We’ve all heard the story of the historic battle that was fought over three thousand years ago. The epic struggle of the underdog going up against the powerful status quo giant.
As you may recall, the army of Israel was under the authority of King Saul. They were engaged in a war with the army of the Philistines. Both armies took their battle positions, Israel positioned on one hill and the Philistines on the opposite hill, with a valley in between. Now, the Philistines had among their men a great giant of a man named Goliath of Gath. His height was six cubits and a span. If I have figured correctly, that would put him somewhere in the neighborhood of nine feet tall. What a basketball center he might have made!
Clad in his armor, he came down to the valley and called out to the army of Israel:
“Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.
“If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. …
“I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” (1 Sam. 17:8–10.)
When Saul and the army of Israel looked at this giant and heard his chilling challenge, they were frightened because they had no one of their own of such stature.
Now, while all of this was going on, Jesse, David’s father, asked his young son to take some food to his three brothers in the army. When he arrived at the battleground, Goliath came out again, issuing the same challenge, which David heard. There was fear throughout the army of Israel. David, who was no more than a boy, said to the king, (and I paraphrase his language): “King, why are you so afraid of this giant? I will go and fight him.”
Saul replied, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he [is] a man of war [trained] from his youth.” (1 Sam. 17:33.)
David then persuaded Saul to let him try. He told the king of how he had fought with a lion and a bear to save his father’s sheep and concluded by saying that the Lord would deliver him out of the hand of the Philistine. Saul, possibly thinking that one more life lost would not be serious among the great losses they had already sustained, said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with thee.” (1 Sam. 17:37.)
Saul then placed armor on David until the boy could scarcely walk. David said unto the king, “I cannot wear this,” and he took the armor off.
He then “took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had … and his sling was in his hand.” (1 Sam. 17:40.)
This stripling of a boy, with only a slingshot and five stones and without any armor other than the armor of faith, went down into the valley to face Goliath.
“And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
“And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?”
And Goliath swore at David, saying, “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.”
Then David spoke these great words:
“Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. [1 Sam. 17:45]
“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (adapted from 1 Sam. 17:42–46.)
That was brave talk for a boy who stood against a nine-foot giant.
In anger Goliath came at him. Then David, running toward the giant, “put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.” (1 Sam. 17:49.)
You know the rest of that story. I would like to bring it down into your own lives. There are Goliaths all around you, hulking giants with evil intent to destroy you. These are not nine-foot-tall men, but they are men and institutions that control attractive but evil things that may challenge and weaken and destroy you. Included in these are beer and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these products would like to enslave you into their use. There are drugs of various kinds which, I am told, are relatively easy to obtain in many high schools. For those who peddle them, this is a multimillion-dollar industry, a giant web of evil. There is pornography, seductive and interesting and inviting. It has become a giant industry, producing magazines, films, and other materials designed to take your money and lead you toward activities that would destroy you.
The giants who are behind these efforts are formidable and skillful. They have gained vast experience in the war they are carrying on. They would like to ensnare you.
It is almost impossible to entirely avoid exposure to their products. You see these materials on all sides. But you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in your hands. You have been counseled and taught and advised. You have the stones of virtue and honor and integrity to use against these enemies who would like to conquer you. Insofar as you are concerned, you can hit them “between the eyes,” to use a figurative expression. You can triumph over them by disciplining yourselves to avoid them. You can say to the whole lot of them as David said to Goliath, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.”
Victory will be yours. There is not a boy within the sound of my voice who needs to succumb to any of these forces. You hold the priesthood of God. You are a son of God. You have His power within you to sustain you. You have the right to ministering angels about you to protect you. Do not let Goliath frighten you. Stand your ground and hold your place, and you will be triumphant. As the years pass, you will look back with satisfaction upon the battles you have won in your individual lives.
When temptation comes your way, name that boastful, deceitful giant “Goliath!” and do with him as David did to the Philistine of Gath. God bless each of you, I humbly pray.
Now for a few minutes I would like to go to another subject, speaking particularly to you older brethren.
