David v. Goliath: Sometimes You *Are* David
by James Uglum
“In the story of David and Goliath you are not David.” I was in college the first time I heard a statement like that. And I must admit that it was a bit refreshing at first. I had grown up, like so many others, hearing the David and Goliath story in a very particular way. “You are like David,” every lesson began, and if you just trusted God enough then He would use you to defeat the giant-sized problems standing in your way. And so, hearing this story in that new way was refreshing.
In that re-telling of the story it is Jesus who is like David. And you and me? We’re more like those Israelite soldiers, I was told. The ones who stood on the sidelines shaking in their boots. And Jesus, like David, came unbidden to that field of battle and defeated the Goliath of sin in a very unexpected way; through his death on the cross. His victorious resurrection then became your victory, just like David’s victory over Goliath was a victory for all of Israel. So that re-telling goes.
Since then I’ve heard other variations on this old story. Like the one where you’re not the frightened Israelite cowering on the front line, but instead you’re Goliath himself. You are sin and rebellion against God personified. And Jesus came to put an end to you; to your sinful rebellion, which he did by drowning you in the waters of baptism. But good news! Jesus doesn’t just kill you he makes you alive again! So that re-telling goes.
There’s just one little problem with all these creative re-imaginings of the story of David and Goliath. They are false narratives. There is some truth to the message being communicated in those attempts to force Jesus into the narrative of David and Goliath. It is true, that we are often helpless in the face of our sin and the sin of others. It is also true that Jesus is our great champion, the one who conquered sin, death and the devil through his death on the cross. But as true as those messages are, they are for another time and place. Like a square peg jammed into a round hole, Jesus really just don’t fit in those places in this story, no matter how much we try to force him into them.
We don’t need to squeeze Jesus into those places, because Jesus is already in the story. And he’s not David. But sometimes you are. One of the great weaknesses in my particular brand of Christianity (Lutheranism) is that we have overemphasized the fact that we are poor miserable sinners. Now don’t get me wrong, humanity left to itself is exactly that. Poor. Miserable. And sinful. But in our confession of that as a church some of us have forgotten that we are much more than that. Through Jesus we are now also the saints of God. His forgiven and empowered sons and daughters. We are not two-dimensional sinners, but three-dimensional people. A weird mash up of our former sinful selves and the newly birthed saints of God. Saints and sinners. Just like David.
David wasn’t just anyone. He was an Israelite. A son of Abraham of the tribe of Judah. He was a son of God. And he knew it. When he walked out onto the field of battle with just his sling and five smooth stones to face Goliath he wasn’t walking alone. And he knew it. Speaking with King Saul before he went out to meet Goliath David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). When David met Goliath and heard his taunts, he replied,
“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand’ (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
If you want to find Jesus in the text, you don’t have to look far. You don’t have to try to squeeze Jesus into a mold that doesn’t fit. Jesus isn’t hiding. He is the one standing beside David, empowering him just as he had when David fought off bears and lions. David doesn’t sinfully take the credit for himself. He isn’t trusting in his own strength, rather he looks to his God. And so, when David strode out onto the open ground between the armies of Israel and Philistia he didn’t see an unbeatable giant. He saw his unbeatable God.
And that same Jesus stands beside you. That same Spirit of God living in David, lives in you. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19)? When (not if) you encounter the sinful giants in your life you can stand as bravely and confidently before them as David did. Not trusting in yourself, but trusting in God, just as David did. And when (not if) God gives you victories as He did to David, you will have those experiences to draw from when you face other battles; just like David remembered how God had given him victories over bears and lions when it came time to fight Goliath. David had seen God’s faithfulness throughout his life and that gave him courage for that moment.
But David’s whole life was not one victory after another. His whole life was not marked by the complete trust in God that he displayed that day. This is another reason that it’s important to confess that Jesus is not David, but that sometimes you are. Sometimes you are like David before Goliath, confident and triumphant in the strength that God has given you. And sometimes, because your sinful nature still wages war inside you, you are also like David a few decades after that battle with the giant. Sometimes you’re like David with Bathsheba. Hopefully when (not if) those moments come you are also like David after encountering the prophet Nathan. When David was confronted with his sin he confessed his wrong and God put away his sin. God forgave David. And God, in Christ has forgives you as well. In this way you really are just like David.
Discover Jesus where he has always been. Standing at your side. Arms open in forgiveness. Waiting to receive you and restore you and empower you to get out there and continue to fight the spiritual battles that come your way.