David & Goliath

Author John D. Barry

Life is an opportunity to show ourselves durable or frail. We rise or fall. We want to be heroes, but more often than not we are our own worst enemy. Many of us see ourselves somewhere in the story of David—a young underdog who quickly rose to the top, but repeatedly hit rock bottom (2 Sam 12).

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Jealousy, envy and lust often proved to be too tempting for David (2 Sam 11). Long after he had slain Goliath and become king, David was still embroiled in a life-and-death struggle, sometimes brought on by his own flaws. Despite his struggles—or perhaps because he never gave up trying to be what God wanted him to be—David remains a beloved heroic figure, blemishes and all.

God chose David because the young shepherd’s heart was focused on Him (1 Sam 16:7). His first question when he sees Goliath (1 Sam 17:26) illustrates his zeal for God’s reputation and his own success: “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away this reproach from Israel?”

This is followed by his famous challenge, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Just a teenager at the time, David’s words would have seemed brash and arrogant, particularly to the Israelite soldiers who lacked the courage to meet Goliath’s challenge. Zeal for God and a drive for success were just what God wanted in a king for Israel.

When David comes out with no armor and a mere sling, the warrior Goliath sneers, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” (1 Sam 17:43).

Not wanting to play fetch, he then curses David by his gods and threatens, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (1 Sam 17:44). But David knows this is no street fight. It is a holy war (1 Sam 17:45–47), pitting the gods of Philistia and their champion against the God of Israel and His weapon of choice. It’s the perfect mismatch to the human eye, one that will leave no doubt about who is God.

We all have opportunities to triumph like David or fall like Goliath. We must decide in whose army of the spiritual war of life we want to serve—the gods of this world, who convince us that victory is achieved by relying on and satisfying ourselves, or the God of eternity, who is the only permanent refuge and source of fulfillment. Rise or fall, the choice is clear.

Read the story of David and Goliath like never before.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

An Entry-Level King

Author Jeannine Seery

Entry-Level King

Do you remember your first job? Chances are, it was low paying, low prestige, and if anything like mine, you counted the minutes until quitting time. The best thing about my first job was that I knew it was temporary—I had no doubt that it was not part of my career path and I’d move on to bigger and better things.

David was a young man with what was viewed by some as a low-level first job—a shepherd. There was no career advancement for a shepherd, no “golden staff” after 20 years of service. But this does not mean he didn’t enjoy it, or at least grow through his experience.

David’s labor was not in vain. God used it to refine him and draw him close. In the silence, David became intimately acquainted with God. His life circumstances transformed him into “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22 NLT). They prepared him to fear nothing, not even Goliath. As a boy, David said to King Saul, “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear [while tending my father’s sheep] will rescue me from this Philistine [Goliath]!” (1 Sam 17:37 NLT)

David’s occupation gave him a window into God’s nature. As he cared for his sheep, he came to recognize God’s providence. Later, when facing a different wilderness experience, David drew on his knowledge that his Good Shepherd would “let him rest in green meadows and lead him beside peaceful streams” (Psa 23:2 NLT). (God’s role as shepherd shows that He views no occupation as low-level.) When Saul pursued David in an effort to kill him, David recalled that the “rod and staff” of the Almighty would “comfort and protect him” (Psa 23:4 NLT).

As he emerged victorious, he marveled in the knowledge that “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever” (Psa 23:6 NLT). Finally, when almost done in by his own sin, David recalled the vision of a lost sheep being led back to the flock by a merciful Shepherd, allowing God to “renew his strength” (Psa 23:3 NLT). Invaluable life lessons learned by a mere boy watching over his father’s flock.

Many of us are called to vocations that some would deem insignificant. Could it be that in this monotony, God is trying to refine our character and teach us more about His own? None of our jobs are trivial in God’s eyes—everything has a purpose. Perhaps the experiences that seem the most futile give us opportunities to bear the most valuable fruit, “fruit that will last” (John 15:16 NLT).

When we refrain from filling silence in our day with empty noise, we more clearly hear the voice of God. In stillness, standing before Almighty God, our defenses are stripped away; suddenly there is nothing to hide behind. Exposed and vulnerable before our own Good Shepherd, we are rightfully humbled and have the chance to meet Him heart to heart.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

A Messiah, A Giant & God’s Favor

Bible Handbooks on David's LifeAuthor James D. Elgin

Bible handbooks are like a roadmap to reading the Bible. Passage summaries, detailed maps, and character sketches provide context for each biblical account. Using Bible handbooks we find that David was called mashiach (“anointed”; “messiah”) and found favor with God before his victory over Goliath.

The Bible Guide

Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2001) pg. 138.

A Messiah, A Giant & God’s Favor

In the Valley of Elah, Goliath taunted David’s small stature and feeble weaponry. David’s bravery was unimpeded by Goliath’s words and fierce appearance. He knew Goliath’s defeat would prove to the nations “that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam 17:46 ESV). David’s pronouncement seems trite to us, but for David and the young nation of Israel, Goliath’s defeat demonstrated the power of the God of Israel over every nation and its god. When David announced these words, he proclaimed the favor and presence of Yahweh, the supreme God of Israel.

Halley’s Bible Handbook

Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), pg. 209.

Samuel anointed David in secret so that Saul would not know about the young shepherd-king from Bethlehem. God was committed to training David to be Israel’s king. David’s fame as a musician earned him the position of armor-bearer to King Saul. David’s close association with the king’s counselors and his friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan, prepared him to be King of Israel; but his tangle with the Philistine giant would earn him the people’s favor and support.

