Yr B ~ Pentecost 6 ~ 1 Sam 17
David and Goliath is one of those stories that’s so well known that it’s completely transcended the confines of the scriptures and has become an icon – it gets trotted out every time a smaller force is pitted against a larger force, and the smaller force wins.
You hear it in business when an upstart little software company tries to take on the Goliath of Microsoft.
You hear it in sports when an unlikely, vastly over-performing team finds itself in a championship game against an overwhelming favourite.
But, as is often the case, when a Bible story gets extracted from its context we lose what the story is really about.
David and Goliath is not a story about a little guy defeating a big guy – yeah, that’s what happens in the course of the tale, but that’s not what the story’s about.
And it’s not a story about how we underestimate our youth – although we may well do that.
And it’s not even a story about how if God’s on your side you can overcome any obstacle – although that’s getting much closer to what the story is about.
What is it about then?
It’s a clash of paradigms – a clash that pits the belief that might is right – which was shared by both the Philistines and the Israelites – against a radically different understanding of power.
Both the Philistines and the Israelites operated under the same paradigm. They were standing face to face with their armies assembled ready to fight a war.
Of course a big army needed to fight another big army – that’s the way it works – that’s the way we’ve always done it! And in some places the idea that a single champion would fight for the entire army was common. Two opposing forces – toe to toe – locked into a mindset that dictated how they had to act in that situation. Trapped in a cycle that had no end – until…someone offers a different way to look at the world.
The message of the “David and Goliath” story isn’t that little guys can do big things – it’s that God’s paradigm is better than ours. David represents the new paradigm – God’s way. It wasn’t that the Israelites didn’t know about it – of course they knew about it – they found out the same way David did – it was taught through their religion. The difference was that for David it was a present reality. For David, God wasn’t just “out there” – God was “in here.” God wasn’t the all-powerful deity that you called on when your army needed a boost – God was the ever-present Spirit that lived inside of him.
That’s a paradigm shift. It’s a transformation.
Let me show you a couple of things from this story that indicate it’s a transformation story. read on