2 Samuel 19:34
And Barzillai said to the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?
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2 Samuel


2 Samuel 19:34 - 2 Samuel 19:37

To the Young.

People often fancy that religion is only good to die by, and many exhortations are addressed to the young, founded on the possibility that an early death may be their lot. That, no doubt, is a very solemn consideration, but it is by no means the sole ground on which such an appeal may or should be rested. To some of you an early death is destined. To the larger number of you will be granted a life protracted to middle age, and to some of you silver hair will come, and you may see your children’s children. I wish to win you seriously to look forward to the life on earth that is before you, and to the end to which it is likely to come, if you be spared in the world long enough.

The little picture in these verses is a very beautiful one. David had been fleeing from his rebellious Absalom, and his adversity had winnowed his friends. He had crossed the Jordan to the hill-country beyond, and there, while he was lurking with his crown in peril, and a price on his head, and old friends dropping from him in their eagerness to worship the rising sun, this Barzillai with others brought him seasonable help {2 Samuel 17:23}, When David returned victorious, Barzillai met him again. David offered to take him to Jerusalem and to set him in honour there, The old man answered in the words of our text.

Now I take them for the sake of the picture of old age which they give us. Look at them: the intellectual powers are dimmed, all taste for the pleasures and delights of sense is gone, ambition is dead, capacity for change is departed. What is left? This old man lives in the past and in the future; the early child-love of the father and mother who, eighty years ago, rejoiced over his cradle, remains fresh; he cannot ‘any more hear the voice of the singing men and women,’ but he can hear the tones, clear over all these years, of the dear ones whom he first learned to love. The furthest past is fresh and vivid, and his heart and memory are true to it. Also he looks forward familiarly and calmly to the very near end, and lives with the thought of death. He keeps house with it now. It is nearer to him than the world of living men. In memory is half of his being, and in hope is the other half. All his hopes are now simplified and reduced to one, a hope to die and be united again with the dear ones whom he had so long remembered. And so he goes back to his city, and passes out of the record-an example of a green and good old age.

Now, young people, is not that picture one to touch your hearts? You think in your youthful flush of power and interest, that life will go on for ever as it has begun, and it is all but impossible to get you to look forward to what life must come to. I want you to learn from that picture of a calm, bright old age, a lesson or two of what life will certainly do to you, that I may found on these certainties the old, old appeal, ‘Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth’.

I. Life will gradually rob you of your interest in all earthly things.

Your time of life is full of ebullient feeling, and sees freshness, glory, and beauty everywhere. Even the least enthusiastic men are enthusiastic in their early days. You have physical strength, the keenness of unpalled senses, the delights of new powers, the blessedness of mere living. All this springs partly from physical causes, partly from the novelty of your position. Thank God! all young creatures are happy, and you among the rest.

Now, I do not ask you to restrain and mortify these things. But I do ask you to remember the end. It is as certain that joys will pall, it is as certain that subjects of interest will be exhausted, it is as certain that powers will decay, as that they now are what they are. All these grave, middle-aged, careful people round you were like you once. You, if you live, will be like them. The spring tints are natural, but they are transient; the blossoms are not always on the fruit-trees.

Think, then, of the End: to make you thankful; to stimulate you; but also to lead you to take for your object what will never pall. All created things go. Only the gospel provides you with a theme which never becomes stale, with objects which are inexhaustible.

Here is a lesson for-

{a} Thinkers: ‘Knowledge, it shall vanish away.’

{b} Sensualists: ‘Man delights me not, nor woman either.’ How old was he who said that?

{c} Ambitious, self-advancing men.

Is it worth your while to devote yourself to transient aims?

Is it congruous with your dignity as immortal souls?

Is it innocent or guilty?

Is the gospel not a thing to live by as well as to die by?

II. Life will certainly rob you of the power to change.

Barzillai knew that David’s court was no place for him; he had been bred on the mountains of Gilead, and his habits suited only a simple country life. The court might be better, but he could not fit into it. But there was his boy Chimham; take him, he was young enough to bend and mould.

Now this is true in a far loftier way. I need not dwell on the universality of this law, how it applies to all manner of men, but I use it now in reference only to the gospel and your relation to it. You will never again be so likely to become a Christian, if you let these early days pass.

