Rev. Martha “Missy” Shiverick
July 8, 2012

1Samuel 17: 1-16, 24-26, 32-50

The Story of David and Goliath is one we all know. Our whole lives it has been used for us as an example of “triumph in the face of terrible odds”. As I began researching and thinking of it as the ‘Holy Moly’ scripture passage for this week as Pastor Eric Dillenbeck and I preach on the great Hebrew Scripture stories that you often don’t get to hear as texts for sermons, I found it to have many more messages for us today as we delve into it. There is some real depth in theology here past the surface story of the shepherd boy slaying the giant with a stone and a slingshot. This morning I will mention a few of them in hopes that as you think about the story this week you will find many angles in it with which to contemplate.

The first thing to ask is what the story is saying about God? In this super hero action story, God might not be the action figure in the story, but God certainly is the central figure of the story and the most powerful force within it. WE learn in the story that God can do anything! God does not need strong warriors, swords, or large armies to be in control. Strength and might, swords and armor are human tools of power, not God’s, and God’s will will be done. In fact, God’s will will be done against all odds. We also learn that God can see potential in things that are not obvious to us humans. God saw potential, courage, and leadership in a shepherd boy to beat a giant, not a mighty and trained warrior which might have been the obvious choice to us. And this means of course, that God might also find potential in us in spite of our thinking that we have no skills or purpose in God’s work and plan for the world. We might feel that we are unworthy, but God might have other plans for even you and me. Without a PhD, God might see that you are the brains to be a future leader in God’s realm. Without proper training, you might just be the caring arms to nurture and care and show God’s love to another. After all, God used a little shepherd bot named David to slay the big monster, so God might use even us!

The second lesson I am gleaning from this story has to do with where David got his strength to fight the monster named Goliath. David had the courage to face something really very, very scary because he was fighting for his people AND he faced his enemy in the name of God. He had faith that God was with him and that God would not abandon him. Clearly how he acted was in some way a demonstration of his faith. He faced what frightened all the other Israelites, because he had the faith that God was behind him. I think that when we know we are doing the right thing, we can go up against odds that others might think are overwhelming. I think of one member of our church whose daughter donated a kidney to a stranger, because she felt she was doing the right thing. Knowing she was on the right, gave her courage to do something we all think is amazing. I think of members of our church who have served as missionaries in parts of the world most of us would be frightened to venture into. But they had the courage to do it, knowing they were doing God’s work. A friend of mine told me her daughter became her hero when she signed up for a ‘Teach America’ year in a city like ours where it takes courage to walk in some neighborhoods. She was so proud of her daughter who saw that there was much she could do to help the world by working as a volunteer in the inner city. These individuals and many others you and I can name and share their stories are the Davids in a world of Goliaths. They are that way because of the courage they get from their faith and convictions. And because of that they are also our heroes.

And what about the stones? David picked up five smooth stones from the river to arm him as he went into battle. They certainly were not the conventional arsenal of choice for his day but they were the weapons he felt would serve him best. It’s interesting to think what our stones might be if we went into battle with our Goliaths in life? We all have Goliaths, huge obstacles in life that we need to overcome. What would we want to take into our personal battles? Would we take our faith? Would we take our love? Would the strength we gain from our families be the stones we need as we go into battle? Is Fairmount Church a source of strength for you in the rough roads of your life? I hope that it would be. It is interesting to contemplate from where you get your strength in life and perhaps if you need a bit more strength, to whom you should rely.

A next theme to ponder in this story is to think about the monster. Who was this man Goliath and where do we see him today. I think it is always healthy to look at ourselves first. Although we automatically identify with the character of David, perhaps we should also look inward at ourselves and the possibility that we might be the scary monster as well. Let’s not name the monsters in our society without seeing if they might be in us as well. After all, isn’t that what Jesus asked us to think about before we started casting stones? Do we all not have a sort of monster living within us? Whether it is our selfishness, our materialism, or maybe even a tendency to lose our tempers or even become violent… we all here most likely have a monster that we are not too proud of hiding within us. Others of us have more serious monsters that we fight on a daily basis… mental illness, addiction, or other powerful things that they must wrestle with on a daily basis. But whatever your circumstances, my guess is when you are honest with yourself, there is indeed a monster lurking somewhere in your personality that you are trying to conquer or at least keep under control. And the good news for us Christians is that we can have the courage to face the Goliaths within us because of our faith. We believe that, like David, our God will not abandon us when we are up against tough times. We can face and deal with the scary uncertain things in our lives, knowing that God is in control and that God will help us.

There is another aspect of being a Goliath that must be mentioned here too. One of the shocking things we as a naïve nation learned 10 and a half years on 9/11 was that we are not universally loved by everyone as a nation. Some countries fear us, others see us as country that abuses out power and does not follow rules that others must. Are we the giant force that inflicts its power, judgment, and culture on others less strong and influential? If so, we sound an awful lot like the Goliath in this story….Could we possibly be conceived by others as a nation that bullies? This is indeed something else to think about.

And the final lesson that I will raise up today as we think about the story of David and Goliath is the notion of power. Clearly this story is one of power reversal. Goliath was a monster of a man. His height alone was 6 cubits and a span which would make him about 9 and a half feet. The Hebrew measure of a cubit is the distance from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger and a span is the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your middle finger. Clearly, the story teller wants us to know that this was indeed a fighting machine, a huge guy with an impressive fighting record. And David was just a shepherd boy without armor or spears. AND, yet, David won. One commentary of this passage wrote that if David had chosen the spear and armor that King Saul had given him he would have clearly lost. It was in choosing what the giant perceived as non-threatening that David won.

Power as a reality has changed throughout history. In the late 1980’s I was a new minister living in Columbus Ohio. I would travel to Cleveland to hear speakers that came here to Fairmount and spoke about Peacemaking as a year- long series sponsored by our William Burkett William Speaker Series. One of the speakers was a Senator’s wife named Betty Bumpers. Her husband, I think might have been a Senator from Arkansas. At any rate, Mrs. Bumpers told the group that she had always lived in the security that there were these very wise and wonderfully educated people in Washington making all these well thought out decisions She went to bed at night with the security that the firm foundation of our nation was these brilliant elected officials making wise choices on out nations policies and long term strategies. That was until her husband became a senator, and although she said she thought he was wonderful, he was human and therefore imperfect. And then she began to question whether the policies our government had were the correct ones. She questioned whether our belief in power as a deterrence to war. She asked, ‘Do we have national security because we have as many weapons pointed at our enemies as they have at us.’ And, because of her feeling, she went on a national tour to question this. And, history has taught us, the proliferation of all those nuclear weapons did no bring peace and security. And in these past years we have experienced yet another change in power. As we have come to fear the terrorist attacks on our country, we know that it certainly does not take a superpower or even a super powerful weapon, to bring a country to panic. Power has indeed changed yet again.

But the one thing that remains the same, no matter what the power is that we are up against. We have the same smooth stones David had to fight whatever Goliaths we are up against. Whether our Goliaths are our own personal monsters or the monsters which threaten our world, we can rely on God. The smooth stones we have been given is the knowledge that our God is indeed in control.

And that is the underlying goo news of the story. God is in control. We can have courage, and can face whatever scary monsters and demons that are in front of us or even within us, knowing that the real power and control is not with them, is not within us, but is with God. And how we react to that knowledge is a demonstration of our faith. Amen.