1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49 The Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.
David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and 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. This very 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 Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so 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 save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.
Reflection The battle between David and Goliath is a battle between Israel and the Philistines, a fight for the life of the tiny, vulnerable nation of Israel and represents the confrontation of a vulnerable individual with an overbearing power structure. When with a single well placed stone David finds Goliath’s soft spot and wins the lopsided battle, it is a victory for Israel as well as affirmation of God’s ultimate victory over the powers of sinful behavior.
If sin is “missing the mark” then clearly the giant Goliath is full of it for he failed to respect the power of the God of Israel and thereby left himself open to fall flat on his face. Not so for youthful David, who, knowing the power of God with him, hit the mark, spot on, and felled the imperious giant.
Our story of David and Goliath (not to mention the full brush of human history) makes it clear, conflict is inevitable. So the question is not, how do we avoid conflict? Rather it is, how shall we engage it? St. Paul answers this question in his letter to the Romans saying,”Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” (Ro 13.12)
What does it mean to “put on the armour of light?” I believe it means at least two things. First, we must shine the light at ourselves and identify those behaviors that separate us from God and one another, things that make us “miss the mark,” such as abuse, degradation, arrogance and gluttony. Not to mention; jealousy, greed, selfishness, denying the needs of others, dishonoring strangers’ personhood, fear of the unknown, complacency, self satisfaction, running away from the challenge? To put on the armour of light first we must admit the ways we have missed the mark and kept ourselves in the dark.
The second thing that putting on the armour of light requires is getting out of our comfort zones and taking the risk to step onto unfamiliar ground, which we are able to do because we are confident that God is with us, empowering us to be beacons of light, to act effectively to overcome weapons of violence and systems designed for destruction. Like young David, we are armoured with our confidence in God with us which means we show up and confront the misanthropic giant.
It is time for us to wake up, to let the message sink into our minds much as David’s stone sunk into the giant’s forehead. It is time for us to wake up and remember, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is fulfilling the law.” (Ro 13.10) Our old moralistic, dual thinking perspective arguing issues of right and wrong, good and evil has led us into paralysis, a seemingly impenetrable stalemate between opposing armies.
Doubtless young David spent many hours in prayer while tending his sheep through long starry nights AND when it was time to act, he stood up and faced the giant. Prayer that fails to lead to action misses the mark. As people of God we are intended to fulfill God's law and do no wrong to our neighbors. So rather than judge our neighbors asking, “Is this good or is this evil,” because good and evil will always exist, let us ask instead, “What is most life giving and sustaining in this situation?” and “How am I to act knowing God is with me right now?”
**Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Will to Power (Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale translators). New York: Random House, 1967. pages 532–533.