David, Goliath and Underdogs
This past Sunday, Joey Phillips delivered the latest sermon in our Age of Heroes series, entitled David and Goliath. Joey pointed out that the story of David and Goliath is a story about the complete and utter authority of God, as well as the heroic obedience of David.
The heroic obedience of David is seen first in David’s loyalty. When Goliath mocked God and taunted Israel, David’s response was one of righteous anger borne out of loyalty to God. There’s an important point in his response applicable to the church today. We do not have to sit by passively as the culture mocks and defames God. David certainly didn’t. It’s also important, though, to be sure that our anger is borne out of loyalty and not out of defensiveness of our own names and our own reputations. Are we angry because the world and culture around us is mocking God, or because they are mocking us for our out of touch views? As Joey said, David wasn’t angry because Goliath was mocking David, or Saul, or anyone else. He was angry because Goliath was mocking God.
David’s heroic obedience is also seen in his faith. See, David didn’t just get angry, and go tell the actual warriors of Israel to get a grip and shut that guy up, and then go back to guarding his flock (since that was his actual job). He wasn’t just angry, he was willing to fight. And his willingness to fight was not because he trusted in his own strength, or even because God had given him some vision of a miraculous finish whereby an angel would guide his arm, or redirect the stone into the giant’s head like some Old Testament version of the golf tournament in Now You See Me, Now You Don’t. David simply had faith that God would not allow His own name to be defamed. As David would later write, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 20:7). David didn’t have faith that by some miracle akin to the parting of the Red Sea he would vanquish the giant, he simply had faith that the name of God was more powerful than chariots, horses, or large men. Saul looked at Goliath and saw that a giant that was bigger than him; David looked at Goliath and saw a lumbering oaf whom God would deliver to David. David knew then what Malcolm Gladwell knows now when he wrote, “Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”
The story of David and Goliath also speaks of the complete and utter authority of God. God’s authority is not determined by anyone’s acknowledgement of His authority. God’s authority wasn’t determined by Goliath’s rejection of His authority, and it certainly wasn’t determined by Israel’s rejection of His authority. Remember, the story of David and Goliath comes chronologically soon after Israel demanded a king. The demand for a king was borne out of a rejection of God’s authority and a desire to be like other nations, nations that, by the way, aren’t the people of God. God’s response to that rejection was certainly not a loss of authority, but it also wasn’t to turn His back on Israel. His response was to raise up David; in doing so, God demonstrated that He not only possesses complete and utter authority, but also radical and all-encompassing mercy.
God’s authority is also the reason why the story of David & Goliath is so much more than a metaphor for a sports team that is a little bit better than yours, or a boss that doesn’t appreciate the finer art of PowerPoint presentations (just kidding, there’s no art to PowerPoint presentations, because they are the worst). The story of David & Goliath is a story about the power, authority and mercy of the God of the universe, a God who is jealous for his own glory and will not allow His name to be defamed. The story of David & Goliath is not primarily about teaching us to Face the Giants; it’s about teaching us to have faith that God will not be mocked, His power and authority is unchecked and His mercy is unrelenting. The story of David & Goliath is not about how our God is greater, and our God is stronger, and that if our God can overcome the sins and rejection of a nation, He can certainly overcome the sword of a single large man. As Joey pointed out, what people get wrong about the story of David & Goliath is not that it’s the story of an underdog, because it is. What they get wrong is that they think that David was the underdog.