THE CASE OF THE BIG BAD BULLY | 1 Samuel 17:1-54
One of the unfortunate realities of living is this world is the existence of bullies. There are some people, and we all know who they are in our lives, who enjoy pushing others around. Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Bullies have existed in our world since Cain killed Abel at the dawn of the human race.
While bullying isn’t a new phenomenon, it is a major problem. Children deal with bullies every day at school. Some then come home to a bully in the home. People work with bullies on their jobs. There are bullies among our neighbors. There are bullies in the church. There are bullies out in public. Bullies are everywhere. Bullies inhabit every sphere of our lives.
Bullying is defined as, “the use of threats of coercion to intimidate others. It is the activity of repeated aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, either physically or emotionally.”
It has become a word used to describe “one who uses physical, emotional, or verbal intimidation to gain power over others.”
A bully is someone who uses “physical, emotional, or verbal intimidation to control others.” Do you know any bullies? Are there any bullies here right now? I want you to understand that the bullies we meet in life do not have to be tolerated. They must not be allowed to have their way. Most bullies are cowards! In spite of their threats, bullies can be overcome by people who are willing to stand up for what is right.
This passage is about a bully who was put in his place by a very unlikely young man. In the ancient, familiar story of David and Goliath, we see how all the bullies in our lives can be handled.
- If you had asked Israel about Goliath, they would have said, “This is a hopeless situation.”
- If you had asked King Saul, he would have said, “This is hopeless!”
- If you had asked David, he would have said, “Goliath is a bully, and God is about to deal with him!”
I want to walk through these precious verses today and show you once again that there is Hope for the Hard Cases. So, let’s consider the facts of this hopeless case and consider The Case of the Big, Bad Bully.
VERSE 1-24 WE SEE HOW THIS BULLY IS DESCRIBED
In verse 1-4a Lets look at His Source – Our text says that Goliath was a “Philistine.” The Philistines were one of the Canaanite tribes left over from Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. They were a powerful, warlike people known for their expert skill in metallurgy. They crafted superior armor and weapons of war. They were also pagan idolaters, who worshipped the fish god Dagon.
Verse 4b-7 Describes His Size – According to the first four verses of our text, the Philistines and the Israelites have met on the field of battle. They are preparing to fight a battle for control of the nation, or for a portion of it. Before the skirmish can begin, the Philistines challenge the Israelites to settle the battle using an ancient form of warfare. What they propose is for each side to send out their best warrior. These two warriors will meet between the opposing armies, and they will fight to the death. The army that loses this battle will become the servants of the victors, v. 8-9. Although it seems pretty foolish to us, it was not an uncommon thing for armies to settle their differences in this manner.
The issue here is the warrior the Philistines have chosen to fight for them. His name is Goliath, which means “splendor,” and he was a splendid physical specimen. Goliath was from the city of Gath. Goliath was not an ordinary soldier.
- He stood “six cubits and a span.” This means that he was “9’ 9” tall,” verse 4.
- He wore copper armor that covered his body from head to toe, verse 5-6.
- He wore copper body armor constructed from overlapping copper plates that resembled the scales of a fish. The piece of armor weighed “5,000 shekels,” verse 5, or about “200 pounds.”
- He wore “greaves,” or wrappings of copper, which protected his legs, verse 6.
- The “target” of copper that hung between his shoulders on the back was a round piece of copper that protected his upper back and held his spear.
- His spear is compared to a “weaver’s beam,” verse 7, which means it was several feet long and very thick. The head of his spear weighed “600 shekels of iron,” which is about “25 pounds.”
- Walking before Goliath was a soldier who carried another shield to help protect him from any arrows or spears launched by his enemies.
Goliath was a very formidable soldier. No doubt everyone who saw him feared him. No one wanted to face him in battle. He appeared indestructible and unconquerable.
Lets take a look at His Statements in verse 8-10, 16, 23 – Goliath comes out from the Philistine lines and challenges the Israelites to a fight. He mocks them and calls them cowards, v. 8. He demands that they send out a soldier to fight him, v. 8. Goliath does this twice every day for forty days, v. 16. Goliath is a persistent bully who will not give up. He is determined to get what he wants from the Israelites.
