I haven’t read this iconic story from I Samuel 17 in years, and as I’m making haste in my reading through the Bible this time (as opposed to last time writing through it), I can more appreciate it in the long scope of redemptive history. It fits so perfectly knowing the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and everything in between for that matter. The Lord is amazing. As I’m reading the passage, and marveling at the various dramatic dynamics, I wondered how many movies have been made about it. I would guess quite a few. So, I did a search, and found one called, strangely enough, David and Goliath. The trailer starts with David reciting Psalm 23, then in big block letters: THE IMPOSSIBLE TRUE STORY. I couldn’t say it any better! In a nutshell, that is Uninvented!
Everyone knows the story. Even those who’ve never read it, which is likely most people in our anti-Christian secular age, know it means the little guy overcoming against impossible odds. The Philistines were the scourge of Israel having been in Canaan before the Israelites crossed the Jordan to occupy the land. The two nations had many battles, and in this one the two armies were arrayed on hills facing one another with a valley in between. Saul, Israel’s first king, was leading the army, and there was a stalemate. So every day the nine-foot-tall Goliath would come out mocking and taunting the army of Israel. He made them a deal. They pick one man to fight him, and if he is killed, the Philistines will be the subjects of Israel, if Goliath kills the Israelite, they will be subject to them. This was not good news for Israel’s army:
11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
The uninvented beauty of the story is theological. Yes, it’s inspiring when someone through their own grit and determination can overcome “the giant,” but this isn’t about us, about human ingenuity and our ability to somehow beat the odds. It’s about God! And why it reads true is because of that.
In my last post I explained that God chose the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, David, to be the future king of Israel, and how completely counter cultural that was. Ancient people don’t make up stories where the youngest is the hero, unless it’s true. That unlikely theme continues when we learn that Jesse’s three oldest sons had gone off to war with King Saul, and David is where he always is, tending sheep. The author again points out that David was the youngest to emphasize the contrast in God’s economy. As the Apostle Paul declares in I Corinthians 1:
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
This theme runs throughout Scripture which gives it all uninvented credibility.
The Bible is redemptive history, the long story of God saving his people from their sin in Christ. The Old Testament, including stories like David and Goliath, is not to be read primarily for inspiring moral stories because it’s not primarily about us. It’s about Jesus and needs to be read in light of his declaration in Luke 24 that everything in “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” is all about him! I’m not saying inspiring moral and spiritual stories are not valuable (and can help us grow in our relationship with God), or that the wisdom and knowledge we gain about life and human nature are not important, only those are not the most important things.
One of the many questions we might ask is, what does this say about the nature of our salvation in Christ. Something that’s impressed me this time reading through Old Testament history is how God consistently impresses upon the Israelites their salvation is of him. It starts with their Exodus from Egypt and continues through all the existential battles for Israel’s existence. A phrase reflecting this in Exodus and Deuteronomy is “mighty hand,” as in when Moses told the people:
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
When you understand that it is God who saves, you realize the story of David and Goliath isn’t about David! And while Saul and his army don’t seem to get that, David does. He asks, what will be done for the man who kills “this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Since it’s a pretty good deal, David figures why not. One of his brothers sees him asking about this, and he’s ticked off. And guess which brother it is? Yep, the oldest! The contrast is delicious.
Davis is brought to the king, and Saul is doubtful this young shepherd can beat the giant warrior, but David replies:
36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
What an incredible theological lesson. While the army of Israel and their king think the battle is about the giant and them, David knows it is about God who rescues. That has been the theme impressed upon me from Genesis through I Samuel. It’s a shame so many Christians don’t truly get this. It took me many years, decades, to finally learn to get my focus off me and put it on him, on the cross, Christ, God our Savior come in human flesh. Our struggles with sin only appear gigantic when we think they have the power of a Goliath. They don’t! Paul tells us why:
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Praise our Lord of sovereign grace!
Here is an interview with the editor of the movie David and Goliath.