Introduction – This chapter has themes that connect it to chapter 9 and chapter 11.
I clipped a remarkable story out of World Magazine. It was a testimony by Doug Nichols, describing the beginnings of his work with Operation Mobilization in India. He very quickly contracted Tuberculosis where your lungs are bleeding and you are coughing up blood. He was a mess. Like a lot of OM people back in those days, he was flat broke, and so he was admitted to a government TB sanitarium in 1967. And during the months that he was in there he tried his best to be a witness, but the language barrier made it pretty difficult. And let me pick up his story at that point. He said,
I tried to give tracts to the patients, doctors, and nurses, but no one would take them. You could tell that they weren't really happy with me, a rich American (to them all Americans were rich), being in a government sanitarium. They didn't know that serving with O.M., I was just as broke as they were!
I was quite discouraged with being sick, having everyone angry at me, not being able to witness because of the language barrier, and no one even bothering to take a tract or Gospel of John.
The first few nights, I would wake around 2:00 a.m. coughing. One morning as I was going through my coughing spell, I noticed one of the older (and certainly sicker) patients across the aisle trying to get out of bed. He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but because of weakness would fall back into bed. I really didn't understand what was happening or what he was trying to do. He finally fell back into bed exhausted. I then heard him begin to cry softly.
The next morning I realized what the man was trying to do. He was simply trying to get up and walk to the bathroom! Because of his sickness and extreme weakness he was not able to do this, and being so ill he simply went to the toilet in the bed.
The next morning the stench in our ward was awful. Most of the other patients yelled insults at the man because of the smell.
The nurses were extremely agitated and angry because they had to clean up the mess, and moved him roughly from side to side to take care of the problem. One of the nurses in her anger even slapped him. The man, terribly embarrassed, just curled up into a ball and wept.
The next night, also around 2:00 a.m., I again awoke coughing. I noticed the man across the aisle sit up to again try to make his way to the washroom. However, still being so weak, he fell back whimpering as the night before. I'm just like most of you. I don't like bad smells. I didn't want to become involved. I was sick myself but before I realized what had happened, not knowing why I did it, I got out of my bed and went over to the old man. He was still crying and did not hear me approach. As I reached down and touched his shoulder, his eyes opened with a fearful questioning look. I simply smiled, put my arm under his head and neck, and my other arm under his legs, and picked him up.
Even though I was sick and weak, I was certainly stronger than he was. He was extremely light because of his old age and advanced TB. I walked down the hall to the washroom, which was really just a smelly, filthy small room with a hole in the floor. I stood behind him with my arms under his arms, holding him so he could take care of himself. After he finished, I picked him up and carried him back to his bed. As I began to lay him down, with my head next to his, he kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and said something which I suppose was "thank you."
It was amazing what happened the next morning. One of the other patients whom I didn't know woke me around 4:00 with a steaming cup of delicious Indian tea. He then made motions with his hands (he knew no English) indicating he wanted a tract. As the sun came up, some of the other patients began to approach, motioning that they would also like one of the booklets I had tried to distribute before. Throughout the day people came to me, asking for the Gospel booklets. This included the nurses, the hospital interns, the doctors, until everybody in the hospital had a tract, booklet, or Gospel of John. Over the next few days, several indicated they trusted Christ as Savior as a result of reading the Good News!
What did it take to reach these people with the Good News of salvation in Christ? It certainly wasn't health. It definitely wasn't the ability to speak or to give an intellectually moving discourse. (Health, and the ability to communicate sensitively to other cultures and peoples are all very important), but what did God use to open their hearts to the Gospel? I simply took an old man to the bathroom. Anyone could have done that!
David's chesed to foreigners (v. 1-2)
The nature of this chesed (v. 2)
There was a man who showed the chesed kindness that David showed to Mephibosheth in the previous chapter. It wasn't on the same level as David's kindness, but it had the same character.
Well, we come now to a passage that shows the same chesed, but this time to a foreigner. And most people skip right over the first few verses and go right into the warfare in verses 6 and following. And those are important verses too. But I don't want us to miss the connection of chesed in chapters 9,10,11. It's a connecting theme. In chapter 11 David abuses the chesed that Uriah the Hittite showed to him. It's a sad story. Whether the grace of God evaporated from his life because of bitterness that erupted from the warfare of this chapter, we don't know. But somewhere between chapter 10 and chapter 11, David lost his supernatural chesed. And that is something we need to keep in mind as we examine this chapter – you are either going forward in God's grace or you are going backwards. You never stay in exactly the same spot.
