If you walk out on the street his minute, hail any passer- by, and utter the words, “David and …” my guess is most will respond, “Goliath.” Even those who rarely or
never crack a Bible will likely pair
these two names. Just now, this
minute, I punched those two words
into Google: David and …
The top search result: Goliath.
The boy’s still got it.
The tale of the ruddy shepherd
lad felling that trash-talking giant
with a single stone is more than
famous – it’s iconic, archetypical,
part of our collective memory. It’s
like something we knew before we
were born, deep calling to deep.
David’s holy pluck, 3,000 years
some Christian circles as a kind of
code word for “the person who
totally gets me.” Recently, one of
my female students, describing
her closest friend, simply and with
no trace of irony said, “She’s my
They only had a short time to
nurture their friendship, David and
Jonathan – maybe a little over a year.
Then brutal circumstances tore
them apart. But in that time they
forged a bond that ran deep, was
openly – almost embarrassingly –
emotional, and helped David navi-
gate and then escape mortal peril.
The friendship also gave him skills
for finding strength in God no mat-
ter how hopeless things appeared.
A quick sketch of the story. David
begins his time in King Saul’s court
as the king’s personal musician and
armour bearer, and his fortunes
quickly rise from there. He befriends Saul’s son Jonathan. He
marries Saul’s daughter Michal. He
rises to the highest ranks in Saul’s
army. It’s quite a resumé – the
king’s personal worship leader, the
king’s son-in-law, the king’s top war
captain, the crown prince’s BFF. He
is in like Flynn.
Everything leads us to expect
What a Bronze Age
David, as God has promised, will
soon be king himself
But no. It starts to unravel almost
from the start. Saul’s affections for
David quickly sour. David is just too
good at his job, and the accolades
people lavish on him gall Saul ter-
ribly. A song about David becomes
hit parade stuff. “Saul has slain his
thousands, and David his tens of
That’s enough to get under the
skin of any king or CEO or senior
pastor. Imagine if the most-sung
song at your church had the refrain,
“Our senior pastor has preached
many good sermons, but our youth
pastor preaches masterpieces.”
That might add, oh, a note of ten-
sion in their relationship.
can teach us about
friends and enemies
BY MARK BUCHANAN
YOU ANOI NT MY HEAD WITH OI L
later, still inspires us – in courtrooms and boardrooms, in schoolyards and sports fields, in the face
of bad news, in the grip of hard
times. It still gives us courage to
stand down bullies, to defy odds.
Malcolm Gladwell writes in the
introduction to his book David and
[this] is a book about what
happens when ordinary people
confront giants. By “giants,” I
mean powerful opponents of
all kinds – from armies and
mighty warriors to disability,
misfortune and oppression.
Beyond that legendary tale most
people’s memories of David dull.
Perhaps we retain fragments of his
story – his friendship with Jonathan, his struggles with Saul, his
adultery with Bathsheba, his grief
over Absalom. He wrote Psalm 23
and a bunch of others. He sang, he
wooed, he killed, he danced. Jesus
descends from his line.
But how does it all fit together?
And what does it all have to do with
I’ve spent the last 15 years soaking up his story. I’ve written about
him, preached on him, taught
seminary courses exploring his life
and times, built entire leadership
conferences around him. I’ve read
dozens of books and articles, scholarly, devotional, biographical and
fictional, about him.
I’ve come away with the conviction few lives in any age have more
to say to us, both as warning and as
promise, than his. Here, I want to
explore just two things David
teaches us – living with friends and
living with enemies.
David’s friendship with Jonathan is
almost as well known as his battle
with Goliath, at least in its broad
outline. “Jonathan” functions in