"Are you well, my brother?" Joab asked Amasa. And with his right hand Joab grabbed Amasa by the beard to kiss him.
2 Samuel 20:4-13. - (GIBEON.)2 Samuel 17:25) joined Absalom in his rebellion; and must have been a man of great ability, courage, and influence, from the fact that he was appointed by him "captain of the host instead of Joab," and afterwards promised by David the same post (2 Samuel 19:13). This promise "involved no injustice to Joab himself, for he had long been notorious for too great severity in war, and had just acted with such direct disobedience to the royal command in Absalom's case, that it was impossible to overlook his offence without endangering the royal prerogative" (Ewald). Whilst it was adapted to conciliate the men of Judah, it was, nevertheless, certain to give offence to Joab and cause future trouble. It does not appear that he was formally replaced by Amasa; but the commission given to the latter (ver. 4) "was intended as the commencement of the fulfilment of the promise" (Keil). And when he exhibited undue delay in its fulfilment (ver. 5), David, "wishing to have nothing to do with Joab," sent Abishai to pursue after Sheba (ver. 6). "And there went out after him Joab's men" (ver. 7) under Joab (who deemed himself still commander-in-chief). At "the great stone which is in Gibeon" (2 Samuel 2:13; 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Chronicles 21:29) he met Amasa returning with his military levies, and on saluting him with the kiss of peace, dealt him his death blow (vers. 8-10); passed on, followed (after a brief hesitation at the spectacle of their murdered captain) by "all the people;" finished the war, and returned to Jerusalem. In this tragedy notice:
1. The danger of holding a responsible position by one who is ill Qualified for it through want of natural ability, proper antecedents, timely appointment, public confidence, adequate zeal and energy. "The cause of Amasa's delay is not stated. It may have been the unwillingness of the men of Judah to place themselves under the orders of Amasa (contrast vers. 13 and 14), or it may have been caused by a wavering or hesitation in the loyalty of Amasa himself. This last is evidently insinuated in ver. 11, and no doubt this was the pretext., whether grounded in fact or not, by which Joab justified the murder of Amasa before David" ('Speaker's Commentary').
2. The tendency of repeated crimes to induce more daring criminality. This was Joab's third murder (2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 18:14), in addition to his complicity in the death of Uriah; less excusable, more guileful, malicious, and reckless than any other; his motive being jealousy of a rival. "No life is safe that stands in his way, but from policy he never sacrifices the most insignificant life without a purpose" (2 Samuel 2:27-30; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:20). "By degrees men grow more and more bold and unfeeling in the commission of crimes of every kind; until they vindicate and glory in their villainies; and when such daring offenders are actuated by ambition or revenge, they will not be restrained by the ties of relationship or friendship; nay, they will employ the guise and language of love to obtain the opportunity of perpetrating the most atrocious murders. The beginning of evil should therefore in everything be decisively resisted" (Scott).
3. The infliction of deserved punishment by an unauthorized and wicked hand. "Amasa is innocent of the crime of seeking Joab's place, for which he is murdered by him, yet he is guilty before God for his siding with Absalom. Whereupon we collect that ofttimes men suffer innocently for some crimes that are laid to their charge, and in respect of the persons who are the pursuers; yet in God's judgment they are justly punished for other sins, wherein either they have been spared or else have not been noted to the world; and as many at the hour of their death and execution, publicly have acknowledged" (Guild).
4. The commission of a great crime by one who possesses great abilities and renders great public services. Alas! that a man of such military skill, practical sagacity, and tried fidelity as Joab (now far advanced in life), should have been so "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"! Once more he saved the monarchy; and once more David was compelled to bear with him (2 Samuel 3:39; 2 Samuel 19:13). "He probably felt obliged to show some indulgence to a man who was indispensable to him as a soldier, and who, notwithstanding his culpable ferocity, never lost sight of his master's interests." His indulgence was doubtless also due, in part, to the consciousness of his own sin (Psalm 51:3), which made him unwilling to inflict the penalty of the law on one who had been his partner in guilt. But at length judgment overtakes the transgressor; the Law is vindicated; and the ways of God to men are justified (1 Kings 2:5, 6, 28-35). Near the very spot where his crowning act of perfidy was perpetrated, Joab received his death blow from the hand of Benaiah (1 Chronicles 16:39). - D.
Art thou in health, my brother?
I. We suppose ourselves in a hospital occupied by those who are spiritually diseased, AND THE SYMPTOMS MUST BE INQUIRED INTO AND NOTED.
1. First, then, as to the condition of the pulse. Does it beat strongly and vigorously, indicating a proper circulation? or is it slow, languid, and irregular? Has joy departed? and has zeal ceased to inspire your soul for the discharge of high and holy duties?
2. Next, let me ask concerning your memory. Are past trials forgotten? Have you ceased to think of GOD'S many mercies with gratitude? There are bitter mercies as well as sweet ones, and the Great Physician administers to us some of His healing remedies in wine, and others in wormwood.
3. The condition of your appetite. Does it relish wholesome fare? Do you find pleasure in the reading of good books; and above all, in the study of GOD'S word? Is plain gospel preaching the nutriment which suits you best; or is there a constant craving after highly-seasoned and stimulating rhapsodies, which constitute so large a proportion of the popular preaching of the day? Mere flowers of rhetoric are like the blue and red blossoms in cornfields — pleasing to those who come for amusement, but prejudicial to those who would reap the grain.
4. The condition of your strength. Is your ability to do God's will, to work for Him, and to endure pains and sacrifices, up to the highest standard which you have ever reached? or is such spiritual strength perceptibly on the decline? How many forget that it is impossible robe good without self-denial and effort, and that in order to such exertion we must have strength. The soul will always be feeble and sickly so long as this is lacking.
II. Let us go on, then, TO DESCRIBE SOME TIMELY REMEDIES.
1. Avoid everything which disagrees with your soul's health. Many dangerous diseases are infectious, and hence, evil companions, and unlawful pleasures, cannot be too carefully shunned. "LORD, I trust THOU hast pardoned the bad examples I have set before others," said old Thomas Fuller in his prayer, "be pleased also to pardon me the sins which they have committed by my bad examples." The Nazarites whose strict vows allowed them to drink no wine, also forbade them to cut grapes from which wine is made. And so, they who would enjoy spiritual health, must not only avoid sin in itself, but also the companionship and associations which lead to it.
2. Retirement. The Great Physician should be sought often, that we may be alone with Him. Virtue always goeth out of Him to heal those who thus manifest a desire for His saving help. Especially, during the holy season of Lent, let us thus seek to be alone with the Saviour. "Depart from the highway," says St. , "and transplant thyself in some enclosed ground, for it is hard for a tree that stands by the wayside to keep her fruit till it be ripe."
3. We must be willing to take freely of the balm of Gilead, the doctrine of God's unchangeable love; and also of bitter herbs, such as meditations on the shipwrecks and apostasies of unfaithful Christians.
4. Take plenty of exercise. Attend diligently on all means of grace, public and private prayer, the Lord's Supper, and labour with cheerfulness in the Master's vineyard. Again, therefore, I ask the question of the text: "Art thou in health, my brother?" If honesty obliges you to answer no, then let me implore you to lose no time in seeking for the Good Physician. Cry aloud, this day, to the Good Physician: "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David!" The virtue which goes forth from Him is no mere temporary palliative. Jesus not only comforts, but He cures. Wilt thou be made whole? Look to Christ Jesus to do it for you.
(J. N. Norton.)
(Hugh Black, M. A.)
(F. G. Welch, M. D.)
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