But in chapter 9 and in the first five verses of this chapter we see rich displays of God's chesed – God's supernatural kindness, covenant loyalty, steadfast love, or whatever other translations you want to give to chesed. But in this chapter, Hanun abuses the chesed that David sought to show. And I think there are some remarkable lessons to be learned in these first five verses. Let's read verses 1-2.
2Samuel 10:1 "It happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place."
2Samuel 10:2 "Then David said, "I will show kindness [that's the remarkable Hebrew word chesed. I will show chesed] to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness [or chesed] to me." So David sent by the hand of his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David's servants came into the land of the people of Ammon."
What I don't want you to miss is that Hanun's father, Nahash, was capable of the same kind of chesed that David had showed in the previous chapter. We don't know for sure what manifestation of chesed he had shown, but it must have involved some comfort at the loss of loved ones because David was going to bring comfort to Hanun in the loss of his father just as his father had shown chesed to him.
The chesed of David and the chesed of Nahash (v. 2) shows that David was in covenant with him.
What are some implications of this? Well first, that verse shows that David had made a covenant with Nahash. You will remember from last week that chesed is a term of covenant commitment. Since David refused to make any covenants with unbelieving kings, it is the first hint that Nahash was a believer. And we have already seen in chapter 8 that God was converting kings from other nations as a symbol of the future spread of Christ's kingdom. So there is that connection with the other chapters as well. God's covenant spreads beyond Israel. His laws and His grace were not just intended for Israel.
The likelihood is that Nahash turned from a cruel tyrant (see 1 Sam. 11) to a believer in Yahweh who was capable of showing "chesed." Hints of this turn:
But I want you to turn with me to 1 Samuel 11 to see how remarkable this is, if indeed Nahash converted (which I believe he was). 1 Samuel 11, verses 1-3.
1Samuel 11:1 "Then Nahash the Ammonite came up and encamped against Jabesh Gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, "Make a covenant with us, and we will serve you."
1Samuel 11:2 "And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, "On this condition I will make a covenant with you, that I may put out all your right eyes, and bring reproach on all Israel."
1Samuel 11:3 "Then the elders of Jabesh said to him, "Hold off for seven days, that we may send messengers to all the territory of Israel. And then, if there is no one to save us, we will come out to you."
Nahash was pretty confident that none of the western tribes would come to their aid because they had not done so in the past and from his perspective it would be suicidal to do so. And of course, that assumption was wrong. The Spirit of God came upon Saul, he called the western tribes together, and rescued Jabesh Gilead out of the hand of Nahash, providing a resounding defeat of Ammon.
But the point I want to make was that the character of this Nahash was cruel and merciless. In fact, a short commentary on this was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls that gives a bit more insight into Nahash's character. He wasn't just putting out the eyes of these men here. The ancient commentary, which dates to before the time of Jesus, said this:
Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. [They were the tribes on the eastern side of the Jordon. It goes on to say,] He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But there were seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh-Gilead. About a month later…
And then it continues with the history that we have in this chapter. A very fascinating commentary. Apparently he blinded one eye to prevent depth perception in warfare. And if you were right handed, it would be very hard to shoot with a bad right eye. But he didn't totally blind them because he wanted to keep Israelites able to till the ground and bring in revenue for him. And according to that commentary, he did that to every man on the other side of the river. So he was a tyrant who gave the exact opposite of chesed. It wasn't kindness that flowed from his covenants. It was a cruel covenant. And yet in this chapter it says that he had shown chesed to David. What's going on? Well, there are four things that hint that Nahash had become a believer sometime after 1 Samuel 11 just like Hiram king of Tyre and Toi king of Hamath had become believers.
The word "chesed" connecting to the theme of chapter 9.
And I have already mentioned that it is implied just by the word chesed. But there are some other hints that this happened too.
Jewish tradition says that the king of Moab killed all of David's brothers except one, and that his family found asylum with Nahash.
The second is from outside the Bible. One ancient Jewish tradition tells us that the king of Moab killed all of David's brothers except for one, and that the rest of his family fled to Ammon where they got refuge from king Nahash. This would have been years before, while David was still fleeing from Saul. If that did indeed happen, there are two verses in Scripture that indicate that David's family must have had a huge influence upon Nahash.
