We Want David! We Want David?: Goliath
Woodbrook Baptist Church, Baltimore, MD |:| July 1, 2012
Good morning. It is an honor to be with you all this morning. I bring you greetings from Amy Butler and the community at Calvary Baptist and Dorisanne Cooper and those at Lake Shore Baptist. After serving with both of these churches and hearing epic stories from preacher camp it was joy to meet another member of preacher camp when I met John at Calvary two years ago and again at this year’s Alliance gathering. To John and all of you here at Woodbrook thank you for this privilege to worship with you today.
It is my understanding that you all have been studying the life of David for the past few weeks and will continue in this series for a few more to come. Today the life of David brings us to a well known story in his journey to becoming king. This is a story told throughout all ages of the church. We may think we know this story but with all its familiarity it might have been laced with retellings which are not in the text. I know for me I recalled the story of David and Goliath as David being the one who randomly was caring for sheep when Goliath came along and he couldn’t fit into the armor to battle the giant because he was too small and young. Then once David got out of the armor he took a slingshot and knocked the giant down, and that was the end of the story. You might be like me and have aspects of this well known story close to what we see in the text but not the full story. Today we will look at this story as best as we can with fresh eyes and perhaps we will gain new insights to the man we know as the one after God’s own heart.
Before we move into the text at hand we’ll look to where this story fits within the greater setting of I Samuel. The odd standoff between Goliath and the Israelites was first mentioned in chapter 13 as it was initiated by the actions of Jonathan. Where the battle is taking place is not in a most ideal of locations for such an event as both the Philistines and the Israelites have to come down steep slopes, making it difficult to have sturdy grounds for battle. We aren’t told how these two armies ended up in a standoff with one person elected from the Philistines to challenge a soldier from the Israelite army, but for both armies it would mean less calamities during the battle.
Up to this point in I Samuel we have learned that Saul, the leader of the Israelites, has lost the Spirit of the Lord and he was filled with an evil Spirit of the Lord. We also know that the numbers of the Israelites were dwindling and his time in reign was coming to a close. It would make sense for Saul to want to hold off on a full army attack since he could not afford the loss of men. It also is fitting to see Saul not wanting to risk forcing one of his soldiers into battle because it is clear he has stopped acting as a leader of an army was expected to, and even less like the leader of the Israelites since he did not trust the covenant between Israel and God as he took the role of defense rather than offense to defend the name of the Lord and God’s chosen people. All of these aspects aid us in understanding where the story of David and Goliath fit within I Samuel and how this story progresses David’s becoming king.
Let us move on to the text at hand and see how the story of David and Goliath can be see afresh. David wasn’t an ideal leader, he was one who sought his own gain, was prideful, and self focused. Is he a leader worthy of replication? Not fully but there are notable aspects of David’s character and actions which deserve a closer look.
Areas of David’s actions which are better to be noted and not replicated are his checking to see what the person who defeats Goliath will get and his willingness and success to kill. It is reasonable for David to ask about what the reward for the solider who defeated Goliath would be but it begs to question his motives. Was David motivated to act on his faith in the God of Israel had the rewards been absent? If David was not interested in the rewards what was the point of asking what the champion would receive?
David was only human so it is reasonable to see where he might be coming from with his questioning twice what the defeater of this Philistine would be. Perhaps if we were to give David the benefit of the doubt, we would see his questioning around the rewards as shock that no Israelite soldier had taken Goliath up on his challenge, especially with the additional incentives.
Whatever his motives for asking may have been it reads as though he asks about what’s in it for him first before declaring he was going to fight the Philistine in the name of God. When faced with challenges to our faith, the wellbeing of the Church, or care for our communities it is natural to wonder about self gain or even self preservation, these ought not be the motivating factors to why we choose to act faithfully to them though.
We are called to be in healthy and committed relationships with God, the Church and our communities because we have entered the covenant of the Body of Christ. We are not to seek self gain for maintaining these sound relationships. David’s questioning of the rewards Saul is to offer the defeater of Goliath reminds us that even when we believe in the well being of our faith, there can be times when the personal gain is helpful. We are however to work towards being grounded in moving beyond the need of self gain in our faith, church, and communities.
In a society where consumerism is a big motivation the Church is not void of this fact. In today’s culture it is easy to look to the church and ask what can you do for me, what do you have to offer. Each of us contribute to the life and growth of the church and it requires us working towards the mission and goal of our local churches, even when times are tough or its a part of church life that is mundane or lack luster. Working together cannot be for the solely driven by us wanting to get our way in worship, small groups, mission, or meetings. It means staying committed when there is nothing in it for us except fulfilling the life and work of the church.
As much as I would love to say I don’t suffer from the self gain that David did, I have to be honest and say I can understand why David asked but let us continually move to a place where we do not emulate David on this one.
The other striking aspect of David’s actions in this story that ought to be checked is his willingness to kill Goliath and his success in doing so. This one is a bit tricky since defeating the Philistines is said to be how God would be known as the one true God and that God would deliver Israel from the hands of their enemies.
When reading these old testament stories of battle, they should be held in the larger narrative of Scripture, meaning we need to hold them against the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and that even holding hate for another was as if the person had killed them. David was functioning within his culture and the story we have of God wanting to destroy the Philistines is held in the scope of the tradition that God would physically destroy their enemies. The account of David and Goliath we have makes sense in this context and David was acting faithfully to how he was to defend Israel. This is not an act we saw taken by Jesus and if we are called to apply the ethics and teachings of Jesus this is an aspect of David’s theology and character which is sound to not replicate in our own lives or desires to be faithful to God.
