A Simple Guide to Reading and Applying the Bible with Jesus as the Hero – David & Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

david & goliath

When you read the Bible as if it is all about you instead of all about Jesus, the tendency is to jump from any heroic person or action to yourself. Therefore, you read the Bible looking for the good guys as examples for you to live out. Hardly anyone would put it this way, but it amounts to reading the Bible as if you are the Christ.

In this familiar passage of David & Goliath, the typical text-to-me approach of reading and applying the Bible usually goes something like this:

  1. Goliath represents your problems. You need to stop fearing your Goliaths (fear, loneliness, lusts, and so on), face them, charge them, and defeat them.
  1. The Israelites are inferior to you. You can’t believe how they cower in fear, don’t they have faith, and don’t they remember what God has done for them? How could they act like that? One thing is clear, you are not like them and you should never be like them.
  1. David is your example to follow. If you can have the courage of David, the faith of David, then you can slay the Goliaths in your life. You just need to have faith and charge forward.

When 1 Samuel 17 is read and applied in this way, the spirit of Goliath wins because the call is to look to yourself, have faith in your faith, and try harder. Goliath is the epitome of self-reliance and self-confidence, but that is why he is the representative enemy of God. He is the ultimate contemporary worldly hero. He looks and sounds invincible, and he possesses every technological advantage. He is the poster child for self-esteem, positive thinking, and an “if you believe it, you can achieve it” worldview. This is the opposite of the way we are actually invited to apply our lives to this text.

Find the Bad Guy—You

Who is this text saying is out of order with the purposes of God?

Saul had a pattern of disobedience to the Lord (1 Sam 11-15), the Lord no longer recognizes him as king of Israel (1 Sam 15:28), and now he is terrified of Goliath (1 Sam 17:11, 24).

The Israelites had has asked for a king like all of the other nations (1 Sam 8:5), and that is what they had gotten. Saul was tall and impressive by outward appearance (1 Sam 9:2). His trust had been in his own judgment, power, and position. Now, the Israelites are equally terrified by realizing they are unable to meet the challenge presented by the enemy of God—Goliath.

Goliath of Gath is a giant (over 9 feet tall) and he is described as the champion of the Philistines. He is a high-tech warrior possessing all of the lastest gear for combat (1 Sam 17:4-7). He is brimming with self-esteem and is a master of intimidation who defies God and God’s people (1 Sam 17:8-11, 16, 41-44).

In what ways am I prone to be out of order with the purposes of God in a similar manner?

Patterns of disobedience rooted in trusting my own judgment in the moment instead of what God has said is all too familiar. As is trusting simply in outward appearance, gifts, abilities, wit, technology, and self-referential confidence. And like Saul and the Israelites, for all of the self-esteem bravado, we all know that we do not inherently possess the resources to meet the challenge of the enemy so we are plagued with fear and anxiety.

What is this text saying about what must be done, or who we must be, to abide in the purposes of God, and how do I fail to do what it says?

The enemy of God, mocking God and God’s people, placing them in bondage to fear, anxiety, and death, must be defeated. I do not have the resources to defeat the enemy no matter how often I may act as if I do. I must find a way out of living in bondage to the enemy of God.

Find the Heroic—Sinner

What heroic person or heroic action is walking in line with the gospel in this text, and how does he or she (or the action) remind me of Jesus?

The only person in the narrative who is not terrified of the enemy is the person thought least likely to be able to do anything about Goliath’s call for Israel’s champion to step forward and face him in battle. The challenge was that each champion would fight as the substitute of his people and which ever nation wins would enslave the other (1 Sam 17:8-10).

David hears Goliath defying God and declares, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Sam 17:32). David asserts that his credential for being able to face Goliath was that he has been a faithful shepherd and he refuses the armor offered by Saul because his trust is not in power, technology, or self-confidence (1 Sam 17:34-40). David believed, “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam 17:47).

In the narrative account of the battle between David and Goliath how David kills Goliath is clearly emphasized:

“I will strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Sam 17:46)

“And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead (1 Sam 17:49a)

“The stone sank into his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground” (1 Sam 17:49b)

“Took his sword and drew out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it” (1 Sam 17:51)

“And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem” (1 Sam 17:54)

Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand” (1 Sam 17:57)

What are the flaws of the heroic person or action in the text that remind me that everyone needs Jesus and that only he can walk perfectly in line with the purposes of God?

David is heroic in the narrative but you do not have to know much of your Bible to know he is not the hero. He would later commit adultery with Bathsheba and have Uriah the Hittite killed in an attempt to cover it up (2 Sam 12).

Find the Hero—Jesus

What is the relation of this text to the character and work of Christ?

