Connections 06.23.2024: Stones, Sling, and the Spirit of God

1 Samuel 17:33-40, 45-47

After a few weeks with Samuel, the story of Israel and our unit of Connections now have a new main character: David. God had proclaimed Saul’s kingship to be over and sent the priest and prophet Samuel to find the next anointed king of Israel. Samuel discovered young David shepherding his father’s sheep outside Bethlehem. David seems the unlikeliest of his bunch of brothers to be called into leadership, but almost immediately he has a surprising opportunity to establish himself. In an event that has become a favorite in children’s songs and stories, David takes on the giant Philistine warrior Goliath. (If you’re like me, this might ring a bell.)

It’s a wonderful story for children: young David defeats Israel’s great enemy with a handful of stones, when Saul and his mighty army were too fearful and too faithless. God can work even through a child—like “a boy named David”—to bring a giant enemy tumbling down.

But it’s also an important story for adults, and it stretches beyond the verses in our lesson this week. This time of transition for God’s people began when Samuel anointed David in Bethlehem (1 Sam 16:4-13). By the time Goliath comes to battle against the armies of Israel, it is no surprise that Saul is unable to meet the challenge—at least, it is no surprise to us. We can almost pinpoint the moment the balance of power shifts, when “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David” in 16:13 and “the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” in 16:14. But Saul does not know that he is king in name only, and that God’s anointing has been revoked and bestowed instead on the young, brash, shepherd David. Saul does not know that he has defied God just as surely as the Philistines have, and he certainly doesn’t know that David will one day defeat Saul himself just as surely as he defeats Goliath.

The children’s song focuses on the boy, the stones, and the sling going “round and round.” But the focus of David’s story—not only his victory over Goliath but his uprising over Saul and his kingship over Israel—is on God. David declares it first to Saul and then to Goliath: he will be victorious in this battle not because of stones and sling but because of the power of God. The spirit of the Lord is, and will remain, “mightily upon him.”

Discussion

  • Do you think of “David and Goliath” as a children’s story? Why are David’s age and stature important in this story? How do David’s age and size emphasize the power of God?
  • David makes clear to both Saul and Goliath that he feels well-prepared for this battle. How does David understand God’s role in readying him for this moment?
  • This is not David’s first encounter with Saul. Look at 1 Samuel 16:14-23. What kind of relationship did David and Saul already have? How do you think this contributed to David’s confidence to go into battle and Saul’s willingness to let him?
  • Reflect on the fact that Saul does not yet know that his kingship is over and that David is anointed to replace him. Have you experienced or witnessed similar transitions of power, when someone does not realize they are in the process of being replaced? What is the role of humility in leadership? How can we stay flexible and faithful in such times of transition—whether it happens to us or in our communities?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in St Louis, Missouri. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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