Unlike Hanun, Nahash's younger son (Shobi) was devoted to David (2 Sam. 17:27) and appears to be a believer. This may indicate the influence of the later Nahash.
Turn to 2 Samuel 17. This is the chapter where David was fleeing from his son Absalom. And while he was fleeing, some friends quickly came to bring him supplies. Let's start reading at verse 27.
2Samuel 17:27 "Now it happened, when David had come to Mahanaim, [notice this next significant phrase:] that Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the people of Ammon, Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim,"
2Samuel 17:28 "brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds,"
2Samuel 17:29 "honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat. For they said, "The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness."
They did this at great risk to their lives because David had a tiny contingent of soldiers and Absalom had a vast army. Giving aid to David would have been treated as treason by Absalom and they could have been put to death for doing so. Third, it wasn't an action that would have been expected by David. They could have sat back and done nothing and gotten away with it. They could have played it safe. But these three men, including Shobi, the son of Nahash, showed chesed to David and his men.
Now keep in mind that his brother, Hanun, declared war against David. But this verse hints that the ancient rabbis were right, and that Nahash did indeed convert and had a godly influence on his younger children, but not as much on his oldest child, Hanun, who would have spent a good deal of his growing up years under his dad while his dad was a cruel unbeliever. Hanun seemed to have followed in his dad's earlier footsteps, and shown the opposite of chesed.
And if this is true, then this passage magnifies the converting grace of God. It has the power to change a Nahash. But it also shows that when you plant seeds of wickedness in your children's lives (as Nahash had planted in Hanun's early life), they often come home to roost in a disastrous way when the children grow up. There is clear evidence that Shobi was a much younger brother of Hanun.
Some rabbis believed that David's half-sister, Abigail, was the daughter of Nahash (see 2 Sam. 17:25) and that Jesse adopted Abigail when he married Nahash's young widow.
Now take a look at verse 25. This is yet another hint that Nahash did indeed truly convert. 2 Samuel 17:25.
2Samuel 17:25 "And Absalom made Amasa captain of the army instead of Joab. This Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Jithra, an Israelite, who had gone in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab's mother."
We don't know for sure what is happening in this verse, but as evangelicals we simply cannot take the typical liberal view that calling Abigail the daughter of Nahash is impossible and that it is a textual corruption. They point out that if Zeruiah, Joab's mother was Abigail's sister, then Abigail was Joab's aunt, and Jesse had to be her father just like Jesse was David's father. This would mean that Abigail was David's half sister. And yet the text here says that her father was Nahash. And so it is a conundrum that people have scratched their heads over. But we can't take the easy way out and say it is a textual corruption. Evangelicals have been too quick to do things like that in your study bibles. God has promised to preserve every jot and tittle of His word till heaven and earth has passed away, and we must take the Hebrew text seriously.
Some conservatives have tried to get around the strange idea that she was the daughter of Nahash by saying that Nahash was Abigail's mother. It's a clever way around the conundrum. The problem with that is that the Hebrew is clearly masculine, and you have to change the Hebrew in order to come to that conclusion. That's not acceptable for anybody who believes in the preservation of Scripture. And besides, Nahash is not a likely Hebrew name. In fact, anyone who would name his child serpent sorcerer would have been in trouble even under Saul's reign. Most people think that it just doesn't seem like a possible Hebrew name at this juncture in Hebrew history.
One other way that Evangelicals have had to try to get around it is to say that this was another name for Jesse. But because of how godly Jesse and his father were, most people can't believe that he could have been given the name serpent sorcerer.
And besides, we have already seen that the context tells us who Nahash is - that Nahash refers to our king of Ammon. So if this interpretation is true, then there is no reason to question one ancient rabbinic interpretation. And I gave you a footnote that summarizes the reasons pro and con. I at least tentatively accept this interpretation. And if it is not true, then we do have a real conundrum on our hands.
