This past Sunday, I preached from 1 Samuel 17 – David vs Goliath, which is one the most famous passages in all the Bible. Having spent a lot of time in a text so well known, it forced me to ask some bigger questions. How do we look at the stories of the Bible? How do we see ourselves in those stories? And who exactly is the hero of those stories?
It is tempting to read of David’s courage and victory and see him as someone to imitate. Of course, an Old Testament figure like David isn’t always exemplary. There are lots of places where we should imitate him – his worshipping heart, his love for God, some aspects of his leadership. But there are equally as many places where he is an example of what not to do – his cowardice with Achish, his lust for Bathsheba, his betrayal of Uriah. But is imitation enough? What is the message of David and Goliath? Is it that we should ‘be Davids’ and buck up, find courage, and secure our own victory? If I place myself in the shoes of David, is there Good News there? If the message is that we must become like David, the effect may actually be a crippling one. If it doesn’t paralyze us than it can fuel our pride. Become like David and be the hero!
In reality the story of the Bible is one where we are not the heroes. There is lots to imitate but we never get to imagine ourselves as the star. Instead, when we see the narrative through Christ-centred eyes a different thing emerges. Looking at the Scriptures in light of Christ is nothing new – He did it Himself! The reality is that He is the hero – the one who accomplishes and who takes our place. That’s what makes it Good News! Jesus is the True and Better David who fights the battle in the place of His powerless people.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t imitate David’s courage or Christ’s example in all things. But its does mean that any real imitation must come after – and through the power of – believing that Christ has first done it for us. The men of Judah and Israel do indeed rise up with a shout but only after their hero wins the battle for them. We’re not the heroes.