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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Samuel 17:32–49

David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 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 wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and 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 very 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 Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

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

Reflection (“Heritage of Grace”)
Who doesn’t take pride in claiming David as a spiritual ancestor? Psalmist, poet, king. Brave, devout, heroic! Could he have slain Goliath without his deep faith in God? Never, we’re taught in our earliest Sunday School stories. And, come to think of it, it’s reassuring to think that smaller or weaker people—or those of us who lack privilege or status or influence—can score remarkable victories against stronger, bigger adversaries. We all stand a chance in life. Yes, if we have faith as strong as David’s, then we too might prevail against the powers that be!

Curious, then, how out of step this story seems when compared to the Gospel. For all the notice paid to David fatally wounding this giant in the head, it’s not an act we’d expect Jesus to advocate. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said, “for they shall be called the children of God.” Where, then, does this leave us as Christians in a not-always-peaceful world?

The first thing we might do is step back from the story of David and Goliath and ask why it had to come to this. Could a more peaceable solution have been reached? No? Then bear in mind Jesus’ charge to be wise as serpents but as harmless as doves.

Next, we could ask ourselves if we, like Goliath, might be wreaking havoc in others’ lives. In an increasingly interconnected world, we may not even know the far-reaching consequences of our actions, but it’s worth exploring what aspects of our lives might bring harm or loss to others. And finally, we should not dehumanize “the other” to the point that we cheer their demise. Picture, if you will, Jesus actually having a conversation with the Philistine. Or praying for him. Or finding common ground. May grace create in us the desire to do the same.

Prayer
Lord, help us live into your heritage of grace in all actions. Let the slings and arrows of life’s battles fall from our hands even as we seek ways to bring your gospel of love into our lives. Amen.

Written by Sarah Forbes Orwig, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church


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