Based on reading between the lines like some other conservative scholars have done on this situation, here's what likely is the deal. Abigail was raped by Jithra, a man that 1 Chronicles 2:17 describes as an Ishmaelite back then, but who later converted and took a Hebrew name. Anyway, they interpret the odd language in 2 Samuel 17:25 as referring to a rape, not a legitimate relationship within marriage. She stayed with her now converted father, Nahash, and with her mother and did not get married to her rapist. But Amasa was the product of that rape. David's father and one brother also stayed with Nahash during this time and developed a close relationship with Nahash and his children. Hanun went along with the arrangement and was on friendly terms with David's family, but it was Abigail and Shobi who truly followed Yahweh, with Hanun only being a Christian outwardly. If this interpretation is correct, then when Nahash died in this chapter, Jesse, David's father, would have married the wife of Nahash and adopted Abigail and Abigail's young son, Amasa. That's the only way that I can see to legitimately reconcile the two Scriptures that call both Jesse and Nahash her father. And by the way, this is an ancient interpretation, not something that I came up with. I've done the math, and checked out other details to make sure that it works, but it is an old interpretation. Though not blood relatives, by his dad's adoption of Abigail and marriage to Abigail's mother, who was Nahash's widow, David was fairly close to Nahash, Abigail, and Shobi, but was probably somewhat close to Hanun as well.
This would totally explain why David fully expected Hanun to appreciate his comfort and to continue in his father's steps and why David felt a close relationship with Hanun. It also explains why David held his peace when Hanun insulted him, but fought against him when Hanun began making moves for war. But we are now getting ahead of the story, aren't we? But I just wanted to give you a little picture of what was likely going on, though we can't be dogmatic on all the details. But this does seem to be the most reasonable reconciliation of all of the facts. So that explains why there could be chesed flowing from Nahash to David and vice versa and why David extended that chesed to Hanun.
Back to our text, these first two verses show the kind of lovingkindness that had been flowing in David's family for generations. For example, David's great, great grandfather Salmon married Rahab. I'm sure he took some flak for doing so, because she was a prostitute and a Canaanite before she converted to Yahweh. David's great grandfather Boaz married Ruth, the Moabitess, who had also converted to the God of Israel. Those were wealthy kinsmen redeemers who stood up for underdogs. And of course, David has shown chesed to a number of troubled people, even enemies - even to enemies like Philistines who later became his bodyguards. So it is not surprising that David's father would show such chesed to the widow, child, and grandchild of Nahash. David knew how to fight his enemies when push came to shove (and as we will see later in this chapter, David could be a fierce enemy), but he also knew how to love his enemies. And so these first two verses are a wonderful connection with the previous chapter – two demonstrations of God's chesed.
Hanun's insult (vv. 3-4)
But in verses 3-4, something totally unexpected happens. Let's read them.
2Samuel 10:3 "And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, "Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Has David not rather sent his servants to you to search the city, to spy it out, and to overthrow it?"
2Samuel 10:4 "Therefore Hanun took David's servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away."
This was tantamount to declaring war
Ambassadors were typically given protection, but these were not.
This was tantamount to declaring war. All through history, ambassadors have been given safe conduct. It was one of the etiquettes of international relations. Even if you had bad relations, it was wise to give ambassadors safe conduct. But it was absolutely expected when you were in covenant with a nation, like Ammon was with David. So this is strange behavior indeed.
Used force ("took")
Secondly, they used force. The word "took" in verse 4 means to seize. You don't use force with ambassadors without the country interpreting it as an attack on the country itself. Those ambassadors represented David.
Mocked ("shaved off half of their beards")
Third, they publically mocked the men by shaving off half of their beards. To have cut off the beard would have been considered a very shameful thing for a Hebrew, but to cut off half was obviously to make a mockery. It was to make them look ridiculous. And I'm sure the men were not calmly letting themselves get shaved. They were no doubt having to be held down by strong men. This required a use of force.
Humiliated (exposed their buttocks to public humiliation – cf. Is. 20:4)
Fourth, they publically humiliated them by cutting off their robes and exposing their buttocks. This means that these men had to travel many miles in this humiliating condition. They engaged in actions that no one could interpret in any other way than that Ammon was breaking covenant with Israel and considered all Israel worthy of the same treatment that they gave to these Ambassadors. And if you read Isaiah 20:4 you will get a hint of what that meant in the ancient world.
Thus, the sympathy, gratitude, and kindness of David was returned with ingratitude, contempt, distrust, and insult.
