Malcolm Gladwell – Catalyst 2013 – David & Goliath

David and Goliath is all about how we don't know our own strength.

It takes place in 1100 BC.  The Israelites are in the highlands in the east in Jerusalem and surrounding areas.  And the Philistines are in the coastal plain.  And in between is the Shepelah.  It's a beautiful area, but the real importance of it is strategic.

So the Philistines begin to march up the Valley of Elah to split the Israelite kingdom in two.  So the Israelites camp out on the northern edge of the valley, and the Philistines camp out on the southern edge.  And no one wants to be the first to advance because they'd have to be vulnerable in the valley.

So the Philistines send Goliath to challenge an Israelite warrior to settle the stalemate.  And David is the only one who volunteers.

Goliath is taunting him, and as the boy gets closer, he continues to mock him.  And David says he comes in the name of The Lord Almighty and kills him with a stone in a sling.

I think the way this story has been interpreted in popular culture has completely misinterpreted its meaning.

We call David the underdog.  We think it's an upset.  David is a kid.  Goliath is a mighty warrior. David is a shepherd boy.  Goliath has armor, a sword, etc.  David had a sling.

But we misunderstand what David had.  The stopping power of the stone that flew from David's sling had the stopping power of a 45 caliber bullet.

There is no question that David could kill Goliath.  In ancient warfare slingers were routinely devastating to heavy infantry.

Goliath was predicating his strategy on David coming to him.  So David takes this devastating weapon to this guy who has 100 pounds of armor.

So we've got the lumbering giant versus the nimble kid with superior technology and the Spirit of The Lord, and we call David the underdog?

Isaiah 16 says that if you look on the heart, David is the favorite.

I think we make this mistake all of the time.  I think we radically underestimate the power of the heart.  When I was writing my book, I bacame taken with the story of the town of Lishambaugh.

During WWII the Vichy government collaborated with the Nazis.  And teh whole country goes along with this except for this little town.

And the pastor of the church in this little town stands up and says to his congregation that we're not going to do anything that is contrary to the Gospel.

So the Vichy government passes all of these laws, and the people of the town ignore them.  And the word gets out around France that there's this town that's not going along with the program.

So Jews begin to show up, and the pastor goes to camps and negotiates for the release of Jewish children. And it's estimated that by the end of the war thousands of Jews were saved by this town.

The kids write one of the senior French ministers a letter that basically says, "We have Jews, and if you try to get them, we won't let you."

It's an extraordinary story.

But I think that way of telling the story is inaccurate.  The people of the town simply had the right perspective on where true power really lies.  Yes, the Nazis were a powerful army.  But the people of the town knew that they were up in the mountains and inaccessible for half of the year.  And you could see them coming.  ANd the local police were friendly.

Couldn't the Nazis have come in and wiped them out?  Yes, but they had more important things to worry about.

But the most important weapon the town had was history.  The Huegenots in the town had been horrifically persecuted by the Catholic Church in the 18th Century.

During that process they learned how to band together, how to be strong, most of all they learned the power of their own faith.  And what happened?  God protectd them.

So along come the Nazis and they're like, "We've seen worse."

There's a wonderful quote from the pastor's wife in the winter of 1941, the first time a Jewish refugee came and asked for help.  She said, "I never thought to say no.  I never thought it would be dangerous.  Nobody did."

The Huegenots of this town were not the only committed Christians in France. There were many others.  But why was this village the only one that did anything?

The others didn't understand how powerful their faith made them.

We do that all of the time.  We underestimate the power of our own faith, and it has real world consequences.

How many Jews would have been spared the horrors of the Holocaust if others had done this?

We not only underestimate David, we misunderstand Goliath.

Someone leads Goliath down the mountain.  Why does he need that?

Then we read a mention of how slowly he moves.

Why does it take him so long to figure out what David is up to?  He's insulted.  Shouldn't he be at the very least worried that something is up?

Then Goliath says that David comes at him with sticks.  It's not sticks, it's one stick.

It sounds like Goliath is suffering from acromegaly.  It's caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland.  It causes people to grow exceptionally large, but it can also cause compression of the optic nerves and cause significant eyesight problems.

Think about that in explaining Goliath's behavoir.  He can't make it down the mountain on his own.  He can't really see David.

What the Israelites saw from high on that ridge was an intimidating giant, but they didn't understand that what made him an intimidating giant was also the source of his greatest weakness.

We need to remember two things:

1. That giants are not always what they seem.

2. That someone who is nimble, with superior technology, and armed with the Spirit of The Lord is not an underdog.

Posted at 10:07 AM on October 3rd, 2013
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