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2 Samuel 17:1
Let me now choose out twelve thousand men. The advice of Ahithophel was such as would have made success almost certain. The rebellion had taken David by surprise, and he was quite unprepared to resist the large forces which Absalom had gathered round him. But the better part of the nation disapproved of the enterprise, especially when they perceived that David's life was in danger; and consequently his followers, in course of time, would increase. Moreover, the day had been one of extreme moral and mental trial to David. Upon the sudden news of Absalom's approach, he had to arrange for the flight of his wives and children; to provide supplies for their wants, and for those of their attendants on the march; to give orders to his officers, and take means to prevent their flight degenerating into a panic. Then, with covered head and feet unshod, he had descended into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and slowly traversed the Mount of Olives; thence, in deep distress, he had advanced to the way of the wilderness towards Jericho, and there had been assailed by Shimei with bitter revilings. His progress after this was unimpeded, and at Ayephim he and the other fugitives had needful rest and refreshment. As Bahurim was about four miles from Jerusalem, this caravanserai a little further on was probably about six miles from the city, and about halfway towards the fords of the Jordan. The march was probably continued at sunset, and the fords reached before midnight; and there David halted, waiting for the arrival of Jonathan and Ahimaaz, and making preparations for the passage.. Now, if Ahithophel's advice had been followed, he would have reached the fords as quickly as the young men did; for they lost time at Bahu-rim. Upon this David had not calculated, but supposed that anyhow he should have the interval won by Ahimaaz's fleetness. With twelve thousand picked troops unencumbered with baggage, Ahithophel would thus have found David still on the west of the Jordan, 0and though Joab and Abishai would have done all that brave men could, yet they would scarcely have been in a position to make a long defence. And the command was to "smite the king only." A panic was inevitable, and confusion among David's followers, who had women and children to defend; and in the midst of it Ahithophel would direct his main attack on the part where David was, and single him out for slaughter. When this was done all would be accomplished; for Absalom would become king by right of succession. Even Joab and the Gibborim would acknowledge him, and the whole nation be at peace.
2 Samuel 17:3
The man whom thou seekest is as if all returned; Hebrew, as the return of the whole is the man whom thou seekest. Both the amendments of the text and the various translations offered are innumerable, but nothing is really more satisfactory than the literal rendering of the words, virtually given us in the Authorized Version. Naturally, Ahithophel did not wish to parade David's death too openly. In his heart Absalom must have known that the safe possession of the kingdom could be assured him only by his father's death, but yet he might have shrunk from publicly avowing this, and having it talked of before his courtiers as a settled purpose. One reason why he adopted the counsel of Hushai may have been his reluctance to commit parricide: for plainly the one main purpose of Ahithophel was David's death. This thorough traitor may have seen even a tremor of alarm in Absalom's countenance when he spake out his purpose so frankly of "smiting the king only," and may have felt that, slumbering in the besom of the son, was something of that generous spirit which had made the father condemn the Amalekite to death for boasting that he had slain Saul. At all events, he was unwilling to dilate upon so ghastly a theme, and this general reference to David, as the man whom Absalom sought, without dwelling upon the subject, is in far better taste than the coarse open villainy so unreservedly expressed in 2 Samuel 17:2. The reading, however, of the Septuagint has many followers: "And I will bring back all the people to thee as a bride returns to her husband, excepting the life of the one man thou seekest; and for all the people there shall be peace." Ahithophel was bad enough, but scarcely so brutal as to compare to a bridal procession the sad return of David's mourning friends and companions in arms weeping round the corpse of their master murdered at the bidding of his own son.
2 Samuel 17:4
All the elders of Israel. Their presence seems to show that Absalom professed to act in an orderly and constitutional manner, and with the advice of those in authority. It was possibly this wish to keep up appearances which made him command Hushai to be summoned, as he was one whose advice would certainly have been asked had matters gone on in their ordinary channel. So again in 2 Samuel 17:14, 2 Samuel 17:15, Absalom acts only with the popular consent. Very probably the royal power was gradually superseding that of the tribal authorities, and this may have made David unpopular with many of the great nobles. Absalom would thus gain many adherents by associating "elders" and "men of Israel" with him in his councils.
2 Samuel 17:7
And Hushai said. Hushai gives his advice with much Oriental exaggeration, such as ought to have put Absalom on his guard. His main points are that David was too practised a soldier to let himself be surprised. In his adventures with Saul he and his men had been trained to hold large bodies of pursuers at bay, and evade them. The men, too, who were with him were warriors of desperate valour, whose first thought would be the king's personal safety, and to ensure this they would conceal him in some pit, some cave or ravine, safe and inaccessible by nature; or in some place (omit the inserted word "other"), that is, in some camping place, made strong with ramparts, so as to resist the first attack. "To smite the king only" is, therefore, an impossibility; and if the attack fail, and David's mighties, in their irritation, slaughter a large number of their assailants, and a panic be the result, men will hesitate before they attack such redoubtable champions a second time. A check is fatal to a rebellion, and Absalom, was staking his chance on one hasty encounter. Better leave the decision to all Israel. Their hearts were with Absalom, and, when there has been time for them to gather in their thousands, success is certain. Their numbers will be countless as the sands on the shore, or as the dew upon the grass; while David and his heroes will shrink to so small a body as to be scarcely able to man the walls of one small city. And fighting there will be none; for the myriads of Israel will drag city and fugitives with ropes down into the nearest torrent bed, where the next floods will wash all away. There was more in this than an appeal to Absalom's vanity. If all Israel did take his side, then David's cause would soon be hopeless, and there would be no need of parricide. David's death would be the act of Israel, and not of Absalom. Evidently Absalom believed that all Israel was on his side, and his success hitherto had been so rapid as almost to justify the assumption. To us this success is almost unaccountable, but it suggests that there were great faults in David's administration. Yet even so we wonder at the existence of such general dissatisfaction. At this time. A wrong translation. The Hebrew is, Ahithophel's counsel this time is not good, whereas last time, what he advised about the concubines was good.
2 Samuel 17:9
When some of them be overthrown at the first; Hebrew, in the falling on them; that is, at the first onslaught of David's champions. Even though overpowered finally by force of numbers, they are sure to make a large slaughter at first, which may easily lead to a panic.
2 Samuel 17:11
And that thou go to battle in thine own person; literally, and that thy presence go to the battle. The versions have preserved a much better reading, "And that thy presence go in the midst of them."
2 Samuel 17:12
In some place; Hebrew, in one of the places; one of the fortified camps already described in 2 Samuel 17:9.
2 Samuel 17:13
The river. The word does not signify a river, but a ravine or gorge worn away by the action of a torrent. Such ravines are common in Palestine, where the streams rush along with resistless fury after the rains, but in summer are dry (Job 6:17); and their desolate beds, bordered by precipitous cliffs, are described by Isaiah as favourite places for the cruel rites of Moloch (Isaiah 57:5). Dragged to the edge of one of these gorges, the city, with its few defenders, would topple over, and in the next rainy season be entirely swept away.
2 Samuel 17:14
The counsel of Hushai is better. It seemed safer. Nothing in it was left to chance, and Absalom, already at the head of such numbers as to be able to select from them twelve thousand picked men, saw himself, in fancy, marching forward with all Israel at his feet. As a matter of fact, he did advance with so large an army that David was saved only by the skilful strategy of Joab. Like other king makers, Ahithophel had put himself too forward. He asked for twelve thousand men to be placed under his command, that he might smite David, and so be, not only Absalom's counsellor, but also his commander-in-chief. Amasa and the other commanders would be displeased at this, and Absalom would feel that he was himself placed in a very secondary position. Ahithophel may have asked for the command solely because no one's presence would so ensure success as his own, but he wounded the vanity beth of Absalom and Amasa, and made them ready to listen to any other advice that might be offered. The Lord had appointed; literally, and Jehovah had commanded to bring to nought, etc. So plain did it seem to the writer that Absalom's success depended upon rapid action, that nothing less than the direct interference of the Divine providence could account for the infatuation of Absalom and his counsellors.
2 Samuel 17:16
Lodge not this night in the plains (at the fords) of the wilderness. The plan of Ahithophel made David's position so dangerous, that he must hesitate no longer, lest, on second thoughts, Absalom should still adopt it. Hushai had frustrated it for the present; but Ahithophel might urge it again, and get the necessary permission; and then David and all the people that were with him would be swallowed up, that is, destroyed utterly, and with ease.
2 Samuel 17:17
Stayed by En-rogel. The two youths were posted at En-rogel, that is, the "Fuller's spring," near Jerusalem (Joshua 15:7; 1 Kings 1:9), and probably the place now known as "Job's Well," situated at the point where the valleys of Jehoshaphat and Hinnom meet. They were placed there because, though they would have been admitted into the city, they would scarcely have been allowed to leave it. Instead of wench—a term less disrespectful when the Authorized Version was made than it is now—the Hebrew has the maidservant. Probably the maid is meant whose usual duty it was to fetch water for domestic purposes, and thus her journey to the well would excite no suspicion.
2 Samuel 17:18
A lad saw them. Probably Absalom had sent out spies to watch the route which David had taken, to prevent any friends totaling him from the city, who would give him information as to the progress of events there. The word "lad" does not mean a boy; more probably he was one of the young men who formed Absalom's body guard, like the ten "lads," translated "young men," in 2 Samuel 18:15, Who bare Joab's armour. It Would be his duty to seize them, but when he tried to approach them, they fled, and made their way at full speed to Bahurim, where they were saved by the shrewdness and fidelity of a woman. Two such fleet runners would have had no difficulty in outstripping a boy, but one of Absalom's young men would have roused the neighbourhood to join in the pursuit. The well in his court really signifies a cistern for storing rainwater; but it was at that time dry, and served as a convenient hiding place for the two messengers.