And what made it particularly odious is that David, because of his relationship with Nahash and the family, was trying to bring comfort, sympathy, and to express gratitude, and kindness. When that was rebuffed with ingratitude, contempt, distrust, assault, and insults, it would have been extremely difficult for David to show the kind of self-restraint that he did.
Instigated by princes who were probably hoping to pick a fight
And when people ask why Hanun would do something so stupid, the most logical answer is this: He was young and inexperienced. The other princes (or nobles) had perhaps disapproved of Hanun's father changing religions, and Hanun was facing a lot of peer pressure for them to return to the old paths. If he wanted to stay in power, he might have felt pressured to appease his power base and to break relations with David and to return to the old laws and to the old religion. Which of course, explains why Hanun's brother Shobi had to immigrate to Israel. There would have been a lot of pressure put on him by his brother, Hanun. And to me this was a good sign that Shobi was a true convert. He sided with God rather than with his family. And there are times when you have to take a stand against your family in order to stay faithful to God. It's hard, but it is a call that God sometimes makes upon our lives. And I know some of you have tearfully had to do so.
David's reaction (v. 5)
He was sensitive to the shame that his men felt
But verse 5 shows David's reaction.
2Samuel 10:5 "When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, "Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return."
He was being sensitive. He was being extremely sensitive. And it is wise in our interactions with each other to be sensitive to the hurts and feelings of each other. Some of us are tougher than others and we can handle things better, but that doesn't mean that we can't show sympathy to you when you feel overwhelmed. And particularly when it comes to shame, we don't want to needlessly shame people as a church. There are some tough disciplinarians who always want the church to take a hard line stand on everything. And as I was reading John Calvin this past week on his views of church discipline, I noticed that he strongly disagreed with the Donatists, with some early church fathers, and with the Anabaptists of his own time were too stern in the way that they treated all sins alike. He pointed out that because of harshness in discipline there were people who were needlessly shamed and needlessly excluded from the kingdom.
Now, when it comes to modesty, I wish more Americans shared the sense of shame that these men felt so deeply. But shame is a subject that ought to be studied, and we ought to seek the mind of Christ on how to handle it. There are times when God calls the church to produce shame. That's what shunning is all about. But it is a shame designed to bring to repentance over particularly heinous sins. So sometimes the church is called to give shame. And there are other times that God calls us to cover over shame. On the other hand, Philippians 3:19 and other New Testament passages talk about something being extremely wrong when we can glory in what we really should be ashamed of. I think that is the primary problem in America. But anyway, David was being sensitive to their shame and to their sense of dignity.
Amazingly, he did not retaliate until it looked certain that Israel would be attacked (compare v. 5 with v. 7a)
But the second part of David's reaction was that he did not retaliate against Hanun until it looked certain that the Ammonites were going to attack them. This shows a great deal of self-restraint. In verse 6, Hanun sent silver to Syria to ask them to join in attacking Israel. 1 Chronicles 19 says that it was a thousand talents of silver, which comes to about one and a quarter million dollars in today's prices. Verse 7 says that David's spies see this loot being sent to Syria, and it is not until that point that he realizes that he must make a preemptive first strike attack. Unfortunately, Syria anticipated what David was going to do, and it turns out really ugly. But that is a message for a later time. Anyway verse 7 says,
2Samuel 10:7 "Now when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the army of the mighty men."
When he heard of it. That means that in verse 5 he was not planning to attack prior to verse 7's developments. And we will look at the actions he takes next week, Lord willing. But what is amazing is David's failure to retaliate to such a significant insult. Hurt pride (even hurt national pride) is not a good reason for going to war and endangering the lives of your citizens. Self-defense is. But how many disastrous wars have started because of an insult or some other issue of pride? How many permanent breaks between families have come because of insulted pride. It's something to guard our hearts against.
Additional lessons we can learn
Lesson on the importance of nations honoring their treaties.
Let me end with five more implications that can be drawn from this passage. The first is the importance of nations honoring their treaties just as David honored his treaty with Nahash even after he died. George Washington wasn't real keen on the treaty that they had with France, but he was willing to honor it. We will see in chapter 21 that David was willing to honor a treaty that had been made with the Gibeonites (a Canaanite tribe) four hundred years earlier. This whole concept of keeping covenants is important for Americans to understand. We should not be in covenant with certain nations, but once covenants are made, they should be kept, unless they are broken by the other party. We've got some treaties today that I would never have gotten into, but we need to honor them. Either that or repent of them. We should have honored the treaties that we made with certain Indian tribes, and I am convinced that until America repents of having broken faith, that we cannot fully have God's blessing. But we will talk about that more in chapter 21.
