I’ve been going to church a long time. My parents carried me into the sanctuary a few weeks after I was born, to a church just a few miles from where we currently live.
I’ve been going ever since.
Added bonus: no one has to carry me anymore, I get to walk on my own two legs.
(I would like to mention most of middle school, I was dragged to church instead of going willingly. But that story is for another time.)
The point is, I’ve been hearing Bible stories for decades. I grew up in the era of felt storyboards and songs about the Ten Commandments. If I need to recall what commandment is which, I will definitely still sing the song in my head with absolutely no shame. (Number one, we’ve just begun, God should be first in your liiiiiiife. Number two, the idol rule, those graven images aren’t nice!)
So when I picked up The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories are Misunderstood by Eric J. Bargerhuff, I was intrigued. I’ve been missing something in those tried-and-true Bible stories? Lemme see what this is all about.
Bargerhuff started off with David and Goliath, a favorite of motivational speakers and Sunday school teachers alike. I’m sure at one point, I’ve even taught this story to some kids at church during my tenure as a very ill-prepared Bible teacher.
Big versus small, powerful versus powerless, faithless versus faithful–Jesus followers LOVE to hear how we can do all things with God behind us. No mountain is too big, no enemy too ferocious.
But what if that’s not the point?
I know. Blasphemy, probably. Of course that’s the point.
But wait. Let’s look at David’s life leading up to this moment. He wasn’t a soldier. He wasn’t a fighter. He was a son who tended to his dad’s animals. He often helped King Saul on the battlefield, coming to carry his armor, but then returning to the fields of his home and caring for sheep.
He was Jesse’s son, a helper. He wasn’t a warrior.
But God had been present and active in his life for years.
One day, Jesse told David his son, “Take this sack of cracked wheat and these ten loaves of bread and run them down to your brothers in the camp….Check on your brothers to see whether they are getting along all right, and let me know how they’re doing.” (1 Samuel 17:17-18, incomplete; The Message)
When David showed up on the battlefield that day to bring food to his brothers who were serving in Saul’s army, he wasn’t coming for battle; he was running an errand and then he planned to head back home. (There’s even a little sibling bickering in the story; David’s older brothers tell David to mind his own business, quit asking questions about Goliath, and go back to his little sheep. )
But David hears Goliath’s roars from the battlefield, demanding someone come and fight him just like he had done every day before, and he gets involved. Goliath the Philistine was challenging Saul and God’s people to a one-on-one battle. He wanted someone to challenge him in a fight to the death, and the losing side would become the winning side’s slaves.
No one, for days and days (forty, to be exact), had said yes. Goliath was huge, over nine feel tall and intimidating. Everyone feared him.
Then David arrived.
And what’s weird is David doesn’t fear Goliath. Saul feared him. The soldiers feared him. David did not fear him. You don’t volunteer to fight a giant when you’re afraid. You volunteer to fight a giant when you know God who has shown you again and again how to handle your fear is with you. You volunteer to fight a giant when you know God is constant and unchanging in his promises to you.
So David steps up to the fight, confident in who he is because of God. This isn’t David’s first time trusting God. This isn’t David’s first time coming upon a large predator and having to fight for his life. This isn’t David’s first time knowing the character of God and making choices based on his constant God.
David says, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of host, the God of armies of Israel, who you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and 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 does not deliver by sword or spear, for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47 NASB)
I don’t know about you, but when I’m afraid, the last thing I do is make confident, bold speeches. This is a guy who isn’t afraid or fearful. He understands God doesn’t change, and he’s learned through past experiences that God will come through.
And with one stone in a sling, David knocks Goliath out so he is able to behead him using Goliath’s own sword.
Here’s what Bargerhuff says in conclusion of the story: But David, the one without fear, overcame the giant not because he wanted to conquer his fear, but because he was zealous to defend the character and glory of God…God will be glorified in the life of ones who trust in him. He will deliver his people and ultimately triumph, for he gives us the victory, either in this life or in the life to come.
I’ve had to sit with this chapter on David and Goliath for a few weeks, rolling it around in my head, testing the ideas it’s presenting, praying through the truth that God is always faithful, always constant, and always for those who trust in him.
What if David and Goliath isn’t about God doing impossible things and more about God doing what he has always done in the life of his faithful followers? What if David and Goliath isn’t meant to be a battle cry for conquering our enemies but more about daily-living based in faith and making choices off the constant, loving character of God?
I have learned a lot about the character of God in the past few years. I’ve learned through spending lots of time in his Word. I’ve learned through prayer and other people. I’ve learned through reflection and study. I know God is faithful. I know God is for me. I know God has never let me down.
I can see that in my marriage struggles. I can see it in my relationships. I can see it in the lives of the people I do life with who live with reckless abandon for God.
Last fall when I learned I was losing my job, I didn’t have time to even worry about it. It wasn’t an immediate concern for me. I had a job for the rest of the school year, I was taken care of in that moment. But in that moment, I also had a marriage in trouble and a husband who couldn’t stop drinking–those things took center stage and the job situation had to wait for a while.
But this spring, as my marriage started to rebuild and my husband put more days of sobriety under his belt, I started to wonder about the job situation.
And the weirdest, scariest, most exciting things started to happen.
How does this all fit together? TOMORROW. Tomorrow it all comes together. Stick with me.
-If you’re interested in reading The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories are Misunderstood by Eric J. Bargerhuff, you can buy it here. I bought this book with two other books he wrote, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible and Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible and I’m working my way through all three of them this year (as well as these books).
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