David and Goliath   1 comment

Above:  Gustave Dore’s Depiction of David Holding Goliath’s Head

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And David said to Saul,

Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with the Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

You are not able to against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth; and if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing that he has defied the armies of the living God.

And David said,

The LORD delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

Go, and the LORD be with you!

Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a helmet of bronze on his head, and clothed him with a coat of mail.  And David belted on his sword over his armor, and he tried in vain to go, for he was not used to them.  Then David said to Saul,

I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them.

And David put them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in his shepherd’s bag or wallet; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

And the Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.  And when the Philistine looked, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, ruddy and comely in appearance.  And the Philistine said to David,

Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  The Philistine said to David,

Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.

Then David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with the sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine, and killed him; there was no sword in the hand of David.  Then David ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword and drew it out of his sheath, and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Psalm 144:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

5  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6  Hurl the lightning and scatter them;

shoot out your arrows and rout them.

7  Stretch out your hand from on high;

rescue me and deliver me from the great waters,

from the hand of foreign peoples,

8  Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

9  O God, I will sing to you a new song;

I will play to you on a ten-stringed lyre.

10  You give victory to kings

and have rescued David your servant.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Here we have the familiar story of David and Goliath.  But read it again.  Read it very carefully.  We have two sources edited together.  If you, O reader, look carefully, you can see some or all of the seams.  (Hint:  Focus on the use of “God” versus the use of “the LORD.”)  Follow the bouncing ball with me.  David plays the lyre to soothe Saul’s mind in 1 Samuel 16, and even becomes the king’s armor-bearer.  Yet Saul does not know David in 1 Samuel 17.  And then there is the case of Elhanan, one of King David’s warriors, who, according to 2 Samuel 21:19, slew Goliath.  In 1 Chronicles 20:5, however, Elhanan slew Goliath’s brother.  Make of all this what you will.

But may none of this detract from the story and what we learn from it.  There is something inherently unlikely about a slightly built young man, armed only with some stones and a slingshot, defeating a mighty warrior nearly ten feet tall.  Goliath’s height is plausible, given the variety of manifestations of genetic mutations.  Some have suggested that he suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, for example.  And, as scary as this sounds and is, there are people who know how to kill others with just one well-placed blow or cut.  So a devastating blow to the center of the forehead is also plausible.  Most important of all in the story is that David was able to get the stone to Goliath’s weak spot, and therefore deliver his people from an immediate threat.

The unlikely optics of the confrontation made clear that David did not win because of the armor he could not wear well or the standard military armaments he did not use.  No, the circumstances made plain that this victory belonged to God.

When we feel helpless we tend to forget that we have God.  I write from experience.  And I detect another lesson, one I have missed every previous time I  have read this account from 1 Samuel 17.  David’s experience as a shepherd protecting the sheep prepared him for the confrontation with Goliath.  So, when we feel helpless, might we be better equipped than we think?  Maybe we need to think creatively about prior experiences and how they have prepared us for our current circumstances.

Anyhow, in all our daily challenges, great and small, mundane and extraordinary, may God guide our hands and direct our thoughts so that we, trusting in grace, may act for the good–individual and collective–and the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

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  1. Pingback: Week of 2 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2 « ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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