It does not take much biblical knowledge to know there is a scriptural connection between David and Jesus. In fact, that connection is the most significant point of the David and Goliath encounter. In first Samuel 16, we find out the prophet Samuel under God’s direction is looking for a king of Israel to replace Saul. The Lord commanded him to go to Bethlehem where he met with Jesse and evaluated his sons as potential heirs to the throne. The Lord commanded Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature … For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). It is clear that the issue is concerning whom the Lord has chosen to be king.

None of Jesse’s older sons were the one the Lord had chosen, and the most unlikely, David the young shepherd boy, was the only one left and Samuel demanded to meet him (1 Sam 16:11). David was the one, and Samuel anointed him as king of Israel and the account tells us “the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:12-13). It would be a decade before David would be recognized as the King of Israel, but at that moment, he was the king.

When we put together the information regarding David becoming king of Israel in 1 Samuel 16, the picture becomes clear about why David was the champion to meet Goliath. David was the Lord’s chosen, Spirit-anointed shepherd-king of Israel from Bethlehem.

A sample of the connections to Jesus:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matt 2:6)

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16-17)

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32).

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious (1 Peter 2:4).

What does Jesus perfectly do or fulfill in this text that we could not do for ourselves?

Jesus is the fulfillment of David’s heroic action in the text. We cannot meet the challenge of the enemy of God. We do not have the ability, strength, wits, or technology to meet his challenge and defeat him. Without a representative champion to defeat the enemy on our behalf there is no hope but bondage, slavery, and death. But Jesus is the promised seed born of woman who crushes the head of the serpent, the enemy of God (Gen 3:15).

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:29-32).

“Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised …  And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’” (Acts 13:21-23, 34).

How does Jesus resolve the redemptive theme of this text?

He is the hero, the champion who conquers the enemy for his people.

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

How does Jesus complete the story of this text?

David’s heroic action in the text points to the hero that David and everyone else needs.

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:34-36).

How will Jesus’s return complete the story of the text?

He is the King of Kings and the Lord of lords who reigns over the Israel of God and fully, finally, and forever, defeats the enemy of God on behalf of his people.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Rev 12:9).

On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:6).

How Can I Obey in Christ?—Faith

Why did Jesus have to be crucified and resurrected for this text to bring me joy?

Without Jesus, the Lord’s chosen, Spirit-anointed shepherd-king of Israel from Bethlehem, the one to which David pointed, we would be in eternal bondage to the enemy of God. We would live in fear and confinement, slaves of sin and unrighteousness. Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan, through his crucifixion and resurrection, and one day, his defeat will be consummated.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (Rom 16:20).

How can I conduct my life in line with the gospel and render the obedience of faith?

I must forsake any hope in saving myself through my own power, ability, strength, or courage. My hope must be that God has defeated the enemy on my behalf and I have been united by faith to Christ and then adopted as a child of God.

In 1 Samuel 17, the Israelites were terrified and cowering until their representative champion, David, crushed the head of Goliath, and then they rose up and pursued the Philistines and plundered their camp. The defeat of the enemy of God was the good news that now shaped their lives.

I must keep my eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus (Heb 12:12), who is my representative champion, and through him, I can live with boldness and courage. Jesus explained his authority over Satan (the strong man), the enemy of God, and the authority of his disciples when he said,

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matt 12:28-30).

The disciples of Jesus Christ were fearful and self-protecting before his resurrection. They listened to Jesus teach and followed him, but they saw him as helping them build the kingdom and make a name for themselves, so they argued over who would have the most prestigious positions. Whenever you trust in and focus on yourself, you will have little courage and live trying to minimize your risk and provide your own safety. After his disciples understood that he was the resurrected Messiah everything changed. Formally vacillating disciples were now courageous and bold, turning the world upside down, plundering the strong man in his own house.

How can I apply my life to the gospel truth of this text?

I must fight to understand my life and circumstances in light of redemptive history that has been fulfilled in Christ. My hope, trust, and confidence must be in Christ alone as the champion who has won the victory for me. Jesus will not be a sub-contractor on my kingdom building project. It is, his kingdom, his victory, and his grace that enables me to rise up and plunder the strong man in his own house. When I do not need to be the hero, and Jesus is the hero, then my life, my actual flesh-and-blood existence, problems and all, is my strategic opportunity to serve him. I am liberated to simply be me—surrendered to Jesus. Because of the champion who has defeated the enemy of God on my behalf, I live my life, with all of the bad news overshadowed by the good news of Jesus Christ.

See the original post: A Simple Guide to Reading and Applying the Bible with Jesus as the Hero

By |March 16th, 2015|Categories: Blog|Tags: , |

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today

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