Tag Archives: david & goliath

Three practices to overcome fear – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 5

29 Nov
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In this series of posts about the story of David and Goliath, we have seen the Israelite army running in fear from the intimidating giant, Goliath. To best understand the question I am going to ask next, I encourage you to go back and read at least the previous post, if not all four, staring here. The reason is that the story of David and Goliath is almost always described as an underdog story, and I’ve been saying all along that it is not that at all. In Part 4, I tried to show from a perspective of human anatomy, medical research, and studies into ancient warfare, it seems that this was anything but an underdog story. David, though he was much smaller, younger, far less experienced, and with no armor, actually had some important advantages over Goliath. Was it speed? No. Well, then it had to be that David had God on his side, right? The obvious answer to that is Yes, but the text gives us no indication that God intervened and performed a miracle on David’s behalf. Yes, in the previous chapter, 1 Samuel 16, we read that God’s Spirit had empowered David, but in the story of David and Goliath, if you read David’s action closely, there is no mention of God guiding him, strengthening, or helping him in any way. So you might ask, “But doesn’t this remove God’s involvement from the story?”  Not at all.  David still shows amazing trust in God.  Look at what he says in 1 Samuel 17, verses 45-47.

Do you see how David’s trust is rooted solidly in God’s presence and provision? In the middle of what appears to be insurmountable and impossible, David reminds us that we have a God of the possible.  David clearly believes this, and acts accordingly! David’s trust in God enables him to see the possibilities that no one else could see, and to have courage to step forward and act when everyone else was crippled by their fear.

The rest is history. 

David uses his sling, and in one shot drills Goliath in the forehead, the fast-moving heavy stone penetrating Goliath’s forehead, either killing him instantly or knocking him unconscious.  Goliath falls forward and his body crashes to the ground. David runs to him, grabs Goliath’s sword and cuts Goliath’s head off.  The Philistine army freaks out and retreats, and the army of Israel pursues them, slaughtering many.  It is an astounding victory.

The story of David and Goliath is not an underdog story, but a story of blindness.  Not only was Goliath likely suffering from poor eyesight, but he was certainly blinded by his pride and arrogance.  He probably never lost a hand-to-hand battle.  And he assumed he would just keep winning.  Israel and King Saul were blinded too, by their fear.  They couldn’t see anything other than loss and devastation. 

One person in the story can see.  David, trusting in God, is the only one able to see the truth. 

How can we have David’s clear-eyed trust in the midst of our seemingly impossible situations?  It is amazing to me that David, just a young man, has such a trust in God.  Was his confidence a youthful naiveté?  We don’t know.  But there it is.  And it was real, as it can be for us.  We can have God’s vision of the seemingly impossible situations in our lives.  We can see his truth in the midst of fear.   

So let me ask, how do we develop this trust?  What do you actually do to take that step of faith in God?

Remember how David was a poet?  We are blessed to have many of his poetic writings that we can still read today.  In the Bible, there is a collection of poetry called Psalms, and of the 150 included there, 73 are attributed to David.  Some even mention the events of his life.  While none of his psalms mention his battle with Goliath, Psalm 27 clearly relates.  I encourage you to pause reading this blog post and read Psalm 27.

What we see in David’s bold confrontation of Goliath is one who reflects, remembers and responds in the face of fear.  He reflects on who God is.  God is victor, God is stronger, and God is faithful.  In Psalm 27:4 David says that the one thing he seeks is to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.  He spent lots of time as a shepherd with sheep, but clearly he also spend lots of time reflecting on God.  For example in verse 8, he says, “seek his face!”  David is a wonderful example to us of how important it is to spend time seeking God.  I’ve been trying to daily set a timer for 10 minutes and just quietly think about God.  In this I seek to make a habit of the practice of reflection. In Psalm 46, not attributed to David, we read in verse 10, “Be still and know that I am God.” That is my goal in my quiet reflection, to train my mind to go back, over and over again, to the truth that I can be still knowing that God is who he says he is, even in the face of what seems to be impossible. Worship music can be very helpful for this. So is gathering with God’s people.  This is why participation in gathered worship, prayer meeting, small groups, and such, is so vital.  Of course so is spending time meditating on God’s word, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, seeking to apply it to our lives.  What will it look like for you to open up more time for reflection on who God is?

