The Armor of Goliath, Saul, and David

Thinking more about armor took me back to the story of David and Goliath. In the Bible, clothing is often an expression of character and status, and nothing exemplifies this more than the passage detailing the defeat of Goliath of Gath.

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. (1 Sam 17:4,5)(ESV)

First, it describes Goliath in his armor. The Hebrew word usually translated “coat of mail” literally means “scales.” As in the scales of a snake. David the giant slayer is also David the serpent slayer. This reinforces the Christological readings of Israel’s poet warrior. As a shepherd, David delivered sheep from the lion and the bear, and now he begins his role as shepherd of Israel by delivering it from the serpent. Given that this episode is immediately after David is anointed as king, this makes perfect sense.

Second, when Saul offers his own armor for David to use, armor that is described in similar terms as Goliath’s.

Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. (1 Sam 17:38)(ESV)

God has already rejected Saul, and so Saul becomes a shell of a king. This great warrior who would lead Israel in her battles, who is himself described as a giant, taller than all of the people, now sits impotent.

David rejects Saul’s armor, going out with only a sling and stones, because David will not be another Saul.  David will be a shepherd. He will use God’s faithfulness as a shield.

Later on in 1 Samuel, the connection with Saul and Goliath is made stronger when Saul is shown repeatedly to be carrying a spear. Saul becomes David’s new Goliath, but instead of facing the new giant head-on, David uses the shoes of peace to flee.

When we put on the armor of God, we are saying we want to be like God.  Like Christ. We want to share in his character and status. We must dress like the king if we want to be like the king. And like David, we must reject the armor of serpents and the worldly wisdom that goes with it.

Why We Put on the Armor

Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler (ESV)

When I read this, I was reminded of Ephesians 6 and the whole armor of God. This Psalm might have been part of Paul’s inspiration for his phrasing, and reminds us that we should think a bit harder about the following passage. Its important to remember that the armor is indeed God’s.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Eph 6:13-18)(ESV)

The belt of truth is His Truth.

The breastplate of righteousness is His righteousness through Christ.

The helmet of salvation is His salvation, turning away His wrath.

The sword of the Spirit is, of course, His Spirit making known His words.

The shield of faith is really His own faithfulness to His promise, as Psalm 91 hints. And lest any man should boast, our faith itself is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8,9).

And what are we really preparing for with this armor? For a battle, yes.  But we fight this battle on our knees.  We pray. We speak His words back to him, and for what we miss, the Spirit will add its own groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26). We have a sword, but in our clumsiness, we dare not wield it while standing.

Finishing out the Ephesians passage:

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

We put on the armor of God not so we can be independent machines of war, marching to glory and spreading the kingdom in our wake. We put on the armor of God so we can be even more dependent on God. We gird ourselves for war so we can ask our God to go to war for us.

Only the God of Shakespeare

The story of Congressman Weiner should remind us that there is a just God.  Only the one who created the mind of Shakespeare could script a story as ridiculous, sharp, funny, and deadly serious at the same time. I mean, this story was filled dialogue like “I can’t say with any certitude that the picture isn’t of me.”

What will He come up with next?

And Douglas Wilson highlights one of the fundamental lies of our current political climate, the separation of public/private.

He wants the voters to know that when it comes to this public sphere over here, he is a man of integrity, who would never knowingly violate a House rule, or an oath of office, whatever, but who, when it comes to the private sphere over there, and the private parts contained therein, he is a liar, skunk, and inept Twitterer.

Politics stinks.  Mainly because its full of skunks.

Joseph and the Egyptian Ponzi Scheme

For the last several years, I haven’t had the highest opinion of Joseph.  Most writing on the life of Joseph and Genesis drips with honey and can’t wait to sing the endless virtues of Egypt’s agricultural czar.

Sure, they always say he started off as a tattle-tail, quick to report his brothers to his father.  And maybe he wasn’t the wisest of youths, spouting off his dreams like they were about to catch his tongue on fire. But he was young.  Nothing a good dose of humility won’t fix.

The medicine of humility comes, and from then on Joseph is looked on as an angel. Usually. It was refreshing to read a book that brought up some doubts about this typical enthusiasm in Reno’s Genesis commentary, but these treatments are few and far between.

Joseph is obviously a type of Christ, but that doesn’t mean we should read about him with rose-tinted glasses. David is a type of Christ too, and I don’t see anyone trying to explain away his adultery with Bathsheba with clever excuses.  But Joseph’s issues are not the loud, brass band of obvious, in-your-face sin like that of fornication and murder.

His issues are subtle.  The problems of power and cultural chameleonism always are. And a failure to recognize the problems show just how enamored we have become with the trappings of power, and how easily we make an idol of the State.

A Great Story, but…

Granted, when you’re teaching a bunch of 5 year olds about Joseph, its easy to get caught up in the rags to riches part of the story. Its a great story that touches something deep within every human. And how do you even explain the nuances behind the temptations of political power to a child who hasn’t even read The Lord of the Rings?

