Goliath roared blasphemy and all of Israel held their breath. Well, not ALL of Israel. Not David. David was screaming, a barbaric yawp that only young boys can unleash as they plunge into an adventure. He screamed not in fear but in defiance and in faith. And he ran. He ran right at that giant. Screaming and sprinting, he dropped a stone into his sling and began to twirl it over his head.
Now David hadn’t arrived to fight in a battle. He didn’t show up with armor or weapons; he had brought bread. And cheese. He’d pulled up to a war armed with snack food. He was the youngest in his family and had come to deliver food to his three oldest brothers. But he had heard the mammoth Philistine mock Israel and belittle their God. Before long, he was not only involved in the battle, he was the hope of Israel… screaming, and running.
Goliath was just beginning to lift his spear, expecting to skewer this child and end this war, when David let the first rock fly. It turned out to be the last rock as well. It struck the giant between the eyes and dropped him dead.
David ran up to him and drew the giant’s own sword. He’d never seen anything so huge. Even in his make-believe battles he acted out while watching the sheep, he had never imagined a weapon like this. It took all his strength to lift it over his head and let it fall down. Gravity did the rest of the work, slicing the giant’s head from his not inconsiderable body. Only then did the army of Israel rush the field and rout the Philistines as they fled.
I heard this story my whole life. Every VBS, we heard about David and Goliath. Every new Sunday School teacher made sure we learned two stories: David and Goliath, and Noah and the ark. Because somewhere along the line, someone decided that God wiping out the entire world with a flood was a children’s story. But back to the point, we always heard about David and Goliath. It was especially used as an inspirational talk at the end of camp. They are trying to get us fired up to take over the world for Jesus. The speaker would yell, “It’s a war out there!” And we would yell back, “It’s a war out there!” Of course, we would have yelled whatever they said, because we were hyped up on sugar and no sleep. We weren’t exactly discerning theologians at this point. He would yell, “You’re David!” We would respond, “I’m David!” “Your sin is Goliath!” “My sin is Goliath!” “You’re going to go home and kill your sin!” “Yeah! Kill it!” They passed out little stones and Sharpies. We wrote our shame on these rocks so that we would remember to kill them when we got home. And I believed them. I went home fired up, ready to conquer these sins that had owned me. I took out my rock and prepared to defeat my lust, my anger, my tongue. I screamed, and ran, and threw that rock as hard as I could, just like they had said. It struck dead center. And then, my lust got back up and beat the crap out of me. Again. I had failed.
I was so ashamed. I thought I was the only one who had failed to defeat their giant. You know what that turned me into? A liar. I thought I was alone because no one ever talked about it again. I thought I was the only one languishing in defeat. So I lied. I pretended that I had won my battle as well.
But I’ve learned something. It started with a different camp sermon by a friend of mine, Ben Stuart of Breakaway Ministries in College Station, TX. What I learned was summed up in four simple words: I am not David. It seems simple. I’m not David. I mean, obviously I’m not David, I’m Todd. But even in the story, I am not David.
I’m not the brave little boy who goes out to fight the giant. Do you know who I am in the story? I’m Israel. I am in the army, sitting on the sideline of the battle I am supposed to be fighting. I’m terrified of the giant I know I cannot defeat. And I am in desperate need of someone to fight this battle in my place.
At its heart, David and Goliath is not a story about a brave little boy; it’s a story about a substitute. I wanted it to be a story about a brave little boy because then it could be a story about me. I would be the brave little boy; and I would conquer for the glory of Christ. The problem is that I misunderstood the story. Most every great story has a main character, and then has many minor characters. I always thought I was the main character and it was my job to make God the priority in my life, in my story. But what I am coming to understand is that God is the main character and I am the supporting actor. The story is about Him. And that greatly changes how you interpret the story.
If the story is about me, then it can be a story about a brave little boy who defeats a giant. But my problem was I was only slightly brave and my giant had kicked my tail. So where did the story go now? But in truth, I was not the star of the story. In the Bible, Christ is always the star of the story. God is always the centerpiece. And when I read it like that, I realize the David represents not me, but Christ. This is not the story of a brave little boy; it’s the story of a substitute. And Jesus is the substitute. He takes my place in the battle. He won the victory for me. The entire nation was victorious because of His triumph. He is the star.
When I thought I was the star, my defeat was the tragic end to the story. But in truth, it’s merely a set-up for His victory. If I am the center, my giant is the grand villain who just might win the war. But when Christ is the star, my giant is just an itty bitty subplot. My giant offers no real resistance to the march of the glory of Christ.
In my life and in my study of the Bible, I have often misinterpreted the meaning. I have misunderstood the plot because I have misplaced the characters. My life is not a story about me, it’s a story about God that has me as a character and my life as part of the plot. And the Bible is not a story about me, although I have spent years trying to apply it to my life. It is a story about God and what it reveals about Him is much more important than what it reveals about me.