2 Samuel 17:19
A covering; Hebrew, the cover; that is, the usual cover of the cistern, which had been taken off to let the young men descend into it. Over it she spread, not ground corn, but brayed or peeled corn (see Proverbs 27:22), probably barley groats. She was probably busy in removing the husks of the barley with a pestle in a mortar when Jonathan and Ahimaaz sought refuge with her; and thus her whole proceeding was so natural as to excite no suspicions.
2 Samuel 17:20
They be gone over the brook of water. The word michal, translated "brook," does not occur elsewhere, and probably it was a local name for some stream near Bahurim. It was, we may suppose, in the right direction, but when the pursuers had followed for some time, and caught no glimpse of the runners, knowing their swiftness of foot, they concluded that they had outstripped them. and, giving up the chase as hopeless, returned to Jerusalem. It was only when she had seen them far on their way back that she removed the cover and allowed the young priests to resume their journey. The delay, would have been fatal to David if vigorous counsel had been followed at Jerusalem; as it was, they reached David's camp without further incident, and acquainted him with Ahithophel's plan; and the king at once recognized his danger, and without more delay, commenced at once the passage of the Jordan, and carried it out so skilfully and rapidly, that by the morning every one of his company was safe on the other side.
2 Samuel 17:23
Ahithophel … hanged himself. There is an old fancy, put down by Thenius as one of the curiosities of interpretation, that Ahithophel died of a quinsy; for the word might mean "was strangled or choked." But the act seems mentioned as a proof of Ahithophel's unerring judgment. Indignation at Absalom's folly, and at the slight cast upon himself, is not a sufficient reason for so violent a deed. He must have foreseen the certain ruin of the conspiracy if David was allowed time; and he knew that upon its failure would follow his own punishment. It is proof also that he was a fierce and ill-tempered man, and animated for some reason or other with a malignant hatred of David. The parallel between Ahithophel and the traitor Judas must strike every one.
2 Samuel 17:24
Then (Hebrew, and) David came to Mahanaim. (On Mahanaim, see note on 2 Samuel 2:8.) It was now a fortified city, with walls and gates (2 Samuel 18:24), and its strength of position, which had made it a safe capital for Ishbosheth, who had probably added to its defences, made it also a safe retreat for David while gathering his forces. As it was only about fifty miles distant from the fords of the Jordan, David had not retreated far; and, meanwhile, Absalom was wasting time in gathering "all the men of Israel" for the attack. During this interval Absalom was anointed king (2 Samuel 19:10) by the priests, with all due solemnity.
2 Samuel 17:25
Ithra an Israelite. In 1 Chronicles 2:17 he is called "Jether the Ishmeelite." The first name is the same, Ithra being the emphatic form of Jether; and as it is difficult to find a reason for mentioning so ordinary a fact as that his father was an Israelite, we may conclude that "Ishmeelite" is the correct reading. Bishop Wordsworth, however, suggests that "Israelite" was in contrast to "Judahite;" but this distinction did not come into use until after the disruption of the kingdom. The Vatican text of the Septuagint has "Jezreelite," which is probably a conjecture to get rid of the obvious error of calling him an Israelite. Amasa was an illegitimate son, which confirms the reading "Ishmeelite" in 1 Chronicles 2:17, as a marriage between Abigail and a foreigner would be sure to be opposed by all the members of Jesse's family. Nahash. Jewish interpreters regard Nahash (equivalent to "serpent") as another name for Jesse, quoting in proof, "Out of the root of Nahash (the serpent) shall come forth the basilisk" (Isaiah 14:29), which in the Chaldee Paraphrase is explained as meaning, "out of the root of Jesse shall come forth the Messiah." This conceit would scarcely have deserved mention, had it not found a place in the margin of the Authorized Version. Some few commentators regard Nahash as a woman's name, and think that she was a wife of Jesse, and mother of Abigail and Zerniah, but not of David. But Nahash is so constantly a man's name that it is easier to believe that Nahash was the first husband of David's mother, and Abigail and Zerniah his half-sisters, not on the father's, but on the mother's side. Joab and his brothers are always described as sons of Zeruiah, both to mark their relationship to David, and also because the rank was on her side. Amasa was probably the Amasai mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12:18 as bringing a powerful reinforcement to David while at Ziklag; but the ambition of supplanting Joab made him now forget David's long friendship.
2 Samuel 17:27
Shobi. It is evident that the most powerful chieftains in Gilead were on David's side, and supported him with men as well as with provisions. Adherents, too, would constantly cross the Jordan, and gather round the old king; and thus, when Absalom arrived, he found himself in face of an army estimated at about twenty thousand men. Among these chiefs it is interesting to find Shobi, son of Nahash, the Ammonite king, and David's friend (2 Samuel 10:2). When Hanun, the elder son, on succeeding to the throne, brought ruin upon himself by his misconduct to David's ambassadors, Shobi apparently remained faithful to David, and received the grant of a district in Gilead, where he settled with his followers. Some, with less probability, suppose that he had withdrawn to Gilead in the lifetime of his father, to be out of Hanun's way. Machir was the generous man who had given the crippled son of Jonathan a refuge (2 Samuel 9:4); and David's honourable treatment of Mephibosheth may have won his patron's heart. Of Barzillai, and his abode, Rogelim, nothing more is known than what is said here, and in the very interesting narrative in 2 Samuel 19:31, etc. David's lasting gratitude to him is shown by his care for his sons (see 1 Kings 2:7). A clan of priests called themselves "the children of Barzillai," and claimed to be the descendants of his daughter. They could not, however, produce their genealogy, and were therefore degraded from the priestly office (Ezra 2:61-15.2.63). Their claim, nevertheless, is a proof that Barzillai was a little king in Gilead, when thus a priestly race thought their alliance with him so honourable as to make them forget that they were of the lineage of Aaron.
2 Samuel 17:28
Beds. These would be for the women and children, and were scarcely more than rugs and small carpets. Basons; pots of metal for cooking, while the earthenware would be vessels for holding their food. Parched (corn) … and parched (pulse); Hebrew, kali … and kali. The word includes all kinds of parched grain. The Septuagint and Syriac rightly omit it in the second place, as it is probably a mere error of some ancient copyist; but for what word it has been substituted we have no means of ascertaining.
2 Samuel 17:29
Sheep. This is the only kind of flesh food mentioned. The change in the meaning of the word "meat," which still in America is used simply for "food," as in the Authorized Version, bears witness to the great change in our diet which has taken place in recent times. Cheese of kine. The word occurs only here, but the Syriac and the Targum both support the rendering of the Authorized Version. The Bedaween, after removing the butter, make a kind of cheese from the remaining milk. It is as hard as the cheese made from skimmed milk in Dorsetshire, but wholesome. It must, however, be soaked before eating, or softened with butter. Generally in the East, cow's milk is regarded as coarse, and camel's milk is used for drinking, while that of sheep and goats, and cheese made from it, holds the next place in general estimation. It is curious that "butter" literally means "cheese of kine."
2 Samuel 17:1-10.17.14
The facts are:
1. Ahithophel, in advising Absalom, suggests that he himself should fall upon David by night, when weary, with twelve thousand select men, and urges that by so doing a final blow will be so struck as to secure the fealty of all Israel.
2. The suggestion is pleasing to Absalom, but he, before deciding, wishes to have the counsel of Hushai.
3. On being called to give counsel, Hushai expresses distrust of the counsel of Ahithophel, and assigns as reasons
(1) the known valour and caution of David;
(2) the possibility of a panic among the troops of Absalom on a slight reverse at the outset;
(3) the natural apprehension of the people on approaching for attack one so famed for courage and strategy.
4. As a counter proposal, he counsels
(1) a gathering of the entire forces of Israel;
(2) the personal leadership of Absalom; and points out the certainty of success whether by attack in the open country or by an assault on a city.
5. Absalom and his people decide to reject the counsel of Ahithophel and adopt that of Hushai, being overruled in this by the will of God. The bold assumption of regal powers by publicly taking possession of the king's harem was only a formal act, which necessitated other measures if the authority thus usurped was to be maintained. The existence of so valiant and able a man as David, and the attachment to him of a select body guard, were facts which could not but weigh heavily on the mind of one who knew how his father, in the days of Saul, defended himself amidst rocks and caves against a vindictive and powerful enemy. Hence the natural coherence of the narrative with which this chapter opens, and the account of Absalom's conduct referred to in the previous chapter. In considering the conflicting counsels brought out by the first act of Absalom, we may notice several truths bearing widely on human affairs.
