His Kindness Repulsed
2 Samuel 10
"I have seen an end of all perfection; but Thy commandment is exceeding broad" (Ps. 119:96). The Chaldee Paraphrase renders this verse, "I have seen an end of all things about which I have employed my care; but Thy commandment is very large." The Syriac version reads, "I have seen an end of all regions and countries (that is, I have found the compass of the habitable world to be finite and limited), but Thy commandment is of vast extent." The contrast drawn by the Psalmist is between the works of the creature and the Word of the Creator. The most perfect of worldly things are but imperfect; even man, at his best estate, is "altogether vanity" (Ps. 39:5). We may quickly see "the end" or "the bound" of manís works, for the profoundest product of human wisdom is but shallow, superficial and having its limits; but it is far otherwise with the Scriptures of Truth.
"But Thy commandment is exceeding broad." The Word partakes of the perfections of its divine Author: holiness, inerrancy, infinitude and eternity, are numbered among its wondrous qualities. Godís Word is so deep that none can fathom it (Ps. 36:6), so high that it is established in heaven (Ps. 119:89), so long that it will endure forever (1 Peter 1:23), so exceeding broad that none can measure it, so full that its contents will never be exhausted. It is such a rich storehouse of spiritual treasure, that no matter how many draw upon it, the wealth thereof remains undiminished. It has in it such an inconceivable vastness of wisdom, that no single verse in it has been fully fathomed by any man. No matter how many may have previously written upon a certain chapter, the Spirit can still reveal wonders and beauties in it never before perceived.
We are now to go over again the same passage which was before us in our last chapter, but this time it is to be considered from an entirely different viewpoint. Perhaps some explanatory remarks are called for at this point, that none of our readers may be confused. There are many portions of the Word that are not only capable of several legitimate applications, but which require to be pondered from distinct and separate angles. Oftentimes the same incident which manifests the goodness and grace of God, also exhibits the depravity and sin of man. Many parts of the life of Samson furnish most striking pre-figurations of Christ, yet at the same time we see in them the grievous failures of Samson himself. The same dual principle is exemplified in the lives of other characters prominent in the Old Testament. Instead of being confused thereby, let us rather admire the wisdom of Him who has brought together things so diverse.
Moses erred sadly when, instead of trustfully responding promptly unto the Lordís call for him to make known His request unto Pharaoh, he gave way to unbelief and voiced one objection after another (Ex. 3 and 4); nevertheless in the same we may perceive a lovely exemplification of the self-diffidence of those called upon to minister in divine things, and their personal sense of unfitness and utter unworthiness. The two things are quite distinct, though they are found in one and the same incident: the personal failure of Moses, yet his very failure supplying a blessed type of humility in the true servant of God. That which is found in 2 Samuel 10 affords a parallel: the action of David in expressing his condolence to the king of Ammonites supplies a beautiful type of Christ sending forth His servants with a message of comfort for sinners; yet, as we shall see, from a personal viewpoint, Davidís conduct was to be blamed.
The same thing is seen again in connection with Jonah. We have the Lordís own authority for regarding him as a type or "sign" of Himself (Matt. 12:39,40), and marvelously did that prophet foreshadow the Saviour in many different details. But that in nowise alters or militates against the fact that, as we read the personal history of Jonah, we find some grievous sins recorded against him. Let it not seem strange, then, if our present exposition of 2 Samuel 10 differs so radically from our treatment of it in our last chapter: there is no "contradiction" between the two chapters; instead, they approach the same incident from two widely separated angles. Our justification for so doing lies in the fact that the incident is described in identical terms in 1 Chronicles 19, yet its context there is quite different from 2 Samuel 9.
On this occasion, instead of admiring the lovely typical picture which 2 Samuel 10 sets forth, we shall examine the personal conduct of David, seeking to take to heart the lessons and warnings which the same inculcates. "And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. Then said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me. And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants for his father" (vv. 1, 2).
In seeking to get at the practical teaching of these verses, the first question which needs to be pondered is, why did David send his servants with a message of comfort to the king of Ammon? What was the motive which prompted him? It is no sufficient answer to reply, The kindness of his heart; for that only changes the form of our inquiry to, Why should he determine to show kindness unto the head of this heathen tribe? And how are we to discover the answer to our question? By noting carefully the context: this time, the context of 1 Chronicles 19 which is the same as the remoter context in 2 Samuel for 1 Chronicles 18 is parallel with 2 Samuel 9. And what do we find there? David engaging in warfare, subduing the Philistines (2 Sam. 8:1), the Moabites (v. 2), Hadadezer (v. 3), the Syrians (v. 5), placing garrisons in Edom, and setting in order the affairs of his kingdom (vv. 15-IS).
After engaging in so much fighting, it appears that David now desired a season of rest. This is borne out by what we are told in the very first verse of the next chapter: "And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Amman, and besieged Rahbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem" (2 Sam. 11:1). Thus, in the light of the immediate context, both before and after what is recorded in 2 Samuel 10 and 1 Chronicles 19, it seems clear that Davidís sending a message of comfort to Hanun after the death of his father was a diplomatic move on his part to secure peace between the Ammonites and Israel. In other words, reduced to first principles, it was an attempt to promote amity between the ungodly and the godly. The Lord blew upon this move, and caused it to come to nought.
