Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 17:1-14. - (JERUSALEM.)2 Samuel 16:20); and took possession of the harem, "the first decided act of sovereignty" (subsequently he was also solemnly anointed, 2 Samuel 19:10, probably by Zadok and Abiathar). "Absalom's next step was to endeavour his father's destruction, in the conviction that his own throne would never be secure so long as he lived. The son had no relentings. He had knowingly subjected himself to the inevitable necessity of taking his father's life, and he only desired to learn how that object might be most effectually secured. A council was held on this question, and it is the first cabinet council to which history admits us. It was doubtless conducted in the same form as other royal councils; and, from the instance before us, it appears that the members who had anything to suggest, or rather such as the king called upon for their opinion, described the course they thought best suited to the circumstances" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illust.'). It was the turning point of the revolt (Psalm 92:7-9); and in it we see -
I. A RENOWNED COUNSELLOR urging promptitude with oracular wisdom. "And Ahithophel said," etc. (vers. 1-5; 2 Samuel 15:31); "this night" (2 Samuel 16:14; vers. 2, 16); instant action being, in his view, necessary to the accomplishment of the death of David and the success of the revolution. His counsel was the result of an unerring judgment, expressed with the utmost confidence, and thoroughly adapted (ver. 14, "good counsel") to effect its end. It was worthy of his great reputation. Extraordinary human wisdom is sometimes:
1. Employed against the servants of God and against his kingdom, of which they are the most conspicuous representatives. "This wisdom descendeth not from above," etc. (James 3:15).
2. Stimulated, in its exercise, by personal hatred toward them. "I will smite the king only" (perhaps exulting in the prospect of inflicting vengeance with his own hand).
3. Fraught with deadly peril to them (ver. 4). David himself, as he came "wearied and weak handed" to the plain of the Jordan and rested there, knew not yet his imminent danger and "marvellous escape" (1 Samuel 23:24-28). "But a higher power than the wisdom of the renowned Gilonite guided events." The Lord is the Defence of his people; and his promise concerning his Church is that "the gates (counsels) of Hades shall not prevail against it."
II. A RIVAL ORATOR advising delay with plausible arguments. "And Hushai said," etc. (vers. 7-13). "He was not a member of the council; but he had been well received by Absalom, whose greater treachery against his father made him give ready credence to the pretended treachery of his father's friend. It was at Absalom's suggestion that he was called in, and, being informed of the course Ahithophel had advised, he saw at once the danger that this course threatened to David; and, in fulfilment of his mission to defeat this man's counsel, he advanced divers reasons against it, all tending to delay" (Kitto). "It would not only ward off David's present danger, but would also, as Tacitus observes, give ill men time to repent, and the good to unite" (Delany). His counsel was the result of a profound acquaintance with human nature, and given with a persuasive eloquence equal to his wisdom. Advice favourable to God's servants:
1. Is often given in unlikely places, among their adversaries and by persons unsuspected of sympathy with them (Acts 5:38).
2. Derives its power from the selfish dispositions of the ungodly themselves: their fears (vers. 8-10) and their vainglory (vers. 11-14). Hushai's speech was "full of a certain kind of boasting which pleased the younger men" (Clericus).
3. Succeeds far beyond what might have been naturally expected, in making wisdom appear foolishness (vers. 4, 14).
III. AN INFATUATED USURPER adopting a policy fatal to his own designs. His decision was the result of:
1. His misjudgment of the effect of delay upon the nation; for he did not consider that "only the discontented part of the people formed the kernel of the insurrection, that no small portion still remained true to David, and that another part, now for the moment fallen away, would return after the first fit of revolution had passed" (Erdmann).
2. His over confidence in his power and success.
3. His love of personal display (his ruling passion). "The new made king gave the preference to a proposal which promised him, at any rate for a few days, the enjoyment of complete repose and the gratifications of his high position" (Ewald).
(1) Pervades all thoughts and actions of men; all places and events. In the council chamber of Absalom, where there seemed to be nothing but godless ambition, political wisdom, and "the strife of tongues," there was an unseen presence, observing, directing, controlling all. "The king's heart," etc. (Proverbs 21:1).