Next David remembers what God has done in the past, giving him victory over the lion and the bear.  Remember how God has shown his faithfulness to you.  There is something incredibly empowering when we remember God’s provision in the past.  The work of reflection and remembering is what opens our eyes when they have been blinded by fear.

Bolstered and strengthened by this reflecting and remembering, David steps forward to respond.  This teaches us that can face our fears. We need not be blinded into inaction.  Reflection on the truth about God, and remembering his faithfulness removes the blinder of fear and helps us respond by courageously stepping forward in obedience to him.

What fear do you have in your life?  Is your response more like Saul or more like David? Take the time to reflect on who God is, to remember what he has done in your life, and what he has done in history, then step forward to face your fear.

Why this is not an underdog story – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 4

28 Nov
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I’ve been saying all along in this series of posts looking at the story of David and Goliath that this is not an underdog story. I didn’t come up with that idea on my own. I’m indebted to the work of Malcolm Gladwell in his book David & Goliath. Gladwell notes that scholars who have researched ancient warfare, and in particular this episode of ancient warfare, tell us that, as we read in 1st Samuel 17, verse 40, when David pulls out his sling and stone, every soldier on both armies’ battle lines watching would know that, if David was any good with the sling, this battle was over before it began.

Why? David had a distinct advantage as a slinger.  Let me give you an analogy.

In the film, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, there is a scene when Indy is a different country, running through a crowded market, chasing after a bad guy. Suddenly a man with swords steps out of the crowd and confronts Indy, blocking his way. The man menacingly swings the sword, displaying his expertise.  Indy is forced to stop short, as the bad guy is getting away.  Indy has no sword to fight back.  You think Indy has lost, not only the bad guy, but maybe his life, because this guy with swords looks fearsome and threatening.  What does Indy do?  Run away?  Nope.  He pulls out his revolver, and shoots the guy.  Game over.  Indy wins, and he is able to keep chasing the bad guy.  The lesson?  Guns beat swords. 

That is David with a sling.  He’s got a far superior weapon.  And he was good with it.  We already heard how he killed a lion and a bear with it.  Ancient slingers would put golf ball-sized stones in their slings, whipping them around super-fast, and launch them with deadly accuracy.  Slingers were the artillery of ancient warfare, and if an army could keep safely apart from opposing infantry, the slingers could just launch volley after volley of stones at the enemy. They were devastating.  More so than archers.  As David pulls out his sling and stones, all the soldiers on both sides knew what coming. 

Except Goliath.  Which is weird, right?  Goliath was a battle-hardened soldier.  He should know about the power of sling.  He should be running away, right?  Instead, we read in verse 41 that Goliath kept coming closer to David.  He kept making it easier for David to hit him.  What is going on?  Why would Goliath make such an obvious mistake? 

Maybe he felt he could quickly rush David and overtake him before David could get the sling and stone out?  Maybe.  Maybe he was arrogant.  Scholars believe there is a totally different reason. 

They believe Goliath could not see David well.  He had to get closer to David because he couldn’t see David well.  Could not see? 

Let me explain.  Modern science has studied people in our day and age who grow abnormally large.  I once went to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, and they had a giant lady walked out.  She was super tall.  It was kind of eerie, because she seemed not all that thrilled about being on display.  There is a genetic condition called acromegaly in which humans do not stop growing.  One particular symptom of acromegaly is poor eyesight.

We know all about Goliath’s huge size.  It is possible he had acromegaly and could not see. 

Look at verse 43.  Clearly Goliath is arrogant, convinced he will win.  He sees that David is small.  But notice he says that David comes at him with sticks.  Plural.  Not one stick, but sticks.  In verse 40 we are told that David had a staff, but only one staff.  Goliath, very possibly, scholars tell us, had bad eyesight.  Maybe double-vision.  He thinks David is going to try to defeat him with sticks, which Goliath rightly thinks is ridiculous.  If that’s all David had, Goliath would almost certainly win. 

Here’s the thing: Goliath doesn’t seem to see the sling. Therefore Goliath, though he was a huge man armed to the teeth, he was in an extremely vulnerable position against David.  This is not an underdog story.

Check back in tomorrow to Part 5, and we’ll see the conclusion to the story and how it might matter to us.