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bull dog June 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Kings 20; Psalm 104; Psalm 114, 115

Dealing with Bullies

We are all familiar with bullying. It used to be common for them to take milk money from other kids. Then bullies proceeded to take their lunch money. Now children and teens intimidate and threaten others on social media. In the adult world, bullying can come in the form of threats, blackmail and even extortion. Why do people bully others? What can we do about it?

Yesterday, we learned how God used a contest between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of the LORD. The contest demonstrated that the LORD is the one, true God. In today’s Bible reading we see that the LORD gives His disobedient people another opportunity to see He is the one true God. The way the LORD is going to show them and their enemies that He is Sovereign is by defeating King Ben-Hadad of Aram (Damascus), a bully.

God is very patient with His people. Although we should not take it for granted, in His mercy and grace He may also give us more opportunities to repent if we have strayed from Him. We need to pay attention, however, so we are not punished for continuing in our sins.

Bullies usually pick on people they perceive to be weak. The King of Aram, who rules a kingdom north of Israel, bullies Israel because he believes she can't defend herself. She only has 7,000 soldiers.

Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it. He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying,
“This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.’ The king of Israel answered, ‘Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.’”
The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘I sent to demand your silver and gold, your wives and your children. But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will seize everything you value and carry it away.’”(1Kings 20:1-6, NIV).

King Ahab agrees to the first demand of Ben-Hadad because he believes he must, but now Ben-Hadad is confident that he can extort even more from him. Should Ahab give in? The elders of Israel are right in saying no. To give into a bully invites more trouble because he is enabled to ask for more —he will not be pacified.

Later in history, the Apostle Paul instructs Christians in Rome, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV). But there comes a time when the bully is taking advantage of us. Then, what should we do? Should we continue to cower under him? Should we fight him like Israel does? Israel fights in self-defense. Paul continues, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, NIV).

What is the answer to bullying? We should make our appeal to God first. He is the keeper of our souls. “‘Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,’ says the LORD.” “‘I will protect them from those who malign them’” (Psalm12:5, NIV). God defends His people. Do we want God to defend us? Then we must become part of His family (more…)

Second, we can stymie bullying by appealing to governing authorities. God has given governments authority to exercise justice, so we should tell them if one of us or someone we know is being bullied or threatened (Romans 13:1-5). Instead of a miraculous intervention like Israel experienced, the LORD may choose to work through governing authorities. Children should report bullying to their parents and teachers. Adults should report bullying to the police.

God himself intervenes in Israel’s defense. Despite the fact that the nation of Israel is wicked, He still helps her. Why? Today's Bible reading gives us the answer:

Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (1Kings 20:13, NIV)

Israel is an obstinate nation. She persists in idol worship, but God is going to give her another chance to see who the true God is. Ben-Hadad thinks Israel is weak, but he does not know the power of the living God when He chooses to defend His people. Twice God helps the small force of Israel gain big victories against the King of Aram because he maligned the name of the LORD, thinking Him as merely the god of a certain place. A mere force of 7,000 Israelite men defeat well over 100,000 men from Aram. And, as the enemy is escaping to the city of Aphek, the city wall collapses on 27,000 more of their troops. Truly God is with Israel helping her and preserving his name.

Is King Ahab thankful to God? No expression of gratitude is recorded. Strangely, after defeating Ben-Hadad’s troops, he makes a treaty with Ben-Hadad to fight against a common enemy, and then he lets him go. However, God wanted a complete victory. He did not want Ahab to make an alliance with another pagan nation. The prophet declares to the king,

“This is what the LORD says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’”

Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria (1Kings 20:42-43, NIV).

What should have been a great victory that day turns sour because the king of Israel is foolish. Do we want complete victory over bullies? Then we must let God bring complete justice and not interrupt it. However, when God punishes a bully, we must live in the fear of God and not gloat over it. Proverbs 24:17 says, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him” (NIV). If we live righteously and godly, the LORD will provide our defense against bullies. Then we will know the LORD is the true and only God who can save us.

Lessons to Live By

  • God loves us and is very patient; He may give us additional chances to love and obey Him. We need to pay attention, however, so we are not punished for continuing in our sins.
  • To give into bullying invites more trouble because the he is enabled to do more—he will not be pacified.
  • What is the answer to bullying? We should make our appeal to God first. God defends His people. Do we want God to defend us? Then we must be part of His family. (more...)
  • We can stymie bullying by appealing to governing authorities. God has given governing authority to exercise justice, so we should tell them if one of us or someone we know is being bullied or threatened.
  • Do we want complete victory over a bully? Then we must let God bring complete justice and not interrupt it.
  • When God punishes our enemy, we must live in the fear of God and not rejoice over it or He will “disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.”
  • If we live righteously and godly, the LORD will provide our defense against bullies. Then we will know the LORD is the true and only God who can save us.

Focus Verse

Psalm 12:5, NIV “‘Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,’ says the LORD.” “‘I will protect them from those who malign them.’”

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A Look Ahead: How can we avoid being deceived and Misguided? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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