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4). Yes, we may know it in theory, but alas, how often we disobey it in practice. God requires His people to be separated from the world, to be strangers and pilgrims therein, to have no close familiarity with its subjects, to refuse all "yokes" with them. And is not that both right and necessary? What fellowship can there be between those who love His Son and those who hate Him? between those who are subject to His sceptre and those who are in league with Satan? Yet, self evident as is this principle, how slow many of us are to conform our ways to its requirements! How prone we are to flirt with those who are the enemies of God.
But if we are careless and disobedient, God is faithful. In His love for us, He often causes worldlings to repulse our friendly advances, to wrongly interpret our kindly overtures, to despise, mock and insult us. If we will not keep on our side of the line which God has drawn between the kingdom of His Son and the kingdom of Satan, then we must not be surprised if He employs the wicked to drive us out of their territory. Herein lies the key, my reader, to many a painful experience which often perplexes the Christian. Why does a righteous God suffer me to receive such unjust and cruel treatment from those I wish to be "nice to"? God permits that "enmity" which He has placed between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman to burst out against the latter, because they were becoming too intimate with the former.
It is not only that God rebukes us for disregarding the line which He has drawn between the world and the Church, but that it is our spiritual profit which He designs to promote. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). Yes, Christian reader, and that "all things" includes the present aloofness of some unsaved people who were once friendly towards you; that "all things" includes the coldness of Christless relatives, the unkind attitude of neighbors, the unfriendliness of those who work side by side with you in the office, store, or workshop. God sees the danger, if you do not! Because of His love for you, He prevents your becoming drawn into alliances with those whose influence would greatly hinder your growth in grace. Then, instead of chafing against the attitude of your fellows, thank the Lord for His faithfulness.
Against what has been said above it may be objected, But you surely do not mean that, in his separation from the world, the Christian must be unsociable and live like a hermit; or that God requires us to be uncivil and morose toward our fellow-creatures, No, dear Reader, that is not our meaning. We are required to be "pitiful" and "courteous" (1 Peter 3:8), and to "do good unto all, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). Moreover, the Christian must be watchful against assuming an "I am holier than thou" attitude toward his fellow men. Nevertheless, there is a real difference between a respectful and kindly conduct toward the unsaved, and an undue intimacy with themómaking close friends of them.
It may be further objected, But in Davidís case, it was proper and needful for him to act as he did, for verse 2 expressly states that Hanunís father had shown kindness to him. Then would it not have been rebukable ingratitude if David had failed to make some suitable return? Exactly what was the nature of that "kindness" which Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, had shown David, Scripture does not inform us; and therefore speculation is useless. But if David had sought some favor from him, as he did from Achish, the son of the king of Gath (1 Sam. 27:1-7), then he was guilty of turning aside from the high calling and privileged place of one whose dependency should be on the living God alone. When such is the case, when we place our confidence in man and lean upon the creature, we must not be surprised if God rebukes and foils our carnal hopes.
There is a principle involved here which it is important for us to be clear upon, but the application of which is likely to exercise those who are of a tender conscience. How far is it permissible for the Christian to receive favors from unbelievers? Something depends upon the relation borne to him by the one who proffers them; something upon the motive likely to be actuating the profferer; something upon the nature of what is proffered. Obviously, the Christian must never accept anything from one who has no right to tender itóa dishonest employee, for example. Nor must he accept anything which the Word of God condemnsósuch as an immodest dress, a ticket to the theatre, etc. Firmly must he refuse any favor which would bring him under obligation to a worldling: it is at this point that Satan often seeks to ensnare the believeróby bringing him under the power of the ungodly through becoming indebted to them.
But though we are not informed of how and when Nahash had befriended David, the Holy Spirit has placed on record an incident which reveals the character of this king: "Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee. And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel" (1 Sam. 11:1, 2). Why, then, should David now show respect unto the memory of one who had evidenced himself such a cruel enemy of the people of God! It could not be any spiritual principle which actuated Israelís king on this occasion. A clear word for our guidance concerning those who are the open enemies of God is given us in, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord!" (2 Chron. 19:2)
But not only should the evil character of Nahash have restrained David from showing respect to his memory, but the race to which he belonged ought to have been a separating barrier. He was an Ammonite, and as such under the interdict of the Lord, because that nation had refused to meet the children of Israel "with bread and with water in the way, when they came forth out of the land of Egypt," and they together with the Moabites (because they had hired Balaam against them) were debarred from entering into the congregation of the Lord, even to their tenth generation (Deut. 23:3, 4). But more: concerning both the Ammonites and the Moabites God expressly prohibited, "Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their good all thy days forever" (Deut. 23:6). David, then, disobeyed a plain command of God on this occasion.
As to whether or not David was personally acquainted with that particular divine statute, we cannot say. Probably the only thought in his mind was diplomatically to time his effort to secure peace between the two nations. But God blew upon his political scheme, and in so doing gave warning unto His people throughout all generations that only disappointment and vexation can be expected from their attempts to court the friendship of the ungodly. "And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?" (2 Sam. 10:3). Treacherous minds always suspect other people of perfidy.
"Wherefore Hanun took Davidís servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away" (v. 4). And why did God allow those princes to wrongly interpret Davidís kindness, and their king to heed them and now insult David by thus disgracing his ambassadors? Because He had far different designs than His servant. These men had filled up "the measure" of their iniquity (Gen. 15:16; Matthew 23:32): their hearts were ripe for ruin, and therefore were they hardened to their destruction (11:1). God had not forgotten what is recorded in 1 Samuel 11:1, 2, though it had taken place many years before. His mills "grind slowly," yet in the end, "they grind exceeding small."