One of the best known Old Testament stories is David and Goliath. Even someone who never stepped foot in church knows the story of the underdog.
The story is found in I Samuel 17, but let me summarize it for you. There is a giant named Goliath, who is a Philistine. He is taunting and mocking God’s people, the Israelites, and therefore God. Goliath challenges the entire Israelite army. Send out your best warrior to fight me. If you win, the Philistines will serve the Israelites, but if Goliath wins, the Israelites will serve the Philistines.
No one takes Goliath up on his challenge. They are all fearful of him. The mocking of God and His people goes on for weeks, in fact verse 16 states Goliath taunts the Israelites for 40 days.
David, a shepherd, was taking supplies to his brothers who were fighting in the Israelite army. No theological significance, but I do enjoy that cheese was one of those items. (Because, hey, who doesn’t like cheese.) David hears Goliath’s mocking and asks why no one is doing anything.
David volunteers to fight Goliath, disregarding armor he is given, and slings a stone into Goliath’s forehead taking him down. After David cuts off Goliath’s head victoriously, we learn that when God has big (things) obstacles in our lives, we need to trust God. Like David, we may appear to be the underdog, but God will give us the victory.
The application of the Christian underdog is often the focus of this event. Is that really what the passage is about? First, let’s note that Jesus says that the Old Testament is about Him. Jesus says so in Luke 24:27. The problem is we make the Old Testament characters the heroes of the story instead of God. This often happens especially in teaching children Old Testament stories. I have written about that previously here.
So what is this passage really about? I could write a book on it, but let’s consider three things. The passage, like all of Scripture, is first about God, not man. How do we know that? Let’s look at the passage.
GOLIATH WAS DEFEATED FOR GOD’S GLORY
First, David says that the reason Goliath must be fought and defeated is for God’s glory. In other words, so that when David defeats Goliath, people may look with awe to God, not David. In verse 46 David says to Goliath that he is going to kill him, not for his own name, but, “That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” David wants the glory and power of God to be made known.
GOLIATH WAS DEFEATED FOR GOD’S NAME
Second, not only will God’s glory shine, but God’s name will be great because of this defeat. This is about God’s name and reputation. David speaks of worrying not of Goliath, but that Goliath was “defying the armies of the living God.” In other words, in verse 26 David was worried about God’s name being made weak. If Israel’s army looked weak, God would look weak. Again in verse 45 David says that Goliath is defying God’s name.
GOLIATH WAS DEFEATED WITH GOD’S POWER
Third, not only is David out there for God’s name and glory, but David believes that he will defeat Goliath, not because who he is, but who God is. David will defeat Goliath because of God’s power, not his own. David tells Saul in verse 37 that he can win this battle because the same God who helped him defend his sheep from wild animals “will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
David then confronts Goliath in verse 45. He tells Goliath, you may have great weapons and be huge, but “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts.” Then in the next verse David tells him, “The Lord will deliver you into my hands,” then in verse 47 “The battle is the LORD’s.”
Notice that David did not engage Goliath to make his name or glory look great. He didn’t even do it for the name or glory of the Israelites or their army. He did it for the name of God. Neither did David believe that he defeated Goliath with his own power, but that he defeated him with God’s power.Why is this perspective so important to this story? Again, too often we believe or teach, especially that the Old Testament characters are the primary heroes of the story.
Let’s not misunderstand things. These Old Testament persons had great faith and character. The author of Hebrews even creates a Christian hall of fame, or what is called the “Hall of Faith” for most of the famous men and women used by God in the OT. They had to “do” things to be faithful.
Each hero is a small “h” hero. Each one is not the primary hero. In fact, they are all faithful believers who did what God called them to do. The true and primary hero of the story is God. As David points out, God was the one who really defeated Goliath, not David.
Why is this important? Well, we are called to be faithful, but too often after Old Testament stories, we walk away believing that we need to be the heroes, not God. This puts a lot of pressure – unneeded pressure – on us. If we believe that we need to just man up, hero up, we can’t do it. We aren’t called to do it. We are called to obey and follow God.
But if we are called to do something that God has asked us to do, then if we are faithful to obey Him, He will win the battle for us. It is His power, not ours that defeats evil. Since He is the hero, He is the one that takes the pressure. This is true of all the Old Testament stories.
Do you have a correct theology of the Old Testament? Do you see the characters or the stories or Old Testament books as the primary heroes, or God as the hero? What unneeded pressure have you put on yourself thinking you need to be the hero of your underdog situation? If God has really called you to something that feels giant, do you rely on Him and His strength to defeat that thing for His glory and name?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.