The Old Testament is full of cracking yarns: wonderfully-told accounts of God’s many dealings with his people and how they respond. We read of many heroes of the faith who, by God’s power, conquered kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions and quenched the power of fire. Perhaps none of these accounts is as well known or as well loved as that of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17. But what is the significance of these stories for today? How are we to apply them?

Human nature, when reading such stories, is always to put ourselves into the role of the hero. Many a sermon has been preached on how little insignificant “Davids” like us can slay the mighty “Goliaths” in our lives if only we would rely on the power of God. Or maybe if we developed the five stones of Courage, Confidence, Preparation, Trust and Victory in our lives we could finally make the breakthrough we’ve been looking for? It’s easy to do because we naturally identify with the feisty little David and are rooting for him as he marches up to confront the giant of Gath.

The problem with this approach is that it ignores the unique role of characters like David in the narrative. David isn’t just any old guy when he marches up to Goliath – he’s just been anointed by the prophet Samuel under God’s instructions as the next King of Israel, literally their “Messiah”, or “anointed one”. David functions much more like a “type” of Christ – he foreshadows the role of Jesus as the one who rescues his helpless people from their sin. A much more appropriate character for us to equate ourselves with in the story is the mass of quivering Israelites, standing on the sidelines wondering who on earth is going to be able to rescue them from their overwhelmingly imposing foe.

Avoiding the pitfalls of this so-called “Moses is me” syndrome is the reason my Old Testament adventure game places you in the role of a minor character, rather than playing the (anti-?)hero, Saul. Rather conveniently, in the Bible passage I’m basing the game upon (1 Samuel 8-12) there is an anonymous character who follows Saul around and witnesses all of the key turning points in the narrative: his manservant. By inventing a back-story for this character that parallels the main themes of the passage, the game is able to use him as a worked example of how the passage applies to the average person, rather than encouraging us to draw the lines directly from the hero to us.

If you liked this post, why not investigate the Cornhill Summer School, a week-long training course based in London that helps equip people to better understand and teach all the different genres of the Bible?

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