It has been drilled into my head that 1 Samuel 17 is not about me overcoming ‘giant’ problems in life. I’ve been telling people that for years, ever since I read Graeme Goldsworthy’s preface to Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. But, what I couldn’t concisely say is what the story of David and Goliath is about.
Sunday, I preached on 1 Samuel 16-17. So I finally had a deadline to force myself to come up with an answer.
It is a wonderful passage. I could have spent several weeks going through one of history’s greatest stories. As one would expect, I leant heavily on insights which John Woodhouse spoke and wrote about in his sermons and commentary.
What was equally as helpful was Dale Ralph Davis’ 1 Samuel (Christian Focus, 2003) expository commentary. What is interesting is that Davis, as many know, isn’t exactly a champion of the Christ-centered model of preaching the Old Testament (as least in the same way Woodhouse and Goldsworthy are). Still, his summary of 1 Samuel 17 is worth quoting in full here:
“Hence the driving concern of this chapter is the honor of God’s name, his reputation, his glory. David is driven by a passion for the honor of God. Does this make any difference in how one interprets the chapter? Yes! It should keep us from going around and talking about the cleverness of David or the bravery of David. The focus of the chapter is not on David’s courage but on Yahweh’s adequacy in David’s weakness. David himself told us this (vv. 37, 45, 47). An interpretation that refuses to see this steals the glory from God which in this Scripture he has designed to receipt for himself. Hermeneutics can be hazardous. The chapter will allow us to focus on David in one respect, to follow him in one particular, namely, to share the vision of his faith, a faith that kept its eyes fixed on the honor of Yahweh. Hence in this chapter David essentially says to Israel and to us: ‘Yahweh’s reputation is at stake; that matters to me; that matters enough to risk my life for it.’ Can we say that? Is that our vision, our point of view? What situations are there in our own day, in our own various worlds, where we can clearly see god’s honor is at stake? Can we say that that matters to us more than our advantage or reputation or security?” (p. 154)