Summary: This sermon takes a look at the David & Goliath narrative with a contemporary eye to the Zorro and Superman movies.
It’s funny that as we grow up we sometimes develop tastes that we never had as a child. For instance, I never liked salad as a child, but developed a taste for Caesar Salad as an adult. While I still don’t like broccoli, somewhere along the way I developed a deep enjoyment of good coffee.
Those are all expected taste developments…but sometimes we are surprised by the things that we develop interests in as we grow older. For instance, as a child I was never really interested in comic books or superheroes, The Batman movies were all very popular when I was in High School, but I don’t think I saw any of them. It wasn’t until years later when I got hooked on Spiderman, and then Batman, and now Superman. Superhero stories have developed an important place in American culture—they resonate with our desire to make the world a better place. They give us hope that the good guys will win, despite the best efforts of the bad guys. Children aspire to be like those heroes—even wanting to dress like them—hoping that one day they might be asked to save the world!
There are lesser-superheroes in our cultural history as well. These guys are not given extra-special power (Spidey-sense, x-ray vision, or super-fast flying speed), but develop their natural skills in order to make a difference in their world. While still legendary fictional characters, these lesser-superheroes remind us that real people can make a difference in the world. Sometimes the line between history and legend is blurred, and whether or not they were historic figures is not as important as the fact that they could have been. Certainly, we think of Robin Hood, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and the Lone Ranger. One of my favorite lesser-superheroes is Zorro—that sword-wielding bandit who fought against New Spain for the rights of Californian peasants during the early 1800s.
[In the 1998 film, The Mask of Zorro, the opening scene is of a squadron of Spanish soldiers coming to a village to execute randomly selected (and innocent) citizens as a display of power over the Californian peasants. There is a huge crowd of villagers standing around …
Why? Because they’re all asking each other, "Do you think Zorro will come?" and "Will Zorro save the day?"
Sure enough, Zorro shows up, and while one man takes on 40 soldiers, the massive crowd (with a few small exceptions) stands around...
Well, okay, they were cheering. Which was very helpful, I’m sure.
Why weren’t they doing anything? Why didn’t they pitch in and help out Zorro? Why didn’t they do anything in the first place?
Perhaps because they were scared. Perhaps because they were lazy. Perhaps because they figured it wasn’t their place to do anything, because they weren’t heroes!] (Zorro illustration used by permission of Douglas Twitchell)
That’s an awful lot like the picture that’s painted in First Samuel chapter 17. Here you have these grown soldiers standing around looking at each other wondering what they will do about Goliath. Nobody steps up to fight Goliath. Either they are too afraid, or they just figure it wasn’t their job. Even the offer of great rewards from the King’s treasury is not enough to entice any of these soldiers to go and fight Goliath.
Maybe they were waiting for a hero. Israelites were used to having Spirit-anointed heroes step in at the last moment to save them. A quick read of the book of Judges gives you a taste of these great superheroes: Ehud, the left-handed man who smuggled a knife into the presence of the overweight king Eglon; Shamgar, who killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad; Jael, the wife of Heber, who killed the enemy commander by driving a tent stake through his head; Gideon, who lead three-hundred men to victory against the tens-of-thousands of Midianites and Amelekites; and so on, including Samson, whose strength led to the deaths of thousands of Philistines. Perhaps they were waiting for another one of these Spirit-filled judges to come and defeat Goliath.
And finally, their hero appears…in the form of a little boy with a shepherd’s staff, a sling, and five smooth stones. Oh, they try to talk him out of it. They try to dress him up in the King’s armor to give him a fighting chance against the giant. But David reminds them that he does not put his trust in chariots, horses, armor, swords, spears, or javelins—but that He trusts in the Name of the Lord His God. And that little shepherd boy goes out and does what he does best—he throws a rock, and pegs that giant right in the forehead.
I try to imagine what happened in the Israelite camp each morning for the previous forty days. Did King Saul call in all of his leaders for a conference? Did the whole army come together for a pep rally? Did a new item get added to the list of treasures each day, as King Saul hoped to inspire a hero to step out of the ranks? Did the men start chanting the name of the soldier they thought best able to defeat Goliath? And after they got themselves all worked up and excited, what happened then? It appears as though nothing changed, and they continued as before—Goliath jeering, soldiers cowering—hoping that someone else would step up to the plate and take care of the problem.