Hey, sorry it has been so long since I posted last. The month of July for me has been a time to restore my soul by way of some family vacation, personal study, reading, and thinking, away from the office, meetings, and the life-organization that is sometimes the pastoral grind.
But, let me check back in with a thought on David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and the narrative parts of the Bible by extension. How have you heard this story told or preached? Have you heard it as a story of giants? Goliath is a symbol of our obstacles, our enemies, both personal and impersonal, moral and non-moral, both inward and external? What are the giants in your life? Is that the conclusionary question you have heard regarding this story? What if I told you that this story is ultimately about Jesus? Hmmm…some of you are thinking. Well, like a lot of these blogs, I hope to get you thinking and then to get you in the Biblical text for yourselves.
The story of David and Goliath is full of plot features: antagonist, protagonist, plot redirection, irony, seeming obstacle, etc. OK. So what do you do with those? How do you get to the main theological point? Don’t you just make the main protagonist the hero and his or her life the exemplar of how to live as a Christian? David defeated a giant in God’s power, so we can defeat our giants in God’s power…right? Well…kind of, but there is a much more important theological drama going on that tells us what it means for us to learn from this story.
First, David is not just being brave in God’s strength. David is believing a stated promise of God. How did I get there? The text tells us several times that Goliath is from Gath. Whenever something is repeated, the narrator is telling us that is a detail we should investigate. What is the deal with Gath? Well, Gath is one of the cities that Joshua left, when he should have captured it under God’s command to take the entirety of the land, judging it for its rebellion against Yahweh and its wicked pagan practices, and also to open it for the full conquest and inhabiting of Israel (see Joshua 11 and 13). In Gath resided the Anakim, those who probably descended from the Nephalim (Gen 6). This was a theologically and narratively loaded people. They were the giants of the land, those who brought fear to the Israelite spies when they went to check out the land of promise. So, we have a historical enemy of God’s people and we have a city that should have been conquered a long time ago and now has been a torment to God’s people (as God stated would be the case if Israel did not fully purge the land). God had promised in his word that he would give the land to Israel, including Gath, including its freakishly tall warrior tribe. David was taking God at his word, albeit years later. He still trusted that God’s promise was true. David had faith in God. God is the hero. The story is God-centered and about his faithfulness. Faith is not just a feeling. It is confidence in the stated will of God. Thus, the story also teaches us about how to trust the hero, God, buy trusting in his stated promises (the Scriptures), rather than hunches or man-made hopes. But, even more…
The story is about Jesus. There is another story that shares plot features, theological truths, and even narratival parallels. It is the story of Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan. See Luke 4. There parallels are too many to go into here. Read both passages and compare them yourselves. But, we have a young man, a king, a trial in the wilderness/plain, a big enemy, and we have the word of God being believed upon. Jesus is replaying the story of David! But, this time we have THE king and we have THE enemy. This time the whole people of God, from every nation, are being represented by Jesus. This time the enemy is not just a big dude…he is the god of this world (2 Cor 4). But, there are differences. This time the man-king is weak. He has not eaten for 40 days. But, he believes God. He uses God’s word against his foe. He will not be defeated and he will not fall like the even older story of Adam in Genesis 3. He assaults the deceiver and enemy of all men with God’s word. And, the enemy goes down. He slinks away gathering up vengeance, but at the cross his doom is made sure, and when Jesus comes back his destruction will be made final.
David and Goliath. A riveting story. David is an important part of the story but the hero is God. In fact, it is a story that calls our attention to an even greater story – the story of Jesus, the infinite king who defeated the greatest enemy, our sin and the devil himself.
Friends, we have obstacles in our life. There are things getting in our way. But, the real obstacles are those that get in the way of us trusting and worshipping Jesus. God still wages war on those enemies, but please know most of those enemies reside in your heart and are being manipulated by the enemy of your souls, the evil one. Your prayer should be for Christ to continue his holy war by defeating your idols and protecting you from the evil one. He did it at the cross and resurrection as the accomplishment of redemption. He will do it today as the application of redemption in your life.
Jesus is the hero. The entire Old Testament at least whispers his name. A ton of it shouts his name! Re-read those OT stories. Yes, they have some morals for us but don’t let them be moralized. Let them teach you about the gospel. That is why they happened and that is how God’s word presents them. One important principle: if an application of a Biblical story does not require God’s amazing grace, made known in Christ and his work, then it is probably moralized. Make a life-change point, but drive people to trust in Jesus, not try harder.
Let the real giants, and the Real Hero, stand up in the Bible.