(2) Employs (without approving) the cunning craftiness of some men to check and punish that of others.
(3) "Permits evil to work out its own consequences, and the wicked to entangle themselves in their own snares, that he may reveal his justice and holiness in the self-condemnation and self-destruction of the power of evil" (ver. 23; 2 Samuel 18:7, 14). "When God is contriving misfortunes for man, he first deprives him of his reason" (Euripides). - D.
1. It is a good thing to be on the right side - to be a servant of "the King of kings and Lord of lords." Outside the city, two young men Jonathan and Ahimaaz, hiding themselves at En-rogel (the Fuller's Fountain), and waiting to carry news to the king; inside the city, their fathers (the high priests Abiathar and Zadok) and Hushai (the king's friend), preparing to send it: these were "faithful among the faithless found."
2. One who cannot do much can yet do something for his lord and master. If he cannot lead an army or give counsel in "the assembly of the elders," he can at least carry a message, like the brave Jonathan (1 Kings 1:42) and the swift-footed Ahimaaz (ch. 18:23); or, like the trusty maidservant of one of the high priests, who (as though going to the well for water) conveyed intelligence to them without suspicion. She could perform this service even more effectively than others in a higher station (2 Kings 5:2). The servant who has only "one talent" must not "hide it in the earth" (Matthew 25:25). Consider what you can do for Christ.
3. Small services may display great principles and qualities: love, obedience, diligence, veracity, fearlessness, faithfulness, self-control, self-denial, and self sacrifice. "He that is faithful in that which is least," etc. (Luke 16:10).
4. Hardly any service can be performed without difficulty and danger. "And a lad [probably on the watch] saw them," and gave information; so that they were closely pursued by Absalom's servants (soldiers) as far as Bahurim (2 Samuel 16:5). It was a race for life.
5. The servant who does his best will seldom fail to obtain opportune help. "And the woman took and spread the covering over the well's mouth," etc. (vers. 19, 20). "It was not the first nor yet the last time that an Israelitish woman wrought deliverance for her people" (Edersheim). Her motive was good; not her equivocation and deceit. Many circumstances and casual events, under the ordering of Divine providence, conduce to the safety and success of a faithful servant.
6. There is as much need of small services as great; and such services have frequently important issues; it may be escape from death. The message of Hushai, carried by the maidservant and communicated by the young men, contributed to the security and welfare of the king, "and all the people that were with him" (ver. 22). "In this information sent to him so opportunely, David believed that he had reason to recognize a new sign that the Lord still thought of him in love and cared for his deliverance" (Krummacher).
"Like the coolness of snow on a harvest day
2 Samuel 19:15) they rested at nightfall. "Amongst the thickets of the Jordan the asses of Ziba were unladen, and the weary travellers refreshed themselves, and waited for tidings from Jerusalem" (2 Samuel 15:28, 36; 2 Samuel 16:14; ver. 16). David had been uncertain whether to cross the river; but during the night the messengers arrived, saying, "Arise," etc.; the encampment was broken up, and "by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan." That night was another, memorable one (1 Samuel 19:8-18). "It has been conjectured, with much probability that as the first sleep of that evening was commemorated in the fourth psalm, so in the third is expressed the feeling of David's thankfulness at the final close of those twenty-four hours, of which every detail has been handed down, as if with the consciousness of their importance at the time" (Stanley). Psalm 4. 'An Even-song' -
"I laid me down and slept;
I. BESET BY FEROCIOUS FOES; numerous, powerful, and crafty (2 Samuel 15:12, 13; 2 Samuel 16:15; vers. 1-3); seeking to take away his crown, his honour, and his life; by fraud, treachery, and violence. His trouble represents that of the persecuted and afflicted servant of God in every age.
1. The feeling of trouble is usually intensified with the approach of night, the season of peril and emblem of distress.
2. The good man in trouble seeks relief in God (Psalm 121:4); whilst acknowledging his sins, he is conscious of sincerity, trusts in Divine mercy, and derives from his experience of former mercies an argument for his prayer.
3. He regards his adversaries in no vindictive spirit: and, although he desires their overthrow as the enemies of God, still more he desires their conversion. "The address is directed to the aristocratic party, whose tool Absalom had become" (Delitzsch).