Lesson on perspectives often reflecting the heart
But there is a lesson on perspectives as well. We should be very careful about imputing motives to other people that we simply cannot know. There is no way that these nobles could know that David's motives were false. There was nothing about what these ambassadors did that would justify the imputation of such horrible motives. David's family had been in a good relationship with the family of Nahash. And the nobles' false understanding of motives led to a war where many of them died. Basing wars on motives (rather than on concrete actions) is disastrous. And even as individuals we get into trouble when we assume that we know other people's motives.
Lesson on diverse consequences that can flow from identical influences.
The third lesson is that diverse consequences can flow from identical influences. This has puzzled many people, but it is a fact of human nature and of divine sovereignty. David and Saul had very similar influences, yet those influences produced opposite results. The same was true of the two sons of Nahash: Hanun and Shobi. And this is proof positive that liberals are wrong when they attribute evil purely to environmental and nurture causes. No. Two people in the same environment and with the same privileges can turn out quite differently. The nature of a person's heart makes a big difference on what kind of effect an action will produce. Here's how one person worded it:
How different the consequences that flow from similar influences! Kindness is like sunshine, that melts the ice and hardens the clay; [In other words, you can show the same kindness to two people and it softens one person and hardens the other. He goes on… "Kindness like sunshine...."] causes pleasure to the healthy and torture to the diseased eye. It tests, manifests, and intensifies the good or evil in the heart, and leads to opposite courses of conduct. Its proper tendency is to produce its like; but its actual effect is often the contrary (John 13:27).
And he used as an example Jesus putting the communion bread into Judas' mouth. That same communion produced grace in the lives of the other apostles, but it hardened Judas and led Satan to immediately enter into Judas. That's why we are totally cast upon the Lord for the results of our ministry. We hope for the effect that God's word had on Nahash, Shobi, and Abigail, but there will always be Hanun's too. And that is why there will always be the need for church discipline.
Lesson for politicians – the pernicious influence of bad counselors and the escalating character of aggressiveness.
A fourth lesson is for politicians. They need to be careful what kind of counselors and influencers they allow in their lives when they get into office. We see this happen too many times, where a Hanun goes into office with weakly held beliefs, and the influence of Washington changes them rather quickly – and for the worse. Scripture says that bad company corrupts good morals. And that corruption tends to get worse and worse over time. That's why it is so critical that we not be content with an outward conformity in our children and that we not be content with simple promises made by politicians. Their character matters. Apparently Hanun only had an outward conformity to the new religion of his father. And when that outward restriction was removed, his heart was easily guided into evil by the nobles of his country. That's why chapter 23 of our book says, "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." There's got to be an inside change for those politicians to not change outwardly. You cannot approach politics pragmatically or you will constantly be disappointed with Hanuns. Christian character matters.
Lesson on the power of both love and hate/insult.
The last lesson is that there is a power that both love and hate can have upon the lives of others. And even insults that aren't hateful can powerfully change us for the worse. They can make us bitter, blind, and resentful. And the best way to resist the power that an insult can have to corrupt us is to declare a war of love on our insulter like Jesus commanded. In a stewardship sermon on the parable of the talents, Jason Cole told the story about Martha Berry.
He pointed out that she was a lady with a vision to educate children who had no hope. She began a school for poor children. She had no books, no building and no money. But she had a dream of would could be accomplished, and started in her home with what she had. She went to Henry Ford to ask for a donation. Mr. Ford had little time or patience for her. He reached into his pocket and gave Martha Berry a dime. Since he was a multi-millionaire, that was like an insult. It would be like giving a penny tip to a waitress. Most people would have been insulted. But Martha didn't approach it that way. She thanked him, took that dime, and bought a packet of seeds. She planted a garden, sold the produce, and with that money bought more seeds, and sold more produce. By the fourth harvest she had enough money to buy a dilapidated old building for more children to be able to study in. She returned to Mr. Ford and said, "Look what your dime has done." Well, Ford was so impressed with her stewardship that he donated a million dollars to fund the Berry School.