I. POSITIONS IN LIFE ARE ENTERED UPON WHICH RENDER MEN VERY DEPENDENT ON THE SUPERIOR JUDGMENT OF OTHERS. Absalom had aspired to a position of power, and on reaching it found that his difficulties were not materially diminished. The presence in the country of such a man as David, with such a body guard, was a fact of serious moment, and the well-known hesitancy of the populace as long as there are chances of vicissitude had to be provided against. His early habits of life and his natural gifts by no means qualified him to meet emergencies of this character; and hence he found himself, on usurping the throne, dependent on men of larger experience than himself. It was not preference but necessity which led him to seek the counsel of Ahithophel and Hushah Occasionally there are men in similar positions of usurped authority who by nature and experience can dispense with the advice of others, but it is more often not so. Young men entering on public life need more wisdom than can be gathered from their own personal experience, and they will do well to consult the wise who have written or may speak. In any position of difficulty, when embarrassed by dangers we cannot escape, whether in professions, commerce, education, morals, or religion, we need not hesitate to act even as did wicked Absalom in this particular—seek out the most accredited guides and advisers. If it is permitted to learn from an enemy, it is certainly allowable for the good to extract wisdom from the actions of the bad. The "children of light" are advised to learn lessons from the conduct of the "children of this world" (Luke 16:8). We may, like Absalom, though not with his evil intent, enter on positions by our free choice, for meeting the difficulties of which we are personally ill prepared; or we may, like Joseph, Moses, and Paul, be forced into positions of delicacy and peril. In either case we shall require more than our own sagacity; and no mere pride should deter us from seeking help of others. Possibly ours may be a case in which no human adviser is available. Be it so; Joseph, Moses, and Paul sought counsel of God, and they found, as we shall, that he directeth the way of those who acknowledge him (Proverbs 3:6). There are many advisers, many professing to know what is best. Let us ponder the path of our feet, that all our ways may be established. The good may adopt the policy of Absalom, while shunning his principles.
II. GREAT POWERS BRING CORRESPONDING DISGRACE WHEN EMPLOYED IN DIRECT ANTAGONISM TO GOD'S GRACIOUS DESIGNS FOR MANKIND. Ahithophel was unquestionably a man of great ability. There is in human nature a profound respect for power of intellect. Men feel instinctively that it is a gift of God, and carries with it the key to unlock many of the mysteries that lie hidden in nature. It rests with the moral disposition as to the application of these powers. The true order is for them to run in the line of God's great purpose of mercy to mankind, as a cooperating force to bring about the redemption of the world from the evils incident to the existence of sin. Thus it is that the highest honours are won. But Ahithophel brought on himself everlasting disgrace in that he laid all his native talents, all his acquired experience, all his personal influence, at the service of one who sought to set aside the Lord's anointed. He must have known all David's antecedents. He had taken "sweet counsel" with him (Psalms 72:14). His deliberate counsel now, to select choice men who should fall on the weary king in the dead of night, and, in the panic, slay him alone so as to secure ultimately the allegiance of those not slain, was crafty, bold, and cruel in the extreme. Humanly speaking, it meant success to the vices of Absalom, and ruin to the holy cause embodied in the Lord's anointed. The treachery to a former friend counts for much; the inhumanity counts for more; but the crowning crime is war upon God's revealed method for bringing on that glorious time when righteousness shall be established in the earth, and all men shall be blessed (Psalms 72:1-19.72.20.). The same plain issue is involved in the antagonism of men now to the appointed order of providence and grace. God has a kingdom, ruled by the Anointed One, and designed to bring peace and joy and holiness to all mankind. Gigantic intellectual powers are now running along a line in direct antagonism to it. The practical issue of their success would be moral and spiritual ruin to man. The more their strength and enrichment by learning, culture, and experience, command respect, the deeper the disgrace and the more dreadful their doom for daring to seek to destroy the authority of Christ's blessed yoke (Matthew 11:28-40.11.30; cf. Psalms 2:1-19.2.12.). The daring deeds of the Hebrew secular plane are being repeated in the deeds of the modern spiritual plane.
III. THERE ARE EMERGENCIES IN THE HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH DEMANDING UNUSUAL EFFORTS ON THE PART OF THE FAITHFUL. To ordinary human view the kingdom of God, as represented by the cause of David, was now in great peril. The most sagacious counsel of the age had been given; an eager young prince, proud of the wisdom of the counsellor, was intent on action, and a hesitant people were waiting for the turn of the balance. Hushai had, with remarkable foresight and courage, though doubtless under unconscious direction from above, placed himself in a position to meet the emergency; and now came the call for him to put forth his strength. Absalom little knew what he was doing when he called on Hushai to speak on the question at issue. The venerable man, strong as he was in his own secret and in the help of God, could not but realize the immense responsibility now devolving upon him. A false step, hesitancy, inappropriate suggestions, and feeble arguments, would be disastrous to the dearest of interests. In that critical hour it was as though the fate of Israel and Israel's banished king, and of the blessed worldwide purpose they were working out, rested entirely on his judgment and skill. Angels could not but hearken with intense interest to his words, and watch their gradual effect on the mind of the rebel son. Corresponding occasions, varying in circumstance and magnitude, though virtually one in principle, have occurred, and will perhaps occur again. The most conspicuous and, in some respects, of course, the unparalleled, instance was that of our Saviour when the "gates of hell" had taken counsel to virtually prevent the salvation of the world by the only method approved of God. Of the people there was none with him. All depended on what he would do. The fate of the world rested with himself. In Caleb and Joshua, in Athanasius contra mundum, in the leaders of the Reformation, in the noble men and women who suffered martyrdom in Madagascar, and in many private instances in which family religious interests have been at stake, we may see emergencies demanding of the faithful the exercise of the highest qualities.
IV. UNDISCIPLINED MINDS ARE INFLUENCED BY WHAT WORKS ON THEIR SUSCEPTIBILITIES. Hushai displayed his sagacity and skill by adapting his argument to his man. He wisely did not controvert the particular advice of Ahithophel, but so far complimented him and conciliated Absalom by simply saying that, though good, it was not so just now (verse 7). And while tacitly recognizing the valour of the twelve thousand, he suggested that there was special danger in attacking men "chafed in their minds." His line of argument was to work upon Absalom's fears, vanity, and suspicions. David and his men were not ordinary men; they were bold, desperate, watchful, and gifted in strategy, and the possibility of a reverse would produce a panic among Absalom's followers. Thus fear is awakened. The whole of the forces of Israel should be gathered, and Absalom himself should set out at the head of an imposing army, and so concentrate enthusiasm around his own person, and gain the renown of being conqueror of the mighty one. Thus vanity is aroused. No one else should take the lead, but the prince himself should, by maintaining a personal influence and winning a victory, keep power in his own hand, and so prevent the uprising of a powerful rival. Thus suspicions are awakened. Hushai was a good rhetorician in assailing the will through a graphic description of details, which in their effect could not but call forth fear, vanity, and suspicion—those prompters of the will. All men, but mostly the undisciplined in mind, are liable to be influenced to action by such appeals. This method explains how masses of men are often swayed by a clever presentation of facts blended with possibilities. There is a legitimate use of this method in seeking to win men over to action in harmony with the gospel. The Word of God is not handled deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2) when we set forth facts and possibilities to awaken godly fear and prompt to repentance; for this is only part of the function of the teacher and preacher. Men may be caught by such guile in order to be trained in the knowledge of the truth.
V. THERE IS AN UNTRACEABLE ACTION OF GOD IN THE MINDS OF MEN.. The explanation given of the superiority of Hushai's counsel in its influence over Absalom is that it was the determination of God to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel (verse 14). Unquestionably his counsel was the best for Absalom's purpose. But the wise man is not to glory in his wisdom; all hearts are naked and open to him who brings to nought the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent (Psalms 33:10; Isa 8:10; 1 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 2:6). All through Hebrew and Christian history there are evidences of God's action on the minds of men, sometimes causing them blindness, sometimes inspiring with unusual courage and wisdom, and sometimes filling them with dread (John 12:40; Luke 21:15; Deuteronomy 2:25; Psalms 9:20). This direct action of God on the human mind is involved in any just conception of his freedom as an Infinite Spirit, is in harmony with our action on one another, is essential to moral government, is implied in the work of regeneration, is the ground of faith in prayer, and is a basis of our belief that he will in due time defeat the wiles of the devil and bring all things into subjection to himself. We ought to lay hold of this truth with all firmness, and carry on Christian work in the assurance that greater is he that is for us than all who can be against us, and that he has ways of reaching men of which we have no visible trace.
2 Samuel 17:15-10.17.29
The facts are:
1. Hushai, having informed Zadok and Abiathar of his counsel, urges them to send quickly to David, advising him to flee at once beyond the river.
2. Their two sons, staying out of the city in order to be of service as occasion required, are informed by a girl of the duty required, and at once go on their errand.
3. In spite of being recognized by an enemy who told Absalom, they go on their way, and take refuge in a well at Bahurim, where they are secreted by the woman of the house.
4. The pursuers, being deceived by the woman, return to Jerusalem, while the two young men escape and tell all to David, who at once, before the morning dawns, passes with all his men over Jordan.
5. Ahithophel seeing that his counsel is not followed, goes home, arranges his affairs, and destroys himself.
6. David passing on to Mahanaim, Absalom also crosses the Jordan with his forces, making Amasa chief captain in place of Joab.
7. On David's arrival with his men at Mahanaim, hungry, thirsty, and weary, he receives gifts of food and clothing from Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai.
Division of labour in doing good.
From 2 Samuel 17:15-10.17.22 we have a record of the course adopted by the secret friends of David after that Absalom had heard the counsel of Ahithophel and Hushai. Jerusalem was the scene of an evil and a good combination; and as the drift of Scripture is to record the accomplishment of the Divine purposes in the history of the Hebrew people, we have here a more detailed record of the individuals and work of the good combination than of the evil. The work these four faithful ones had in hand was very clearly defined and most persistently pursued. With a wisdom and skill highly creditable to all concerned, the perilous yet immensely important service was carried out on the principle of the division of labour, which obtains in modern times in the best conducted spheres of activity. Although we may not see here parallels to all the work we have to do for Christ, we may notice features which are also found in well-directed Christian cooperation, and which it behoves us to reproduce in all we do.