"When I cry, answer me, O God of my righteousness,
II. AIDED BY FAITHFUL FRIENDS, who sympathize with him, strive to defeat his enemies, give him useful counsel, and share his dangers (2 Samuel 15:15, 21, 23; vers. 7, 15, 17).
1. A time of adversity tests the fidelity of friends; and manifests it, as the night brings out the stars that were unseen by day.
2. It also makes their aid peculiarly precious; and is a sign of the favour of the Eternal Friend.
3. When friends begin to despond in a time of trouble, it is the part of a good man, "strong in faith," to encourage them, by directing their thoughts to the Divine Source of consolation, his own "exceeding joy."
"Many say, Who will show us good?
III. DELIVERED BY DIVINE FAVOUR; shown in his preservation, the salutary warning received during the night, the safe passage of the Jordan, so that "by the morning light," etc. (ver. 22), and the complete defeat of Ahithophel's counsel (vers. 14).
1. In their hostility to the good, wicked men rely on their own wisdom and strength alone, ignoring God; but "the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly," etc. (2 Peter 2:9).
2. Often when a good man is despised as one abandoned of God, he is taken into closer fellowship with him and more signally protected and delivered.
3. In the morning light of every day he perceives fresh tokens of Divine favour. Whilst God "giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10), "his mercies are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23; Psalm 5; Psalm 30:5; Psalm 143:8).
"Jehovah, how many are mine adversaries!
IV. INCITED TO VICTORIOUS CONFIDENCE; by the contemplation of what God is to him and has done for him (Genesis 15:1); as, having now escaped his most immediate peril, he travels on "by the morning light" toward Mahanaim (ver. 24). Troubles do not always "pass away with light." Enemies still threaten (Psalm 3:1), and with each returning day the servant of God has to begin the conflict afresh (2 Samuel 5:22, 23). But:
1. Even when most formidable, they do not terrify him whose hope is in Jehovah.
2. They are regarded as if already overthrown.
3. And to Jehovah alone is the victory ascribed.
"I will not be afraid of ten thousands of the people
2 Samuel 17:23. - (GILOH.)2 Samuel 15:12). While Ahimaaz and Jonathan hurried eastward toward the Jordan with their message (the decision of the council being as yet unknown publicly, or its reversal feared), the renowned counsellor rode southward toward Giloh, brooding over what might have been (ver. 2) and what would be; the shadows of night thickening around him (1 Samuel 28:1-10); and the same night (or soon afterwards) "his lamp was put out in darkness" (Proverbs 13:9). "With the deliberate cynicism of a man who had lost all faith, he committed that rare crime in Israel, suicide" (Edersheim). "He was probably not the first man who hanged himself, but he bears the unenviable distinction of being the first whose hanging himself is recorded; and society would have little reason to complain if all who have since sentenced themselves to this doom were as worthy of it as this father of self-suspenders." (Kitto). "So perished the great Machiavelli of that age, the very wisest of the very wise men of this world!" (Delany). We have here -
I. A DISAPPOINTED POLITICIAN. Like many other eminent politicians, he was destitute of religious principles; set his heart upon the world, and had "his portion in this life" (Psalm 17:14); was proud of his own wisdom, ambitious of wealth, fame, honour, and power, and hostile to godliness and godly men; the leading mind of the ungodly party in Israel. "He had no regard either to the ways of God or the laws of God. Providence made no part of his plan. He considered with great sagacity how he was to act; but he never considered how God would act; and therefore all his wise designs must have been very defective. The rich man said, 'I shall want room for my stores,' etc. But the Gospel calls him a fool, for not considering that God might call him out of the world that night, and that then all his schemes of happiness and prosperity would die with him. Such is he who is wise without God; and such was this Ahithophel" (Jones of Nayland). We now see him under the influence of:
1. Wounded pride, frustrated ambition, and, probably, ungratified malice (ver. 1). The rejection of his counsel was regarded by him as a personal affront, and a fatal blow to his position and prospects; for "he had been impelled by nothing else than a mad ambition, so that life itself became insupportable when the attainment of the position he had hankered after proved insufficient to satisfy his desires" (Ewald). He would be revenged on Absalom himself, by leaving him to pursue his own course.