Even with these aspects of David’s character which are less then desirable to place within our own lives there are worth while take aways from this well known story.
The first is how David on his first encounter with hearing Goliath’s challenge was ready to take him up on it, trusting that God would deliver him from the clutches of Goliath’s strength. David, unlike Saul and unlike the Israelites who heard Goliath’s challenge for 40 days, heard Goliath’s words and knew he could not be intimidated by his size, weaponry, or armor bearer. David was not going to allow this unparalleled opponent taint Israel and her God. David knew his size would not be the winning factor in defeating Goliath but what we do see is his faith was. David believed whole heartedly in the God of Israel and God’s ability to deliver Israel from the clutches of their enemies and this is the faith which ultimately makes David different from Saul and the Israelites at the battle lines.
It is not unusual for us in our own lives to encounter an unparalleled opponent and find ourselves acting like Saul or the Israelite soldiers. Whether the unparalleled opponent is within us or externally placed in our lives it can be daunting to hold on to our faith in God to deliver us. At times we will cower to not face the opponent or we will proceed as if there is no opponent, or even face the opponent without the wisdom of God and faith in God’s strength.
It is easier to be Saul in this story then David. In all honesty it would have been understandable if the story went “David heard Goliath’s challenge and saw that the Israelites were backing down and ascribing to their fear of the giant. David wondered who would fight the giant. After checking on his brothers he returned to his father and his care for the sheep.” When we see others we look to for guidance on how to respond to unparalleled opponents and we see them backing down it gives us comfort to lean into our fears or insecurities rather than God’s preservation.
In our life as faith communities we can learn from the story of David and Goliath to ask ourselves, what unparalleled opponent is our community in the presence of? How are we choosing to respond to this opponent? Are we leaning into the faith we have in God to see us through such great a task to face the opponent or are we assimilating to indifference, apathy, or ignorance?
This take away from this story of David is one faith communities will never out grow. We as the Body of Christ are continually challenged to face the giants of injustice and oppression. There are going to be times when other faith communities choose to act like Saul did and not rely on their faith. There are also going to be times when we are called to offer a different way of responding by being the first to stand up against a certain issue of injustice or oppression. No matter where we find ourselves as faith communities in the Body of Christ we need to strive to always ask what opponent are we facing.
The other take away from David’s actions in this story is his knowledge of how to go up against the giant that was Goliath. David was given what appeared to be the necessary tools to enter battle with the giant. David could have tried to go to battle with Goliath in armor he was not equipped to function in. He could have thought to himself, this is what I need to wear and I’ll make it work. Had David done that it could have resulted in a very different story than what we have.
What we do see is David trusting in what he knew best and going into battle in the clothing and tools he had learned to harness. In doing so he was able to function within his skilled capacities and face the well armored Goliath.
This had to be a scene. Could you imagine seeing someone of David’s stature in his usual clothing and armed with a slingshot and stones going up against the overly tall, highly armored Philistine? On lookers must have thought David lost his mind, if fact Goliath had. Yet, we read that David was unable to move in the perceived appropriate armor and tools and did not see this as a defeat and back down from the battle he agreed to enter. Rather David turned to that which he knew he was skilled in and then proceeded into battle.
For us today we can desire to work in a different way than what we’ve harnessed. We may believe we need to be more intelligent, of a different social class, or in a high powered position at work in order to make an impact in the world. The belief that we need to have a different skill set or gifting than we have been given or learned to harness can be debilitating at times.
In fact we might even act in another of skill and find ourselves unsuccessful. In a world where we hear the rich and powerful are the only ones who have the ability to make a difference in the world we can strive to fit those roles rather than looking at the gifting and skills we do have and acting from those to transform the world on a day to day basis. God made each and every one of us unique. It is within our unique gifts and talents that we can face the giants both within ourselves and in the world and bring forth aspects of God’s liberation. God does not call us to function in another capacity than our own and part of our journey as disciples is to trust the skills and tools God has given us, harness those to the best of our ability and use them to bring forth God’s love and justice to the World on a daily basis; in the mundane and the extraordinary.
This is a worth while lesson we can glean from David’s actions. David knew he had been able to protect his family’s flocks from wild animals and he knew how to apply those skills to the task he was currently up against. He took of the perceived needed protection and tools off and went with that which he knew he was gifted in, those which he had harnessed to the best of his ability.
David went up against Goliath not as a man in Saul’s armor but as himself, the youngest of 8 sons, in his daily clothes, with his own tools and skills. Just as David was himself in an unmatched battle we too are to stay true to ourselves in all that comes our way. Each of us have unique gifts to face the grandeur of life, there is no need to be anyone but ourselves.
The story of David and Goliath is one we have very likely heard many times. We have learned that David was a man after God’s own heart and who was a grand King and who is a legendary leader in the Christian tradition. In this series on David you will get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of David. There are stories we know well about David and you’ll get to see them in a new light, perhaps. Today we saw that David was not perfect and there are aspects of his character which are to be learned from but best to not repeat. There are also portions of David’s life which are worth learning from and taking to heart. The beauty is that God works in the midst of all of our good, bad, and ugly in life.
Wherever this story finds us today I hope we never forget to look at the stories documented in Scripture with fresh eyes. That we as faith communities never stop asking what unparalleled opponents are facing our community. I trust that each of us find great meaning in our uniqueness and live into our skills and talents to bring God’s transformative liberation to our lives and those around us. May we always lean into the faith of God and continue the narrative of worshiping a God of love.