I. THERE IS SCOPE FOR VARIETY IN THE NATURE OF THE WORK TO BE DONE. The work to be done, stated in general terms, was to advance the interests of the anointed king. The circumstances in which this general aim was to be carried out necessitated varied conduct and action, both of which must be included in the service rendered, since conduct often produces great effects. There was obviously scope for influences around the person of Absalom—subtle assaults on the very seat of mischief and wrong; for reticent watchfulness in order to take advantage of any movements adverse to David; for fleet runners to convey to him tidings of importance, and for assistance to them when engaged in their perilous undertaking. The work of Hushai in the counsel chamber, of Zadok and Abiathar in the centre of public influence and information, of their sons outside the city, of the wench passing unsuspected for a country walk, and of the hospitable housewife of Bahurim, was in each case different, but all parts of one service. We are engaged in advancing the interests of the Anointed One against the combinations of spiritual wickedness in high places, and, while the service is one, there is great variety in the nature of the work to be done. There is scope for wise, shrewd men, who know how to confront and confound the enemy in high places; for quiet, consistent characters, watching with patient concern over the holiest of functions, and eager to use any new light that may hasten on the triumph of the King of Zion; for vigorous young men, true as steel, accustomed to hardness, prepared to enter on dangerous work in missionary lands, or among the snares and evils of our modern civilization; little ones, acting as links in the great chain of moral influence; and sympathetic helpers, who can feed the hungry, shelter the oppressed and fearful, and frustrate the designs of the cruel. The Christian Church is recognizing more than ever this division of labour, and each one who does a part towards bringing on the triumph of Christ is an important worker in the most blessed of all undertakings.
II. THERE IS SCOPE FOR VARIETY IN THE QUALITIES EMPLOYED. In the service rendered in and near Jerusalem we see room for the exercise of discrimination of human character, prudence in adoption of methods, a shrewd consideration of the assailable points in the enemy's position (see previous homily, division IV.), courage, self-possession in counteracting the influence of the most powerful of antagonists, reticence in council, and fidelity in redeeming pledges made (2 Samuel 15:35), promptitude in action, and ingenuity in rendering aid in times of danger. The interests of David were promoted by a few persons, but the promotion of them called forth very diverse moral and intellectual qualities. On a small scale we see here a picture of what is true of the promotion of the interests of the Eternal King of Zion. The work is so wide and complicated, and the agencies so numerous, that there is not a native talent, not an acquired gift, not a shade of good influence, but it may find scope in his Name. It will be found that, as in building a temple, all the powers of body and mind find scope, and all the influences of sun and air are requisite, so, in raising up the vast superstructure of Christ's kingdom, there is room for the constant exercise of all the qualities possessed by humankind not under the domination of sin. The wisdom of the wise, the sanctity of the holy, the enthusiasm of the young, the gentleness of the maid, and the pity and sympathy of the faithful villager, all can be used up as occasion offers.
III. GOD RAISES UP INSTRUMENTS FOR THIS SERVICE AS OCCASION REQUIRES. Was it necessary that the powerful influence of Ahithophel should be counteracted? A Hushai is raised up. Must discreet and influential men be retained on David's side? Zadok and Abiathar are forthcoming. Are links of communication necessary between the friends of the king and himself? The two young men have their hearts inclined aright. Are the spies of the enemy to be eluded? A girl is found to carry a message, and a kindly woman to offer shelter. The solution of these facts is assuredly indicated in the assertion that God had "appointed to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel." He raises up his servants to do his will, little as they know the working of his mighty power within them. So it has always been, and will be in the future. Abraham was raised up to lay the foundation of national life for Israel; Moses to lead the people to the promised land; Elijah and seven thousand to protest against the worship of Baal; the little girl to speak in the house of Naaman the Syrian; Nehemiah and his coadjutors to restore the walls of the city; apostles endowed "with power from on high" to inaugurate the new order of things; and Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, as one "born out of due time." We need never fear but that, in answer to prayer, God will ever do these things for his people. There will be wise men, saintly men, men of vigour and enterprise, maidens to win their way for Christ, and kindly souls to feed the hungry and shelter the distressed.
1. In all our Christian organizations we should strive to be influenced by the remembrance that the enterprise is one with that of other organizations; that the interests at stake are most momentous; and that every power and faculty and influence of the community of the faithful should find some scope for exercise.
2. Personally we should cultivate our best talents with a view to lay them at the service of our Eternal King.
3. We should take heed and never despise services which seem inferior to our own, or the full bearing of which we cannot at the time trace.
4. We should be patient, and allow time for influences to operate.
The end of the wicked.
The course run by Ahithophel was very wicked. It combined some of the basest crimes of which human nature is capable, the more base because of the intelligence and former professions of the man. His name is the symbol of craftiness, cunning, faithlessness, cruelty, pride of intellect, and ambition. Every reader of the narrative feels that he was most justly cut off from the land of the living, and is not much surprised that he should be cut off by his own hand. The end seems in some dreadful sense natural and befitting. But while that is, perhaps, the spontaneous judgment of men because of what may be termed his exaggerated vileness, yet, looking at the facts in the light of Scripture, we really see here, in very dark colours, what is virtually the end of all who are guilty of treason against Christ, the Anointed One, and seek to frustrate his righteous purposes in the world. Observe that in antagonism to Christ—
I. THERE IS AN ANOINTED KING OPPOSED. Ahithophel's crime lay chiefly in being in antagonism to one whom God had anointed to be king over Israel. The qualities of craft and cunning and cruelty were incidents of the antagonism. The essence of his guilt lay in the fact of setting himself against the Lord and his anointed. And those who persist in a sinful life and will not, because of the love of their own way, bow to the yoke of Christ (Matthew 12:28-40.12.30), are as truly guilty of rebellion. In so far as they thus seek to dispense with his authority, they are guilty of high treason. To say that there is no intention to do so counts for nothing in a matter of resistance to his authority. The facts of life are the tests of loyalty. The position of an impenitent sinner is one of enmity against God. This the Apostle Paul declares, and it is the admission of all who awake to a sense of their state and cry for mercy. The tendency to tone down resistance to Christ's personal authority over the entire life is dangerous.
II. THERE IS INGRATITUDE AND CRUELTY IN THE RESISTANCE TO CHRIST. We can easily see the ingratitude and cruelty of Ahithophel. He had been cared for by the king, and blessed with many favours (Psalms 55:13). And yet what David had been and done for this man was as nothing compared with what Christ, our anointed King, has been and has done for men who rebel against his authority. He has loved them; suffered and died for them; he has crowned their lives with loving kindness, and even conferred on them the very powers which they refuse to submit to his governance. If Christ was once wounded in the house of his friends by their rejection of him, he surely feels the pain of beholding the ingratitude of those who say in their hearts, "We will not have him to reign over us." There is positive cruelty in deliberately rejecting One who so tenderly loves and has suffered so much for those who scorn him. The appeal of the prophet to heaven and earth as to whether there could be found any parallel to Israel's crime (Isaiah 1:2-23.1.4) certainly applies in the instance of those who enjoy clearer light and listen to more earnest exhortations, and yet rebel against him who has brought them up.
III. THERE IS NO PALLIATION OF THE CRIME. No ingenuity can find an excuse for Ahithophel. As to the character and qualities of the two, he knew that Absalom was not to be thought of for a moment in comparison with David. As to the administration of government, no good could possibly come from exchanging a wise, generous king for a vain and selfish young man. Reason and good sense and policy alike condemn the deed of Ahithophel. And those who reject the Son of God are without excuse. No other authority can compare with his in wisdom, goodness, or range of beneficence. No single fault can be found with his holy administration. No policy so sound as the policy of the sermon on the mount, and the submission demanded (Matthew 12:28). The extreme evil as well as folly of the sin of rebellion should be insisted on with all urgency.
IV. THERE IS AN END OF DISAPPOINTMENT AND DOOM. Ahithophel came to his violent end with pride mortified and prestige gone. The cause in which he had so wickedly embarked was seen to be hopelessly lost by the adoption of the counsel of Hushai. Nor was he free from the terrors of an evil conscience. The suicide was an incident only—the result of the interaction of these causes. The actual inner facts of his end find a counterpart in the experience of all who die in rebellion against Christ. They cease to be the great ones, and are classed among those of whom the obscurity of "I never knew thee" is true (Matthew 7:23). Whatever social prestige they had in the conventional life of this world, they lose it all where only the obedient and faithful are recognized as blessed of the Father, and are as kings and priests unto God forever (Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:6). They become aware of the presence of a conscience which is as a worm that dieth not, and as a fire that is not quenched. There is no hiding these great facts concerning the end of the wicked. They are declared in the Word of God.
Sympathy in the day of adversity.
The brief record of the kindness of Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai is refreshing after the previous account of the devices of the wicked against the life and authority of David. The conduct of these men, and the reference to it in the sacred record, bring under our notice the subject of sympathy in the day of adversity. Consider, then—
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUE SYMPATHY. So far as the conduct of these three men reveals the characteristics of true sympathy, they are seen to be these.
1. It is spontaneous. As soon as David's trouble was known, their hearts went forth towards him; they took to themselves his sorrows. There was no effort ab extra to produce it, and no inward process of reasoning to call forth deeds which would have the semblance of coming from deep compassion and sincere regard. It was natural to the men and the circumstances. That had been the character of David's sympathy for those in trouble when he was in prosperity (1Sa 29:1-11 :21-24; 2 Samuel 1:11, 2 Samuel 1:12, 2 Samuel 1:19-10.1.27). It was pre-eminently so with Christ in all his relations to sorrow and need. It is a test by which we can estimate our own and others' professions.
