As a Lenten practice during this season, clergy and leaders in the church from youth to elders will be sharing their devotions.
Scripture: 1 Samuel 15-17
Key verses: (16:7, 17:48-51) But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 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.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine; he grasped his sword, drew it out of its sheath, and killed him; then he cut off his head with it.
Reflection: I remember being taught the story of David and Goliath in Sunday School as a child. The boy David comes out of the crowd to slay the great Goliath with only a slingshot and a stone. I even remember the pictures in my Children’s Bible, and I do not recall anything in those pictures that illustrated the text’s actual description of what took place. This “Sunday School Version” glosses over the reality that this takes place within the context of war, and that after David kills Goliath, he cuts off his head and holds the decapitated head of Goliath up for all to see. It was a strong visual representation of power and might and would have been necessary to illustrate the dominance of Israel. The people would have clearly believed that the reason David prevailed was because God had looked favorably upon David and the people of Israel. It is, after all, the victors who write the history; So, of course God was on their side!
We know that David would go on to become Israel’s greatest king. He, despite his many flaws, was the one who delivered his people from their would-be oppressors and established Israel as a leader among the nations. How those Israelites living in First Century, Roman occupied, Palestine must have longed for the return of a king like David. The people longed for a Messiah who would come and do to Rome what David had done to Goliath and Philistines. One who would ride into battle and end the Roman oppression, allowing Israel to return to greatness. That was indeed the Messianic hope of the day.
During this season of Lent, as I read this text through the lens of Christ, I cannot help but wonder how our vision of justice and God’s vison of justice differ. If we can put ourselves back in the first century, we want Rome to get what they deserve and look for a Messiah to exact on Rome the justice we feel they deserve. We may have high hopes that this Jesus, who talked of the Kingdom of God, would force change and end Ceasar’s reign replacing it with God’s. God’s Kingdom, not Ceasar’s, would now rule. How disappointing it must have been when this Jesus, the longed-for Messiah, would ride into town, not on a white horse with sword drawn but on a humble donkey. Can this peasant from Nazareth be the one to embody the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people? Can anything good indeed come out of Nazareth? This just cannot be the Davidic Messiah so longed for by God’s own people.
It takes faith to believe that the God of creation, the one that Jesus called Abba, comes to us not in power and might but in meekness and humility. The understanding of a Messiah in David’s image has been turned upside down. During this Lenten season may we embrace the reality that the Creator God, the Holy One of Israel, chose not to reveal himself in power and might but in the form of a suffering servant. That God lives, and becomes incarnate, in the unexpected; then and indeed now. That God, in Christ is with us in our triumphs and defeats, in life and in death. May we live into that reality as God calls us to a life of faith in love of God and neighbor.
Prayer: Gracious and merciful God. We give thanks for your sovereign love and grace. We know that life can be confusing and that we often fail to acknowledge your presence in both the ordinary and the extraordinary of our lives. It is hard and we so often fall short. We need a savior oh God. Open our eyes that we may see you at work in the midst of our daily lives and grant us the wisdom and courage to respond to that grace by loving you and our neighbors. That we may be part of the building up of your kingdom here and now. In Christ’s Holy name. Amen.
Author: Bill Plyler, Elder class of 2023
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].