When we read the story of David and Goliath, our natural inclination is to believe that it is David who has something to teach us about being persons of faith. After all, he is the Hebrew character. He is the little man with a great big God who is unafraid to step forward boldly and put his life in the hands of God's promises. And that is certainly a lesson that most of us need to hear.
But what if David is not the only one to teach us something about our faith in this story? What if Goliath has something to say about it, too?
We've been looking at Goliath all week, and I've continued cautioning us against seeing any weakness in him. What we don't want to do is to mistake Goliath's accoutrement of war for insecurity.
For the truth is that most of us are more like Goliath than we are David.
Most of us are more like champions in our own mind. We have a certain understanding of our own strength. We invest our lives in building up our armor, in learning to stand at the battle lines, in developing our bravado so that we can be the ones to call out the world. Or, at least, the things that seem to stand in our way in it. We are a people who come to be confident in our imagined size, in the way that we are able to tower over some things that are important to us, in the way that we are able to cast shadows on smaller things. We stand, and we feel, to a degree, impervious. Nothing can move us. Nothing can defeat us. We are certain of our victory because we are, after all, champions of our cause. We are giants in our fields, in our families, even in our faith. In fact, the American ethic is kind of based on this very notion. It's who we're told we're supposed to be.
But our faith pulls at something in our hearts, our utter dependence on God whispers an echo into the quiet places of our hearts. As much as we want to believe we can step forward, the truth is that most of us only do so when we are certain of protection. When we have, as it were, an armor-bearer before us. And who, for a people of faith, is that armor-bearer?
It is the Lord Himself.
That's one of the promises that God has made us in His Word. He has told us that He is our strength and our shield. He has told us that He goes before us. He has told us that He fights our battles with us. If that's not an armor-bearer, then I don't know what is.
And it goes beyond even this, for the more that we press into the hard things of life with God before us, bearing our shield, the more we come to develop a certain closeness with Him. The more we come to not only depend on Him, but to be affectionate for Him. The more we come to realize that we are never alone in our foxholes and to even love this God who is so constantly with us. We become...friends.
And when we become friends, we want our God with us. We want Him to join us in our battles. We can't imagine stepping forward without Him, no matter how confident we are in our armor or our size or our power. We want God with us because He has always been with us, and we don't want to leave Him out of our victories, even when they seem certain without Him.
Is your heart piecing this together right now? It's so easy for us to read this story and to want to see ourselves as David, but the truth is - and particularly in our culture - there's nothing wrong with being a Goliath, either. There's nothing wrong with having an armor-bearer and a friend to go into battle with us. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to step forward without the assurance of a shield. In fact, there's something tremendously faithful about it.
(Ignore, of course, that Goliath was slain in this battle. That's neither here nor there on the lesson. Goliath was slain because his faithfulness was on the wrong side of the war, not because of his relationship with his armor-bearer. So don't get the points confused.)
We can learn a lot from this giant, a lot more than we think we can learn on first reading. A lot that can help us when we find ourselves in our own trenches, needing to take that step forward and wondering how we're going to do it.
We do it with God, our Shield and our Friend.