Matt Chandler on David and Goliath. How should I interpret OT narratives?
This week Trevin Wax and Justin Taylor have posted a video of Matt Chandler sharing some thoughts on the interpretation of David and Goliath. In the video, Chandler draws a distinction between moralistic preaching and Christ-centered preaching. According to Chandler, moralistic preaching turns the story of David and Goliath into a story about me and what I should do in my personal walk with God. However, Christ-centered preaching focuses the story on Jesus and what He has done on my behalf.
Chandler argues that David is a type of Christ. He is the one who conquers the giant of sin and death. While I appreciated Chandler’s concern for “Christ-centered” preaching, I think that his interpretation fails in one important aspect. He flattens the story of Scripture by turning OT stories into allegories of NT stories. As John Walton, an OT prof at Wheaton, says, “Let Jesus come, when He comes.”
In his book The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, Sidney Greidanus addresses the problem of the application. How should we bridge the gap between the ancient text and the modern world? Greidanus lists four improper ways to bridge the gap.
1) Allegorizing the text.
“The allegorical method searches beneath the literal meaning of a passage for the ‘real’ meaning.” In this approach, David represents Jesus. The giant represents Satan. This approach shortcircuits the text. It bypasses the OT author’s intention in search for application.
2) Spiritualizing the text.
This is what I call the Steve Martin “We all have our own personal El Guapo’s” method of interpretation. The reader takes one aspect of the story and spiritualizes it. What are the giants in your life? What are the storms in your life? This method also ignores the author’s original intent.
3) Moralizing the text.
This is the method which Chandler complains about. Here the interpreter reduces the story to a simple moral lesson. I call it “be nice” preaching. ”Lying is bad.” ”Believe in yourself.” Sure, the Bible has moral lessons in it, but we must remember that first and foremost the Bible is a story about God. It’s not about us. Don’t turn the glorious story of redemption to Aesop’s fables.
4) Imitating Bible characters.
Here the interpreter challenges us to imitate the behavior of a certain character. Be like David. Don’t be David. Be like Noah. Don’t be like Noah. Ultimately this approach is man-centered. Not God-centered.
So, how should I interpret the story of David and Goliath?
Focus on the author’s intent. Read the story for what it is. Read it in its OT context, before you start worrying about its NT fulfillment. This is a story about God keeping His promises to the nation of Israel. He gives the nation of Israel the Promise Land. Giants are not an obstacle to God. (Turn back to Numbers 13. Remember Israel has a history with giants). This story tells us something about the God of the Bible. He is a covenant God. Jesus, the son of David, is the climax to the covenant. You can trust God to keep His promises through Jesus Christ.