6/24/2012 Stand for God

Ordinary Time (Proper 7)
1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49), Psalm 9:9-20, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

There’s probably no Bible story more familiar to more people than that of David and Goliath. If you’ve ever spent any time in Sunday school, vacation Bible school, or in front of a TV for an animated religious video you’ve heard it.

Likewise for anybody who’s ever been on a team—generally some kind of sport but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Either pre-game or during halftime the coach has summoned images of the ultimate underdog, David the little shepherd boy, going up against his bigger, grossly mismatched opponent. And in the end, of course, it’s the little guy who by sheer pluck and determination (as well as by fighting smarter not “harder”) wins in the end.

Those are good and worthwhile reasons, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with viewing this story in moral terms (the “good” David versus “bad” Goliath) or as a way to encourage people to overcome odds and disadvantages. But is that all there is to this oft-told biblical tale?

A close look at this scripture passage in 1st Samuel chapter 17 reveals that Goliath is doing more than just taunting King Saul and the Israelite army. To put it simply, he’s bad-mouthing Israel’s God. Yet Saul and company apparently only hear the taunts as a personal attack on them. And all they can see is Goliath’s obvious advantages in size and strength. No wonder they cower, even as Goliath repeats his verbal abuse. Both Saul and David’s eldest brother belittle David’s offer to fight.

But it’s different when the shepherd boy David hears the giant. He alone seems to understand that Goliath is impugning Yahweh—and David will not, cannot allow that to continue. He’s faced difficult opponents before: wild animals attacking his sheep. His trusty sling came in handy then, and as we all know it’s useful here, too.

David is the hero in this story, not because he’s smarter or a better fighter (he’s still little David the shepherd boy, after all), but because he acts to defend the honor of his God. That arises out of his relationship with Yahweh, and no doubt that’s why David had been anointed to become the future king of Israel.

As is so often the case when we open the Bible and read: things are not quite as they first appear or the way they really are in even the most familiar of all stories. This is a story about the proper relationship with God, and that is the appropriate place to consider its meaning for us in the 21st century.

P.S. Here’s a little bonus:


About Rich Brown

Rich Brown is a writer, blogger, editor, and publisher. His most recent book is "Speak to the Bones: How to Be a Prophetic People in a Time of Exile" (Isaac's Press).
This entry was posted in Ancient Israel, integrity, monarchy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.