Little Big Man

Little Big Man

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June 24, 2018

 

1 Samuel 17:1-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

 

David and Goliath is one of the best-known stories from the Bible. Children like it because one of their own is the hero. Unfortunately, adults like it because it has the feel of a fairy tale. It is a story of the good guy winning against heavy odds.

To write off the story as an odds beater is to miss the point, or rather, several points, the most important being that God provided the victory. But this is primarily a story about David replacing Saul. If we read all 31 chapters of 1 Samuel, we see the numerous events surrounding the long decline and fall of King Saul. The Goliath story is but the first of many to show David is God’s chosen, while Saul descends into near madness until he and his sons die in battle with the Philistines.

As we read last week, the Philistines were worldly, wealthy, Greeks who wanted to subjugate the hill tribes of the Hebrews. Saul attempted to defeat them but ultimately lost his life trying.

At the end of chapter 16, we see David being brought to King Saul to help him out of his funk. Saul knew that God had abandoned him but did not understand why.

Having read that account (16:14-23), it is a bit jarring when we turn to 17:55-58 where Saul has no idea who David is. There are many attempts to explain this conflict, but I don’t want to deal with that here except to say that non-believers often point to such contradictions as proof that the Bible is not the least bit Holy. At the other extreme are the Christians (rarely Jews) who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. This kind of issue is hard to explain away.

While I accept that God chose David and that God was behind David’s victory in this reading, we should not forget that ten to twelve-year-old David was capable of killing an armor-clad nine-foot plus soldier with a stone. We moderns would not think of sending a ten-year-old boy into the wilderness to guard a valuable flock of sheep, knowing that bears, lions, and thieves lived there as well.

David was well armed. The shepherd’s sling could generate great speed, sending a stone to a target as small as a sparrow with consistent accuracy. What’s more, the stones chosen by David were small but heavy. With speeds close to those of old musket balls, death was likely.

If someone wants to argue that the stone could not have hit Goliath’s forehead because the bronze helmet would have come down to his eyebrows, let them. The text clearly reads forehead, and there are many ways to explain the helmet.

Something more inexplicable happens next. David runs to Goliath, pulls Goliath’s sword from its sheath, and chops the head from the giant. The difficulty is first, the weight of the sword, then the presence of the shield bearer. The man who could carry the shield of Goliath had to be stronger than most—a small giant himself. Why did he not kill David?

The little details are not important for the real story. Only with God is there victory. David proves himself to be God’s chosen.

And…

Saul begins to worry about this young one taking his throne.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

 

 

Devil In A Blue Dress

If you are a conservative Christian who does not want to read swear words, you can stop reading NOW.

For the rest of us, Walter Mosely created a character with crust and grit. Ezeikel Easy Rawlins has a house in Watts just three years after helping Patton kick Heiny butt. Growing up poor in the Fifth Ward of Huston did not prepare him for the pure joy of owning property.

Making the payments became the issue when he was unfairly laid off at the factory. A friend sets him up with a short gig–finding a white girl in one of the black bars in the city. You see, Easy was black too, or to be fair to 1948, he was a Negro.

The book was first released in 1990, followed by a baker’s dozen others. Denzel Washington played Easy in the 1995 film version.

Why should you read this book?

It is a great slice of history describing the beginnings of the racial divide that has found Watts on the national news many times. I took a sociology class in the fall of 1965 in which we studied in some detail the findings of the August riot of that August–the “Burn, Baby, Burn” riots. After living through sit-ins and Selma, it was still an eye-opener for a milk-toast Kansas boy. Of course, worse was yet to come.

You should read this for the characters. None of them are righteous and none are pure evil, though you might wonder about a couple of them.

But also try to understand the complex relationships these people have with one another. Easy has friends from Huston to help him in LA, some of whom only help for money, some for friendship, some only when they benefit. Easy must walk a fine line to decide who he can really trust.

Read it because Easy is not perfect. He learned to kill people–blue-eyed German boys–but he wants to avoid killing. He did not like it in the war and he still does not like it. Still, he is surrounded by it in the story.

Many would argue that this is not a Christian novel. I disagree. It is not religious, but that is something else. It is Christian in that Easy wants to do what is right. He is willing to place himself in mortal danger to help others. He is not a cynic. He hopes to be paid, but if you read closely, he is willing to do the right thing without pay.

Easy is a product of black poverty, but he doesn’t want that history to drag him down.

I look forward to more of Easy Rawlins.

Mike Lawrence