Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vanquishing the Giants

1 Samuel 17 gives us one of the great stories of the Old Testament's history section. It is the story of young David (15?16?) against the very large (9 feet?); very experienced; and very confident Philistine giant named Goliath. This is the metaphorical image we call on whenever the small school is going up against one of the big boys; or when the small company takes on a Fortune 500; it shows up whenever the odds are stacked against the little guy and somehow the little guy manages to come out on top. This is a story that begs to be preached, discussed and taught.

Simply put, the army of Israel is camped on one hill and the army of the Philistines is camped on the other with a valley between them. The Philistine champion, Goliath, stomps into the valley and challenges King Saul or his chosen champion to one on one combat, winner take all. If Saul's champion wins the Philistines become slaves if Goliath wins the Israel army become slaves. Goliath is described in archetypal terms. He is 9 feet tall, his armor weighs over 100 pounds the head of his spear weighs 15 pounds. He is nasty taunting the Israeli's as the cower on their hill top. He is offensive. He appears unbeatable. No one will go except the youthful shepherd named David son of Jesse. David, using a sling and a small smooth stone, kills Goliath and the victory is won. The Philistines flee, the Israelis pursue and David's reputation is established.

Every time I read the story of David and Goliath I am struck by the lack of faith of the majority of people in the story. Too often we think that the opposite of faith is doubt. But some doubt makes every faith healthy (it keeps us exploring, asking, seeking). The opposite of faith is fear. The Army of Israel is afraid (after all by the biblical account Goliath is over 9 feet tall and a famous warrior). The King of Israel, Saul, is afraid to take on the Philistine champion. How many times do we stop trying, quite, give up, withdraw because some seemingly giant of a problem is across the valley taunting us and laughing at us? How many times do we focus on the big ugly giant and cower in fear? That giant could be our health situation, our marriage, fear that we might lose our jobs or have them suddenly change, fear that we would be able to perform, to act, to do what needs to be done to care for those we love. That giant could be anything. David, like many before him and after him, chooses to face his fear in the name of Almighty God. He chooses not to be afraid and to take by faith that God will see him through. He chooses not to focus on how big and ugly the giant is. He chooses to focus on how big God is. The God who saw me defeat the bear and the lion will surely see me through this battle as well (1 Samuel 17:37). One central message of the scriptures is "do not be afraid!" Jesus said "Do not be afraid I have overcome the world! (John 16:33)"

Dr. BJ

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