interpreting David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17)

David versus Goliath
Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1616. Norton Simon Museum, Los Angeles, USA.
One helpful resource for interpreting this story is Graeme Goldsworthy’s book Gospel and Kingdom. He starts out with this very story as an illustration of how evangelicals often resort to allegory to make meaningful application of the Old Testament. Goliath represents sins and the five smooth stones represent obedience, service, Bible reading, prayer and fellowship. If you run into this you might enjoy asking the insightful question: “Which stone killed Goliath?”

I think Goldsworthy is Australian, and I know Australians love to be “knockers”. One Australian I know, who shall remain nameless, likes to sit in on teaching sessions of Genesis, raise his hand, and ask, “Did Adam have a belly button?” He was also once observed perusing a fund raising advertisement in Christianity today that noted that 100 souls were saved during the raising of $10 million dollars. He commented, “Just imagine how many souls we could save with $100 million.” Aussies can be fun to be around.

Back to David and Goliath. How then should we interpret the story? One simple way to proceed is to ask this question: what does this have to do with Jesus? Goldsworthy points out that just prior to 1 Sam 17 David is identified as God’s annointed king. Just as he was God’s annointed king for Israel then, Jesus is God’s annointed king for the church now.

In my mind, it’s not necessarily wrong for us to identify ourselves with David and to learn lessons from his character and life. Yet the “gospel and kingdom” questions ought to be kept in mind. Possible applications that might flow from this kind of approach:

  • God often works in unlikely ways
  • The battle is not ours, but the Lords (1 Sam. 17:47)
  • Look to the Lord’s annointed one for victory

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