Could we be missing the point of a renowned Bible story?
A “David vs. Goliath” story is the ubiquitous name given to the story of an underdog taking on a powerful foe. I think there is some of that in that story.
If you break down the matchup like a sporting event, David wouldn’t be the favorite for many reasons, but David isn’t purely meek and helpless.
Goliath was huge and I’m sure if the two engaged in hand to hand close combat David wouldn’t fare very well. But David didn’t end up in this fight by accident. No one forced him to take on the Giant of Gath.
David was bringing food to his older brothers who were soldiers in the battle between Israel and the Philistines. For more than a month, Goliath had been coming into the valley between the two warring parties and challenging one of the Israelites to a one on one fight. For more than a month, they cowered from the huge man and his gleaming armor and weapons.
Malcolm Gladwell, in a TED talk, tried to support the idea that Goliath wasn’t a warrior at all but a doddering giant with double vision who could barely make it to the valley without assistance. He talks about the sword bearer like Goliath couldn’t carry his equipment himself, but Tiger Woods doesn’t carry his own bag at the Masters.
In 1 Samuel, it seems pretty clear that Goliath made threats to the soldiers and insults to their God daily for more than a month and no one wanted any part of fighting him. Chapter 17, verse 24 says, “All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid.”
If Goliath were weak and infirm, why would so many soldiers be afraid?
But David wasn’t afraid.
He was young, though, and his big brother got mad at him for talking to people on the front lines about the giant threatening the troops.
But David wouldn’t be denied and made his way all the way to King Saul. He told the king he would take on the giant.
Saul said it was crazy because he was a young man and Goliath was a seasoned warrior.
David told Saul that he wasn’t scared. He was a shepherd. He had killed bears and lions to protect sheep. A tall guy with a spear didn’t scare him.
When I read the Bible, I don’t read selected verses. I like the context. I want to know who wrote it, where it happened, who was there, and what is going on.
I want to see the whole story.
When I imagine this kid volunteering to take on the giant, he isn’t going to grab a sword and start swinging at Goliath. Saul put his heavy armor on David, but he took it off, grabbed his staff and sling, found five smooth stones, and headed to battle in his own way.
When Goliath mocked David for coming to the fight with nothing but a stick, he told the boy to come on down so he could feed his body to the wild animals and birds.
David’s knees didn’t buckle. He answered the giant with similar trash talk but when he was finished with his threats, he ran at the giant, grabbed a stone, put it in the sling and flung it right between the giant’s eyes to kill him.
It would be a “David vs. Goliath” story if David had bare knuckle brawled with the giant and beat him up with his bare hands. David wasn’t scared because he wasn’t going to fight fair. He was fighting to win.
When I see this scene I think of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the guy swung his sword around menacingly. That’s when Jones pulled his pistol and shot his enemy where he stood. He might not have done as well in a sword fight. But with the right equipment, it was no contest.
David wasn’t picking a fight with a giant, he was using his shepherd skills to kill a Philistine the way he would kill a bear or a lion chasing his sheep.
He was placed there by God and equipped for the job. If this turned into a spear throwing contest, he would have been dead. But he had a sling and five stones. Of course he had the blessing of God. I know that was a big part of it. But David was also ready to win the fight he was called to join.
When God calls us to do something, we aren’t underdogs. He equips us to handle whatever the giants throw at us. David had five stones — that gave him shots before Goliath would even be in range to hurt him.
He knew he had everything he needed. In fact, he had four extra stones. I wonder if he kept those somewhere to remind him of the time when God first used him. Of course, David would go on to be king, living a life as a “man after God’s own heart.” David’s moral failures were as much a part of his story as killing a giant with a sling.
But through it all, he was able to do it all because God equipped him for every fight in his life. I think that is as much of a theme of the 1 Samuel 17 story as an underdog beating a giant.
We’re going to face a lot of giants, but if we do what we’re called to do the way we have been equipped to do it, we have no reason to be afraid.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.