David and Goliath. Who doesn't know that story? Little shepherd boy faces a giant warrior and wins with nothing more than a stone and a sling and faith in God. It's a story about how God can help us be victorious when facing our biggest fears, right? Or, maybe there's more to it, when we understand the text.
The book of 1 Samuel, chapter 17, captures one of the most well-known stories not only in the Bible, but in all of human history -- the story of David and Goliath. From the time we're old enough to hold a crayon in Sunday school, we're coloring pictures of David and Goliath. We have a giant shown against a little boy, and already we're learning something out of context. David wasn't a little boy -- despite what Veggie Tales or this guy might tell you...
"So David is herding sheep. You might even say he could have been 8, 10, 12 years old." -Ray Vander Laan, "That The World May Know" video series distributed by Focus On the FamilyIn 1 Samuel 16:18, one of King Saul's servants describes David as "a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him." Then Saul made David his armor bearer. So this isn't a mere boy we're talking about here. He was likely about 17 and a skilled slingsman, which was a valuable talent for Israel's army. Judges 20:16 describes 700 Benjimite slingsmen who could "sling a stone at a hair and not miss."
Israel was at war with the Philistines, a more advanced army equipped with swords and spears, while the Israelites basically only had farm tools. Every day, a 9 foot tall champion named Goliath (a common Philistine name), would go down into the valley and taunt the Israelites. "Choose a man for yourselves," he said, "and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants."
When David heard Goliath's taunting, he said, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
Long story short (because it is a pretty detailed story), David is brought before Saul, he says, "The Lord will deliver me." Saul wants him to wear armor, Saul's armor doesn't fit, so David grabs his staff and five smooth stones from a brook, though he'd only need one.
He comes out to Goliath who looks at David and says, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field!"
Then David jaws back, "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth that all the earth may know there is a God in Israel."
See? David's even a better taunter than Goliath!
Goliath drew near. David slung a stone at him which thunked him in the forehead, and he fell to the ground, face-first. Yup, the Bible even details which direction Goliath fell -- on his face (1 Samuel 17:49). Then David runs over, pulls out Goliath's sword, and lops his head off. Then David goes back in to see Saul, holding Goliath's head in his hand, but that's not the part of the story you colored in Sunday school. We like to leave the yucky stuff out.
But something else gets left out.
When we tell the story about David and Goliath, we like to talk about how we're David, and Goliath represents our problems, and with God's help, we can beat anything just like David beat Goliath. From the movies we watch to the songs we sing, and, yes, even this guy again...
"Now the lesson in that is, to me, God always wants you to simply use what he's given you to be good at." -Ray Vander LaanBut little guys do overcome the odds and win all the time. It's not like David was incapable. Remember, he was described as "a man of war." Prior to confronting Goliath, David had manhandled lions and bears. He absolutely knew that when he went out to face Goliath, he was going to beat him. David had no doubt. If we think of David beating Goliath as an underdog story, then we've missed the point.
David was not merely defying the odds to beat Goliath. He was the only person who could possibly have pulled it off. David is a picture of Christ.
David was the substitute who delivered the Israelites from certain defeat at the hands of the Philistines, just as Christ is the substitute who delivers us from the wages of sin. Christ, therefore, is the greater David, just as He's described in Hebrews 3 as the greater Moses and in Matthew 22 as David's Lord. So David wasn't the underdog. That was Goliath!
David went on to become known as Israel's greatest king. The Lord made a covenant with David and said that through his offspring, God would establish His kingdom forever. And so He did, through Jesus Christ, descendant of King David, the greater King than David.
We need to remember that the entire Bible points to Christ, Old Testament and New. You're not David and your problems aren't Goliath. David represents the Savior, the only Savior, who can save you from your sins.
And that's what we find when we understand the text.