Some stories never grow old. No matter how many times I read them, they always teach me something new. And even if I’m learning the same lesson for the second, third, or forth time, it still seems fresh. It seems the older I get, the more I need reminders about the lessons I’ve learned before.
Take, for instance, 1 Samuel 17, the chapter in the older testament that tells the familiar story of David and Goliath. We all know this one, right? You didn’t even have to attend a church, synagogue or mosque to hear it.
So what can we learn, or re-learn, from this story that applies to our lives today?
As my wife and I reread it recently, it struck me that our culture is filled with warriors standing in loud and open defiance of the living God. They aren’t physically big, but their presence is huge and intimidating – like a nearly 10-foot-tall warrior dressed in full armor and holding a huge spear.
They come out each day on social media, in blogs, in newspaper columns, on television talk shows, at protest marches, at political rallies, in courtrooms, and at work. They shout, in effect, “This day I defy the armies of Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:10) And they tell anyone who follows Jesus, “Come here … and I will give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:44)
So what can we do about the Goliaths in our lives?
Well, it’s not a good idea (aka not Biblical) to stick a smooth stone in their jagged foreheads. But we don’t have to model David’s approach exactly to benefits from his story. So here are some non-violent lessons we can learn from the shepherd rock-thrower:
Recognize evil as evil.
David showed up at the scene to bring supplies to his brothers and check up on them for his father. When he heard Goliath’s rant, he knew it was evil and he said so.
“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?” he said. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)
He immediately saw the need to take action and wondered why no one (including his brothers) was doing something. Too often we turn a blind eye to evil rather than confronting it in some proactive way. We sit around like Saul’s army and complain about it, but we don’t do anything.
Sharpen our skillsets.
When King Saul pointed out that David was smaller and far less experienced as a warrior than Goliath, David pointed out that he had some mad skills of his own. As a shepherd, he had defeated lions and bears. “This uncircumcised Philistine,” he said, “will be like one of them…” (1 Samuel 17:36)
If David had spent his days sitting on a rock eating pomegranates, he wouldn’t have been much of a shepherd – and he wouldn’t have been ready for Goliath.
When we face evil in our world, we don’t need skills with a sling. But other shepherding skills could come in handy. We need to be intellectually sharp, for instance, and skilled in emotional intelligence. These are some of the ways Jesus grew “in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52)
Fight for God, not ourselves.
David knew there was a reward attached to victory over Goliath, but he also knew he was fighting to defend God’s honor, not his own. And while he was confident in his ability to fight this battle, he knew victory would come from God – as it always had.
“The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear,” he said, “will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)
And he told Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. … All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45, 47)
Act in faith.
When Goliath “moved closer to attack him,” David didn’t run away or even stand and wait for the battle to come to him. He “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” (1 Samuel 17: 48) There was no doubt or fear in his heart because he knew God was on his side. Win or lose, his life was in God’s hands.
We know from 1 Samuel 16:13 that Samuel had anointed David and, so, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. We also know that as followers of Jesus, that same Spirit lives within us. (Acts 2:38) If we walk in that Spirit, we know He will lead us. He will help us recognize evil when it defies God, and he’ll help us respond in truth and love, trusting God for the results and giving God the glory.