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David and The Good Life | Imagination
September 25, 2022
1 Samuel 17:38-50
38Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.
41And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45Then David said to the Philistine, “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. 46This 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, 47and 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.”
48When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
50So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.
In this passage, we read about the story of David’s confrontation and triumph over Goliath. This gripping story is one of the most beloved stories in the Bible. Many of us were introduced to this passage in our early childhood. In Sunday schools, we have seen David as a faithful and courageous young man. In our teenage years, we have seen David as a role model in prevailing over Goliath like bullies, and perhaps in our adulthood, we see David as an inspiring figure who teaches us how to overcome challenges in life. Considering the familiar nature of the story, it’s important for us to understand that familiarity can hinder our ability to interpret the text within its original context. Therefore, a careful reading of the text is vital as it helps us to bridge the contexts and understand the significance of David’s victory over Goliath in the overarching scheme of the Bible.
In 1 Samuel 16, we see David being introduced into Saul’s court as a musician. David finds favor in Saul’s sight, and he is promoted as Saul’s personal armor-bearer. 1 Samuel 16 accounts the beginning of the shift in the spiritual and military power from Saul to David. In this passage, we see David’s rise to power as the anointed one under the protection of God. The people of Israel lived under the constant terror and threat of an impending attack from the Philistines—Israel’s archrivals since the days of the judges. It’s the very threat of an attack that propelled the Israelites to demand a king.
As we have learned, Saul was anointed as the first king of Israel. In his early days, Saul, with the help of the Spirit of the Lord, achieves military success. However, much has changed since then—Saul is now an unhinged king devoid of the Spirit of the Lord to guide him. In verses 1-3, we see a war brewing between Israel and the Philistines. Israel’s peace and prosperity is at stake in this conflict, and her future hangs in the balance. Goliath of Gath is introduced as a champion of the Philistines. He is fully equipped with heavy battle armor, sword, and javelin. Goliath is presented as a warrior who taunts the Israelites, demanding for a man to man combat to settle the score (17:8-10).
In introducing Goliath as a tall and menacing warrior, the author of 1 Samuel reminds the readers of Saul’s introduction. In chapter 10, Saul is introduced as a man who was “head and shoulders above the rest” (10:23). Saul was the best match for Goliath, and as the king, Saul was expected to motivate his troops, and lead them forth in the battle against the Philistines. However, on hearing Goliath’s words, Saul the king is paralyzed with fear (17:11). Saul’s fear is seen in his troops as well. Goliath’s threat exposes the utter inadequacy of Saul as the king of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord had left the popular king chosen by the people.
Right when it seems like all hope is lost for the Israelites, we are introduced to David in verse 12. David’s introduction is anything but spectacular—a young shepherd boy summoned from his duties to carry meals to his brothers who are on the front line defending Israel. However, the story picks up steam as David arrives at the Valley of Elah (17:17-30). The central question of the passage is seen in verse 26. David, in contrast to the fearful Israelites, boldly questions, “who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” While the Israelite troops saw a terrifying and invincible warrior, David saw Goliath for who he really was—an idol worshiping Philistine who had the audacity to defy the Lord God of Israel. The rest of the story accounts for David’s faith in God (verse 37), his inspiring speech (verse 45-46), his deep insight of God’s protection (verse 47), and his triumph over Goliath, using a stone and sling as his weapon of choice (verses. 48-54).
When we look at the text within its original context, we learn that this passage deals with the rise of David as God’s anointed—the messianic king. As the man after God’s own heart, David rises to the occasion to defend the honor of the Lord. Saul and the Israelite troops, blinded by their unbelief in God’s power, could only see Goliath as an invincible warrior. In contrast, as God’s anointed one, David saw with the eyes of faith, and was not intimidated by Goliath’s threat. Goliath, as the representative of the Philistines, relied on his own physical strength and weapons. David, as the representative of the Israelites, relied on the name of the Lord of hosts (verse 45). This passage emphasizes the thematic nature of God’s salvation described in the Bible: God uses weak to shame the strong (Psalm 8:2;1 Corinthians 1:27). God uses the young and inexperienced David to represent Israel in the battle—to put to shame the apparently powerful Goliath, and prideful Saul. As the anointed one, David comes in the name of the Lord, fights Goliath with the power of the Lord, and defends the honor of the Lord by redeeming Israel from the tyranny of the Philistines.
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
God of all hope, bring hope to our weary world and to our troubled hearts; ignite hope within our worship this day. Strengthen our faith as children of hope, that we may partner with you and share the good news of your steadfast faithfulness with the world. In Jesus name. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 66:1-7
1Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!
3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
4All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”
5Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
6He turned the sea into dry land; They passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him,
7Who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves.
1. Looking at the Bible
What does the text say?
- What is the general and particular theme of this passage?
- What can we learn from David’s zeal in defeating Goliath from this passage?
- 1 Samuel 17:47 teaches us an enduring truth about God’s character and his ways. What is it, and why is it important?
2. Looking at Jesus
Jesus is the theological center of the bible. Every passage points to Jesus, and the grand narrative of the bible finds its fulfillment in Jesus.
- How does the story of David’s triumph over Goliath point us to Jesus?
- What can we learn about the human messiahs (hint: Saul) from this passage?
- How does this passage help us to see the beauty of Jesus, and deepen our faith in him?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
This passage provides us an opportunity to engage in character study of three individuals—Goliath, Saul, and David.
