Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Obstacles to Faith

Daily Readings
Psalm 105:23-45 + I Samuel 17:1-54 + Judith 13 +Hebrews 10

Quote of the Day
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Daily Text: I Samuel 17:4-7, 17-18, 22-49
4And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. 17Jesse said to his son David, "Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; 18also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them." 22David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. 23As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. 24All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid. 25The Israelites said, "Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. The king will greatly enrich the man who kills him, and will give him his daughter and make his family free in Israel." 26David said to the men who stood by him, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" 27The people answered him in the same way, "So shall it be done for the man who kills him." 28His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David. He said, "Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle." 29David said, "What have I done now? It was only a question." 30He turned away from him toward another and spoke in the same way; and the people answered him again as before.
31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. 32David said to Saul, "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 33Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth." 34But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God." 37David said, "The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine." So Saul said to David, "Go, and may the LORD be with you!" 38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul's sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them." So David removed them.
40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. 41The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field." 45But David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."
48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Obstacles to Faith
There are so many textual questions in this chapter that they alone could hold our attention for some time. They include Saul’s not knowing David, the reference in II Samuel 21:19 which says that Elnathan killed Goliath, and obvious seams, eg. at verse 12, that point to interweaving of different textual traditions, and these suggestions do not by any means pick up all of the questions here. However, the tradition that comes to us via the editors of I Samuel have an overall integrity that remain convincing. David was always known as a man of valor and faith. That this passage reflects that seems faithful to his reputation. Given that, we may confidently trust that he faced such a situation and did so roughly in the way it has come down to us.

Obstacles face every one in the path of life. On this day David faced several. First, was the size, training, equipment and ferocity of the giant of Gath. Undoubtedly, David had never seen anyone like this giant of a man before. Who would have? Second, Eliab, his elder brother, was put out that David was present at the standoff, and critical of his freedom to move around and inquire of others the nature of the threat and the possibility of preferment for the one who engaged the Philistine champion. Anyone who has ever faced the anger of another family member knows how daunting that can be. It obviously wasn’t going to be a telling obstacle for David, who casually ignored Eliab, suggested that it was just a question that he was asking and then went on doing what he wanted. Third, once taken before Saul, the king, he was evaluated by Saul as being one with no training, and too few years to be effective. Such personal evaluation would stop most of us from doing what we felt was the call of God. Indeed, isn’t such a call validated by the affirmation of others rather than by their disapproval? Fourth, once Saul assented to the idea that here was a man, young as he was, who had the willingness and the confidence to fight this Philistine challenger, he tried to suit David up in his own armor. That wasn’t a very good idea, as was soon apparent, but perhaps there simply wasn’t any other metal armor available in the army of Israel. At any rate, the armor itself was so unsuited to David’s size that it and the lack of it became an obstacle. Finally, Goliath’s disdain for the stripling youth would have stopped most of us dead in our tracks, if none of the previously named obstacles had.

How should we treat the obstacles that face us when we attempt to respond to something to which we know the LORD is calling us? David was able to step around each of them and continue to move forward. That is not always available to us, or if available, seems unwise. Frequently, the organization or church to which we belong simply says ‘No.’ What is the option? Leave it? Obviously, that option is available, but it may be one we are not open to. Part of David’s success is that within the day he overcame all of his obstacles and moved ahead. Hesitation is often the greatest obstacle of all.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

David and Goliath
P. Hately Waddell
This bit lilt o’ his ain till David’s Praise,
Whan he fought again Goliath,
Stan’s like a to-fa’ till the Psalms
[Quo’ the LXX]

Sma’ was I, amang brether o’ mine;
An’ the bairn was I, i’ my faither’s ha’;
My faither’s fe I was hirdin:
My han’s, they wrought the organ fine;
An’ my fingers, wi’ thairms, the harp an’ a’
They war girdin.

An’ what was ‘t tell’d the Lord o’ me?
The Lord himself, he hearken’d till me;
An’ his rinner he sent, an’ he cried me awa—
Cried me awa frae my faither’s fe;
An’ wi’ chrystin olyle o’ his ain an’ a’,
He chrystit me:
Brether o’ mine, they war brave an’ braw;
An’ the Lord o’ them wad have nought ava’.

Furth gaed I, till fecht wi’ the frem;
Syne by his eidols he swure at me:
Bot that swrud o’ his ain, I claught it frae him’
An’ I sned his head frae his shouthirs trim;
An’ the skaith an’ the scorn I carried it a’,
Frae the folk o’ Israel, hame wi’ me!

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.


Blogger Norm said...

Fr. James:

Great insights regarding David's obstacles! I hadn't recognized all of them.

The medical aspects of this story are also fascinating. The Christian Medical Fellowship website ( has the following comments posted regarding Goliath.

It would be unlikely that Goliath could have reached nine feet without a pre-pubertal disorder in growth hormone secretion. Even the tallest African tribe, the Tutsi tribe of Central Africa, only averages a height in males of 6 feet 5 inches. The tallest man on record, Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illinois, was 8 feet 11 inches when he died at the age of 22 in 1940. His condition was the result of a growth-hormone-secreting pituitary tumour that developed while he was a child, before closure of the skeletal epiphyseal plates, leading to gigantism. Excessive growth hormone in adults results in acromegaly.

Most growth hormone tumours are macroadenomas, being larger than 1cm on diameter on presentation. Suprasellar extension can lead to compression of the optic chiasm resulting in a bitemporal visual field loss. Destruction of the rest of the pituitary results in pituitary insufficiency, which includes secondary hypothyroidism. Thus Goliath may have had reduced peripheral vision and slowed reactions due to the mass effect of the tumour.

In 2 Samuel 21:21-22 we read of another huge man from Gath who was killed by Jonathan. There are several hereditary syndromes associated with pituitary tumours. It is possible that the two giants could have suffered from multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 1, which is a familial syndrome of pituitary, parathyroid and pancreatic tumours. The ease with which the stone became embedded in Goliath's skull is suggestive of bone softening. This may have resulted from hyperparathyroidism due to a parathyroid tumour and an insulinoma of the pancreas might have caused erratic behaviour due to hypogylcaemia.

{It is] interesting that this could be the first recorded case of the MEN type 1 syndrome. This syndrome together with a large pituitary macroadenoma would have made Goliath easier to kill. David, the young shepherd, was unaware that God had prepared the ground before him in this way but still went out confidently in faith.

10:38 AM  

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