The 2007 movie In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron, takes its title from the setting of our Old Testament scripture text for today, the Elah Valley (“the valley of terebinth trees”) in southern Israel. The movie is a powerful statement about the cost of war, the profound loss experienced by father and mother, the persistent search for truth (no matter how painful) against all odds. It is subtly marked with “David and Goliath” themes: a young man serving his country and losing his soul in the face of the Goliath of brutality in modern warfare; the lonely father and the courageous young female detective facing institutional inertia and cover-ups. . . There is even one scene in which the father (Tommy Lee Jones) tells the story of David and Goliath to the detective’s (Charlize Theron’s) young son. His version focuses on how “little guys” can be winners in the face of overwhelming “big guys” if they know how to be brave.
In fact our whole culture is littered with “David and Goliath” references, from the front page to the business pages to the sports pages. Any time someone takes on a corporate giant or the government, it’s “David and Goliath.” Any time an underdog team unexpectedly defeats a major champion, it’s “David and Goliath.” It has become a cliché, really. It’s often trite and fairly trivial. And so many times this text is read in the church in just that way. It is seen as a story of how a “little guy” manages to defeat, against all odds, a “big guy.” And it finds standard spiritual application in stale little moralisms about how God is bigger than any of the giants you face in life. With God’s help you can overcome anything. Well that reading almost completely misses the point of the story. Read more →