What is there about the David and Goliath story that fascinates children? Maybe it’s the giant. Start a story with “Once upon a time, there was a giant” and you have their total attention. Kids are well-acquainted with giants, living as they do in a world populated by them. Everyone around them is a veritable Shaquille O’Neal.
Goliath stood over 9 feet tall, his body armor as heavy as a man. The day he appeared in the valley of Elah and dared the Israelis to send their best warrior for a winner-take-all showdown, Goliath struck terror in the hearts of the Jews. No one was anxious to commit suicide, try as he may to goad them into action.
Twice a day for weeks the armies of the Philistines and Israelis lined up across their respective hillsides with the great valley stretching before them. Then, Goliath would stride down the incline toward the battle line, every step bumping the seismograph. A frantic shield-bearer ran in front of him, like a high school kid toting a door to protect Goliath. Like someone is going to harm this giant.
Maybe the children are fascinated by the adults in the story. The soldiers do some truly weird things. Even though they have no intention of fighting anyone, they dutifully line up for battle every morning and every evening. Then the big giant appears, bellowing threats and belching curses, and the soldiers panic all over again and scurry under the nearest shrubbery. You would think that sooner or later, they would figure this thing out.
Children wonder about the behavior of adults. Why do they persist in destructive behavior when they know full well what it does. Why does Mom order more junk from QVC when she and Dad argue about money all the time? Why does Dad spend his weekend drinking beer in front of the TV and then complain about his life? They give no thought to God or taking the family to church, then blame God for every misfortune that comes. Adults are truly weird. Every child knows this.
I sometimes tell children that they are wrong about one point: there are no adults. Everyone is a child. They may be old, big, white-headed, or wrinkled, but down inside we are all children. Understand that and you will get a handle on the bizarre behavior of adults and how to deal with them.
A boy named Jack was sent to town by his poor mother with instructions to sell the family cow. “With the money, we can buy food,” she said. Along the way, Jack met a man who traded him five magic beans for the cow. Disgusted, Jack’s mother threw the beans out the window and they went to bed hungry.
Next morning, Jack and his mother discovered the beans had sprouted during the night and had grown into a massive vine stretching beyond the house and trees straight up into the clouds. Naturally, the mother agreed that Jack should climb the beanstalk to the top. Adults in children’s stories are as bright as potted plants.
In the clouds, Jack found a castle where a giant lived. Inside, Jack stole the giant’s goose which laid golden eggs. Scurrying down the beanstalk with the giant close behind, Jack lands at the bottom and runs into the house for the axe. He chopped down the beanstalk, the giant fell to his death, and Jack and his mother lived well off golden goose-eggs the rest of their lives. It’s a terrific story if you don’t mind the parts about the angry, permissive mother and the murderous, thieving kid.
Kids love that story for reasons that have nothing to do with mean giants or weak mothers. It’s all about a child who took charge and did something heroic to change their lives.
The child in all of us loves the moment when young David walks onto the hill at the moment Goliath is hurling his daily dose of insults and blasphemies toward God’s people. He asks, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine to defy the armies of the living God?” Then, “I will fight him.” David’s big brother thought this was a bad idea and so did the king. David insisted that it was not such a far-fetched idea. “When a bear and a lion attacked my sheep, I killed them.” Seeing no other volunteers, the king went for it.
Goliath could not believe his eyes when the shepherd boy stepped out from the troops and began making his way down the hill. At the bottom of the ravine, David stooped to select a handful of rocks from the creek bed. As he slipped one into the pocket of his sling, the giant taunted, “Oooh–he’s coming at me with a stick and some rocks. He thinks I’m a dog!”
David said, “You come at me with a sword and a shield. I come to you in the name of the God of Israel. Today, this is His battle. When I am finished, the world will know there is a God in Israel, and Israel will learn that He does not save by sword and spear.”
Then, Goliath did something that never failed to strike terror in his opponents–he ran straight at David, with the poor frightened shield-bearer struggling to keep up. To his surprise, David ran toward him, all the while whirling his leather sling above his head. When he let go, the rock sailed through the air and found the only unprotected spot on Goliath’s body, right between his eyes. It sunk in about two inches. The giant dropped like a redwood in a California forest. David rushed up and drew Goliath’s sword and did some surgery on his neck. Then, hoisting the giant’s head in the air, he let out a victory cry. The stunned Israelis yelled also and came piling off the hillside. The Philistines, unwilling to keep their part of the bargain, panicked and ran for home. David was an instant hero and well on his way to becoming Israel’s next champion.
We all have our giants to deal with. Perhaps yours made our list: a big task, a character weakness, anger, illness, death. Perhaps it’s drugs, addictions, alcohol, gambling, lust, pornography, or adultery. Guilt, fear, worry, temptation, money problems. Greed, self-centeredness, ambition, someone else.
As a child of faith–like young David–you and I can step out of the crowd and face our giant. What we must not do is sit around waiting for magic beans to hand us a goose that lays golden eggs. Go in the strength of the Lord.
(The story of David and Goliath is found in your Bible, in the 17th chapter of I Samuel.)