Joseph’s faults shouldn’t surprise us.  Look at the stock he came from. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the three names God decides to attach to Himself for eternity, all have their serious problems. Joseph’s eventual words to his brothers seems to be the theme behind the second half of Genesis. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20)(ESV) And thank God for that, or else where would any of us be?

Joseph is still a man of obvious faith that we can learn from.  But keep in mind what the Hebrew writer calls attention to when he praises the faith of Joseph:

By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Nothing about his perseverance in prison. Nothing about his steadfast hope while sold into slavery. And, notably, nothing about his role in feeding the entire world. Just a mention about his burial arrangements. This should give us a clue as to what was truly praiseworthy about Joseph, in God’s eyes.

So what are some of these issues, besides the obvious youthful pride?

Cultural Assimilation

As soon as Joseph is raised up, he is married to the daughter of a priest of On (Gen. 41:45), thereby gaining religious acceptance to a group that held enormous sway within Egypt, and later would gain even more power through Joseph’s own machinations. We know that during Israel’s time in Egypt, they served other gods (Josh. 24:14).

Perhaps this alliance was the beginning of this indiscretion? Regardless, we know that Abraham insisted on non-foreign wives for Isaac, and Rebekah did likewise for Jacob. After Sinai, such a marriage would be explicitly forbidden.

In an effort to absolve Joseph of this misstep, many rabbinical writings scramble to craft interpretations that border on fantasy. One even claims that Asenath was really Joseph’s kin, the daughter of Shechem and Dinah (Gen. 34) who eventually ended up being raised by Potiphera in Egypt. The sentiment may also have led to the writing of the apocryphal Joseph and Aseneth that depicts the conversion of Aseneth to the worship of YHWH before Joseph agrees to marry her.

The assimilation continues.  In Genesis 42:23, we see that Joseph needs an interpreter to understand the language of his fathers.  He has forgotten it. The curse of Babel rears its head, signifying that Joseph is currently separate from the  family of promise. Not good.

Unlike Christ, who was faithful to both his divinity and humanity, Joseph cannot be a son of both Jacob and Egypt.  One side inevitably gives way to the other, and it looks like the Egyptian side comes to reign.

Total Fraud and Enslavement

The world is fed on the labor of the Egyptian populace. They give up a fifth of everything they produce during the 7 years of plenty to prepare for the 7 years of famine.  Its a temporary tax.  Or so it was probably sold to the Egyptians.

When the famine hits, Joseph sells grain to anyone who needs it. This makes sense for foreigners who come from other lands.  But what about the Egyptians who filled up the storehouses?  Its their grain after all.  Certainly they are due at least what they put in. But no. Joseph charges them money for their own grain.

Soon the Egyptians run out of money, and begin begging Joseph for food. (Gen. 47:15). Joseph, not without mercy, agrees to give them food for the small price of all of their livestock. But hey, at least they have enough food to live…for a year.

The Egyptians come begging again.  They have no money.  They have no livestock to give in trade.  Desperate, they offer their bodies and their land and Joseph accepts their generous offer. (Gen. 47:18-22).

Except the lands of the priests.  So the only people in Egypt that owned land after this were Pharaoh and the pagan priests.  What a drastic shift in power.

Once again showing mercy (and probably realizing a 100% enslaved population isn’t really that productive), Joseph tells the people to keep tilling the land, do all of the work.  And all they have to do is give back one fifth of their production to Pharaoh. During a debilitating famine.  And beyond.

So much for a “temporary” tax to cover the tough times. Like a good politician, he didn’t let a good disaster go to waste.

Maybe we should rename the Ponzi scheme after Joseph instead?

But thanks be to God, for he works good out of evil. Even our own evil. It was true with the other sons of Jacob.  It was true with Joseph himself.  And it is true with those of us who are in Christ.

Tasty Sampler 6/3

1. Advice for Slow Readers. And no, it’s not “learn to read faster.”

For a few years now, I’ve used a reading plan that has helped me get through a pretty good number of books every month, despite my setback of being a slow reader. For the frustrated and overwhelmed readers, here are a few suggestions.

2. Ads can implant false memories.  Another reason not to watch too much TV.

It turns out that vivid commercials are incredibly good at tricking the hippocampus (a center of long-term memory in the brain) into believing that the scene we just watched on television actually happened. And it happened to us.

3. Moses Vs. Hyperpreterism. Michael Bull calls attention to the general outline of covenants in the Bible, and how it speaks against full blown hyperpreterism.

Every Covenant has an element of futurism because the Covenant process is how God directs history and moves it forward. Moses helps us to identify which part of Revelation is yet future. To claim otherwise is to ignore the structure of the entire Bible.

4. Poverty and the Delay of Gratification. This should be read and discussed around the dinner table. Valuable lessons from Eastern Kentucky.

The main difference between rich and poor is not birthplace, or education level, or the area of the country, or the quality of the schools. It’s not the local economy. The main difference between rich and poor is the ability to delay gratification in anticipation of greater rewards down the road.