I love the story of David and Goliath. Once, our church dramatized it for the children’s sermon, using a retired pro football player for the part of Goliath. He was impressive- the biggest guy I’d ever seen, and when he walked into the room in his Goliath suit, the little kids began to back up. Their eyes, if not the size of saucers, were perhaps the size of small pancakes. The point that the children were supposed to carry home with them was that God gave David the victory against great odds.
We are struck by the combatants’ differences – David was a teenager with a slingshot; Goliath was a nine foot tall armor-bearing Philistine warrior with a spear like a weaver’s beam. Both camps considered Goliath a shoo-in. King Saul, himself, tried to discourage the young shepherd from fighting. So the stage is set, and we assume that David, who plays the part of hero, must be secretly terrified, even though he doesn’t show it. Somehow, maybe because of all those flannel graph cut-outs portraying David as a skinny, rosy-faced kid in a striped bathrobe, we get the idea that David took a deep breath, uttered a nuclear prayer, and gave it his best shot- literally. And because God was with him, the stone found its mark, and Goliath fell. The story, seen in this light, is a little discouraging. I wonder if I could drum up that much faith in an emergency?
But non-flannel graph David, responded to the skeptical Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36) What David is saying is: “I’ve been here before. This guy is dogs’ meat”.
David had a history of fighting off predators. The bear he fought may have been the Syriac brown bear. This bear weighs up to 550 lbs. and can run at speeds of 30 m.p.h. The lion he encountered was probably the Asian lion, which can weigh almost 400 lbs, grow to a length of 9-10 ft., and can run in short bursts at 50 m.p.h. In addition, it can jump 12 to 15 feet vertically and up to 45 feet horizontally. Both animals can run better, jump better, hear better, see as well or better (especially at night), and have an incredible sense of smell. David’s resume indicated that he’d been up close and personal with their teeth and claws, so he probably wasn’t as terrified of a nine foot human as we might expect.
The real question is: “How had he managed to survive bears and lions up to that point?” David gave the answer in verse 37: “…The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Apparently, David’s knowledge of and faith in God had grown during those years of ovine guard duty. He didn’t have to drum up faith when he faced Goliath; it was already there, and it had grown while he did his day job.
I have a small life. I don’t create software, write rocket fuel formulas, run marathons, climb mountains or travel to exotic places. I am not quick-witted; I can’t sing; I’m not beautiful. My flannel graph character would be a short, chubby, grandma with glasses and a book bag. A most unlikely heroine…. But the quiet life of non-flannel graph Nana is full of ups and downs, and opportunities to trust God or to despair. Just like David, just like Ruth, just like Peter, my story is being written- every minute of every day, through all the years of my life. I would edit the story if I could, but I can’t go back. What I can do is to trust the Author, and He will create a story that the bards will sing about.
“…He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)