Telling the story: David and Goliath

given on Sunday, January 22, 2012

Telling the Story:  David & Goliath

I Samuel 17

Selected verses:  40 Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath.

41-42 As the Philistine paced back and forth, his shield bearer in front of him, he noticed David. He took one look down on him and sneered—a mere youngster, apple-cheeked and peach-fuzzed.

43 The Philistine ridiculed David. “Am I a dog that you come after me with a stick?” And he cursed him by his gods.

44 “Come on,” said the Philistine. “I’ll make road kill of you for the buzzards. I’ll turn you into a tasty morsel for the field mice.”

45-47 David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God—he’s handing you to us on a platter!”

48-49 That roused the Philistine, and he started toward David. David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine. David reached into his pocket for a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine hard in the forehead, embedding the stone deeply. The Philistine crashed, facedown in the dirt.

50 That’s how David beat the Philistine—with a sling and a stone. He hit him and killed him. No sword for David!

51 Then David ran up to the Philistine and stood over him, pulled the giant’s sword from its sheath, and finished the job by cutting off his head. When the Philistines saw that their great champion was dead, they scattered, running for their lives.     –The Message

 

What a tall, tall tale!  The story of a young boy who was physically small, inexperienced, and a sheepherder goes up against the Philistine Army’s most successful warrior.  The story just seems to grow with each telling and now we wonder just what was the real story.

This story reminds me of the proverbial fishing story we hear around here.  You know what I mean—someone goes out and fishes all day long on Truman Lake—and the report they share of the day’s fishing starts out pretty close to the truth, but by the time it is told and retold and told again by someone who only ‘heard’ the story, the size of the fish changes, the number multiplies, and that does not even include the ones that got away.

The story of David and Goliath has some interesting twists and turns which remind me of the fish stories circulating around Truman Lake.  The hardest one to believe is about the size of Goliath.  For 21st century listeners, the size of Goliath is difficult to swallow, but think about the fish stories.

In the study notes, one explanation for the two different sizes listed in the story is that there were two stories that were blended into the one now preserved in I Samuel 17:

4-7 A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor—126 pounds of it! He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. His spear was like a fence rail—the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him.

If that truly is the size of Goliath, that is two times my own height, and 10 feet is usually considered one story when estimating how tall buildings are  Ten feet seems a stretch by today’s standards, but study notes in The New Interpreters’ Bible provides an explanation to Goliath’s size:

“The champion’s height [Goliath] in the Hebrew text, nine and one-half feet, is also likely an unintended exaggeration.  The Greek reading, “four cubits and a span”—some six and one-half feet—is more realistic.”

Even reading the various references seem to be similar to explaining fishing tales.

But the size of Goliath is not the story today.  Rather consider why David thought he could do anything about Goliath.  He was not a military guy, nor was he even planning on such a career.  David was a teenager whose responsibility was flock of sheep; and while watching them, he played music.  In fact he was known for his music so why in the world would he even consider confronting Goliath.

This is the story that the Israelite priests were teaching the young people in the temple.  David believed he could destroy Goliath because God was on his side.  In fact, David’s faith was so strong that he armed himself with only five smooth stones, his slingshot, and his shepherd’s hook.  He even refused to wear the armor because he was uncomfortable in it.

The story’s pivotal point is when David answers Goliath’s taunting:

45-47 David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God—he’s handing you to us on a platter!”

David’s story is a story that we, too, need to learn.  It reminds me of a New Testament verse, Romans 8:31:   “With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”

Paul knew that faith in God guide one through the most difficult trials that confronts them.  On the website, www.christianity.about.com, had a statement that spelled out the lesson in the David and Goliath study:

David’s faith in God caused him to look at the giant from a different perspective. Goliath was merely a mortal man defying an all-powerful God. David looked at the battle from God’s point of view. If we look at giant problems and impossible situations from God’s perspective, we realize that God will fight for us and with us. When we put things in proper perspective, we see more clearly and we can fight more effectively.

There is the story worth telling.  Think of how powerful the story is when applied to our lives.

In fact, try this challenge:  think back about the different trials and tribulations you have experienced.  Pick one of them and then review it.  Did you place the problem in God’s hands?  Did you look at the problem using God’s eyes and discover the solution?  Or did you fail to consider God’s point of view in looking for a solution?

After I read that last line, I experienced one of those ah-ha moments:  When we put things in proper perspective, we see more clearly and we can fight more effectively.  If we are honest with ourselves, the times we fail to look at various situations through God’s eyes, we fail.  If we truly do analyze a problem from God’s point of view, would the problem still seem like a giant or would it seem much smaller.

As we leave today, let’s tell the story of David and Goliath.  But, when we do share it with others, let’s make sure that the lesson in the story is the key point.  No problem in insurmountable as long as God is with us.  God has our back, we just need to trust that he is there 24/7, 365 days a year.

Dear God of All,

Day after day we struggle with one problem after another.

The problems seem to grow and soon become giants we fear.

Help us to learn the same lesson Jesus learned from David and Goliath.

Let us remember that Paul, too, teaches us much the same lesson:

“With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”

Guide us daily as we face our own giants.

Help keep our perspective and see through Your eyes.

Thank you for the stories of the Old Testament.

Thank you for Jesus demonstrating how to live the lessons.

Thank you for Paul continuing to teach the stories, too.

May we now share the stories and help others to learn

How God’s love can transform our lives.

Amen

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