David won the contest, the Philistines did not lay down their weapons and surrender. They turned and ran, and the Israelites chased them. The fighting continued.
Life has real obstacles that cannot be wished or pretended away. Goliath and the Philistine enemies were real. As a pastor, I’ve noticed that Christian people sometimes live in a fantasyland of wishful thinking and mistaken for faith.
You can’t get out of debt until you admit you have a problem.
You can’t work on a relationship until you admit you have a problem in the relationship.
I know people who say, “I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.”
I’ve buried men thirty years too soon because they wouldn’t go see a doctor about a problem. They were trying to live by the code, “There’s nothing wrong with me.” Instead, that code was killing them.
David did not just wish Goliath would go away.
Goliath exists and he takes on many forms.
- Drug addiction.
- Financial crisis.
Churches face Goliaths. To some congregations, technology is a frightening monster. Is there a teenager somewhere who can help slay that giant?
King Saul is not one of the Bible’s great heroes, but his words, on this occasion, are perfect: “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
Fear is a beast that must be conquered for any organization, any church, or any army to move forward.
There is a time to form a committee, but sometimes we need a David to step up and become our champion. When there is fear, it’s time for someone to come forward and do the right thing. I’ve heard it said, “I’d rather have a thousand sheep led by a lion than a thousand lions led by a sheep.”
Fear may be the ultimate giant in our culture. Fear is debilitating. The Israelites had lost hope. They were afraid.
Then along came young David who used the skills he had to do the job. It’s an important aspect of this narrative that David considered battling Goliath using the strategies, weapons, and armor of Saul. Ultimately, however, young David decided he needed to go about this task his own way. Saul’s clothes literally would not fit. It’s almost a comic scene. God has gifted each of us in particular ways, and we make mistakes when we try to use someone else’s blueprint as the model for our life. It may have worked for them, but it might not work for us.
My generation had several phrases that scared our parents: “Do your own thing,” and “March to the beat of your own drum.” Whatever the monster is in your life, you will have to carve out your own path to confront it. You’ve got to figure out your own pilgrimage. Imagine if David had put on Saul’s heavy suit of armor to fight this battle. He would have lost and Israel would have been destroyed.
Use the gifts you have. I’ve heard it said that if Benjamin Franklin had tried to be a general and if George Washington had attempted to be an inventor, the United States would still be a colony of England with no electricity.
Certainly, we need to learn from mentors who have gone before us. We need to understand the conventional wisdom that has worked in the past. But there are times to strike out in a new direction, to go about a task in a new way.
King Saul said, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
David had an unusual ability he could call on. He’d fought wild animals with a slingshot. Other primitive cultures, in other times and places, have used some form of slingshot or catapult, a small ball or rock that has somehow been weaponized. My wife Sally and I once saw a performance in which South American cowboys, called gauchos, could knock a cigarette out of someone’s mouth, at a distance, with their boleadoras. David, with the time on his hand of a shepherd, had learned how to sling a rock with a mighty force. No surprise there. The distinguishing factors were his courage and his sense of mission.
As Christian people, we believe that God intervenes in history. How much God intervenes is a question that each of us answers a bit differently, depending on our theology. Some folks believe that God helps them locate a parking spot closer to the entrance of the mall if they pray about it. Others don’t believe that. But the Bible contends that, from the Alpha of Genesis until the Omega of the Revelation, God is somehow investing in the care of this earth and the creatures that inhabit it, most especially, humans.
This story of David and Goliath is a reminder that God works in partnership with us if we allow it.
King Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
This was God’s business.
Young David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
This was God’s business.
Young David said, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.”
Maybe we can say that with assurance when, as best we are able, we are about God’s business.
“Go, and the Lord be with you.”
About the Writer; Dr. Marion D. Aldridge was born in Savannah, GA and raised in North Augusta, SC. He is a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received Master and Doctoral degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was recently awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.
Marion has written several books, the most recent Overcoming Adolescence, a book for grown-ups who have not yet grown up. (http://www.helwys.com/sh-books/overcoming-adolescence/
He has also written hundreds of articles for South Carolina Wildlife magazine, Tennis Magazine, Sandlapper and others. He is married to Sally and has two adult daughters, Jenna and Julie. Marion especially enjoys fishing and baseball games with his grandson, Lake.
Scripture and Music:
1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20 or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16
Job 38:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide
An Outcast Among Outcasts
As a Chalice Cast of Gold
As Deer Long for the Streams
Be Still, My Soul
Count Your Blessings
Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether
Eternal Father! strong to save
Go Down, Moses
God bless our native land
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
He became poor
Out of the Depths
Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Take My Life, and Let It Be
Take Time to Be Holy
We Give Thee But Thine Own
When Morning Gilds the Skies