You say, ‘I will have my fling, sow my wild oats, will wait a little longer, and then’-and then what? You will find that it is infinitely harder to close with Christ than it would have been before.

While you delay, you are stiffening into the habit of rejection. Custom is one of our mightiest friends or foes.

While you delay, you are doing violence to conscience, and so weakening that to which the gospel appeals.

While you delay, you are becoming more familiar with the unreceived message and so weakening the power of the gospel.

While you delay, you are adding to the long list of your sins.

While you delay, youth is slipping from you.

Make a mark with a straw on the clay and it abides; hammer on the brick with iron and it only breaks. Youth is a brief season. It is the season for forming habit, for receiving impression, for building up character. ‘The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold, therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing.’ Your present time is seed time. God forbid that I should say that it is impossible, but I do say that it is hard, for ‘a man to be born again when he is old.’

If you do become Christ’s servant later in life, your whole condition will be different from what it would have been if you had begun when young to trust and love Him. Think of the difficulty of rooting out habits and memories. Think of the horrid familiarity with evil. Think of the painful contrition for wasted years, which must be theirs who are hired at the eleventh hour, after standing all the day idle.

Contrast the experience of him who can say, ‘I Thy servant fear God from my youth,’ who has been led by God’s mercy from childhood in the narrow way, who by early faith in Christ has been kept in the slippery ways of youth.

Of the one we can but say, ‘Is not this a brand plucked from the burning?’ The other is ‘innocent of much transgression.’

I have small hope of changing middle-aged and old men. To you I turn, you young men and women, you children, and to each of you I say, ‘Wilt thou not from this time say, My Father, Thou art the guide of my youth?’

III. Life will certainly deepen your early impressions.

The old Barzillai dying looks back to his early days.

So I point the lesson: ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence,’ and let your early thoughts be bright and pure ones.

Remember that you will never find any love like a father’s and mother’s. Don’t do what will load your memories in after days with sharp reproaches.

IV. Life will bring you nearer and nearer to the grave.

Hope after hope dies out, and there is nothing left but the hope to die. How beautiful the facing of it so as to become calmly familiar with it, making it an object of hope, with bright visions of reunion!

How can such an old age so bright and beautiful be secured? Surely the one answer is,-by faith in Jesus Christ.

Think of an old Christian resting, full of years, full of memories, full of hopes, to whom the stir of the present is nothing, who has come so near the place where the river falls into the great sea that the sounds on the banks are unheard. It is calm above the cataract, and though there be a shock when the stream plunges over the precipice, yet a rainbow spans the fall, and the river peacefully mingles with the shoreless, boundless ocean.

Dear young friends, ‘what shall the end be’? It is for yourselves to settle. Oh, take Christ for your Lord! Then, though so far as regards the bodily life the ‘youths shall faint and be weary,’ as regards the true self the life may be one of growing maturity, and at last you may ‘come to the grave as a shock of corn that is fully ripe.’

Trust, love, and serve Jesus, that thus calm, thus beautiful, may be your days here below, that if you die young you may die ripe enough for heaven, and that if God spares you to ‘reverence and the silver hairs,’ you may crown a holy life by a peaceful departure, and, sitting in the antechamber of death, may not grieve for the departure of youth and strength and buoyancy and activity, knowing that ‘they also serve who only stand and wait,’ and then may shake off the clog and hindrance of old age when you pass into the presence of God, and there, as being the latest-born of heaven, may more than renew your youth, and may enter on a life which weariness and decay never afflict, but with which immortal youth, with its prerogatives of endless hope, of keenest delight, of unwearying novelty, of boundless joy, abides for evermore.2 Samuel 19:34. Barzillai said, How long have I to live, &c. — In a spirit of true wisdom, and becoming moderation, he declined accepting the king’s generous offer. The pleasures of a court had no charms for him in that advanced age, being then fourscore years old; his senses and appetites were long since palled, and both music and banquets had lost all their relish. He therefore begged the king to give him leave to wait upon him over the river, and then return to his own city, there to die in peace, and be laid in the grave of his father and his mother.19:31-39 Barzillai thought he had done himself honour in doing the king any service. Thus, when the saints shall be called to inherit the kingdom, they will be amazed at the recompence being so very far beyond the service, Mt 25:37. A good man would not go any where to be burdensome; or, will rather be so to his own house than to another's. It is good for all, but especially becomes old people, to think and speak much of dying. The grave is ready for me, let me go and get ready for it.Unable to get to the bottom of the story, and perhaps unwilling to make an enemy of Ziba, David compromised the matter by dividing the land, thus partially revoking his hasty sentence 2 Samuel 16:4. We still see the impatient temper of David. 31-40. Barzillai the Gileadite—The rank, great age, and chivalrous devotion of this Gileadite chief wins our respect. His declining to go to court, his recommendation of his son, his convoy across the Jordan, and his parting scene with the king, are interesting incidents. What mark of royal favor was bestowed on Chimham has not been recorded; but it is probable that David gave a great part of his personal patrimony in Beth-lehem to Chimham and his heirs in perpetuity (Jer 41:17). Seeing my time of continuance in this world is but short, it is not advisable to change my habitation, or to give thee or myself any further trouble. And Barzillai said unto the king,.... In answer to the grateful proposal he made:

how long have I to live; that could not be said with exactness by any; but it might be probably conjectured from the age he was of, and the infirmities that attended him, that he could not live long; it was but a short time he had to be in the world:

that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? take so long a journey as that, seeing he might die before he got thither; and if he did not, since it could not be thought he should live long, he could not think of it, or judge it advisable at such an age to take such a journey, change his place of abode, and manner of living.

And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem?
"And he (Ziba) slandered thy servant to my lord the king." Mephibosheth had not merely inferred this from David's words, and the tone in which they were spoken, but had certainly found it out long ago, since Ziba would not delay very long to put David's assurance, that all the possessions of Mephibosheth should belong to him, in force against his master, so that Mephibosheth would discover from that how Ziba had slandered him. "And my lord the king is as the angel of God," i.e., he sees all just as it really is (see at 2 Samuel 14:17); "and do what is good in thy sight: for all my father's house (the whole of my family) were but men of death against my lord the king (i.e., thou mightest have had us all put to death), and thou didst set thy servant among thy companions at table (see 2 Samuel 9:7, 2 Samuel 9:11); and what right or (what) more have I still to cry (for help) to the king?" The meaning is, "I cannot assert any claims, but will yield to anything you decide concerning me." It must have been very evident to David from these words of Mephibosheth, that he had been deceived by Ziba, and that he had formed an unfounded prejudice against Mephibosheth, and committed an act of injustice in handing over his property to Ziba. He therefore replied, in evident displeasure (2 Samuel 19:29), "Why talkest thou still of thine affairs? I have said, thou and Ziba shall divide the field?" to which Mephibosheth answered (2 Samuel 19:30), "He may take the whole, since my lord the king has returned in peace to his own house." This reply shows very clearly that an injustice had been done to Mephibosheth, even if it is not regarded as an expression of wounded feeling on the part of Mephibosheth because of David's words, but, according to the view taken by Seb. Schmidt and others, as a vindication of himself, as said not to blame the king for the opinion he had formed, but simply to defend himself. But this completely overthrows the opinion held by Thenius and O. v. Gerlach, that David's words in 2 Samuel 19:30 contain nothing more than a revocation of his hasty declaration in 2 Samuel 16:4, and a confirmation of his first decision in 2 Samuel 9:7-10, and are to be understood as signifying, "Let everything be as I settled it at first; hold the property jointly," inasmuch as Ziba and his sons had of course obtained their living from the produce of the land. Moreover, the words "thou and Ziba divide the land" are directly at variance with the promise in 2 Samuel 9:7, "I will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father," and the statement in 2 Samuel 9:9, "I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul, and to all his house." By the words, "I have said, thou and Ziba divide the land," David retracted the hasty decree in 2 Samuel 16:4, so as to modify to some extent the wrong that he had done to Mephibosheth, but he had not courage enough to retract it altogether. He did not venture to dispute the fact that Mephibosheth had really been calumniated by Ziba, which was placed beyond all doubt by his mourning during the whole period of David's flight, as described in 2 Samuel 19:24. There is no ground for Winer's statement, therefore, that "it is impossible now to determine whether Mephibosheth was really innocent or not."
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