2. It is practical. It did not spend itself in mere feeling cherished or word spoken, but found expression in abundant provision for David's wants (verse 28). The measure of the feeling can be seen in an estimate of the pains and toil required to bring so great an amount of food and comforts to David's camp. Our Saviour, during his earthly life, left us an example of this. His sympathy produced food for five thousand. The whole of his life and sufferings were the cost by which he procured for us the blessings of salvation. In this he is infinitely removed from poets who feel and think, and philosophers who discuss the causes and relations of things.
3. It is timely. The gifts of these men came just in the hour of extreme need. There is a sympathy which is always too late. Right feeling is not always attended by prompt action. A ready will and quick intelligence are the proper attendants on genuine sympathy. The good Samaritan passed by the scene of sorrow just at the right time, and he acted at once. Bis dat qui cito dat. Christian people should cultivate promptitude. It may save many a poor soul from crushing sorrows.
4. It is discriminating. These generous men evidently studied the case of David's need, and brought just the things in variety that were most serviceable to a large company of hungry and weary travellers. David's heart must have been deeply affected by observing the care with which their sympathy had expressed itself. Much of the value of acts of kindness lies in this. A blind, blundering sympathy is valuable because it reveals a communion of spirit when the heart is sad; but its value is in the lowest scale. Judgment should guide the expression of feeling if we would make the most Of it and secure the highest good of those for whom it is cherished.
5. It is courageous. Considering that David was a fugitive, and that to all appearances his friends would be regarded as the foes of the new power rising in Israel, it required some courage in these men to identify themselves in this practical way with the unfortunate king. Herein lies much of the virtue of their conduct. It does require considerable courage to manifest sympathy with the fallen, the shunned, the outcast. Our Saviour's sympathy was of this kind, and it was one of the things that led to his own rejection of men and his cruel death (Matthew 9:10, Matthew 9:11; Matthew 11:19; Luke 15:1, Luke 15:2). There is abundant scope for this virtue.
II. ITS PLACE IN THE WORKING OUT OF GOD'S PURPOSES. The sorrows of David were for purposes of discipline—to chastise and train his spirit so that it might be more fully purged from the evil taint of his terrible sin (2 Samuel 12:7-10.12.12), and be more fitted to perform his part as a servant of God in raising the religious tone of the nation, and, indeed, of the whole world. But God is very pitiful even in his anger. "He knoweth our frame." He will not "always chide." The rough wind is "stayed in the day of his east wind." With the wound he sends the balm. He raises up instrumentalities to cause his people to feel that there is a hand to heal as well as to smite. And the appearance of these men, with their considerate provision for his wants, was a means of revealing the goodness of God, and of assuring David that his compassion was not clean gone forever. All true sympathy in our adversity is a revelation. It brings hope and courage to the crushed spirit, and strengthens faith in the love which never fails, even in the darkest hour. The storm and sunshine are alike God's servants: they "work together" under his direction to sweeten life and endow it with freshness and beauty of eternal spring.
III. ITS RECOGNITION BY GOD. The sacred historian was doubtless guided by a principle of selection when he inserted the names of these three men in a book that is to abide through all time. It was the will of God that reference should be made to their conduct. Thus has God expressed approval of their regard for his anointed. In the same way our Saviour gave honour to the sympathy of the woman who poured on him the box of ointment, by declaring that what she had done should be told in all the world for a memorial of her (Matthew 26:13). The sympathy of David for the poor is in like manner divinely recognized. The Bible is a book of instances for mankind. Other deeds of sympathy were performed which have left only the trace which belongs to all good deeds, namely, in the higher and gentler tone given to the world's general life: these are referred to in order to encourage all in the same cause of comforting and helping the needy in their season of sorrow.
1. In the friendships and kindnesses of one part of our life we are sowing the seeds which may return to us in their own kind when later on we may experience trouble (cf. 2 Samuel 10:1; 2 Samuel 12:27), and hence we should be encouraged to do good to all men, "especially to the household of faith."
2. In our acts of sympathy we are to remember that they reach beyond the individual—they are helpful in marking out God's gracious purposes toward mankind.
3. Christ has given encouragement to acts of kindness done to the poor and needy, and conferred great honour upon them in that he regards them as done to himself (Matthew 25:34-40.25.40).
4. While we should not cramp and weaken our generous impulses by over much introspection and supervision, yet we ought to be careful that the forms they assume are such as will most surely benefit those concerned in them.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 17:1-10.17.14
The council chamber of Absalom.
"And Jehovah had appointed," etc. (2 Samuel 17:14). The success of the rebellion seemed well nigh complete. Absalom occupied the capital; was proclaimed by "all Israel;" supported by the wisest statesman, and, apparently, by "the king's friend" and the high priests; held his council (2 Samuel 16:20); and took possession of the harem, "the first decided act of sovereignty" (subsequently he was also solemnly anointed, 2 Samuel 19:10, probably by Zadok and Abiathar). "Absalom's next step was to endeavour his father's destruction, in the conviction that his own throne would never be secure so long as he lived. The son had no relentings. He had knowingly subjected himself to the inevitable necessity of taking his father's life, and he only desired to learn how that object might be most effectually secured. A council was held on this question, and it is the first cabinet council to which history admits us. It was doubtless conducted in the same form as other royal councils; and, from the instance before us, it appears that the members who had anything to suggest, or rather such as the king called upon for their opinion, described the course they thought best suited to the circumstances" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illust.'). It was the turning point of the revolt (Psalms 92:7-19.92.9); and in it we see—
I. A RENOWNED COUNSELLOR urging promptitude with oracular wisdom. "And Ahithophel said," etc. (2 Samuel 17:1-10.17.5; 2 Samuel 15:31); "this night" (2 Samuel 16:14; 2 Samuel 16:2, 2 Samuel 16:16); instant action being, in his view, necessary to the accomplishment of the death of David and the success of the revolution. His counsel was the result of an unerring judgment, expressed with the utmost confidence, and thoroughly adapted (2 Samuel 17:14, "good counsel") to effect its end. It was worthy of his great reputation. Extraordinary human wisdom is sometimes:
1. Employed against the servants of God and against his kingdom, of which they are the most conspicuous representatives. "This wisdom descendeth not from above," etc. (James 3:15).
2. Stimulated, in its exercise, by personal hatred toward them. "I will smite the king only" (perhaps exulting in the prospect of inflicting vengeance with his own hand).
3. Fraught with deadly peril to them (2 Samuel 17:4). David himself, as he came "wearied and weak handed" to the plain of the Jordan and rested there, knew not yet his imminent danger and "marvellous escape" (1 Samuel 23:24-9.23.28). "But a higher power than the wisdom of the renowned Gilonite guided events." The Lord is the Defence of his people; and his promise concerning his Church is that "the gates (counsels) of Hades shall not prevail against it."
II. A RIVAL ORATOR advising delay with plausible arguments. "And Hushai said," etc. (2 Samuel 17:7-10.17.13). "He was not a member of the council; but he had been well received by Absalom, whose greater treachery against his father made him give ready credence to the pretended treachery of his father's friend. It was at Absalom's suggestion that he was called in, and, being informed of the course Ahithophel had advised, he saw at once the danger that this course threatened to David; and, in fulfilment of his mission to defeat this man's counsel, he advanced divers reasons against it, all tending to delay" (Kitto). "It would not only ward off David's present danger, but would also, as Tacitus observes, give ill men time to repent, and the good to unite" (Delany). His counsel was the result of a profound acquaintance with human nature, and given with a persuasive eloquence equal to his wisdom. Advice favourable to God's servants:
1. Is often given in unlikely places, among their adversaries and by persons unsuspected of sympathy with them (Acts 5:38).
2. Derives its power from the selfish dispositions of the ungodly themselves: their fears (2 Samuel 17:8-10.17.10) and their vainglory (2 Samuel 17:11-10.17.14). Hushai's speech was "full of a certain kind of boasting which pleased the younger men" (Clericus).
3. Succeeds far beyond what might have been naturally expected, in making wisdom appear foolishness (2 Samuel 17:4, 2 Samuel 17:14).
Dropp'd manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
III. AN INFATUATED USURPER adopting a policy fatal to his own designs. His decision was the result of:
1. His misjudgment of the effect of delay upon the nation; for he did not consider that "only the discontented part of the people formed the kernel of the insurrection, that no small portion still remained true to David, and that another part, now for the moment fallen away, would return after the first fit of revolution had passed" (Erdmann).
2. His over confidence in his power and success.
3. His love of personal display (his ruling passion). "The new made king gave the preference to a proposal which promised him, at any rate for a few days, the enjoyment of complete repose and the gratifications of his high position" (Ewald).
4. But herein the sacred historian indicates (what so often appears in the Books of Samuel) the overruling providence of God (1 Samuel 2:1-9.2.10; 1 Samuel 9:1-9.9.25; 1 Samuel 31:7-9.31.10; 2 Samuel 1:19) which:
(1) Pervades all thoughts and actions of men; all places and events. In the council chamber of Absalom, where there seemed to be nothing but godless ambition, political wisdom, and "the strife of tongues," there was an unseen presence, observing, directing, controlling all. "The king's heart," etc. (Proverbs 21:1).
(2) Employs (without approving) the cunning craftiness of some men to check and punish that of others.
(3) "Permits evil to work out its own consequences, and the wicked to entangle themselves in their own snares, that he may reveal his justice and holiness in the self-condemnation and self-destruction of the power of evil" (2Sa 17:23; 2 Samuel 18:7, 2 Samuel 18:14). "When God is contriving misfortunes for man, he first deprives him of his reason" (Euripides).—D.
2 Samuel 17:15-10.17.22
Slight services: a sermon to young persons.