- Read verse 11. In light of our knowledge about Saul from last week’s discussion, what can we learn about Saul’s heart from this verse?
- Read verses 32-37. What can we learn from David’s interpretation of the situation?
- What does David’s inspiring speech in verses 45-47 teach us about personal faith?
4. Looking at Our World
- How does this passage help us to hope in light of the despair and injustice we see in the world?
- What does this teach us about faith, and our responsibility in the face of opposition to God’s work?
Lord, throughout this day you have rescued us from harm and despair, giving us instead the joy of your Spirit and fellowship with our family and friends. Give us the faith to take refuge in you and delight in your Word; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1: By way of introduction, ask the group to describe the theme of this passage. The idea behind this exercise is to see the range of interpretation among your group. The Old Testament narratives, like the story of David and Goliath, can have at least two levels of interpretation: universal and individual, or in other words, general and specific.
Generally speaking, this passage teaches us about the power of personal faith, and God’s way of accomplishing mighty deeds through seemingly weak and powerless people. Due to the familiar nature of the story, your discussion could lean more on the general emphasis of personal faith, and individual responsibility in the face of opposition to God’s work. One way to facilitate the discussion on general emphasis is by highlighting three ways in which David’s story contributes to our understanding of Christian faith:
- David, as the anointed one, had divinely guided insight that Saul and others lacked.
- David’s readiness to fight the battle was motivated by his zeal for God’s honor, and his deep faith in God’s character.
- David was aware of the means by which God would accomplish the victory: “And that all this assembly would 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” (17:47).
Specifically, and most importantly, this passage portrays David’s rise as the anointed one. As the messianic king of Israel, David is pictured as the ideal shepherd leader for Israel, and as such, this passage contributes to the larger body of texts that subsequently feed into the concept of the Messiah and emphasizes our deep need for a King to rule and protect us, and a shepherd to guide us and nurture us, and a Messiah to save us. You could use this as a good segue into the next section that looks at Jesus in this passage
Question 2: As mentioned earlier, the major focus of this passage has to do with the theme of Messiah. Therefore, be sure to emphasize the danger of identifying ourselves with David in this passage.
The story of David’s triumph over Goliath publicly confirms David as the anointed one of God who seals the victory for God’s people in the name of the Lord. The New Testament confirms Jesus as the greater Son of David (Matthew 1:2-16; Luke 2:4-15). In other words, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise made by God to David in providing him a son (cf. 2 Sam. 7). Jesus, therefore, is the anointed one of God, the man after God’s own heart—the ultimate David!
David was chosen by God to represent him, and to lead, guide, and save the people of Israel. Thus, David’s actions in this passage have to be seen as the work of God’s chosen one, who alone is capable of fulfilling the task of conquering Goliath, and rescuing Israel. Saul, although anointed by God to lead his people, succumbed to the lure of power, alienating himself from God. This passage exposes Saul’s utterly inadequacy in fulfilling the task of a Messiah. In contrast to Saul, as David’s greater Son, Jesus was the ultimate chosen one—the Messiah. As the Messiah of the world, only the Son of God is capable of killing sin, conquering death, and redeeming and reconciling sinners to God the Father. The manner of David’s victory points to Jesus’ accomplishment of our salvation by means of a Roman cross. Thus, the enduring theme of God accomplishing his salvation using the weak to shame the powerful finds its ultimate fulfillment in the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Question 3: This passage is immensely insightful as it pertains to the matter of heart. According to Scripture, the heart represents the seat of understanding. The author of Proverbs warns the us to guard our hearts diligently as everything we do flows from it (cf. Proverbs 4:23). You could encourage the group to engage in character study of Saul, Goliath, and David.
The status of Saul’s heart indicates deep unrest, and lack of peace. We see Saul as a self-centered, arrogant, and prideful king who is consumed by anger and jealousy against David. Saul represents the danger of not guarding our hearts—he rejects the grace of God and subverts the authority of God. Goliath, on the other hand, is shown as a prideful and self-confident man who relies on his physical and military power. Goliath represents postmodern culture’s disregard for authority and excessive focus on individualism. Finally, we see David. He is the man after God’s own heart. We see the power of personal faith at work in David’s life. We see the beauty of imagination at work in David’s life.
Graham Tomlin makes a fascinating observation about imagination. He writes,
“Faith needs imagination—the ability to imagine that things could be different, that what you see is not necessarily what you get.”
David represents a Christian—someone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and his thoughts, words, and actions are influenced by faith in the sovereign God to whom belongs the victory.
Encourage the group to take a few moments to introspect. Ask questions like, on a day to day basis, who do you identify more with—Saul’s pride or Goliath’s self-reliance, or David’s imagination, or faith.
Question 4: The universally beloved story of David’s triumph over the powerful Goliath is an immensely hopeful story about the sovereignty of God in accomplishing his purposes. This passage gives us hope as it compels us to “imagine” like David. David refused to be paralyzed by fear of defeat or death in the hands of Goliath. Instead, as God’s anointed one, he exercised his faith and saw Goliath for who he truly was. Emphasize on the implications of living out this faith in the day-to-day trenches of the battle of life. Encourage God centered imagination—to see as God sees, and to go out into the world in the name of God, and to live our lives for the glory of God. Practically speaking, to exercise David’s imagination/faith in our lives would mean to preach the gospel to self—to remember what God has accomplished through Jesus Christ, and to rely on the unchanging promises of God in the face of challenges.