By Luke Johnson | November 28, 2017
“David and Goliath” is a familiar story. When we read it, who do we usually identify with? Whose shoes do we usually put ourselves in?
David's! He’s the main character after all! And we love to see ourselves as the little guy who had faith and faced down the giant. That’s only natural! But as we enter Advent, it’s helpful to try to put ourselves into the Israelites' shoes.
READ 1 Samuel 17:1-11 (or the whole chapter if you have lots of time)
What is Israel’s reaction to Goliath? (17:11)
Put yourself in their shoes: The Israelites endured Goliath taunting them morning and evening for 40 days! Have you ever had to face unfriendly people or a bad situation day after day? Maybe some mean people at school, and you had to keep going to school and endure them day after day?
Imagine: There’s a rumour going around the Israelite camp that God is going to send a hero to take down the giant. But where is he? Day 1 goes by, day 2, day 3… Week 1, week 2, week 3… Where is he?!
When David arrives, he is not the hero Israel is looking for. He’s just a kid, not a hulking warrior. But despite this, little boy David takes down the giant and saves Israel.
Why is David such a big deal in the Bible? He’s mentioned all over the place. What makes him so important?
God chooses him! Samuel calls him “a man after God’s own heart.” In 2 Samuel 7, God says some really important things to David.
READ 2 Samuel 7:12-16
What did you hear in this text? What did God say to David that seems like a really big deal?
Because of the things God says to David, David becomes the center of Israel’s future hopes. He is mentioned all over the prophets, psalms, other Old Testament stories, and throughout the New Testament. When you talk about David, you’re talking about “God’s big promises.”
Do you remember the words the voice from heaven says to Jesus at his baptism?
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). This echoes God’s words to David, “I will be his father, and he will be my son.”
Take a quick look at Matthew 1:1-17
This is the human genealogy of Jesus. What important names do you recognize? (Abraham, David, others?)
Notice Matthew’s comment in verse 17 about the groups of “14”. Any idea why that matters?
The ancient Hebrews assigned numerical values to the letters in their alphabet, and this added meaning to special words. For instance, “David” in Hebrew (דוד) equals 14. Matthew is aware of this, and so he crafts Jesus’ genealogy into 3 groups of 14. Three groups because David’s name in Hebrew is made up of 3 letters. Jesus is born after 3 groups of 14. Know what this means?......
JESUS IS THE COMPLETION OF DAVID!!!
We’re supposed to think about fireworks! Fist bumps! Hoots and hollars! People dancing with wild joy!
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David, “Your kingdom will be established forever.” Jesus comes from David’s line, and when he raised to life on Easter morning, God made him King. Because David was faithful to God, God chose to enter his own creation through the line of David! It’ll make your head spin if you think about that for a while…
Mary’s Song in the Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Luke interacts with 1 and 2 Samuel as well. When Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear God’s own Son, she sings a song. In 1 Samuel, Hannah’s prayer at the birth of Samuel is like a table of contents for the rest of the book. If we read Mary’s song next to Hannah’s prayer, we’ll see that Luke has shaped Mary’s song to sound like Hannah’s prayer:
What similarities do you notice? What does Mary say that Hannah said?
So how can we read David and Goliath as a Christmas story?
Put yourself in the Israelites’ shoes again: Remember how they were feeling during those 40 days with Goliath? (Terrified!)
Then God’s anointed showed up and took on the giant.
He’s not the hero they were looking for. He’s not “a head taller than everyone else” like king Saul. He’s just a shepherd boy.
David doesn’t look strong, but he does something strong -- he beats Goliath and chops off his head.
Jesus doesn’t look strong, and doesn’t even do something strong -- he dies. But it is in dying that he does a strong thing: he destroys Death itself. He wins a victory against Death even though his own death looked like a failure. By dying, he rips creation out of Death’s hands and proclaims himself as King of creation.
How do we usually apply the David and Goliath story to our lives? What do you typically hear?
Something like, “With God’s help, you can defeat the ‘Goliaths’ in your life.”, right? But this isn’t the way we should read this story. That’s actually an inappropriate application.
This isn’t a typical scenario. Big important things are happening here: It’s God’s anointed versus God’s enemy.
In 1 Samuel, it’s actually really important that Goliath loses his head. There are three beheaded enemies of God in 1 Samuel:
- The Philistine god Dagan. When they take the Ark and put it in Dagan’s temple (to show that Dagan is stronger than YHWH), Dagan falls on the floor and lays before YHWH’s Ark, and his head falls off.
- Goliath is God’s enemy because he is calling down Israel’s God and looks to enslave them. When his head is cut off, he becomes just like Dagan: someone who boasted over YHWH, and was punished for it.
- At the end of 1 Samuel, Saul has been rejected as Israel’s king. His life is coming to an end, and he has fallen so far that a witch cares for him and commands him to eat. Saul is desperate and asks the witch to call on Samuel from beyond the grave. Crazily, it works, and Samuel shows up! Saul asks him for one more word from the Lord, and Samuel unequivocally denounces him again. The next day Saul goes out into battle, and his head is cut off. Saul has become God’s enemy, and gets the same treatment as Dagan and Goliath.
So, David’s defeat of Goliath is actually God’s anointed king facing down God’s enemy. And as the completion of David, Jesus comes as not only God’s anointed human king, but as Jesus “the Christ” -- the anointed one -- who defeats not just a regular human enemy, but Death and Sin.
Jesus’ birth at Christmas time is like David’s arrival to the battle: the coming of God’s anointed.
So, the moral of the story is not, “With God’s help you can defeat the Goliaths in your life,” but instead: “God triumphs. God’s anointed does not fail. God’s promises succeed. He is God and there is no one like him.” This is why we can put our prayers in God’s hands, and entrust our lives to Jesus as we start a new year. He is mighty to save.