Wales plays Portugal this week at football. Wales is a little country with a relatively small land mass and population. Its national side do not normally do so well, having soundly exceeded the fortunes of their bigger English neighbours. Pundits are already describing the fixture as a David and Goliath contest. Although Portugal is hardly a massive country itself, it is good at football.
I'm always intrigued when biblical metaphors are used by the media. Not only does it show Scripture's lasting influence on the English mind and language, but it reveals much about how the world sees the biblical record. People employ the David and Goliath analogy when a weaker underdog confronts, and potentially defeats a much stronger rival. Should Wales do so this week, it would be remarkable indeed.
I propose, however, that the story has been fundamentally misunderstood. Goliath was indeed a terrifyingly impressive character. The text describes him thus:
4 And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armour on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. 7 Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.
(1 Samuel 17)
He's well equipped, he's well experienced, he's well protected....and he's very big.
David, on the other hand, is a teenaged boy without experience of proper combat, he's relatively unarmed, and only happens to be there because his father sent him to drop off some cheeses for his brothers. When David confronts the giant, however, he makes it clear that he's no under dog. This is what he says:
45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
Three times David tells Goliath that the LORD will defeat him. Let's put it in the form of an equation:
Goliath + javelin + armour + height = Strong.
David + the LORD = Invincible.
Pitch a strong man against an invincible man, and he loses. David was not the underdog that day. He faced Goliath with all the might of heaven and the resources of an omnipotent creator-God.
The next time you face difficulty and consider yourself a hopeless underdog, remember that the God of David tells his people 'I am with you always, even to the end of the age'.
If God be for us, who can be against us?