"And a wench [the maidservant] went and told them, and they went and told King David" (2 Samuel 17:17). The people of Israel were divided into two parties—the good and the bad; the servants of King David, who had been driven away from Jerusalem, and the servants of Absalom, who had taken possession of the city and were now intent upon his destruction. The world is also divided into two parties, consisting of those who are for Christ and those who are against him. And the slight but useful services rendered to David illustrate similar services to Christ.
1. It is a good thing to be on the right side—to be a servant of "the King of kings and Lord of lords." Outside the city, two young men Jonathan and Ahimaaz, hiding themselves at En-rogel (the Fuller's Fountain), and waiting to carry news to the king; inside the city, their fathers (the high priests Abiathar and Zadok) and Hushai (the king's friend), preparing to send it: these were "faithful among the faithless found."
2. One who cannot do much can yet do something for his lord and master. If he cannot lead an army or give counsel in "the assembly of the elders," he can at least carry a message, like the brave Jonathan (1 Kings 1:42) and the swift-footed Ahimaaz (2 Samuel 18:23); or, like the trusty maidservant of one of the high priests, who (as though going to the well for water) conveyed intelligence to them without suspicion. She could perform this service even more effectively than others in a higher station (2 Kings 5:2). The servant who has only "one talent" must not "hide it in the earth" (Matthew 25:25). Consider what you can do for Christ.
3. Small services may display great principles and qualities: love, obedience, diligence, veracity, fearlessness, faithfulness, self-control, self-denial, and self sacrifice. "He that is faithful in that which is least," etc. (Luke 16:10).
4. Hardly any service can be performed without difficulty and danger. "And a lad [probably on the watch] saw them," and gave information; so that they were closely pursued by Absalom's servants (soldiers) as far as Bahurim (2 Samuel 16:5). It was a race for life.
5. The servant who does his best will seldom fail to obtain opportune help. "And the woman took and spread the covering over the well's mouth," etc. (2 Samuel 17:19, 2 Samuel 17:20). "It was not the first nor yet the last time that an Israelitish woman wrought deliverance for her people" (Edersheim). Her motive was good; not her equivocation and deceit. Many circumstances and casual events, under the ordering of Divine providence, conduce to the safety and success of a faithful servant.
6. There is as much need of small services as great; and such services have frequently important issues; it may be escape from death. The message of Hushai, carried by the maidservant and communicated by the young men, contributed to the security and welfare of the king, "and all the people that were with him" (2 Samuel 17:22). "In this information sent to him so opportunely, David believed that he had reason to recognize a new sign that the Lord still thought of him in love and cared for his deliverance" (Krummacher).
"Like the coolness of snow on a harvest day
Is a faithful messenger to them that send him:
He refresheth the soul of his master."
7. They are surely noticed, and will be abundantly recompensed. "And the king said, He is a good man," etc. (2 Samuel 18:27). "And whosoever shall give to drink," etc. (Matthew 10:42).—D.
2 Samuel 17:21, 2 Samuel 17:22
David's escape across the Jordan.
"And they passed over Jordan," etc. (2 Samuel 17:22). Leaving Bahurim behind them, David and his company pursued their rough and dreary way along the wilderness of Judah until they descended into the plain of the Jordan; and there in some place (Ayephim, equivalent to "weary," Authorized Version; "The Traveller's Rest") at an easy distance from the ford of the river (opposite Jericho, and near Gilgal, 2 Samuel 19:15) they rested at nightfall. "Amongst the thickets of the Jordan the asses of Ziba were unladen, and the weary travellers refreshed themselves, and waited for tidings from Jerusalem" (2 Samuel 15:28, 2Sa 15:36; 2 Samuel 16:14; 2 Samuel 16:16). David had been uncertain whether to cross the river; but during the night the messengers arrived, saying, "Arise," etc.; the encampment was broken up, and "by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan." That night was another, memorable one (1 Samuel 19:8-9.19.18). "It has been conjectured, with much probability that as the first sleep of that evening was commemorated in the fourth psalm, so in the third is expressed the feeling of David's thankfulness at the final close of those twenty-four hours, of which every detail has been handed down, as if with the consciousness of their importance at the time" (Stanley). Psalms 4:1-19.4.8. 'An Even-song'—
"In peace will I lay me down and straightway sleep;
For thou, Jehovah, alone wilt make me to dwell securely."
Psalms 3:1-19.3.8. (see inscription), 'A Morning Prayer'—
"I laid me down and slept;
I awaked, for Jehovah sustaineth me."
What a brilliant light do these psalms cast upon the inner life of David! Consider him at this time as—
I. BESET BY FEROCIOUS FOES; numerous, powerful, and crafty (2Sa 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:13; 2 Samuel 16:15; 2 Samuel 16:1-10.16.3); seeking to take away his crown, his honour, and his life; by fraud, treachery, and violence. His trouble represents that of the persecuted and afflicted servant of God in every age.
1. The feeling of trouble is usually intensified with the approach of night, the season of peril and emblem of distress.
2. The good man in trouble seeks relief in God (Psalms 121:4); whilst acknowledging his sins, he is conscious of sincerity, trusts in Divine mercy, and derives from his experience of former mercies an argument for his prayer.
3. He regards his adversaries in no vindictive spirit: and, although he desires their overthrow as the enemies of God, still more he desires their conversion. "The address is directed to the aristocratic party, whose tool Absalom had become" (Delitzsch).
"When I cry, answer me, O God of my righteousness,
Who hast made room for me in straitness;
Be merciful unto me, and hear my prayer!
Ye sons of men! how long shall my glory become shame?
How long will ye love vanity, will ye seek after lies?" etc.
II. AIDED BY FAITHFUL FRIENDS, who sympathize with him, strive to defeat his enemies, give him useful counsel, and share his dangers (2 Samuel 15:15, 2Sa 15:21, 2 Samuel 15:23; 2 Samuel 15:7, 2 Samuel 15:15, 2 Samuel 15:17).
1. A time of adversity tests the fidelity of friends; and manifests it, as the night brings out the stars that were unseen by day.
2. It also makes their aid peculiarly precious; and is a sign of the favour of the Eternal Friend.
3. When friends begin to despond in a time of trouble, it is the part of a good man, "strong in faith," to encourage them, by directing their thoughts to the Divine Source of consolation, his own "exceeding joy."
"Many say, Who will show us good?
Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Jehovah!
Thou hast put gladness into my heart
More than when their corn and wine abound," etc.
III. DELIVERED BY DIVINE FAVOUR; shown in his preservation, the salutary warning received during the night, the safe passage of the Jordan, so that "by the morning light," etc. (verse 22), and the complete defeat of Ahithophel's counsel (verses 14).
1. In their hostility to the good, wicked men rely on their own wisdom and strength alone, ignoring God; but "the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly," etc. (2 Peter 2:9).
2. Often when a good man is despised as one abandoned of God, he is taken into closer fellowship with him and more signally protected and delivered.
3. In the morning light of every day he perceives fresh tokens of Divine favour. Whilst God "giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10), "his mercies are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23; Psalms 5:1-19.5.12; Psalms 30:5; Psalms 143:8).
"Jehovah, how many are mine adversaries!
Many rise up against me,
Many say of my soul,
There is no help for him in God.
But thou, Jehovah, art a Shield about me,
My Glory and the Lifter-up of my head.
I cry to Jehovah with my voice,
And he answereth me from his holy mountain," etc.
IV. INCITED TO VICTORIOUS CONFIDENCE; by the contemplation of what God is to him and has done for him (Genesis 15:1); as, having now escaped his most immediate peril, he travels on "by the morning light" toward Mahanaim (verse 24). Troubles do not always "pass away with light." Enemies still threaten (Psalms 3:1), and with each returning day the servant of God has to begin the conflict afresh (2 Samuel 5:22, 2 Samuel 5:23). But:
1. Even when most formidable, they do not terrify him whose hope is in Jehovah.
2. They are regarded as if already overthrown.
3. And to Jehovah alone is the victory ascribed.
"I will not be afraid of ten thousands of the people
Who have set themselves against me round about.
Arise, O Jehovah! Help me, O my God!
For thou smitest all mine enemies on the cheek,
Thou breakest the teeth of the ungodly.
To Jehovah belongeth the victory!
Upon thy people be thy blessing!"
To the period of David's exile beyond Jordan have been also referred many other psalms: Psalms 61:1-19.61.8; Psalms 62:1-19.62.12; Psalms 63:1-19.63.11. (see inscription), Psalms 143:1-19.143.12., Psalms 26:1-19.26.12; Psalms 27:1-19.27.14; Psalms 28:1-19.28.9, etc. "A man who can, like David, amidst the first mutterings of an unexpected storm display such lofty composure and submission, and then amidst its fiercest outbursts sing hymns like the third and fourth psalms, penetrated with the purest trust in God, is already raised in an eminent degree above human weakness and frailty, and, whatever be his outward fate, he can only quit this life as one of God's victors" (Ewald).—D.
2 Samuel 17:23
The suicide of Ahithopel.
