I confess – I like watching old TV sitcoms. One such show I sometimes watch is “The Andy Griffith Show,” still in the original black and white. Interestingly enough, the problem or issue which arises in each episode seems to have a very obvious, clear-cut, right vs. wrong solution. I guess those were simpler times? One of my favorite episodes is one in which Opie encounters a particular classmate everyday on his way to school. The problem is that this classmate demands Opie’s milk money before he will let Opie continue on to school. I think it was a nickel a day, which is an indication of just how old this show is. Prices have gone up since then for sure.
Nevertheless, some things never change but remain constant down through time and generations. The existence of bullies would be one of those constants. Bullies are not something new to our current time. People in every era of history have faced opposition in the form of bullies. And like Opie in this episode, we each have to decide how to deal with the bullies in our life.
Opie’s story is a familiar one for any of us who have bullies in our pasts. (or in our present for that matter) For a while, Opie hands over his nickel each day rather than risk confrontation with the bully, who Opie sees as bigger and stronger than himself. Opie would rather play it safe than take any risk. Fear keeps him compliant. Fear keeps him silent. Opie doesn’t tell anyone that the bully is taking his milk money every morning.
The situation continues until Opie has the courage to stand up to the bully and refuse to hand over his milk money. Opie does end up with a black eye but the bully never bothers him again. That’s because bullies are cowards by definition. However, this truth is not revealed until someone has the courage to stand up and call the bully’s bluff. Then the bully no longer has the power to control another person with the weapons of fear and intimidation.
Some three-thousand years ago, there was another young boy, who just like Opie, came face to face with a bully. (told you bullies have been around for a long time) His name was David. He was tending his fathers’s sheep at the time, while three of his older brothers were serving in King Saul’s army. The Israelites were currently at war with the Philistines and the conflict had gone on for some time. We read this account of David’s battle with his bully in 1 Samuel, chapter 17. First we learn that,
“The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. A champion named Goliath, . . . came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels, . . . His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.”
Ok, so you get the point. Goliath was a bad dude. He looked the part and by his behavior he played the part of the bully as well. Listen to how he would taunt the Israelite army,
“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, . . . ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. . . . For forty days the Philistine (Goliath, the bully) came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.”
Now David’s father, Jesse, sent David with food supplies to be delivered to Saul and the Israelite army. “He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. . . . Goliath, . . . stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, (Goliath) they all ran from him in great fear.”
So you get the picture. The Israelite soldiers, including David’s brothers, are all terrified of this guy, Goliath. (it says they all ran from him in great fear) At this point in the story, Goliath has been taunting, teasing and intimidating Saul’s soldiers for forty days and forty nights. And still, no soldier has stepped forward to accept Goliath’s challenge. No one has yet stood up to this bully.
Enter David into the story. “David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’ Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.’ ”
So David receives no support nor vote of confidence from his own countrymen. After all, it appears to be an impossible situation – a mere boy, wearing no armor, with only stones and a slingshot facing a nine foot tall, trained fighting man in full armor – this would seem to be a hopeless scenario. But still, David goes out to fight Goliath anyway. David steps forward to do the impossible. David stands up to the bully when no one else would. We read what happens next in this confrontation between David and Goliath,
“He (Goliath) looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, . . . and he despised him. . . . ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!’ David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, . . . and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.’ ”
What happens next is perhaps the better known part of this story. David fells the great Goliath with a stone and a sling shot.
“So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. . . . When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron.”
Interesting, isn’t it? Once David defeated the bully, the men of Israel suddenly became brave. We are told that they “surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines.” These were the same people who had been paralyzed with fear for the previous forty days and forty nights. What changed? Someone stood up and spoke out. All it takes is for one person of courage to stand up to the bully and others will then draw courage from their example and follow suit.
But it is rare to find the person who will be the first. It is much easier to follow than to lead where no one has yet gone. That day on the battlefield, David was that rare person of courage. And God used David to secure the victory for His chosen nation, Israel.
David acknowledged that “the battle was the Lord’s.” The Israelites needed to be willing to defend at any cost their nation, a nation God had set apart for Himself and prospered. They needed to fight against the attacks of the pagan nations surrounding them. If they did not stand up to those who were attempting to invade their beloved country, they would be overrun and subsequently enslaved to whichever nation conquered them. That was the custom at that time. The vanquished became the slaves of the victors.
But fortunately for Israel, David, like Opie, stood up to the bully. All that is needed to turn the tide, is one person of courage willing to stand up and to speak out, willing to risk it all for something greater than themselves. Not much is worth taking the ultimate risk, that is true.
But David knew that being free to worship and to serve the Living God of Israel was worth the price he might have to pay. He did not want to end up enslaved to the Philistines, should they succeed in their conquest of Israel. He wanted to live as a free man in the land God had given to Abraham, his forefather, on oath all those years ago. And so, for freedom’s sake, for God’s sake, David risked it all and stood up to his bully, Goliath.
Where did David find the courage to stand up and to take action? Perhaps he was remembering Moses’s words to Joshua from another time that called for courage, when Moses said,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. . . . Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:6-8)
Perhaps David found his courage in these words, in the promise of God’s presence with him, providing God’s protection and God’s power for the task to which God had called David. I, too am called to be strong and courageous, I, too am promised that God will never leave me nor forsake me, I, too am assured that God goes before me. God’s presence ensures the power necessary to accomplish His purposes. The power is His, the purposes are His. As David said, the battle is the Lord’s.
Perhaps there is a time in everyone’s life, in everyone’s story, that calls for courage. Perhaps there are times in the life of a country that call for courage. Perhaps there are times in the history of the world that call for people of courage to speak up or forever hold their peace.
We have God’s promise. We don’t have to be afraid because He has promised us His presence. And His further assurance,
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
sincerely, Grace Day
2 thoughts on “C.C. battling the bully #150”
We all need to remember this blog and this example of standing up for the right and good. God does protect us when we do the right thing and ask for help.
Lord help each of us to become people of courage.