The Rebellion of Faith
The Rebellion of Faith: Putting the Odds Forever In Your Favor
The story of David and Goliath is something of a cultural meme. Unlike many biblical stories, which have faded into obscurity with the rise of modernity, David’s tale has become a rallying cry for underdog sports teams, political battles, and really any competition in which the long shot emerges victorious against great odds. Nonetheless, the ancient story maintains a deeper meaning than a mere sports reference could suggest. David’s is a story of God working through a little boy with a little faith.
As told in 1 Samuel 17, David was a shepherd boy from Bethlehem and the youngest of eight sons living in the midst of war between the Philistines and the Israelites. The greatest warrior of the Philistines was Goliath of Gath, a giant clothed in heavy bronze armor who incited terror and panic in his opponents. As the armies drew up for battle, Goliath boldly taunted the Israelites, challenging them to send out a single fighter against him to defend their freedom. David, still just a youth, had been sent by his father to the Israelite’s camp to deliver a basket of food and check on his three brothers who had joined the war effort. Usually busy tending his father’s sheep, he was not expected to fight, much less challenge the Philistine champion. Yet upon arriving at the camp, hearing Goliath’s taunts, and seeing the anxiety and fear which had infected the Israelite ranks, David insisted that he could defeat Goliath, saying he had full confidence God could give the victory to him and all Israel. Despite having doubts, King Saul of the Israelites granted David’s request, even lending David his armor. But David rejected it because it did not fit his slight frame. He headed off to defy expectation and sanity, “armed only with five stones and a sling” and his “shepherd staff and sling” (1 Sam 17:40).
When looking at the individual details, one’s first inclination might be to laugh at this foolish youth. Can you picture a boy standing next to a giant, much less imagine the child challenging and even killing such a warrior? Yet David handily defeated the giant. He felled Goliath with a single stone to the forehead and then cut off his head with Goliath’s own sword. There was absolutely no question who had won the day.
This result goes against all expectations – worldly, human wisdom all but prohibits that Goliath would be defeated by a seemingly unprepared and clearly inferior competitor. A skeptic might say that it was Goliath’s overconfidence and David’s unrecognized skill that ultimately influenced the result. Although there is a certain degree of truth in that, I argue that this unexpected reversal of worldly wisdom shows how God worked through David’s faith.
David’s victory could be just pure luck. That would appear likely if this were the only story in the Bible where the lesser overcomes the greater, but in fact throughout the Bible there are countless instances of God using the weak though faithful to do great things. The Oxford Dictionary defines faith as “confident trust or confidence in something or someone” and “strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.” Hebrews 11:1 identifies faith as “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” The confidence of Christian faith is not blind, but the “assurance” Hebrews speaks of is based on evidence, not full proof or certainty. Christians do not know concretely how God will produce a favorable outcome from difficult situations, but they trust in Him because of evidence supporting His promise to do so (Rom. 8:28), and His overall track record throughout the Bible. As a result, the phrase “spiritual conviction” signifies more than just an arbitrary feeling or inclination. It refers to the wholehearted belief that God will work for good, even when things do not appear to be in one’s favor and when the world apart from God would say otherwise. Complete faith means relying on godly wisdom over world-directed wisdom, trusting entirely in Him through His promises and reputation.
The Bible says God works in mysterious ways (Is 45:15), and His ways are mysterious not only because they are unknown to us, but also because they go against the grain of worldly wisdom. For example, throughout the book of Genesis, God picks the younger brother instead of the older one (Isaac instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, Abel instead of Cain). Even modern readers recognize that younger siblings are usually smaller and weaker because of their age, but, more significantly, God’s favoring the younger went completely contrary to cultural expectations of Scripture’s ancient audience, for whom the elder brother’s privilege was a matter of course. God selects the weak, downtrodden, and second-best to lead the strong, proud and first because it demonstrates that their success is not by the faithful’s own merit, but is actually God’s as He works through them. Further, God acts through those who are faithful but weak in order to show that He is really in control the whole time. David’s slaying of Goliath clearly demonstrated God’s strength.
However, the ultimate demonstration of God working was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, came to Earth not as an extravagant Messiah raising a magnificent army, but rather as a humble servant suffering in order to save the world from sin (Phil 2). It was because of his humility that the Pharisees could not believe his claim to be the Son of God. They saw him as a lowly peasant, not a king and certainly not God – and so they executed him in a horrific manner. However, this Jesus – in the eyes of the world so weak and pathetic as to die on a cross – won the greatest victory in all history by defeating sin and death through his resurrection on the third day (Rom 6:8-11). Worldly wisdom would see Jesus’ death as a terrible and pathetic end to a man’s life, but with faith in Jesus and his resurrection we can understand his victory and the ways of God (Heb 11:3). The story of David and Goliath is just one of many biblical stories in which the Lord used the faith of the weak to produce exceptional outcomes. Indeed, Jesus serves as the ultimate example of faith and weakness, through God’s power, overcoming apparent strength. Even today, God acts in the same way for those who would rely on Him. Trust in God when you feel weak and everything seems to be falling apart. Have faith when you are facing your own giants. Believe in Him even when you are persecuted, suffering, and feeling entirely alone. A little faith in a big God can take you a long way, a way that will take you to final victory from which not even death can separate you (Rom. 8:31-39).
1 A few famous stories include Gideon in Judges 6-8, Daniel in the lion’s den in Daniel 6, God using a nation of slaves to bring the most powerful empire on earth to its knees in Exodus, and most dramatically, Christ’s death being the salvation to all mankind.
2 Check out Dabin Hwang’s piece in this issue to see another line of evidence of Christianity – trusting the Bible.
3 It is important to note that I use “worldly wisdom” to signify something like “the world’s expectations.” The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1 that the message of the gospel is “not based on mere human reasoning,” meaning what God wants us to know and understand goes beyond what we as humans expect. cf. 1 Cor 1-2.
4 cf. Mt 26, Mk 14, Lk 22
5 cf. Mt 27, Mk 15, Lk 23, Jn 19
Brionna Atkins ’16 is a rising sophomore in Quincy House who intends to concentrate in Psychology. She is a staff writer for the Ichthus.
Image: David and Goliath by Ilya Repin.Tags: faith, hope, paradox