Verse 11, 24 speaks to His Success – Verse 11 says when Israel heard the taunts of Goliath, they were “dismayed, and greatly afraid.” The word “dismayed” means “to break down from fear.” The phrase “greatly afraid” suggests they overcome with an “exceeding great terror.” The army of Israel was horror-struck, petrified, panic-stricken, and alarmed! The presence, appearance, and threats of the giant Goliath literally left the soldiers and king of Israel paralyzed with fear.
Goliath possessed all the trademark characteristics of a true bully. He was big. He was intimidating. He was bold. He was persistent. He was out for blood. He wanted to take away the power from God’s people, and wanted total control over them. Goliath achieved his primary goal. He left the people of God intimidated and broken. He held absolute power over Israel and her king!
Are you facing any bullies? Got anything, or anyone, in your life that resembles Goliath? What I am asking is this: are there events, circumstances, or people in your life that leave you paralyzed with fear?
I am thankful that this story doesn’t end with a victorious bully. If we will give our attention to the rest of this story, we might discover an amazing truth. That truth is this: The bully does not have to win! Folk, you can defeat your bully, no matter what, or who it is.
In Verse 25-30 LET’S SEE HOW THIS BULLY IS DEFINED
So, Goliath threatens Israel. He mocks them. He challenges them to send out a man to fight him to the death. He does this eighty times over forty days. Each time he does, Israel responds by hiding in fear from an opponent they see as unbeatable. Even their powerful leader, King Saul, doesn’t want to face the giant from Gath. Fear rules the day in Israel.
Things are about to change. A young man named David has arrived on the battlefield. When he shows up, he sees the same giant the rest of the Israelites see. He hears the same taunts. He hears the same challenge. Instead of hiding in fear, David rises to the challenge and he does something about the bully.
What made David different from the rest of the men there? What made him think he could do what no one else thought could be done?
I think the difference between David’s opinion of the situation and the rest of their opinions all came down to perception.
David saw the same events and heard the same things the rest of the people heard, but he perceived things very differently. Let’s take a moment to consider the different perceptions that were active that day.
Verse 25 Show That Some Saw This Bully As An Opponent – When Israel saw and heard Goliath, they said “surely to defy Israel is he come up.” They saw Goliath merely as a threat to their nation. They saw him as a threat to their peace, their prosperity, and their happiness. When this bully stood up, all they could see was him and them. They could not see beyond how they felt about the matter. This is the view of fear!
- This describes us, doesn’t it? When we face one of life’s bullies, there are times when we forget that the issue is bigger than us. For most, our primary focus is on how things make us feel.
- In other words, when we face a bully, most of the time we turn our focus inward, and attempt to protect our little kingdom. When we do that, we miss the bigger picture.
- That bully, no matter the name or face it wears, was sent to help you grow in the Lord.
- Remember what He said to us in Romans 8:28-30. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
- No matter how much pain your bully causes in your life, it wasn’t sent to you to destroy you. Your bully thinks it is there for that very reason. Despite what it thinks, it was sent to develop you. It was sent to make you more like Jesus, which was God’s goal in saving you to begin with.
- Listen to me today, if that bully in your life succeeds in getting your eyes off the Lord, the bully has won! If, however, you can face your bully with your eyes on the Lord, God will use the pain from that problem to help you become more like Jesus.
In Verse 26 David Saw This Bully As An Obstacle – Israel saw Goliath as standing between them and what they wanted. David saw Goliath as standing between God and what God wanted. David said, “…for who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” To David, this issue was bigger than Saul. It was bigger than the army of Israel. It was bigger than all of them put together. To David, this issue was about the glory of God. This was the view of faith!
- For David, Goliath stood as an obstacle between God and His people. Goliath had to go, or Israel would be trapped in fear as they faced a bully they believed they could not defeat.
- We need that same perspective. When we allow any bully to paralyze us with fear, we are rendered ineffective in the work of the Lord. Fear of your bullies will prevent you from saying what needs to be said. Fear of your bullies will stop you from doing what needs to be done.
Verse 25-30 Tell’s Us David Saw This Bully as an Opportunity – The men around David tell him at least three times, vs. 25, 27, 30, that the man who kills the bully will be rewarded by the king. Verse 25 says “the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.” So, the man who kills the bully will get lots of money, he will marry the princess, and his family will no longer have to pay taxes.