Displeased with the decision of the council (2 Samuel 17:14), Ahithophel left the city and returned to his own house, whence he had been summoned the day before (2 Samuel 15:12). While Ahimaaz and Jonathan hurried eastward toward the Jordan with their message, the renowned counsellor rode southward toward Giloh, brooding over what might have been (2 Samuel 17:2) and what would be; the shadows of night thickening around him (1 Samuel 28:1-9.28.10); and the same night (or soon afterwards) "his lamp was put out in darkness" (Proverbs 13:9). "With the deliberate cynicism of a man who had lost all faith, he committed that rare crime in Israel, suicide" (Edersheim). "He was probably not the first man who hanged himself, but he bears the unenviable distinction of being the first whose hanging himself is recorded; and society would have little reason to complain if all who have since sentenced themselves to this doom were as worthy of it as this father of self-suspenders." (Kitto). "So perished the great Machiavelli of that age, the very wisest of the very wise men of this world!" (Delany). We have here—
I. A DISAPPOINTED POLITICIAN. Like many other eminent politicians, he was destitute of religious principles; set his heart upon the world, and had "his portion in this life" (Psalms 17:14); was proud of his own wisdom, ambitious of wealth, fame, honour, and power, and hostile to godliness and godly men; the leading mind of the ungodly party in Israel. "He had no regard either to the ways of God or the laws of God. Providence made no part of his plan. He considered with great sagacity how he was to act; but he never considered how God would act; and therefore all his wise designs must have been very defective. The rich man said, 'I shall want room for my stores,' etc. But the Gospel calls him a fool, for not considering that God might call him out of the world that night, and that then all his schemes of happiness and prosperity would die with him. Such is he who is wise without God; and such was this Ahithophel" (Jones of Nayland). We now see him under the influence of:
1. Wounded pride, frustrated ambition, and, probably, ungratified malice (2 Samuel 17:1). The rejection of his counsel was regarded by him as a personal affront, and a fatal blow to his position and prospects; for "he had been impelled by nothing else than a mad ambition, so that life itself became insupportable when the attainment of the position he had hankered after proved insufficient to satisfy his desires" (Ewald). He would be revenged on Absalom himself, by leaving him to pursue his own course.
2. Unavoidable fear of the disgrace, infamy, and punishment that awaited him. For, by the adoption of Hushai's counsel, he foresaw that all was lost, and that David would live and reign. Although he had the "Roman" courage (or rather, cowardice and impatience) to face death, he had not courage enough to face disaster.
"He's not valiant that dares die;
But he that boldly bears calamity."
3. Bitter remorse, desperation, and despair. "Perhaps he now began to see for the first time that, as he had been against God, God was against him, and, according to the prayer of David, was turning his counsel into foolishness. Under this calamity, what had he to support him? Nothing but that policy of a wicked man which never supported anybody long. In the trouble of a righteous man there is hope; but in the trouble of the wicked there is none. And, for a man like him, there is no refuge but in despair" (Psalms 7:15, Psalms 7:16).
II. A DELIBERATE CRIME. "And put his household in order," etc.; i.e. "he settled his affairs, he made his will, as a person of sound mind and memory; as he would have done if death had been coming upon him in a natural way." He did not commit the deed in an outburst of passion, but with deliberation and forethought. Suicide is often due to insanity, and without blame (except in so far as it is induced by previous misconduct); but in his case there is no indication of it; nor was there the same justification or the same extenuation of guilt as in other cases (Jdg 16:30; 1 Samuel 31:4, 1 Samuel 31:5). Whatever may have been the measure of his culpability, suicide is a crime:
1. Against a man himself; a violation of the law of self-preservation written upon his nature.
2. Against society. "Nor can any case be put which is not concluded under sin by the peculiar injury or general mischief" (Paley, 'Sermons').
3. Against God, who has "fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter" (Exodus 20:13); who has committed life to men as a trust; and whose will in relation to it is intimated in various ways. "In every society where the Christian and old Pythagorean idea of life, as a talent and a trust, is unknown or forgotten, and where its value is measured by enjoyment, suicide will be likely to become common" (Thirlwall, 'Letters to a Friend'). It is "a complication of ingratitude, contempt of the Lord's gift of life, defiance, impatience, pride, rebellion, and infidelity" (Scott; Wardlaw, 'Sys. Theol.'). "What a mixture do we find here of wisdom and madness!" (Hall). "Thus he displayed the miserable infatuation of worldly policy" (Wordsworth). Under the light which the gospel sheds upon the present and the future, the act of the self-destroyer is rendered peculiarly criminal and awful.
III. A DREADFUL RETRIBUTION. (2 Samuel 12:10-10.12.12.) The course of sin on which he had entered was attended (as it ever is in others) by most baneful effects on himself, and ended in destruction; the culmination at once of his sin and of his punishment. He became:
1. His own tormentor; rushing against impassable barriers, and bringing upon himself irreparable misery.
2. His own tempter; being urged onward by inward impulses to further transgression.
3. His own executioner; inflicting with his own hand the extreme penalty of the law; a retribution more dreadful than when inflicted. by the direct stroke of Heaven (2 Samuel 6:6-10.6.8) or the hands of other men (2Sa 4:12; 2 Samuel 18:7, 2 Samuel 18:14). "The wages of sin is death" (Proverbs 14:32). "Thus it falleth out that wicked counsel doth chiefly redound to the hurt of the author thereof" (Wilier). Like Judas, Ahithophel went to "his own place" (Acts 1:25).
IV. AN ADMONITORY END; the consideration of which should lead to:
1. The conviction of the enormous evil of suicide; which may exert a preserving influence in an hour of temptation.
2. The abhorrence of the principles which induce its commission, and the avoiding of every sinful way. The sinner is a self-destroyer (Hosea 13:9).
3. The cherishing, with renewed earnestness, of the opposite principles of humility, faith, patience, godliness, uprightness, charity, etc. "If the affections are violently set upon anything in this world, whether fame, wealth, or pleasure, and are disappointed, then life becomes insupportable. Therefore, the moral is this: 'Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.'"—D.
2 Samuel 17:24-10.17.29
Shobi (2 Samuel 10:1-10.10.4; 2 Samuel 12:26-10.12.31); Machir (2 Samuel 9:4); Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:31-10.19.40). On hearing of the arrival of David at Mahanaim, these three men came with one accord, brining presents, and "provided the king of sustenance while he lay" there (2 Samuel 19:32). "We are inclined to regard them as representative men: Shobi, of the extreme border inhabitants, or rather foreign tributaries; Machir, of the former adherents of Saul; and Barzillai, of the wealthy landowners generally" (Edersheim). Whilst acting, specially, from feelings of loyalty, gratitude, and affectionate regard, they displayed a hospitality such as is often enjoined (Leviticus 25:35; Isaiah 58:7; Luke 14:13; Romans 12:13), but frequently omitted (Hebrews 13:2). It was:
1. Much needed by David and his followers, "who were like a band of beggars or marauders (Delitzsch), driven from their home, in a comparatively strange land (Psalms 61:2), beset by hostile forces (2 Samuel 17:25), in want of shelter, rest, and provision (2 Samuel 17:29). "The Son of man had not where to lay his head" (Luke 9:58); and in his "brethren" he is often persecuted and in want of all things (Matthew 25:35; Gal 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:10; 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:6).
2. Admirably exemplified.
(1) Spontaneously, without being solicited.
(2) Promptly, without delay.
(3) Cordially, with sympathy and pity; for they said, "The people have become hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness."
(4) Considerately; those things which were most necessary and agreeable being supplied.
(5) Generously; according to ability, and "without grudging" (1 Peter 4:9).
(6) Disinterestedly, unselfishly, with self-denial and at no little risk.
(7) Perseveringly; not (as in another familiar instance) for three days (Acts 28:7), but for nearly as many months. It not unfrequently happens that the poor and the stranger receive the most hospitable treatment from those on whom they have the least claim.
3. Eminently helpful, comforting and encouraging; a sign of the Divine care for him (Genesis 32:2)—a proof that he was not forsaken by all the people, and an influence adapted to gather others around him. "The faithfulness of human love, strengthening in need and cheering in misfortune is not only the copy, but also the means and instrument of the faithfulness of the Divine love, granted to those who bow humbly beneath God's hand and wholly trust him" (Erdmann).
4. Abundantly requited. Those who exercise it "are blessed in their doing" (James 1:25); and receive unexpected honour and benefit from their guests (2 Samuel 19:33, 2Sa 19:38, 2 Samuel 19:39; Genesis 18:1-1.18.33.; Acts 28:8) and from the Lord himself (Hebrews 6:10; Matthew 25:34).—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 17:23
Such was the end of the great counsellor of the age, who was regarded as an "oracle of God" (2 Samuel 16:23). Astute as he was, he was evidently unprincipled. His desertion of David for Absalom, and the advice he gave the latter, show this. His wisdom did not avail for his own good. He died "as a fool dieth," and by his own hand. Yet there was a thoughtfulness and deliberateness about the deed such as was in a certain keeping with his intellectual ability. It is not difficult to account for the desperate course he took. He was mortified that Absalom, for whom he had incurred so much guilt, and made so great sacrifices, and who knew and revered his wisdom (2 Samuel 16:23), should have rejected his counsel for that of Hushai; and, because of his confidence in the wisdom of his own advice, he felt sure that David would be victorious, and he himself, not only disgraced and ruined, but executed as a traitor. Rather than face this prospect, he hanged himself. Self-murder is not an agreeable subject, yet it may be salutary occasionally to reflect upon it. Many do put an end to their own lives; and doubtless many others are more or less tempted to do so. It may be hoped that consideration of the matter may fortify the minds of some against the first approaches of such temptation.
I. THE CAUSES OF SUICIDE.
1. Mental derangement is doubtless a common cause. Not so common as we might infer from the verdicts of coroners' juries, anxious to relieve surviving relatives from the pains and penalties inflicted by antiquated civil and ecclesiastical laws; yet still the most common cause. It is virtually the same thing to say that disease of the brain is the common cause. This is often hereditary, or it may be induced by overwork, or by excessive indulgence of the appetites and passions, or by the pressure of worldly anxieties. Insanity relieves of the guilt of self-murder; nevertheless, where the insanity is the result of habits which are sinful, the guilt of these remains; and, if the probable issue of them was foreseen, the sinner cannot free himself altogether from the guilt which attaches to the act of self-destruction.
