How Trusting God Helps Us to be Zealous for His Glory
Pearson Johnson: I’m glad to be here today with Pastor Dave Doran from Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan. He’s also the president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Pastor Doran just spoke to us in chapel in the theme “Servants Chosen and Equipped” on the topic of David. First, we appreciate you being here and talking to us in chapel.
David Doran: I’m glad to be here, thanks for the opportunity.
Johnson: One of the points you made in the message was about David being a man after God’s own heart. And we hear that a lot, it’s kind of a cliche for us as Christians. But what do you mean by that, and what do you think the text meant by that?
Doran: Yeah, I think when you look at the text, the issue in the passage is that Goliath is defying the armies of the living God— he’s cursing Israel by his gods— and God is zealous for his glory. That’s the thing that matters to God. And David loves God’s glory, he has a heart for what God’s heart is. And so, that’s what moves him to step up to defend God’s glory against the false blasphemies of Goliath.
Johnson: So, you also mentioned that this was not necessarily David being courageous on his own, or David taking up the battle on his own, but he was defending God’s glory. How did you see that playing out in the story?
Doran: Right, so when he talks to Saul about why he’s going to go, and when he talks to Goliath about why he went, it’s stated in the fact that “the battle is the Lord’s.” It’s so that all the earth will know there’s a God in Israel, so that all this assembly will know that. So, the thing that motivated David certainly wasn’t any name for himself. It was actually defending the name of God, that he was confident that God would defend his own name and that God would use David. Because I think David knew the promises that were in the Pentateuch— in Deuteronomy— and in the historical books— in Joshua— that God had promised victory over these kinds of enemies.
Johnson: Saul was there, Saul was the king. He was clearly larger than most Israelites, and he didn’t take up the battle himself. Why did Saul oppose that?
Doran: Right, so I tried to show that I think Saul is on a downward trajectory, and David is on an upward trajectory. And that’s precisely because of Saul being more concerned about himself— he made sacrifices he shouldn’t have, he didn’t obey God, and each time he blames it on the people. He fears the people— in this case he fears Goliath— instead of actually seeing God as greater. Like Proverbs says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be safe.” And I think that Saul doesn’t trust God; he fears man. And David does trust God, so he doesn’t fear man. And that’s the crisscross that’s happening between them.
Johnson: It’s a really good example by way of contrast then. One thing you mentioned in passing was some of the ways people treat this narrative, some of the popular sermons we hear coming out of this like, “How to be a giant slayer,” I think you mentioned, for instance. How do you approach a narrative like this and try to get the context and come out with the right kind of message?
Doran: I think the keys to narrative are the tension that’s in the the plot lines, so to speak, and then also the characters— what they say, what’s said about them. I mean, we read it like literature and that enables us to see the central point of the story. I think when people approach a narrative looking for little behavioral things, they’re treating it more like a fable, like an Aesop’s fable— “Here’s the moral of the story.” Or sometimes they’re treating it like an allegory, like the stuff in the story represents some other hidden spiritual truth. And it’s not. Neither of those is actually the right way that biblical narrative functions.
So we’re looking for the understanding of the point of this narrative, and God is usually the central player— he’s the hero of all the narratives because they’re theological history. So, instead of overly spiritualizing them or overly moralizing them, we’re looking for the message that God intended through the tension and resolution and the caricatures and the plot and dialogue.
Johnson: Well, my family was under Pastor Doran’s ministry for several years, so we really appreciated that kind of approach to the text and still do. By way of closing our conversation, how has the message of the life of David impacted you? I know you share the name. Having been under your ministry for several years, I know the character of David is special to you— you preached from several narratives. So, how does his story impact your ministry as a pastor?
Doran: Personally, I think it helps us see the importance of having a God-centered perspective. David, up until the points of his failure, was always seeking to advance and protect the name of God, trusting God to be for him all that he said he would. We read all through the Psalms as to his statements about God being his rock, his fortress. So, I think that kind of heart for God that motivates us to serve God for God’s glory and God’s sake is important to keep guarding so that we don’t ever, like David, walk away from that and then set ourselves up for sinful, selfish choices like he did.
Johnson: Well, we really are thankful that Pastor Doran could be with us today. And we’re thankful for your faithful ministry, God bless.
Doran: Thank you.