I have a friend who built a beautiful home and furnished it with the very best of carpets, furniture, appliances, and all that money can buy. Within its walls he kept his fine automobiles and his expensive jewelry. Then, fearful of intruders who might enter and rob him, he had installed expensive dead-bolt locks so that he had to use a key to get out as well as to get in. He put bars on the windows and doors, and was like a prisoner looking out of his own home, as one might do out of a jail. He installed costly electronic surveillance devices to turn on lights and set off sirens should any unwelcome individual enter. He landscaped largely without trees or shrubbery so there would be no place for a thief to hide. And he smugly said to himself, “Now I am secure.”
But what he did not realize is that neither bars nor dead-bolts, neither lights nor sirens nor anything of the kind would have the slightest effect on intruders of another variety who could destroy the lives of his children, despoil the marriage which had been the source of his happiness over many years, bind him with cords of meanness and bitterness and hate toward those he had once loved, and lock him in a dungeon cell of despair and misery.
Brethren, I spend much time listening to the tales of unhappy people. As a percentage of the entire membership of the Church, they constitute a relatively small number. But there are too many, and every case is a tragedy. With few exceptions, it would appear that the husband and the father is the chief offender, on whom the intruders of sin and selfishness take their greatest toll.
Brethren, I know it is an old subject, and one that has been dealt with much. But I repeat it again: Guard your homes. How foolish it seems to install bars and bolts and electronic devices against thieves and molesters while more insidious intruders come in as invited guests.
I say to you what I said to the boys—avoid pornography as you would a plague. I recall an assignment some years back to restore the blessings of a man who had been excommunicated from the Church because of his sin. He came to my office with his wife. I spoke with them individually. I asked him how it all began. He held a responsible position in the Church. He was likewise a professional man with high responsibility in the community.
His trouble began, he said, when he picked up a pornographic magazine to read on a plane. It intrigued him. It appealed to him. He found himself buying more of these things. Then he sought out movies which titillated him and excited him. Knowing that his wife would be a party to none of this, he went alone. He found occasion to leave town and go to other cities where he could more easily indulge his desires. He then found excuses to stay late at his office and asked his secretary to stay with him. One thing led to another until he succumbed.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, he sat across the desk from me and cursed the day he had read that first magazine. He spoke of his love for the wife who had forgiven him and remained true to him. He spoke of his love for his children, who had been shamed and embarrassed by his actions. He told of the hell through which he had walked for some four years from the time of his excommunication. He spoke of his love for the Church and of his desire to again enjoy its full blessings.
In the presence of his wife, I placed my hands upon his head and in the authority of the holy priesthood restored his priesthood, his temple endowment, his temple sealing, and all other blessings which he had formerly held. This great, strong man sobbed like a baby under my hands while his wife, holding her hand in his, wept like a child.
At the conclusion of that blessing, they embraced one another and he asked her to forgive him. She said she had forgiven him, and that she loved him and always would.
They were happy when they left, happier than they had been in years. And I was happy, too. But I thought of the terrible price he had paid and of the price he had exacted of his family through his foolishness and transgression.
Unfortunately, there is not always that kind of happy ending. In many cases there is divorce with bitterness and rancor. What was once love has turned to hate. Children’s lives are blighted. Hopes become as ashes. So often there is only misery and loneliness and regret.
David and Goliath. It’s an epic story. One that immediately conjures up images of
the small (but virtuous) vanquishing over the powerful (and, of course, less
virtuous). This is astory that if you were raised in the church, you heard regularly
emphasizing that even the youngest among us can have a mighty impact.
Read in its entirety, the story takes on a slightly different – but still in the same family
line – tone. Or maybe it’s just because I live with a fourteen year old boy for whom
The Avengers and Marvel comics is really the center of popular culture.
Super heros – swooping in, garbed in all sorts of wild and hulked out images – there
to save the day, beat the enemy, vanquish evil. In these comics it is usually clear
who will win the day, even if you’re not sure which cliffs they will need to dangle off
of before they reach that goal.
Their strength and their determination to use their powers for good are all that you
need to know in order to be confident in their ability to triumph over whatever
exaggerated character of evil they are fighting in that issue.
1 Samuel 17, E.Winslea, Pentecost4B, 6.21.15, Page 2
Just like David and Goliath. David – a boy that has been anointed by Samuel to
succeed King Saul, but even more to the point, David filled with the spirit of God.
And Goliath, a monstrous hulk of a Philistine. Who is not even circumcised, for
Pete’s sake. And represents a major threat to the security of Israel.