This 2007 revision of Halley’s adds a substantial number of archaeological notes (e.g., The Tel Dan Inscription is mentioned in reference to 2 Sam 7 on pg. 125).

Willmington’s Bible Handbook

H. L. Willmington’s Bible Handbook (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1997), pg. 154. In 1 Sam 16:13, the prophet Samuel publicly anointed Israel’s newest messiah, David. Willmington explores the usage of the Hebrew word for “anointed one” or “christ” (mashiach, משׁיח; English, “messiah”). The word is used to describe Old Testament figures chosen to do God’s work (e.g., Saul in 1 Sam 24:10; David in 2 Sam 19:21; and even the Persian King Cyrus in Isa 45:1). God overlooked seven of Jesse’s sons and selected David to be Saul’s successor. God was not concerned with David’s physical stature, but with his spiritual stability.

Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

David Barton, Zondervan Handbook to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pgs. 269–71.

A Messiah, A Giant & God's Favor

David Barton’s character sketch illustrates our connection to David. From his battle with Goliath, to his flight from Saul, to the deterioration of his family, David is portrayed as the underdog. Whether he is mourning the loss of Saul and Jonathan or weeping over adulterous sin, we find humanity at the helm of a nation. Each event in David’s life points to his dependence on God and God’s sovereignty over the young nation of Israel.

The story of David is not a fairy tale or a bedtime story. David’s life reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His cause and His people. Through David’s struggles and victories, we learn how to mourn in the presence of our Heavenly Father and praise Him for His providence.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

Insomnia, Gallows & Rescuing the Jews

Author Leonard Greenspoon

Insomnia, Gallows & Rescuing the Jews
What do they share in common? They are all in a story about a beautiful woman named Esther.

Every year in the spring, Jews gather in synagogues to hear the biblical book of Esther chanted with a special melody. Each time the name of Haman, the story’s villain, is mentioned, the entire congregation stomps their feet and makes noise to blot out the very sound of this infamous individual.

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All Jews, young and old, participate in this joyous holiday. Whether they are hearing the Megillah (as the “scroll” of Esther is known) for the first or hundredth time, there is great satisfaction in discovering, just before the book’s characters do, the fate that fittingly awaits Haman.

The tale contained in the book of Esther narrates the marriage of Esther, a Jew, to Ahasuerus, king of Persia. This monarch learns of Esther’s religion only after Haman plots to annihilate the Jews, including Esther and her guardian Mordecai, who (like Haman) serves the king. Among the numerous subplots is the personal hatred that Haman bears for Mordecai, whom he conspires to hang on “a gallows fifty cubits high” (Esth 5:9–14 NIV).

Those familiar with the account know that everything Haman plans against his enemies will ultimately be done to him. Midway through the story (Esth 6:1–11), the king, suffering from insomnia, has his officials read some official state documents to him. (Was he hoping that they would be so boring that he would immediately fall asleep?)

As it happens, the very passage they read told how Mordecai had saved the king from an assassination attempt (compare Esth 2:21–23). It just so happened that Haman was walking by at that very minute and so the king queried him: “What shall be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor?” (Esth 6:6 NIV). The biblical text notes that Haman presumptuously assumes it is he whom the king has in mind when he replies:

“For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’” (Esth 6:7–9 NIV).

Readers of this biblical book, of course, are already laughing as Haman goes into vivid detail to describe what he is sure is in store for him. “‘Go at once,’ the king commanded Haman. ‘Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended’ ” (Esth 6:10 NIV).

This reversal of fortune is not lost on at least one of the characters in the story itself. Zeresh, Haman’s wife, declares: “[If] Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” (Esth 6:12 NIV). This is the same Zeresh who only a little while earlier was urging Haman to construct the gallows for Mordecai. We are then not surprised, and even enjoy more than a moment of pleasure, when we learn that it was not Mordecai, but Haman himself, who was hanged on the gallows (Esth 7:9–10). Standing fifty cubits high (approximately 75 feet; the height of a six-story building), this would have constituted a very public execution of the once powerful villain—how the mighty have fallen!

But there is more. King Ahasuerus is portrayed as indifferent and indolent more than as treacherous and tyrannical. His previous wife Vashti was banished because she refused her husband’s demand that she dance before him and his carousing drinking buddies (Esth 1:10–12).

Thus it is supremely ironic that what actually brought Haman down was a misperception on the king’s part: after Esther reveals that she would be a victim of Haman’s plot, along with all the rest of her people, the king momentarily left the room. (To take in the just revealed fact that Esther was Jewish? To consider how to conceal from Esther how deeply he himself was implicated in the plot?) In a last-ditch attempt to beg for his life from Queen Esther, Haman as supplicant threw himself “on the couch where Esther was reclining”—which Ahasuerus took as an effort at sexual assault on the part of Haman (Esth 7:8).

In short, Haman was judged worthy of execution by the king for the one crime he didn’t commit. As for the Jews, they were saved. Mordecai was promoted, and, we suppose, Esther and Ahasuerus lived happily ever after.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind, and they can both aptly be applied to Haman and also to the more laudatory characters in the Book of Esther. First are the words of Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 2 to: “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts” (NIV). Second, the familiar adage, undoubtedly based on the words and thoughts of the Book of Proverbs: “Man proposes, God disposes.” Such messages, serious ones to be sure, nonetheless can bring a knowing chuckle to those who fully comprehend that there is nothing capricious in such reversals of fortune.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 3.