David is apparently interested in the reward because he asks the men around him to tell him what will be given to the giant slayer twice more, 27, 30. Don’t get the idea that David is motivated by greed. Wealth is always appealing. Marrying a princess probably sounds good to a young man. The thought of not having to pay taxes would make anyone’s heart race with joy. David’s goal is not wealth, position, or power. David is motivated by something far greater. He is motivated by the Glory of God.
If you recall back in 1 Sam. 16, the prophet Samuel came to David’s house and he anointed David to be the next king in Israel. David knew that one day, he was going take Saul’s job. David knew that he was headed to the throne. I believe that David saw Goliath as a steppingstone in that direction. I believe that David looked at Goliath and realized that killing that bully would bring him closer to achieving what God had promised to him.
In verse 29 David, in response to the childish rant of Eliab, asks, “Is there not a cause?” David was the man God had chosen to be the new shepherd in Israel. When the bully Goliath threatened those people, it made David livid. He was angry because that bully was a threat to God’s people, God’s plans, and to God’s glory. In David’s mind, that simply would not stand. That bully had to go!
The sooner we realize that our bullies are an opportunity for God to receive glory from our lives, the sooner will be willing to stand up and face them in His power. He is not glorified when I am paralyzed by fear. He is glorified when I forget about myself, my agenda, my feelings, my wants, and concern myself with His glory alone.
Every bully in our lives is an opportunity for God to get glory from our lives. By the same token, every bully is an opportunity for us to fail. Our duty is to trust Him for the power we need to stand up to the bullies we face.
Verse 31-54 LOOK AT HOW THIS BULLY IS DEFEATED
David is determined to defend Israel and to deliver them from the insults and attacks of the bully Goliath. The remainder of this chapter teaches us how David defeated this bully. The methods he used to defeat that bully will work with any bully you face in your life. Notice how David defeated Goliath.
He Is Defeated by Courage in verse 31-37a – David says that he will fight the giant. When he does, he is brought before the king. Saul doesn’t think David could do it, and he says so, v. 33. But, then again, neither did anyone else. After all, what does a young man who has never been proven on the field of battle know about whipping bullies?
- David quickly lets Saul and the rest of the men know that he has faced a bully or two in his time. He tells them about two times when bullies attacked his sheep. He tells them about how he killed a lion and bear that were threatening his sheep, v. 34-36a. David tells Saul that he sees no difference between those animals and Goliath, v. 36b. To David, they were all bullies who needed someone to stand up to them, and he was just the man to do it. In verse 37, David states his absolute confidence that just as God gave him victory over the lion and the bear, God would give him victory of the giant. In David’s mind, this is a fixed fight!
- These verses teach us many truths, but what I want you to see today is this: David succeeded because he was not afraid to face the bullies in his life. That is not to say that David didn’t dread what was coming.
It won’t be easy to face the bullies in your life, but remember this:
- The Lord has promised to be with you. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb. 13:5.
- The Lord had promised to see you through to the other side. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee,” Isa. 43:2.
- The Lord has promised to protect you. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD,” Isa.54:17.
- The Lord has promised to enable you. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phil. 4:13.
- The Lord has promised to give you victory. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,” Rom. 8:37.
- The Lord has prepared us for a showdown with our bullies. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” 2 Tim. 1:7.
In verse 37b-40 Goliath He Is Defeated by Conviction – David receives Saul’s blessing, and he prepares to go face the bully. Saul tries to put his armor on David, v. 38-39. David attempted to wear those things, but he realizes that they were not made for him, they were made for Saul. David knew the secret to success wasn’t in the armor of men.
- David was a shepherd, and he picked up the tools of the shepherd, his shepherd’s bag and his sling, and he went out to meet Goliath. On the way, he stopped by a brook and chose him five small stones. He planned to use those stones as ammunition for his sling. Thus armed, David went to battle.
In verse 41-54 Goliath Is Defeated By Confidence – David walked out to face that bully that day with absolute faith that he would walk back with the victory. Consider the conversation David has with the bully in verses 41-47. David knows what is about to happen. He has his faith in the Lord, and the Lord doesn’t lose!
- What made this victory possible? It wasn’t David’s ability with a sling! It wasn’t David’s power, or his skill as a warrior! The secret to David’s success and Goliath’s death all came down to one word: faith.
David believed God, and God handed David the victory.