David swoops into the story – delivering cheese and bread to his family and the king.
He naively and bravely offers to fight Goliath. He has to offer twice to face this man
who for the last forty days no member of the Israelite army has been willing to
The king offers his suit of armor as a gesture of goodwill, I suppose. But it does not
fit David, is far too heavy and would severely limit his range of motion. And instead
David heads into this confrontation with five stones and his super power.
David kills Goliath with the first stone and carries his head into town to show to all
those gathered who has been overcome and by whom. The enemy is vanquished.
David has saved the day. Good has won over evil yet again. And the Israelites can
sleep soundly in their beds.
1 Samuel 17, E.Winslea, Pentecost4B, 6.21.15, Page 3
It’s a wonderful, uncomplicated story. Until one takes a step back, and asks the
question – who is the enemy in this story? Only the loser of the battle. As they say,
history belongs to the victor, and scripture are certainly no exception to this adage.
So the classic enemy – the giant who towers over Saul’s army and threatens to
make them all his slaves – Goliath is the enemy here.
He is part of the Philistine tribe that has settled along the seacoast. His people have
made significant inroads in metallurgy which makes his army that much more
dangerous. Their weapons and shields far out-perform anything the Israelites could
With this weaponry at hand and their settlement soclose, of course the Israelites
perceive them as threat and define as enemy.
But how different are these Philistines from Israelites? Not much. They produce
crops to feed their people. They engage in trade with other tribes and nations. They
work to expand their claim on the land and thus determine greater security for their
1 Samuel 17, E.Winslea, Pentecost4B, 6.21.15, Page 4
The problem with stories about super heroes is that there is little room for nuance.
There is little room for blending of right and wrong, of seeing the ways in which we
each can bring about an escalation of violence in our world.
David is a remarkable character from the Hebrew Scriptures. And he is a
monumental leader in helping establish Israeli identity. King Saul, his predecessor,
turned out to be fairly ineffective and by the end of his reign could be described as
so beset by mental illness as to be a great hindrance to his people.
Scripture doesn’t remember David as perfect. But they do immortalize him as
powerful. And this story is the opening act of marvels yet to come.
While we all long for a hero – someone to rescue us from the constant battles of
misunderstanding and cultural difference with the middle east, someone to speak
out and make changes to truly affect climate crisis, someone to eradicate the huge
wealth imbalance in our nation – while we all long for a hero to save us from our
trials, the reality is he or she does not exist.
Because just as the enemy is not socookie cutter, neither is the hero. There are no
David’s and no Goliath’s in real life – only in cartoons.
1 Samuel 17, E.Winslea, Pentecost4B, 6.21.15, Page 5
The problems that face our world today cannot be taken out with asingle smooth
stone. We will have to work together to build whatever future we can hope to have.
My stone, your stone, the stones of our so-called enemies, the stones we do not
even know we are holding in our hands.
The call of the gospel is so different from this pantomime of good and evil. The
gospel is about the good news we find when we can admit our faults through grace
and forgive our justified or not justified anger towards those who we call enemies.
This week we witnessed again in our country evil with a gun. But the shooting in
Charleston also provided a window into the gospel message. Showing a profound
way to see the other and define the enemy.
Nadine Collier, daughter of Ethel Lance who was shot and killed, said at the bond
hearing, “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever
again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your
It seems that Nadine and the others from her church who were tragically affected by
this shooting refuse to make Dylann Roof their enemy – as justified as the culture
would say they are.
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The power of the gospel message is found when we use the stones we could easily
throw at another to build a monument that captures the humanity of our so-called
A monument that cautions us to remember that behind the tragedy and trauma, all
of us plan picnics, sing songs, celebrate birthdays, relish in a summer’s evening.
In the glamorous, glossy world of the cartoon we can relish in solutions that pit one
against another but in the subdued, matted messy world we actually live in the
solution involves everyone. That I think is the call of God. To love self and neighbor,
stranger and enemy and together to use our stones for the building of peace. The
solution involves everyone using their powers for good.
, on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won.
Or should he have?
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms – all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity.
In the tradition of Gladwell’s previous best sellers, David and Goliath draws upon history, psychology, and powerful storytelling to reshape the way we think about the world around us.