A fine mess King Saul is in – war with the Philistines – sort of. Each morning Saul’s boys run to the front line yelling and screaming a war cry. Philistine superhero Goliath strolls out. Goliath, who would make LeBron James look vertically challenged, yells, “Send your best to fight me. The winner owns the loser’s army. Ha ha!” Saul and his troops retreat; next day the same – a goofy way to wage war.
Little David shows up one morning with supplies sent from his dad. He hears the daily war charge, and runs to see Goliath, looming, taunting and threatening God’s troops. David volunteers to fight Goliath. Saul’s thinking Goliath will have to peal a flattened little David off his massive boot. David explains, “Look, sir, I’ve killed lions and bears with my bare hands. The Lord’s on my side, and I win. You let this fat, ugly Philistine defy God’s army and push you around – what’s wrong with you guys?” David has special experience with God, something Saul seems to lack.
Not finding an army uniform to fit, or weapons he can lift, David gathers some stones and a slingshot for Goliath. Goliath sees David coming to fight him, and doubles over laughing at the little runt. David’s no shrinking violet: “You overgrown fat head, I come to you in the Lord of Hosts’ name – and the LORD will deliver you into my hand. And before night comes you’ll be a buffet for the birds and wild beasts. Then all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel – and this assembly will know the battle is the LORD’s and he gives you into our hand.” David sounds like an old-time revival preacher, “I don’t need sword, spear and javelin. I come in the name of the LORD.” And before Goliath can stop laughing, THUD. Goliath gets stoned. Goliath, meet the Lord of Hosts. David knows more goes on here than meets the eye.
This makes for a great Bible story – but hardly how things work in the real world. If you throw yourself in front of a train, in the Lord’s name, I doubt God will deliver you. And just because you love God and try harder, doesn’t automatically mean you will succeed, your team wins or your party is elected to office. Occasionally a David comes along and takes a giant down. In the Bible’s stories that’s a sign of God’s power, working through humans, a revelation – not an everyday occurrence. It a glimpse of the end God brings, to help us live in the present – to know more is going on than meets the eye, and God saves us, finally.
People often think the world we see is all there is. We hope not – but when push comes to shove, do we count on what we don’t see? We are subject to forces beyond our control that we don’t see. Then factor in sin – others’ or our own. We say things we regret, as if an unseen force sometimes takes us over. Yet we can have a hard time believing God acts in our lives and world, when evidence is so scarce, or subject to meaning we give our life events.
Stories like David’s defeat of Goliath serve to open our imaginations and hearts. When that happens we begin to sense God acts from beyond our history, within our history. In this narrative, we encounter a recurring aspect of God’s nature – God ultimately saves and delivers. And if we believe “as if” God does, then we are more likely to know there’s more than meets the eye. That more is the Lord of Hosts David knows.
Too many people give up on God too soon. God disappoints them. Faithful prayers go unanswered. A terrible tragedy befalls and they wonder, “How can a loving God let this happen? God never came to help me take out my Goliath.” There’s a reason, but I don’t know what it would be – yet. They give up believing there’s more than meets their eyes.
Maybe we could do a better job helping people cultivate spiritual practices and language to connect us into experiencing God – opening our hearts and imaginations to a God who loves, delivers and redeems, by offering more opportunities for Bible study, prayer, times to learn spiritual practices. If we know God as love, the God we know will not be a God we fear. If we only pray when our going gets tough, then we lack work needed to trust God even when Goliath doesn’t go down, we suffer, and fear. There’s even more than meets the eye, and time after time, God’s story alerts us to this reality. If we don’t live in that world, too – how can we have faith or hope?
Once Jesus slept soundly in the bottom of a boat through a raging storm, until his disciples awaken him, scared to death. They couldn’t yet see there’s more going on here than a storm. We find ourselves in the midst of storms that threaten our lives. Jesus is nowhere to be seen – or is he?
What matters most is to know God prevails, saves and delivers – when most finally matters. Faith is a paradox. We trust in what we can’t fully see, maybe intimations and glimpses here and there. But they can be enough to help us remember, have faith – trust that more’s always going on than meets the eye. Where God’s peace and our hope meet – then we know that “more,” and whose love for us matters most.