She refused to let an insult take her down. She refused to let others control her heart. She refused to have a victim mentality. Instead, she kept investing chesed knowing that allowing God's living streams to flow out of her into the lives of others would eventually bring a return of chesed to her.
And so in conclusion I would urge you to never stop up the channels of chesed within your heart simply because there are Sauls, and Nahashes, and Hanuns out there. Don't let them control you. There may be a time when you must withdraw your chesed from someone just like David does later in this chapter - perfectly appropriate. Some will continue to spurn your chesed like Saul did and others like Nahash will be changed when they see a chapter 9 kind of chesed.
There is a ministry in Lansing, Michigan that is headed up by Greg Buchner and his father. It's called The Harvest House. And they have a group of members who routinely go out to witness to drunks, prostitutes, drug dealers, and homeless people downtown. And by the way, when Michael Elliott offers to take you downtown witnessing, you ought to jump at the opportunity. Anyway, this outreach team of Harvest approached one lady that they hadn't seen on the street before, but who was obviously trying to sell herself to men. And they asked her if she wanted out of her lifestyle. As soon as she found that they weren't potential customers, she told them to take a hike and said that she didn't need any help. She added that she was just downtown for the night to pick up some quick money, and had no intention of staying longer than she needed to. She told them not to worry. So she wasn't a professional hooker.
Anyway, she wasn't interested, so they moved on to talk to the regulars and to continue to hand out tracts. About 1:00 am they were going to call it quits when they saw the young lady who seemed to have it all put together earlier stumbling down Michigan Avenue, just blocks from the Capitol, and being followed by a posse of "managers" who appeared to have the intent of taking her as their property. Apparently they were going to turn her into a professional prostitute. Well, a couple of Greg's friends ran out and positioned themselves between these managers and one very scared and confused young lady. It appeared that they had already drugged her up and had abused her pretty badly. And they were threatening these Christians with violence as well, but they stood their ground. Anyway, staring into her tear-filled eyes they told her not be scared, and that they were the same people who had wanted to help her earlier. Well, she was scared, but she was definitely ready. Like Nahash, she had been brought to a point of readiness by God's providence. She asked, "Are you really who you say you are?" And Greg's dad, choking back his own emotions said, "We are… and we can help."
That's how the Nahashes and Shobis of this world often come to see Christ. It is seeing chesed abused (just like this lady rejected the chesed of these young men) yet seeing the chesed continuing to pour forth that makes them realize that you have something that you don't. Is there a place for fighting? Absolutely, and those young Christian men were quite prepared to fight the so-called managers. But even when you have to, make sure that the sins, insults, and problems of other people do not poison you and make you unable to any longer engage in chesed. If you do, what happens to David in chapter 11 may well happen to you. Bitterness can make you lose perspective and lose your way. Something made David completely lose his way in chapter 11 and to get hardened. I suspect it was bitterness from the close call he received in the latter part of this chapter.
So what do you do when your chesed is rejected? You go back to the Lord for more. You tell the Lord, "Lord, I can't love these people anymore. I am all out of chesed. I need you to help me to love the unlovable. And by faith I will continue to do so." You refuse to get overcome by evil, but instead overcome evil with good. And you come out the victor. You do. May God produce some Nahashes, some Shobis, and some Abigails in your ministry as you do this. Amen.
Children of God, I charge you to not grow discouraged when your chesed is rejected. Continue to be channels of God's living waters.
Doug Nichols WORLD, March 12, 1994, p. 26 ↩
Though this is by no means certain, the following factors support it: 1) Nahash is not a likely Hebrew name. 2) There is no need to appeal to "textual corruption" in 2 Samuel 17:25 as so many are forced to do. 3) Since Nahash is not feminine, the attempt to say that Nahash was Abigail's mother does not work well. 4) It reconciles 2 Sam. 17:25 with 1 Chron. 2-3. However, the chronology is the main obstacle to this interpretation (chapter 10 is c1040BC and chapter 17 is c1027BC). Some would answer by interpreting 2 Sam. 17:25 as a rape of Abigail while Nahash was still alive and while Jether was still an Ishmaelite (cf. 1 Chron. 2:17). This would fit the evidence in 2 Samuel 17 that shows Amasa much younger than Joab and much less experienced. Every attempt at reconciliation has its problems, but this one has perhaps the least. ↩