2 Samuel 19:31-41
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.…
Some of the most interesting spots in our Scottish landscapes are hidden from the hasty traveller. He passes through a beautiful valley, sees the clear rushing river, the green fields fringed by the dark woods which climb the skirts of the hills, the mountain tops with their massive swell or rocky precipice indenting the sky, and he thinks he knows the whole. But there are exquisite spots of beauty hidden among the hills, shady pools in the streams, quiet retreats so fresh and far away from the world's eye, that when he sees them he feels as if the foot of man had never been there before, It is so in the Bible. We read the great roll of the heroes of faith in the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews, and it seems as if we had traversed the history of the ancient Church of God. Buts when we pass through the first ranks and the grander scenes, we light upon spots of tranquil beauty and characters of transparent faith and truthfulness which fill us with the gladness of surprise. The story of Barzillai is one of these.
I. We have A MAN WHO KNOWS THAT HE IS OLD, BUT WHO IS NOT DISTRESSED BY THE THOUGHT OF IT. He has no reticence, no shame, and, so far as we can see, he has no regret. He numbers up his weaknesses, indeed, but it is much in the way a soldier counts the scars he has brought from his battlefields. This is the hoary head which is so beautiful when it is found in the way of righteousness. We should aim at this even from youth. But how are we to prepare for this? First, surely, by taking God with us early in the journey of life. God is willing to receive a man whenever he turns to Him; but the later he turns, the more shall be his regrets. Next, by providing beforehand the compensations which God is willing to give for everything that may be taken away by the changes of life. If the eye is to become dim, we may be preparing an inner vision more open and clear for Divine and eternal realities; if the ear is to be dulled to earthly music, and hard of access to the voice of friends, we can ask that friend to say to it, "Ephphatha, Be opened!" who will enter our solitude with his words — "To old age I am He, to hoar hairs I will carry you;" if the feet and hands become powerless for their accustomed work, we may exercise ourselves in the faith and hope which make the feet more than youthful and change the hands to wings, so that we shall mount up like eagles, and run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. Someone has said that it would be a melancholy world without children, and an inhuman world without the aged; and the world is never better than when these two can meet and give and receive gladness. We have a natural reluctance to the feeling that we are growing old; we put it away, and when something at last forces it upon us, it is like the rush of an armed man from an ambush, or the flake of the first snow to tell us that the long summer days are gone, and that winter is at hand. And yet, as you may have seen, it is the transition which is the most painful. When the first days of brown October show us the fresh green leaves of summer, now sere and yellow, dropping from the boughs under the wind that wails through the thin woods, we cannot help a feeling of sadness creeping over the heart. But when winter has come it has its own enjoyments; there is the long, quiet evening, the cheerful gleam of the hearth, the closer bosom of the family and of friendship, the pleasant memories of summer, and the hopes of its return — these give to winter its gladness, and even its glow. If we are in this transition, or nearing it, we should seek to realise it, and to rise above it by looking forward. Every time of life to a true man is only a transition to something better.
II. We have A MAN WHO IS RICH, BUT WHO IS SATISFIED WITH HIS NATURAL POSITION. No doubt, the remark will readily be made by some, "It is easy for a rich man to be satisfied; let us have his wealth, and we shall blame ourselves if we ask for anything more." But if you look round on the world, you will perceive that it is at the stage of prosperity that the dissatisfaction of many men begins. It is quite true that the Bible forbids no man to seek the improvement of his worldly circumstances, or to use that improvement in a wise and generous way. It has no malediction an wealth itself, and no canonising of poverty. When our Saviour bade the young man sell all he had, and give to the poor, it was a test of character, not a condition of discipleship. But there are two things against which a man who has risen to wealth should carefully watch — becoming the slave of sensual gratification: "What more can I eat and drink?" or "How can I shine in the social circle?" In the midst of empty ambitions, and vain contests for pre-eminence, our wisdom is to prefer the position which agrees with what is deepest in our nature, and which is most helpful to our spiritual life.
III. We have A MAN OF LONG EXPERIENCE, WHO HAS KEPT UP HIS LOVE OF SIMPLE PLEASURES. We can infer this from the tone in which he speaks. In these times of tumult and change, we think with envy of the quiet, primitive days, when men grew up in their place with leisure for spreading out their thoughts like branches, and sending down their affections like roots. We have no wish to depreciate that kind of life which occupies itself with the activities of the world, which presses into the highways of cities, and the throng of business, and which has its pleasure in breasting and battling with the great waves of public movement in social and intellectual and political progress. There are faculties in man's nature which find their proper exercise in this; the world could not advance or even live without it, and the calm recesses, which seem shut out from the great sea of life, would stagnate if they were not stirred by its tides. But we should take care that the whirl of public life does not unfit us for enjoying private life.
IV. We have A MAN WHO IS ATTACHED TO THE PAST, BUT WHO DOES NOT DISTRUST THE FUTURE. There was evidently a great change coming over the land of Israel at this time. The old patriarchal ways were losing their hold. The capital was growing, and men and gold and silver flowing into it. New views were prevailing which looked on the past as antiquated, and pressed forward, often recklessly, into unknown futures. The young men of revolution who gathered round Absalom were a sign of it, and after the splendour of Solomon's reign it came out more distinctly under his successor. In the parting of Barzillai and David we seem to have the two tendencies, the recoil of the old, the advance of the new. We are in the midst of one of these transitions now, when many are fearing, and some predicting, only evil. The quiet old life of our country is retiring evermore into the background, and the towns with their rush of life, their battles of thought and action, their impulses for good and evil are in the front. We cannot help regretting it, and wishing to retain as much as we can of what was good. When we think of the old life of Scotland among its hills and cottage homes, of its men and women so intelligent and God-fearing, so independent in spirit, yet so kindly and courteous, it is hard to believe that its departure can be a blessing. The land can scarcely anywhere rear a nobler people than those who, on a Sabbath morning, gathered like streams from the valleys to the house of God, to sing the psalms which had been the strength of their fathers when they were outcasts among the mountains. There is another view of the time which may make us still more anxious. Insurrections of self-will and lawlessness are breaking out which threaten all things human and Divine. Men are setting their mouths against the heavens, and laying bitter and persistent siege to the citadels in which faith has felt itself secure for ages. These things sadden and startle us when we think of the future. The world looks like a ship descending the rapids, and some surge of the stream may dash and shatter it. on the black reefs of atheism and anarchy which shoot their heads above the foam.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.