The Giants of Depression
Loving Lord, You are greater than the most powerful forces in the world. Help me to be still and know that You are God.
Read 1 SAMUEL 17:1–27
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Grant us wisdom, / grant us courage / for the facing of this hour” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878–1969).
Saul’s job description was simple: unify Israel, lead the nation into battle and defeat the marauding Philistines (1 Sam. 9:16). He takes up this challenge, assembling his forces on the hill opposite the enemy. His problem is the Philistines’ apparent trump card. They have Goliath, a fearsome man of remarkable size and strength. They want the battle to be settled by mortal combat, a fight between two champions, and a fairly common technique in the ancient world.
Saul has a real dilemma. Accept the challenge, find an unlikely Israelite champion to fight Goliath and accept the probability of defeat and surrender. The alternative? Ignore the challenge and attack the Philistines—but being forced into initiating the battle may itself be foolhardy. Then, along comes David, recasting the threat as a challenge not just to Israel but to Israel’s God, in whom the youthful David has a simple faith.
We all know the end of the story, but before we reach it there are important issues here. Throughout history, this story has been appropriated by the marginalized and powerless, people who know they have no David but must themselves be David, facing the giants of oppression with the hope that God will intervene. Systems of power, technology and violence cannot be defeated by creating counter systems of power, technology and violence. Arms races may create temporary stalemates but do not in the end bring peace. For the same reason, the violence of crime is not finally defeated by brutal prisons and capital punishment. The David and Goliath story is the story of all who know and are willing to risk living by the truth of David’s words, “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves” (47).
What “giants” are you facing in your life right now? How are you handling the fear that these “giants” engender? What do you make of David’s response to the situation in verse 26?
Mighty God, we Your people face the threats of secular society, godless governments and predatory institutions. In our smallness, give us courage and the knowledge of Your presence.