The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Now it came to pass after this, that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead.Gracious Messengers
1 Chronicles 19
THE phrase "after this" has no chronological significance. David was moved once more by a fine human sentiment. He remembered that Nahash had been kind to him in the days of his ancient trouble, so when Nahash died David proposed to show kindness unto Hanun his son. David was thus far from being spoiled by his royalty and grandeur. He who could sing so well could always sympathise most deeply. These fine human traits in the character of David endear the king to the common heart of the world. Though he was always ready for war, yet David was always ready also to bind up broken hearts, and to lead back to the right road men who had lost their path in life.
A very tender expression is this:
"David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father" (1Chronicles 19:2).
It might have been thought that a man whose mind was preoccupied with new military schemes, with ideas of advancement or aggrandisement, a man who slew thousands of enemies, would have cared but little for the death of a single man. Yet it was quite otherwise. David distinguished between the soldier and the man; between what he believed to be his military duty, and all those kindly and generous sentiments which invest human character with its noblest attributes. Though we cannot build a temple, we may send a comforting message to a human heart; though we cannot go forth to great wars such as require volumes of history for their proper narration, we can look out for instances of solitary grief and sadness to which we can minister encouragement and sympathy. Here, however, in the very act of carrying out a benevolent purpose, David is encountered by the all-poisoning thought in life, namely, the thought which is born of suspicion. Unfortunately, there are always men who misinterpret the motives of others, and assign sinister intentions to the very highest actions of the benevolent soul. How many feasts have these marplots spoiled? Into how many families have suspicious thoughts entered where they ought not to have had a moment's accommodation? It should be the delight of Christians to receive kindness without suspicion, and to give men credit for the best motives—especially in the day of darkness and distress—when they seek us out that they may comfort us with the light of the Lord. It would seem to require the whole energy of God to rid the human soul of suspicion and jealousy. How hard it is for us to give one another credit for really pure and good intentions! But in ascribing false or unworthy motives to human action, do we not thereby reveal the principal characteristics of our own disposition? Is it not true that evil is to him who evil thinks,—in other words, that only the evil man can think evil of other people, and that when we ascribe sinister motives to those who would help us, we are only drawing our own portraiture, and showing but too vividly what we ourselves would do under similar circumstances? The basest of motives was ascribed to David: he was making his pretended compassion a medium through which to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it. Unquestionably there are men who make an investment of Christianity, and turn their very Christian profession into an article of merchandise: unquestionably, too there may be simulations of sympathy which deserve only to be denounced as cunningly arranged hypocrisies: at the same time, it is better to err, if we err at all, on the side of magnanimity, by ascribing to men the worthiest motives, and crediting them with intentions akin to the faith which they profess. We may exclude ourselves from the enjoyment of many spiritual advantages by suspecting the motives of the men who offer them. Thus in going to the house of God itself we may regard the whole institution as an attempt to impose upon our credulity and generosity. In no such way do men realise the highest spiritual advantages; they embitter themselves; they rebuke all that is sweetest and noblest in human nature; and they betake themselves to narrowness and solitude, when they might live in the very largeness of the divine love, and in the sweetest companionship of the divine presence. All this suspicion brings upon those who indulge it punishment sooner or later.
The subsequent history given in this chapter shows that men cannot both be suspicious and successful when they are doing injustice to high motives and generous proposals. There are men who are clever within limited points, and whose policies instantly commend themselves because they appear to be marked by shrewdness. There is, however, a larger prudence—the great and generous prudence which gives men credit for being better than perhaps they are, and which disarms even their animosity by a liberal trust in what ought to be their main purpose. Beware of imprudent prudence; that is, prudence which sees only a portion of the situation, and does not take in the whole scope and horizon of the circumstances. The princes of the children of Ammon imagined themselves to be very clever in penetrating David's motive, but they lived to see that their cleverness was a mistake, and that astuteness when unregulated by magnanimity leads to penalty and ruin.
Almighty God, we bless thee for every sign of growth, because it is a sign of the victory of thy Son. Surely the world is better now than it was long ago. Thou hast not given the blessing in vain, thy word hath not returned unto thee void; thou seest the green blade piercing the dark earth, and foretokening the summer and the harvest. This is thy doing, thou Son of God; thou shalt see of the travail of thy soul, and shalt be satisfied; thou shalt say, It is enough; all thy pain shall be forgotten in thy triumph, thou shalt see in the throngs of heaven the spoils of thy blessed cross. Enable us to grow in grace, in knowledge, in every high quality, that at last we may come to the measure of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. We would not be soon discouraged, but the elements are against us, the great powers are not on our side; the powers that rule the air. and direct the world they would destroy, are all against us; but they that are for us are more in number and in quality than all that can be against us; to be with God is to be in the majority, to be associated with Christ is to be assured of victory; the Lord shall bring the issue according to his own purpose, and he shall see satisfaction which will give him perpetual delight. Enable us to be truly meek, and in some measure to understand that to serve is to grow, and that sometimes to wait is to serve; show us that by patience we may be exemplifying the Spirit of Christ; by withholding the moan of regret, by suppressing the sigh of discontent, we may be magnifying the cross of Christ; thus may we be encouraged to believe that in every department of life it is possible to show what Christ can do for the soul. As for those who are in darkness, and are groping, hardly knowing the night from the day, thou wilt be gracious unto them in the degree of their sincerity; if their doubt is the expression of their vanity, thou wilt permit them to go from ditch to ditch until they are wearied in their fruitless search. But if their doubt expresses the agony of the soul that would find God and come before him at the holy altar, thou wilt surprise such with revelations of thy presence, and gladden such by taking up thy residence in the heart. We leave all men, institutions, concerns, policies, and purposes with God; the great men of the earth can do nothing permanently against thy cross; all enmity is shivered to pieces there. Thou shalt reign, thou suffering, dying Christ, for thou didst rise again, and in thy resurrection thou hast given pledge that all who love thee shall share thine immortality. Help us to carry our burdens: sometimes the weight is too much; help us to believe that this body is only a momentary companion, and may at any moment fall away and allow the soul to pursue its unimpeded growth. Thus may we know that affliction helps, and that death comes with a blessing in its hands. Re with the sick, the weak, and those who under any circumstances must make their sanctuary at home; the Lord be gracious unto such with double-handed blessing, the Lord make them forget their weariness in their spiritual joy, and may they and we together through the cross see the throne. Amen.