2. Unavoidable fear of the disgrace, infamy, and punishment that awaited him. For, by the adoption of Hushai's counsel, he foresaw that all was lost, and that David would live and reign. Although he had the "Roman" courage (or rather, cowardice and impatience) to face death, he had not courage enough to face disaster.
"He's not valiant that dares die; 3. Bitter remorse, desperation, and despair. "Perhaps he now began to see for the first time that, as he had been against God, God was against him, and, according to the prayer of David, was turning his counsel into foolishness. Under this calamity, what had he to support him? Nothing but that policy of a wicked man which never supported anybody long. In the trouble of a righteous man there is hope; but in the trouble of the wicked there is none. And, for a man like him, there is no refuge but in despair" (Psalm 7:15, 16). II. A DELIBERATE CRIME. "And put his household in order," etc.; i.e. "he settled his affairs, he made his will, as a person of sound mind and memory; as he would have done if death had been coming upon him in a natural way." He did not commit the deed in an outburst of passion, but with deliberation and forethought. Suicide is often due to insanity, and without blame (except in so far as it is induced by previous misconduct); but in his case there is no indication of it; nor was there the same justification or the same extenuation of guilt as in other cases (Judges 16:30; 1 Samuel 31:4, 5). Whatever may have been the measure of his culpability, suicide is a crime: 1. Against a man himself; a violation of the law of self-preservation written upon his nature. 2. Against society. "Nor can any case be put which is not concluded under sin by the peculiar injury or general mischief" (Paley, 'Sermons'). 3. Against God, who has "fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter" (Exodus 20:13); who has committed life to men as a trust; and whose will in relation to it is intimated in various ways. "In every society where the Christian and old Pythagorean idea of life, as a talent and a trust, is unknown or forgotten, and where its value is measured by enjoyment, suicide will be likely to become common" (Thirlwall, 'Letters to a Friend'). It is "a complication of ingratitude, contempt of the Lord's gift of life, defiance, impatience, pride, rebellion, and infidelity" (Scott; Wardlaw, 'Sys. Theol.'). "What a mixture do we find here of wisdom and madness!" (Hall). "Thus he displayed the miserable infatuation of worldly policy" (Wordsworth). Under the light which the gospel sheds upon the present and the future, the act of the self-destroyer is rendered peculiarly criminal and awful. III. A DREADFUL RETRIBUTION. (2 Samuel 12:10-12.) The course of sin on which he had entered was attended (as it ever is in others) by most baneful effects on himself, and ended in destruction; the culmination at once of his sin and of his punishment. He became: 1. His own tormentor; rushing against impassable barriers, and bringing upon himself irreparable misery. 2. His own tempter; being urged onward by inward impulses to further transgression. 3. His own executioner; inflicting with his own hand the extreme penalty of the law; a retribution more dreadful than when inflicted. by the direct stroke of Heaven (2 Samuel 6:6-8) or the hands of other men (2 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 18:7, 14). "The wages of sin is death" (Proverbs 14:32). "Thus it falleth out that wicked counsel doth chiefly redound to the hurt of the author thereof" (Wilier). Like Judas, Ahithophel went to "his own place" (Acts 1:25). IV. AN ADMONITORY END; the consideration of which should lead to: 1. The conviction of the enormous evil of suicide; which may exert a preserving influence in an hour of temptation. 2. The abhorrence of the principles which induce its commission, and the avoiding of every sinful way. The sinner is a self-destroyer (Hosea 13:9). 3. The cherishing, with renewed earnestness, of the opposite principles of humility, faith, patience, godliness, uprightness, charity, etc. "If the affections are violently set upon anything in this world, whether fame, wealth, or pleasure, and are disappointed, then life becomes insupportable. Therefore, the moral is this: 'Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.'" - D.
3. Bitter remorse, desperation, and despair. "Perhaps he now began to see for the first time that, as he had been against God, God was against him, and, according to the prayer of David, was turning his counsel into foolishness. Under this calamity, what had he to support him? Nothing but that policy of a wicked man which never supported anybody long. In the trouble of a righteous man there is hope; but in the trouble of the wicked there is none. And, for a man like him, there is no refuge but in despair" (Psalm 7:15, 16).
