There would be little dispute that the most familiar Old Testament Bible story is the epic battle between David and Goliath. Sunday School teachers, Sunday morning preachers, high school coaches, and a host of others have leaned into this passage to describe how strength is overcome by weakness, evil surrenders to good, and big is no match for small, provided God is in the mix. I’ve heard a lot of sermons on the text and have preached a few myself. The major themes never grow old.
My friend Greg sent me an email the other day about this passage that has occupied my recent thoughts. What if I identify with Saul’s character instead of David’s? What if I don’t identify with David and his glorious victory? What if David is the Christ figure in the story, and I’m the desperate one unable to bring his own victory? Think about it for a moment.
First, Christ offers to fight the giants that we don’t have the strength to fight or the ability to defeat on our own (1 Samuel 17:32). I know, preachers like me love to beat on King Saul for being weak and unable to face the giants of life, let alone defeat them. But as I think about my personal giants, I actually am like Saul, bunkered down on the hillside paralyzed at the thought of my next possible move. David recognized Saul’s weakness, just as Jesus recognizes mine and offers to take my place.
Second, pride and absence of faith creates a reluctance to concede defeat and ask for divine intervention (1 Samuel 17:33). It’s kind of ironic that we can recognize our own need yet simultaneously reject God’s help. Why do we do that? Pride will bind us and blind us to the possibilities that can happen if we’ll only quit gripping to our egos. Pride and faith cannot peaceably coexist.
Next, fear can cause us to focus so much on the present danger that we forget the past faithfulness of God (1 Samuel 17:34-36). Saul needed to understand that David had faced overwhelming odds before and emerged victorious. The daily practice of gratitude will allow us to see God’s prior faithfulness and find security in his present ability.
Finally, the key to victory is ultimately surrender. When we fully surrender, the giants that make us feel diminished and block us from God are defeated and removed (1 Samuel 17:45-50). It is in the moment of surrender that we discover that God is able and willing to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Ultimate surrender comes at the realization that we’re defeated before the battle has even begun.