I know its often easier to critique than to offer positive contributions, but I was just meditating again on the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. And I was remembering poor sermons I heard over the years on this favorite Sunday School story (you know its fun when talking veggies have their own rendition). At the time, they seemed like poignant Biblically-based messages that spoke to my life, but as a pastor now (and wanting to be faithful to the intent of Scripture) they were simply atrocious.
So here’s one: “You need to slay the giants in your life!” The preacher begins to name those giants: pride, lust, fear, smoking-drinking-and-chew, and going-with-girls-who-do (or something like that). Its animated. You bring to mind all the sins you have committed and all the potential challenges you may face in life. You swing your air sling, followed by a chopping motion…and now the head of victory is in hand. Its powerful. You are ready for any altar call given. The problem is…it just isn’t the point of this story.
Another day, another preacher: “God has given you five stones to defeat your enemies!” The stones are rattled off with exaggerated booming-voiced, staccato-like gunfire. The giants from the last message won’t stand a chance. Your stones of faith, forgiveness, prayer, reading your Bible, and going to Sunday School (or something like that) are powerful weapons in the arsenal of any David looking to be victorious over the enemies of their soul. The problem is…this also is not the point of the story.
Yet another day and another preacher: “Use what has been tested and proven!”– followed by six more points every David-like leader needs to know in order to succeed (you have to have at least seven to be truly a spiritual leader after all). The litany of kingdom-wise business bullet points are overwhelming. You know you will actually need to have a couple of pens just to take all of the notes, because this message is LOADED with truthiness. Again, not the point of the story.
Is there no end to the directions this favorite tale has been taken? What is the point anyways? Put simply, the LORD (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…the God of Israel) is lord of all. The LORD will not be mocked. The LORD is truly God. The LORD is the champion of His people. The LORD will act to deliver through those whom the LORD chooses to anoint.* This is ultimately a story about the LORD.
So the next time you preach 1 Samuel 17…make sure you know the point of the story…and don’t just start loading your slingshot with whatever you find along the way, use what is already there.
* I just realized I gave five points…now that should go in my pouch for future slinging.