II. A DELIBERATE CRIME. "And put his household in order," etc.; i.e. "he settled his affairs, he made his will, as a person of sound mind and memory; as he would have done if death had been coming upon him in a natural way." He did not commit the deed in an outburst of passion, but with deliberation and forethought. Suicide is often due to insanity, and without blame (except in so far as it is induced by previous misconduct); but in his case there is no indication of it; nor was there the same justification or the same extenuation of guilt as in other cases (Judges 16:30; 1 Samuel 31:4, 5). Whatever may have been the measure of his culpability, suicide is a crime:
1. Against a man himself; a violation of the law of self-preservation written upon his nature.
2. Against society. "Nor can any case be put which is not concluded under sin by the peculiar injury or general mischief" (Paley, 'Sermons').
3. Against God, who has "fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter" (Exodus 20:13); who has committed life to men as a trust; and whose will in relation to it is intimated in various ways. "In every society where the Christian and old Pythagorean idea of life, as a talent and a trust, is unknown or forgotten, and where its value is measured by enjoyment, suicide will be likely to become common" (Thirlwall, 'Letters to a Friend'). It is "a complication of ingratitude, contempt of the Lord's gift of life, defiance, impatience, pride, rebellion, and infidelity" (Scott; Wardlaw, 'Sys. Theol.'). "What a mixture do we find here of wisdom and madness!" (Hall). "Thus he displayed the miserable infatuation of worldly policy" (Wordsworth). Under the light which the gospel sheds upon the present and the future, the act of the self-destroyer is rendered peculiarly criminal and awful.
III. A DREADFUL RETRIBUTION. (2 Samuel 12:10-12.) The course of sin on which he had entered was attended (as it ever is in others) by most baneful effects on himself, and ended in destruction; the culmination at once of his sin and of his punishment. He became:
1. His own tormentor; rushing against impassable barriers, and bringing upon himself irreparable misery.
2. His own tempter; being urged onward by inward impulses to further transgression.
3. His own executioner; inflicting with his own hand the extreme penalty of the law; a retribution more dreadful than when inflicted. by the direct stroke of Heaven (2 Samuel 6:6-8) or the hands of other men (2 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 18:7, 14). "The wages of sin is death" (Proverbs 14:32). "Thus it falleth out that wicked counsel doth chiefly redound to the hurt of the author thereof" (Wilier). Like Judas, Ahithophel went to "his own place" (Acts 1:25).
IV. AN ADMONITORY END; the consideration of which should lead to:
1. The conviction of the enormous evil of suicide; which may exert a preserving influence in an hour of temptation.
2. The abhorrence of the principles which induce its commission, and the avoiding of every sinful way. The sinner is a self-destroyer (Hosea 13:9).
3. The cherishing, with renewed earnestness, of the opposite principles of humility, faith, patience, godliness, uprightness, charity, etc. "If the affections are violently set upon anything in this world, whether fame, wealth, or pleasure, and are disappointed, then life becomes insupportable. Therefore, the moral is this: 'Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.'" - D.
2 Samuel 16:23). Astute as he was, he was evidently unprincipled. His desertion of David for Absalom, and the advice he gave the latter, show this. His wisdom did not avail for his own good. He died "as a fool dieth," and by his own hand. Yet there was a thoughtfulness and deliberateness about the deed such as was in a certain keeping with his intellectual ability. It is not difficult to account for the desperate course he took. He was mortified that Absalom, for whom he had incurred so much guilt, and made so great sacrifices, and who knew and revered his wisdom (2 Samuel 16:23), should have rejected his counsel for that of Hushai; and, because of his confidence in the wisdom of his own advice, he felt sure that David would be victorious, and he himself, not only disgraced and ruined, but executed as a traitor. Rather than face this prospect, he hanged himself. Self-murder is not an agreeable subject, yet it may be salutary occasionally to reflect upon it. Many do put an end to their own lives; and doubtless many others are more or less tempted to do so. It may be hoped that consideration of the matter may fortify the minds of some against the first approaches of such temptation.
I. THE CAUSES OF SUICIDE.
1. Mental derangement is doubtless a common cause. Not so common as we might infer from the verdicts of coroners' juries, anxious to relieve surviving relatives from the pains and penalties inflicted by antiquated civil and ecclesiastical laws; yet still the most common cause. It is virtually the same thing to say that disease of the brain is the common cause. This is often hereditary, or it may be induced by overwork, or by excessive indulgence of the appetites and passions, or by the pressure of worldly anxieties. Insanity relieves of the guilt of self-murder; nevertheless, where the insanity is the result of habits which are sinful, the guilt of these remains; and, if the probable issue of them was foreseen, the sinner cannot free himself altogether from the guilt which attaches to the act of self-destruction.
2. The pressure or dread of troubles often leads to this crime. Not only as they produce insanity, but as they operate on a sane mind. Intense pain, great misfortunes, disgrace, or the dread of it, fear of destitution, etc. Instances: Saul and his armour bearer (1 Samuel 31:4, 5); Zimri (1 Kings 16:18); Ahithophel; and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:27).
3. Remorse and despair. Judas (Matthew 27:5).
II. ITS SIN AND FOLLY.
1. It is contrary to nature. The love of life is one of the strongest principles implanted in us by our Creator. "Self-preservation is the first law of nature." The natural conscience, which teaches the criminality of taking the life of another, equally teaches that of taking our own. We may for adequate reasons, in serving God or men, expose our lives to peril; but we must not ourselves extinguish them, and thus cut short our opportunities of service.
2. It is daring impiety towards God. It is a cowardly abandonment of our trust; an act of rebellion against him who has assigned us our post and work; a contemptuous casting away as worthless, or worse, of God's precious gift. It springs from distrust of God, discontent with his appointments, a proud refusal to serve him unless under such conditions as are agreeable to ourselves.
3. It is a serious injustice to our friends and society. Our life is given us for the sake of others as well as ourselves. To abandon it is to rob and injure them. It is vain to say we can no longer be of service to them. Under the worst circumstances a man can set an example of patience and submission such as is much needed in this world of suffering. And if he have become a burden to others, in bearing the burden they may be enriched and blessed.
4. It is in direct opposition to the revealed will of God. No distinct prohibition can, indeed, be quoted, unless it is included in the command, "Thou shalt do no murder;" which is doubtful. But it is entirely opposed to all the precepts of Scripture which enjoin patient endurance of trials, and that to the end; and to the examples of such endurance which are set before us, especially that of our Lord Jesus Christ. The instances in Holy Writ of fleeing from suffering by rushing out of the world, are all those of either wicked or deranged persons.
5. It is a desperate plunge into worse miseries than can be experienced in this life. The self-murderer rushes red handed into the presence of the awful Judge, depriving himself of all possibility of repentance.
III. PRESERVATIVES AGAINST THIS DREADFUL SIN. In this case emphatically "prevention is better than cure" - preservation, that is, from that condition of mind from which suicide springs. And this is to be found in vital godliness in all its branches. In particular:
1. Constant faith in God. Confidence that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of those who seek him, however he may try them. Unbounded trust in his goodness and wisdom, as exercised in respect to ourselves. Earnest and cheerful service of him under whatever conditions he may place us. Profound submission to his will. Dread of his displeasure.
2. Moderation in respect to worldly things. In our estimates of their worth, and of the evil of being deprived of them; in the pursuit of them; in their enjoyment; in sorrow at their departure. Habitual self-control. Intemperance partakes of the guilt of suicide.
3. Prayer. Habitual. Special when cares and temptations press with special weight. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7; comp. Psalm 55:22). "In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer," etc. (Philippians 4:6, 7, Revised Version). "The peace of God" thus obtained will best "guard" the heart and the thoughts against all that tends to despondency.
4. The communion of saints. Christian society; social worship; visitation of the Christian poor, whose privations and sufferings will often make our own seem small, whose cheerfulness and resignation will shame our discontent and impatience, and assist us to a better mind.
5. Prompt and resolute rejection, with loathing, of every thought of this as a possible way out of trouble. Probably many persons of a nervous and desponding temper are visited with such thoughts. Let them be instantly dismissed, lest they grow in frequency and power, and in a weak moment produce the corresponding deed. In conclusion, all sin is of the nature of suicide. He who impenitently persists in it destroys the life of his own soul. All they that hate the Divine wisdom and forsake its ways "love death" (Proverbs 8:36). - G.W.
2 Samuel 17:24-29. - (MAHANAIM.)2 Samuel 10:1-4; 2 Samuel 12:26-31); Machir (2 Samuel 9:4); Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:31-40). On hearing of the arrival of David at Mahanaim, these three men came with one accord, brining presents, and "provided the king of sustenance while he lay" there (ch. 19:32). "We are inclined to regard them as representative men: Shobi, of the extreme border inhabitants, or rather foreign tributaries; Machir, of the former adherents of Saul; and Barzillai, of the wealthy landowners generally" (Edersheim). Whilst acting, specially, from feelings of loyalty, gratitude, and affectionate regard, they displayed a hospitality such as is often enjoined (Leviticus 25:35; Isaiah 58:7; Luke 14:13; Romans 12:13), but frequently omitted (Hebrews 13:2). It was:
1. Much needed by David and his followers, "who were like a band of beggars or marauders (Delitzsch), driven from their home, in a comparatively strange land (Psalm 61:2), beset by hostile forces (ver. 25), in want of shelter, rest, and provision (ver. 29). "The Son of man had not where to lay his head" (Luke 9:58); and in his "brethren" he is often persecuted and in want of all things (Matthew 25:35; Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:10 3John 5, 6).
2. Admirably exemplified.
(1) Spontaneously, without being solicited.
(2) Promptly, without delay.
(3) Cordially, with sympathy and pity; for they said, "The people have become hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness."
(4) Considerately; those things which were most necessary and agreeable being supplied.
(5) Generously; according to ability, and "without grudging" (1 Peter 4:9).
(6) Disinterestedly, unselfishly, with self-denial and at no little risk.
(7) Perseveringly; not (as in another familiar instance) for three days (Acts 28:7), but for nearly as many months. It not unfrequently happens that the poor and the stranger receive the most hospitable treatment from those on whom they have the least claim.
3. Eminently helpful, comforting and encouraging; a sign of the Divine care for him (Genesis 32:2) - a proof that he was not forsaken by all the people, and an influence adapted to gather others around him. "The faithfulness of human love, strengthening in need and cheering in misfortune is not only the copy, but also the means and instrument of the faithfulness of the Divine love, granted to those who bow humbly beneath God's hand and wholly trust him" (Erdmann).
4. Abundantly requited. Those who exercise it "are blessed in their doing" (James 1:25); and receive unexpected honour and benefit from their guests (2 Samuel 19:33, 38, 39; Genesis 18.; Acts 28:8) and from the Lord himself (Hebrews 6:10; Matthew 25:34). - D.
Genesis 32:1) on his way back to the promised land, and just before his interview with Esau, about whose present disposition towards him he was doubtful. In our text also we read of veritable angels (messengers) of God, though human, coming to the same place to succour and encourage another of his servants when in circumstances of great difficulty. David had with him a large company of friends and subjects, who remained faithful while so many were faithless; but their very number was an embarrassment, and they arrived in the neighbourhood "hungry, and weary, and thirsty." Very welcome, therefore, were the supplies which these chieftains brought for their relief, and which the historian enumerates with so much evident pleasure. They thus cheered the heart of David, contributed very materially to his final victory over his rebellious son and subjects, and obtained for themselves a good name. In the Christian warfare against error and sin there is room and need for this kind of service. The progress of the spiritual cause depends no little on the material aids. As soldiers must eat and drink in order that they may fight, so Christian ministers and missionaries, however spiritual and holy and disinterested, cannot preach and teach unless they are fed and clothed, and their work facilitated by various appliances which are only to be obtained and maintained by money or money's worth. It is only in exceptional cases that competent labourers are able to support themselves by the Labour of their hands or from their private fortunes. Hence the absolute necessity that Christians should furnish material supplies, and the certainty that the progress of the Christian cause in the world will be greatly hindered if, through indifference or avarice, such supplies are scantily furnished. In our time the duty of furnishing them more abundantly needs to be pressed on the attention of the disciples of Christ with much urgency. The world is almost everywhere open to the missionary; devoted men and women offer themselves, ready to go anywhere to make Christ known; but in many instances they cannot be sent forth for want of the means of sending and sustaining them. That the ability of Christ's servants in this direction is being employed to the utmost is incredible in view of the lavish expenditure of many of them on worldly display and luxury. The disposition is wanting; and this in part because a conviction has not yet been awakened in their hearts of the necessity and worth of pecuniary supplies, and the imperative duty and high honour of furnishing them. Such a conviction may be promoted by due attention to the following considerations.
I. THE OBLIGATIONS OF ALL CHRISTIANS IN RESPECT TO THE PROMOTION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE WORLD ARE THE SAME. The character, the toils, the serf denying endurance of hardships and privations, of many missionaries and other ministers of the gospel, awaken admiration and applause. But, amongst those who applaud, the feeling is often wanting that they are themselves as really and truly bound to devoted service of Christ as the men whom they admire.
1. Objects of the same Divine love, redeemed by the same precious blood, called by the same grace, partakers of the same privileges and hopes, they ought to cherish a like ardent love to Christ, and with a like zeal seek to fulfil the purposes for which he lived and died.
3. They are equally bound to love their fellow men, and seek their good to the utmost of their power.
II. THE NECESSITY OF MATERIAL SUPPLIES AFFORDS TO ALL THE OPPORTUNITY OF BEING PARTNERS WITH THE NOBLEST WORKERS IN SUSTAINING AND EXTENDING THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The good women who ministered to our Lord of their substance (Luke 8:2, 3) became thus partakers in his work. The Philippians who showed hospitality to St. Paul when amongst them (Acts 16:15), or sent gifts to him afterwards (Philippians 4:14-16), are recognized by him as having "fellowship" (partnership) with him, "in furtherance of the gospel" (Philippians 1:5, 7, Revised Version). St. Joha describes those who were hospitable to evangelists as their "fellow helpers to the truth" (3 John 1:8). In like manner, all who subscribe of their money towards the support of Christian ministries and missions, have the honour of being fellow workers with those who give the ablest personal service. This was recognized by the lad who hastened to a missionary meeting, and being asked the reason of his eagerness, replied, "I have a share in the concern." Bible, missionary, and other societies have, by awakening such thoughts and feelings, done much to enlarge and elevate the minds of the myriads of their supporters in every part of Christendom.
III. GIVING EXERCISES THE SAME CHRISTIAN VIRTUES AS PERSONAL SERVICE. For right and sufficient contribution of substance, as for right preaching and teaching, are required:
1. Faith and love.
Indeed, all Christian principles and affections are brought into play in the course of earnest service of either kind. Both are processes of education of the Christian soul, by which the lessons of Christ are more thoroughly learnt.
IV. IT IS EQUALLY ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. St. Paul calls the present he had received from the Philippians "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18; see also Hebrews 13:16). Right motives are, of course, presupposed; but, when these are present, both kinds of service are equally acceptable. "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41).
V. IT SHALL OBTAIN A SIMILAR RECOMPENSE. In:
1. The Consciousness of Divine approval.
2. The pleasure of serving Christ.
3. The joy of doing the highest and most enduring good to men.
4. The rewards of the last day.
The expressed approval of Christ. Admission to "the joy of the Lord" (Matthew 25:21, 23). Participation with Christ and the saints in the joy of final and complete victory over the powers of evil. Every true hearted sharer in the work and conflict shall share in the gladness of the triumph, when not only the sower and the reaper (John 4:36), but those who have furnished them with needful support, shall "rejoice together." Finally, we must not think of workers and givers as two distinct classes of persons, having no part in each other's functions. All Christians can and ought to render personal service as well as contributions. There is need and room for all to labour as well as give. In maintaining Church life, in teaching the ignorant, in seeking and saving the lost, in comforting the sorrowful, etc., there is scope for the talents of all. No one can by his gifts purchase freedom from such services. We must give account of every talent committed to us. - G.W.