TODAY’S READING: 1 Samuel 15–17
God’s wide purposes for the world were mediated through Israel in the Old Testament. While the Abrahamic covenant speaks of all nations being blessed, the Bible often expresses that blessing in terms of knowing Jehovah. “All nations on earth will eventually come to know what Israel knows. But since the Abrahamic promise of being blessed…through Abraham presupposes knowing Abraham’s God, and since knowing YHWH as God is unquestionably one of the greatest blessings enjoyed by Israel, there is a theological affinity between these ‘knowing’ texts and the Abrahamic ‘blessing’ promise.” Thus in the Bible, whenever God does great things for Israel, He does them that He might be known among the nations. “The whole history of Israel, we might say, is intended to be the shop window for the knowledge of God in all the earth.” As the Christmas carol rejoices, “Joy to the world… He comes to make His blessings known, far as the curse is found” (emphasis added).
Speaking of a curse, Goliath was raining them down on the people of God (1 Sam. 17:10). David understood what these insults actually attacked: the honor of Jehovah. “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God” (v. 26)? When Jehovah’s warriors cowered in fear, it made Jehovah look weak, and the Spirit of Almighty God in David couldn’t stand it. The fire burned within, and David succinctly gave the reason for victory over the giant (who stands as a representative as a Philistine of the nations of the world): “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (v. 46)! Walter Brueggemann states that “the purpose of David’s victory is not simply to save Israel or to defeat the Philistines. The purpose is the glorification of Yahweh in the eyes of the world… David is the one who bears witness to the rule of Jehovah. In so doing he calls Israel away from its imitation of the nations and calls the nations away from their foolish defiance of Yahweh. In a quite general sense this is a ‘missionary speech’ summoning Israel and the nations to fresh faith in Yahweh.” The trajectory of David’s stone followed the flight path of biblical revelation, a trajectory that “is primarily about the knowledge of who God is, YHWH’s demonstration of his deity to the nations.” There is a didactic missionary purpose in this favorite Bible story of a flattened Goliath: When it comes to the glory of God, all giants and all nations are the underdog; they don’t stand a chance.
Often overlooked due to its close proximity to the David and Goliath narrative, similar in didactic intent, but a little more shocking, is the story of Saul and the Amalekites. It ended the same—the glory of God among the nations—but that glory was achieved through loss and lesson, not victory and vindication. Saul was instructed to completely annihilate the Amalekites, to destroy all they had (15:3). Because Saul disobeyed this command, the kingdom was taken from him. The Lord rejected him from being king and tore the kingdom from him (vv. 26, 28). Again, let us be clear: Saul lost the kingdom because he did not completely annihilate the Amalekites. Samuel’s explanation was as clear as David’s: “Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites and fight against them until they are consumed. Why then did you not obey…’” (v. 18). Saul was sent on a mission. He was told to “go.” Saul was to radically obey God among the nations, to take drastic action, to ensure that God was completely and comprehensively glorified. Both the Amalekites and Goliath were to be completely overwhelmed by Jehovah at the hands of the people of God. Saul was not radically attendant enough to God’s glory—and he lost the kingdom. David overflowed with zeal for the glory of God—and he was made king.
We now bear neither the physical sword of Saul nor swing David’s sling, but the glory of God among the Monpa of Bhutan is still in question. Is there a David reading these words whose heart so burns that Bhutan know “there is a God in Israel” that his or her feet will run towards that goal?
 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 227.
 Ibid. 127.
 Walter Brueggemann. First and Second Samuel. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990. 132.
 Richard Bauckham. The Bible and Mission: Christian Mission in a Postmodern World. Carlisle, UK: Paternoster. 1998. 37.