2. The pressure or dread of troubles often leads to this crime. Not only as they produce insanity, but as they operate on a sane mind. Intense pain, great misfortunes, disgrace, or the dread of it, fear of destitution, etc. Instances: Saul and his armour bearer (1 Samuel 31:4, 1 Samuel 31:5); Zimri (1 Kings 16:18); Ahithophel; and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:27).
3. Remorse and despair. Judas (Matthew 27:5).
II. ITS SIN AND FOLLY.
1. It is contrary to nature. The love of life is one of the strongest principles implanted in us by our Creator. "Self-preservation is the first law of nature." The natural conscience, which teaches the criminality of taking the life of another, equally teaches that of taking our own. We may for adequate reasons, in serving God or men, expose our lives to peril; but we must not ourselves extinguish them, and thus cut short our opportunities of service.
2. It is daring impiety towards God. It is a cowardly abandonment of our trust; an act of rebellion against him who has assigned us our post and work; a contemptuous casting away as worthless, or worse, of God's precious gift. It springs from distrust of God, discontent with his appointments, a proud refusal to serve him unless under such conditions as are agreeable to ourselves.
3. It is a serious injustice to our friends and society. Our life is given us for the sake of others as well as ourselves. To abandon it is to rob and injure them. It is vain to say we can no longer be of service to them. Under the worst circumstances a man can set an example of patience and submission such as is much needed in this world of suffering. And if he have become a burden to others, in bearing the burden they may be enriched and blessed.
4. It is in direct opposition to the revealed will of God. No distinct prohibition can, indeed, be quoted, unless it is included in the command, "Thou shalt do no murder;" which is doubtful. But it is entirely opposed to all the precepts of Scripture which enjoin patient endurance of trials, and that to the end; and to the examples of such endurance which are set before us, especially that of our Lord Jesus Christ. The instances in Holy Writ of fleeing from suffering by rushing out of the world, are all those of either wicked or deranged persons.
5. It is a desperate plunge into worse miseries than can be experienced in this life. The self-murderer rushes red handed into the presence of the awful Judge, depriving himself of all possibility of repentance.
III. PRESERVATIVES AGAINST THIS DREADFUL SIN. In this case emphatically "prevention is better than cure"—preservation, that is, from that condition of mind from which suicide springs. And this is to be found in vital godliness in all its branches. In particular:
1. Constant faith in God. Confidence that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of those who seek him, however he may try them. Unbounded trust in his goodness and wisdom, as exercised in respect to ourselves. Earnest and cheerful service of him under whatever conditions he may place us. Profound submission to his will. Dread of his displeasure.
2. Moderation in respect to worldly things. In our estimates of their worth, and of the evil of being deprived of them; in the pursuit of them; in their enjoyment; in sorrow at their departure. Habitual self-control. Intemperance partakes of the guilt of suicide.
3. Prayer. Habitual. Special when cares and temptations press with special weight. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7; comp. Psalms 55:22). "In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer," etc. (Philippians 4:6, Philippians 4:7, Revised Version). "The peace of God" thus obtained will best "guard" the heart and the thoughts against all that tends to despondency.
4. The communion of saints. Christian society; social worship; visitation of the Christian poor, whose privations and sufferings will often make our own seem small, whose cheerfulness and resignation will shame our discontent and impatience, and assist us to a better mind.
5. Prompt and resolute rejection, with loathing, of every thought of this as a possible way out of trouble. Probably many persons of a nervous and desponding temper are visited with such thoughts. Let them be instantly dismissed, lest they grow in frequency and power, and in a weak moment produce the corresponding deed.
In conclusion, all sin is of the nature of suicide. He who impenitently persists in it destroys the life of his own soul. All they that hate the Divine wisdom and forsake its ways "love death" (Proverbs 8:36).—G.W.
2 Samuel 17:27-10.17.29
Supplies for the king's army.
Mahanaim is memorable in the history of Jacob; derived, indeed, its name from the circumstance that there "the angels of God met him" (Genesis 32:1) on his way back to the promised land, and just before his interview with Esau, about whose present disposition towards him he was doubtful. In our text also we read of veritable angels (messengers) of God, though human, coming to the same place to succour and encourage another of his servants when in circumstances of great difficulty. David had with him a large company of friends and subjects, who remained faithful while so many were faithless; but their very number was an embarrassment, and they arrived in the neighbourhood "hungry, and weary, and thirsty." Very welcome, therefore, were the supplies which these chieftains brought for their relief, and which the historian enumerates with so much evident pleasure. They thus cheered the heart of David, contributed very materially to his final victory over his rebellious son and subjects, and obtained for themselves a good name. In the Christian warfare against error and sin there is room and need for this kind of service. The progress of the spiritual cause depends no little on the material aids. As soldiers must eat and drink in order that they may fight, so Christian ministers and missionaries, however spiritual and holy and disinterested, cannot preach and teach unless they are fed and clothed, and their work facilitated by various appliances which are only to be obtained and maintained by money or money's worth. It is only in exceptional cases that competent labourers are able to support themselves by the Labour of their hands or from their private fortunes. Hence the absolute necessity that Christians should furnish material supplies, and the certainty that the progress of the Christian cause in the world will be greatly hindered if, through indifference or avarice, such supplies are scantily furnished. In our time the duty of furnishing them more abundantly needs to be pressed on the attention of the disciples of Christ with much urgency. The world is almost everywhere open to the missionary; devoted men and women offer themselves, ready to go anywhere to make Christ known; but in many instances they cannot be sent forth for want of the means of sending and sustaining them. That the ability of Christ's servants in this direction is being employed to the utmost is incredible in view of the lavish expenditure of many of them on worldly display and luxury. The disposition is wanting; and this in part because a conviction has not yet been awakened in their hearts of the necessity and worth of pecuniary supplies, and the imperative duty and high honour of furnishing them. Such a conviction may be promoted by due attention to the following considerations.
I. THE OBLIGATIONS OF ALL CHRISTIANS IN RESPECT TO THE PROMOTION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE WORLD ARE THE SAME. The character, the toils, the serf denying endurance of hardships and privations, of many missionaries and other ministers of the gospel, awaken admiration and applause. But, amongst those who applaud, the feeling is often wanting that they are themselves as really and truly bound to devoted service of Christ as the men whom they admire.
1. Objects of the same Divine love, redeemed by the same precious blood, called by the same grace, partakers of the same privileges and hopes, they ought to cherish a like ardent love to Christ, and with a like zeal seek to fulfil the purposes for which he lived and died.
2. They are equally "stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10; 1 Chronicles 29:14, 1 Chronicles 29:16).
3. They are equally bound to love their fellow men, and seek their good to the utmost of their power.
II. THE NECESSITY OF MATERIAL SUPPLIES AFFORDS TO ALL THE OPPORTUNITY OF BEING PARTNERS WITH THE NOBLEST WORKERS IN SUSTAINING AND EXTENDING THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The good women who ministered to our Lord of their substance (Luke 8:2, Luke 8:3) became thus partakers in his work. The Philippians who showed hospitality to St. Paul when amongst them (Acts 16:15), or sent gifts to him afterwards (Philippians 4:14-50.4.16), are recognized by him as having "fellowship" (partnership) with him, "in furtherance of the gospel" (Philippians 1:5, Philippians 1:7, Revised Version). St. Joha describes those who were hospitable to evangelists as their "fellow helpers to the truth" (3 John 1:8). In like manner, all who subscribe of their money towards the support of Christian ministries and missions, have the honour of being fellow workers with those who give the ablest personal service. This was recognized by the lad who hastened to a missionary meeting, and being asked the reason of his eagerness, replied, "I have a share in the concern." Bible, missionary, and other societies have, by awakening such thoughts and feelings, done much to enlarge and elevate the minds of the myriads of their supporters in every part of Christendom.
III. GIVING EXERCISES THE SAME CHRISTIAN VIRTUES AS PERSONAL SERVICE. For right and sufficient contribution of substance, as for right preaching and teaching, are required:
1. Faith and love.
Indeed, all Christian principles and affections are brought into play in the course of earnest service of either kind. Both are processes of education of the Christian soul, by which the lessons of Christ are more thoroughly learnt.
IV. IT IS EQUALLY ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. St. Paul calls the present he had received from the Philippians "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18; see also Hebrews 13:16). Right motives are, of course, presupposed; but, when these are present, both kinds of service are equally acceptable. "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41).
V. IT SHALL OBTAIN A SIMILAR RECOMPENSE. In:
1. The Consciousness of Divine approval.
2. The pleasure of serving Christ.
3. The joy of doing the highest and most enduring good to men.
4. The rewards of the last day.
The expressed approval of Christ. Admission to "the joy of the Lord" (Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23). Participation with Christ and the saints in the joy of final and complete victory over the powers of evil. Every true hearted sharer in the work and conflict shall share in the gladness of the triumph, when not only the sower and the reaper (John 4:36), but those who have furnished them with needful support, shall "rejoice together."
Finally, we must not think of workers and givers as two distinct classes of persons, having no part in each other's functions. All Christians can and ought to render personal service as well as contributions. There is need and room for all to labour as well as give. In maintaining Church life, in teaching the ignorant, in seeking and saving the lost, in comforting the sorrowful, etc; there is scope for the talents of all. No one can by his gifts purchase freedom from such services. We must give account of every talent committed to us.—G.W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany