Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 15:1-12. - (JERUSALEM, HEBRON.)
1. Divine chastisement, announced by the prophet (2 Samuel 12:10), "The sword shall never depart from thine house," etc. Forgiveness of sin does not annul its natural consequences. Such consequences are sure, however they may appear to be delayed; and, though inflicted by the hand of man, they do not less really proceed from the hand of God. Already David had experienced the effects of his transgression in his family; he must now experience them, on a larger scale, in his kingdom.
2. Defective administration of judgment by the king (ver. 3); due, not so much to advancing age (over sixty), as to timidity, irresolution, and want of energy, consequent on what had taken place; and "a tendency to shrink into private life, with a preference for such duties as preparing materials for the future temple rather than those of active government;" perhaps also to serious illness, brought on by trouble of heart, and partially incapacitating him from performing the increasing duties of his office (Psalm 38, 39, 41, 55).
3. Prevalent dissatisfaction among the people. His sin "broke the powerful spell which had hitherto bound the whole nation to the name of David" (Ewald). "The imperfections and defects of his internal administration of the kingdom, when the time of his brilliant victories was past, became more and more perceptible to the people, and furnished occasion for dissatisfaction with his government" (Keil). "His pious actions, his attention to the public ordinances of worship, perhaps even his psalms, had for the time lost their credit and their sacredness. Not every one was capable of estimating aright the repentance of the fallen man, and his humiliation before the Almighty. It was almost forgotten that he was king by the grace of God" (Krummacher). "The infirm condition of the king, his eminent godliness and opposition to popular feelings, and the distance of age that now separated him from the sympathies of the younger portion of the people" (Blaikie); some discontent in his own tribe of Judah (ver. 10); "the still lingering hopes of the house of Saul and of the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 16:3, 8); and the deep-rooted feeling of Ephraim and the northern tribes (2 Samuel 19:41) against Judah" (Stanley); - all combined to make the people ripe for insurrection.
4. Private animosity on the part of its leaders: Absalom, on account of his long banishment in Geshur and exclusion from court; Ahithophel, the grandfather of Bathsheba (ver. 12; 2 Samuel:3), on account of the dishonour done to his house; Amasa, son of Abigal, David's half-sister (2 Samuel 17:25), possibly on account of some neglect or discourtesy shown toward him. "These four years (ver. 7) were for David a time of increasing care and anxiety, for that which was planned cannot have remained altogether concealed from him; but he had neither the courage nor the strength to smother the evil undertaking in the germ" (Delitzsch, in Psalm 41.). The course of Absalom (now twenty-seven years of age) was marked by -
I. AMBITION CRIMINALLY INDULGED. Sinful perversion of the natural desire of preeminence; unhallowed love of power and glory (as in the case of Adonijah, his brother, 1 Kings 1:5), the bait by which Satan seeks to allure men to a false worship (Matthew 4:9; 1 Samuel 15:1-9).
"He showed him in a jewell'd wreath 1. Self-conceit; his selfish, proud, and false estimate of his own worth. He was "the representative of vain glory and self-conceit (Wordsworth). Those are commonly most ambitious of preferment that are least fit for it" (Matthew Henry). 2. Covetousness; the object of his desire belonging to another, and unattainable save by injustice. It is not likely that he wished simply to share the sovereignty of Israel. 3. Disaffection and unnatural envy toward his father. 4. Disloyalty toward the king. 5. Rebellion against God, the supreme King of Israel, by whose ordinance David had been appointed. He had, apparently, "no spark of religious principle in his breast." 6. Self-will; indisposition to submit to the will of Jehovah, to defer to the nomination of the king, or to wait for his decease. He resolved to anticipate all, and have his own way. "He that destroys self-will, destroys hell." 7. Suspicion and jealousy of his brother. "It is our impression that David already knew that Solomon was, by the Lord's appointment, to be his successor to the throne. In the promise made to David through Nathan, it was clearly indicated that a son not yet born was to sit upon his throne, and when Solomon was burn he could not but understand that this applied to him. If he had any doubt of this, it must have been removed by his knowledge that the 'Lord loved him,' and had, through Nathan, bestowed upon him the new name of Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24, 25). It is even probable that he had, tong before the present time, if not from the first, received those more distinct intimations of the Lord's will in this matter, which he mentions in 1 Chronicles 28:5-7 .... As the intimations we have traced were long before afforded, it is likely that the pledge (1 Kings 1:17) which was founded on them had not been so long delayed" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illust.'). "Absalom was a bold, valiant, revengeful, haughty, enterprising, magnificent, eloquent, and popular prince; he was also rich, ambitious, and vain of his personal accomplishments; and, after the death of Amnon and his reconciliation with his father, he saw no hindrance in his way to the throne. He despised Solomon because of the meanness of his birth and his tender years. He was himself of the blood royal, not only by his father, but also by his mother; and doubtless in his own apprehension of sufficient age, authority, and wisdom to sustain the weight of government. He seemed to stand nearest to the throne; but his sin was that he sought it during his father's lifetime, and endeavoured to dethrone him in order to sit in his stead" (Calmer). "O sacred hunger of ambitious minds, II. POPULARITY FRAUDULENTLY ACQUIRED. "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (ver. 6); by methods which many a demagogue has since adopted. "David won their hearts by noble deeds of generosity, as well as by deeds of prowess;" but Absalom stole them by: 1. Subtlety and guile. 3. Assiduity, in attending to public affairs. "Absalom rose up early," etc. (ver. 2). "Those who least understand the duties and could least endure the burdens of authority are commonly most desirous of it; but when ambition prompts, the most self-indulgent assume the appearance of diligence, and the most haughty that of affability and condescension; and while men aspire to the pinnacle of earthly grandeur, they, for the time, pay the most abject court to the meanest of the mob!" (Scott). 4. Courtesy and pretended sympathy. "Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou?" etc.; "He put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him" (ver. 6). "And then I stole all courtesy from heaven, 5. Flattery. "Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right" (ver. 3). 6. Disparagement of the existing, adminstration, and insinuation of the king's incapability and neglect. "But there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee." 7. Fair and lavish promises, and holding out the prospect of a golden age under his reign. "And Absalom said, Oh that I were made judge in the land!" etc. (ver. 4). It is not to be wondered at that, by such arts as these, aided by his ready speech and attractive person and manners, he turned the hearts of the people, already prepared for change, from their rightful monarch. "After thus flattering the people, and ingratiating himself into their favour during four years, he decides upon the execution of his cunningly devised project" (Ewald). "The success of this godless rebel shows a lack of true theocratic feeling in the mass of the people, who, in abandoning the king's government, were guilty of opposition to the government of God" (Erdmann). III. CONSPIRACY CRAFTILY CARRIED OUT (vers. 7-12); apparent in: 1. The selection of the place, Hebron (his birthplace), notable on many accounts, especially as the chief city of Judah, where sympathy could be calculated upon. "There may have been many persons there who had been displeased by the removal of the court to Jerusalem" (Keil). "Accustomed from the earliest times to independence and pre-eminence, Judah stood proudly apart under David even after Saul's death, and now probably offered some opposition to the growing unity of the kingdom" (Ewald). 2. The profession of a religious purpose - the fulfilment of a vow (vers. 7, 8; 1 Samuel 1:11). "With a subtle refinement of hypocrisy, he pretended that his thank offering was for his return to Jerusalem" (Plumptre). "No villainy can be termed complete which is not disguised under the mask of religion, especially at those times when the profession of godliness is treated with general respect." 3. The obtaining of the king's sanction: "Go in peace" (ver. 9); thereby disarming suspicion and winning confidence. 4. The despatch of emissaries through all the tribes, to prepare for the simultaneous proclamation, "Absalom reigneth in Hebron!" (ver. 10). 5. The securing of the presence of numerous persons from Jerusalem; depriving the king of their aid, and making them unwittingly adherents of Absalom (ver. 11). 6. The gaining of the open support of Ahithophel, whose secret counsel had doubtless been long before afforded (vers. 12, 31). He was "the sinews of Absalom's cause" (Blunt). "While the sacrifices were proceeding, Absalom sent for him from Giloh, and the presence of this influential personage appears to have caused the final outbreak of a conspiracy which had been carefully prepared, and which immediately spread with amazing rapidity, and pouring like a wild mountain torrent from the ancient capital of Judah, soon threatened to flood the whole country" (Ewald). IV. INSURRECTION SUCCESSFULLY INCITED, only to be disastrously defeated. "And the conspiracy was strong," etc. Its success was: 1. Great, swift, surprising. A few hours later, Jerusalem was in the hands of Absalom. 2. Temporary. The prosperity of the wicked is but for a moment. 3. Followed by signal retribution, whilst itself employed as an instrument thereof, by Divine providence, whose ways, though mysterious, are always just and right. The death of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14) was "the end of a bitter family history, whose every sorrow was linked to the father's blame." The people who shared his crime shared his punishment. The fatal spark of tribal enmity kindled under his influence, though quenched for the moment, soon burst forth again, and ultimately destroyed the unity, independence, and strength of the nation. - D.
1. Self-conceit; his selfish, proud, and false estimate of his own worth. He was "the representative of vain glory and self-conceit (Wordsworth). Those are commonly most ambitious of preferment that are least fit for it" (Matthew Henry).
2. Covetousness; the object of his desire belonging to another, and unattainable save by injustice. It is not likely that he wished simply to share the sovereignty of Israel.
3. Disaffection and unnatural envy toward his father.
4. Disloyalty toward the king.
5. Rebellion against God, the supreme King of Israel, by whose ordinance David had been appointed. He had, apparently, "no spark of religious principle in his breast."
6. Self-will; indisposition to submit to the will of Jehovah, to defer to the nomination of the king, or to wait for his decease. He resolved to anticipate all, and have his own way. "He that destroys self-will, destroys hell."
7. Suspicion and jealousy of his brother. "It is our impression that David already knew that Solomon was, by the Lord's appointment, to be his successor to the throne. In the promise made to David through Nathan, it was clearly indicated that a son not yet born was to sit upon his throne, and when Solomon was burn he could not but understand that this applied to him. If he had any doubt of this, it must have been removed by his knowledge that the 'Lord loved him,' and had, through Nathan, bestowed upon him the new name of Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24, 25). It is even probable that he had, tong before the present time, if not from the first, received those more distinct intimations of the Lord's will in this matter, which he mentions in 1 Chronicles 28:5-7 .... As the intimations we have traced were long before afforded, it is likely that the pledge (1 Kings 1:17) which was founded on them had not been so long delayed" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illust.'). "Absalom was a bold, valiant, revengeful, haughty, enterprising, magnificent, eloquent, and popular prince; he was also rich, ambitious, and vain of his personal accomplishments; and, after the death of Amnon and his reconciliation with his father, he saw no hindrance in his way to the throne. He despised Solomon because of the meanness of his birth and his tender years. He was himself of the blood royal, not only by his father, but also by his mother; and doubtless in his own apprehension of sufficient age, authority, and wisdom to sustain the weight of government. He seemed to stand nearest to the throne; but his sin was that he sought it during his father's lifetime, and endeavoured to dethrone him in order to sit in his stead" (Calmer).
"O sacred hunger of ambitious minds,
II. POPULARITY FRAUDULENTLY ACQUIRED. "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (ver. 6); by methods which many a demagogue has since adopted. "David won their hearts by noble deeds of generosity, as well as by deeds of prowess;" but Absalom stole them by:
1. Subtlety and guile.
3. Assiduity, in attending to public affairs. "Absalom rose up early," etc. (ver. 2). "Those who least understand the duties and could least endure the burdens of authority are commonly most desirous of it; but when ambition prompts, the most self-indulgent assume the appearance of diligence, and the most haughty that of affability and condescension; and while men aspire to the pinnacle of earthly grandeur, they, for the time, pay the most abject court to the meanest of the mob!" (Scott).
4. Courtesy and pretended sympathy. "Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou?" etc.; "He put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him" (ver. 6).
"And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
5. Flattery. "Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right" (ver. 3).
6. Disparagement of the existing, adminstration, and insinuation of the king's incapability and neglect. "But there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee."
7. Fair and lavish promises, and holding out the prospect of a golden age under his reign. "And Absalom said, Oh that I were made judge in the land!" etc. (ver. 4). It is not to be wondered at that, by such arts as these, aided by his ready speech and attractive person and manners, he turned the hearts of the people, already prepared for change, from their rightful monarch. "After thus flattering the people, and ingratiating himself into their favour during four years, he decides upon the execution of his cunningly devised project" (Ewald). "The success of this godless rebel shows a lack of true theocratic feeling in the mass of the people, who, in abandoning the king's government, were guilty of opposition to the government of God" (Erdmann).
III. CONSPIRACY CRAFTILY CARRIED OUT (vers. 7-12); apparent in:
1. The selection of the place, Hebron (his birthplace), notable on many accounts, especially as the chief city of Judah, where sympathy could be calculated upon. "There may have been many persons there who had been displeased by the removal of the court to Jerusalem" (Keil). "Accustomed from the earliest times to independence and pre-eminence, Judah stood proudly apart under David even after Saul's death, and now probably offered some opposition to the growing unity of the kingdom" (Ewald).
2. The profession of a religious purpose - the fulfilment of a vow (vers. 7, 8; 1 Samuel 1:11). "With a subtle refinement of hypocrisy, he pretended that his thank offering was for his return to Jerusalem" (Plumptre). "No villainy can be termed complete which is not disguised under the mask of religion, especially at those times when the profession of godliness is treated with general respect."
3. The obtaining of the king's sanction: "Go in peace" (ver. 9); thereby disarming suspicion and winning confidence.
4. The despatch of emissaries through all the tribes, to prepare for the simultaneous proclamation, "Absalom reigneth in Hebron!" (ver. 10).
5. The securing of the presence of numerous persons from Jerusalem; depriving the king of their aid, and making them unwittingly adherents of Absalom (ver. 11).
6. The gaining of the open support of Ahithophel, whose secret counsel had doubtless been long before afforded (vers. 12, 31). He was "the sinews of Absalom's cause" (Blunt). "While the sacrifices were proceeding, Absalom sent for him from Giloh, and the presence of this influential personage appears to have caused the final outbreak of a conspiracy which had been carefully prepared, and which immediately spread with amazing rapidity, and pouring like a wild mountain torrent from the ancient capital of Judah, soon threatened to flood the whole country" (Ewald).
IV. INSURRECTION SUCCESSFULLY INCITED, only to be disastrously defeated. "And the conspiracy was strong," etc. Its success was:
1. Great, swift, surprising. A few hours later, Jerusalem was in the hands of Absalom.
2. Temporary. The prosperity of the wicked is but for a moment.
3. Followed by signal retribution, whilst itself employed as an instrument thereof, by Divine providence, whose ways, though mysterious, are always just and right. The death of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14) was "the end of a bitter family history, whose every sorrow was linked to the father's blame." The people who shared his crime shared his punishment. The fatal spark of tribal enmity kindled under his influence, though quenched for the moment, soon burst forth again, and ultimately destroyed the unity, independence, and strength of the nation. - D.
I. HYPOCRITICAL PRETENCES IN RELIGION.
1. Their nature. They are imitations of real piety; and the closer the imitation the more likely are they to deceive and be successful in their object. Hypocrites are actors of a part, and the more skilful the actor the stronger the impression of reality. What more natural than the vow Absalom said he had made, and the language in which he describes it? A good Hebrew prince, banished from home and kingdom, and with his prospects for the future darkened thereby, might well have longed to return, prayed to God to restore him, and vowed that, if his prayer were answered, he would make some singular demonstration of his gratitude. Absalom most likely lied when he said he had so vowed, as well as offered the sacrifices only as a cloak of wickedness. The counterfeit, however, illustrates the genuine; and in this case suggests that in great trouble we should seek relief and deliverance from God; that earnest prayer may be accompanied by promises of special acts of thanksgiving, and that, when deliverance comes, we should scrupulously perform the vows we have uttered (see Psalm 66:13, et seq.).
2. The motives frets which they proceed. These are as various as the objects which men pursue, and the attainment of which they think may be furthered by the appearance of piety. In Absalom the ultimate aim was the throne; the intermediate were the concealment from David of his purposes, the obtaining of leave of absence from Jerusalem, and opportunity for assembling his partisans and others around him, and maturing his plans with them, before striking the decisive blow. Hypocrites sometimes pretend to piety in order to conceal their wickedness and practise it without suspicion; sometimes with a view to gain (Matthew 23:14); sometimes to obtain credit for virtues they do not possess (Acts 5:1-8), and secure praise from men (Matthew 6:2). In times of persecution the object may be to avoid penalties; and any measure of favour shown to the professors of a particular creed, or of disability imposed on others, is a direct incentive to hypocrisy. How much do they promote hypocrisy amongst the poor who administer their charity in the form of "doles" given away after public worship, or carefully limited to those who attend particular religious services! Again, the hypocrite may pretend to a religion he does not possess, in order to obtain customers in his business from religious people, or to ingratiate himself with his piously disposed fellow citizens, in order to obtain a seat in the town council, or in parliament, or other position in public life. How many large girls to churches and chapels might be thus accounted for! Or the motive may be to secure the favour of parents, uncles, or aunts, with a view to a good place in their wills. Or, again, the forms of religion may be kept up because it is the habit of respectable society, without any real attachment to religion. Nor must we omit another motive. Piety may be seen to be necessary to secure deliverance from hell and admission to heaven; and, in total ignorance of the nature of piety, its forms may be adopted with that view. But this is rather formalism than deliberate hypocrisy. The two run into each other. It follows that hypocrisy is a sin most likely to be committed where real religion is prevalent and honoured. Absalom would not have pretended to piety if his father had not been religious; and when and where religion is disregarded, no one would think of professing it from unworthy motives. Though, to be sure, the general prevalence of formal religion may present the same temptation as that of real godliness. When, however, ungodliness and vice prevail in the neighbourhood or the circle in which a man moves, he may pretend to be worse than he is from motives similar to those which induce others to pretend to be better than they are.
II. THEIR ENORMOUS WICKEDNESS AND SURE DOOM.
1. They evince such knowledge of the nature, grounds, and obligations of piety as enhances the guilt of their impiety.
2. They insult God. By offering him what is worthless as if it were precious; and treating him as if he were unable to distinguish between the real and the unreal, or did not care, so long as his creatures pay homage to him, whether it be with the heart or not.
3. They deceive and defraud men. Imposing upon them with a mere appearance of goodness; inducing them to honour what is detestable and reward the unworthy; and diverting from genuine goodness its due notice and reward.
4. They seriously injure those who are guilty of them. They eat like a canker into the moral nature. A single act of hypocrisy affects injuriously the whole character, and throws suspicion on all that looks good. Habitual hypocrisy tends to destroy the possibility of sincere goodness, and to render salvation impossible.
5. They deserve and ensure "the greater damnation" (Matthew 23:14). It is impossible that the imposition can last or ultimately be successful. It will be exploded, exposed, and punished in the great day of revelation and judgment (1 Corinthians 4:5). - G.W.
2. At "the Far House" (Beth-hammerhak), on the outskirts of the city (ver. 17); and at "the olive tree in (on the road to) the wilderness of Judah" (LXX.); the procession formed; Ittai the Gittite.
3. Passing over the Kidron; the signal of flight; loud and general wailing (ver. 23).
4. Commencement of the ascent of Mount Olivet; Zadok and Abiathar (vers. 24-29).
5. Ascending the mountain amidst loud wailing (ver. 30); tidings concerning Ahithophel (ver. 31).
6. At the top (about noonday), "where God was worshipped" (ver. 32); Hushai the Archite (vers. 32-37).
7. Descending, on the other side; Ziba, with refreshments (ch. 16:1-4).
8. At Bahurim; Shimei (ch. 16:5-13).
9. Coming "weary" (or, to "Ayephim") (2 Samuel 16:14); to the fords (Authorized Version, "plains") of the wilderness, or passages of the wilderness leading to the Jordan; and resting there for the night.
10. Crossing the river (after midnight), on the arrival of Ahimaaz and Jonathan with news from Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17:21, 22); and marching onward "by the morning light" toward Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24, 27-29). "There is no single day in the Jewish history of which so elaborate an account remains as of this memorable flight" (Stanley). It was probably the morning after Absalom's revolt when news came from Hebron. Of all the "evil tidings" that David ever received (2 Samuel 13:21, 30), none were more unexpected or alarming. He must determine at once whether to face the gathering storm or flee before it. With something of his former decision he chose the latter course; his servants (state officers, attendants, soldiers) declared themselves ready to do his bidding; and "he went forth and all his household" (wives, sons, daughters), "all the people" ("servants," LXX.) "after him," etc. At first, no doubt, struck with consternation, he yet speedily regained his composure (Psalm 112:12); and came to his decision not from abject fear, or personal cowardice (2 Samuel 18:2), but (as others should do in similar critical and perilous positions) from motives of -
I. PIETY; or humble submission to the chastisement of God. Lest he "bring evil upon us;" or "drive over us the evil" or calamity which now threatens, and in which David sees the fulfilment of predicted judgment (2 Samuel 12:10, 11).
1. He discerns therein the operation of Divine justice on account of his sin (2 Samuel 16:11). Trouble and danger bring sin to remembrance; and those who remember their sin are quick to perceive the chastening hand of God where others see only the wrathful hand of man. In the view of faith, wicked men are instruments employed by the supreme and righteous Judge. Resentment toward them is thereby moderated, the sense of sin deepened, and suffering borne in a different manner. "Wherefore doth a living man complain?" etc. (Lamentations 3:39; Micah 7:9).
2. He is persuaded of the folly of resistance to the Divine power. Such resistance can be of no avail against the Almighty; it ought not to be attempted; and it can only result in defeat and ruin (as in the case of Saul). If he should remain and defend the city, David had no inward assurance, as in former conflicts, that God would be with him. He rather felt that in resisting Absalom at this moment he would be resisting God. He did not even deem it needful to consult the oracle (ver. 24).
3. He acquiesces without murmuring in the Divine will (ver. 26), "accepts the punishment of his iniquity" (Leviticus 26:41), and patiently endures the wrath of man, knowing that it is subject to Divine control. When a hurricane sweeps over the land, the things that cannot bend are broken; but those that bow beneath it are preserved, and rise up again when it has passed by. "Humble yourselves," etc. (James 4:10).
4. He hopes for deliverance in the Divine mercy (ver. 25; 2 Samuel 16:12). "But as for me, I trust in thee" (Psalm 55:23). Herein lay the secret of David's passivity, tranquillity, and forbearance during his flight.
II. POLICY; or prudent counsel against the assaults of the wicked. Piety without policy is too simple to be safe.
1. He does not presume upon the protection of God, without, on his part, exercising proper caution and energy. A good man's submission to Divine chastisement does not require that he should always remain in the way of danger or voluntarily invite human hostility and cruelty. "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" (Matthew 10:23).
2. He does not undertake an enterprise rashly, or without adequate means of success. David probably deemed the number of his "servants" present with him in Jerusalem insufficient for the defence of the city. If, indeed, he had the assurance of Divine help, he might have thought otherwise (ch. 5:19). "His departure was an admirable means of testing the real strength of both parties" (Ewald).
3. He does not place an undue confidence in man. "David was perhaps afraid that Jerusalem might fall into Absalom's power through treachery" (Keil). "Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17; John 2:24; Psalm 118:8, 9).
4. He makes use of the means which are most likely to ensure safety and success. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself" (Proverbs 22:3). If there must be conflict, delay appeared to him desirable; it would afford time for his faithful adherents to assemble; and, in the open field, the tried valour and discipline of his veterans would give them an advantage. Pious men are not unfrequently deficient in prudence (Luke 16:8); since, however, they are sometimes beset by ravening wolves, it is necessary that they should be "wise as serpents" (Matthew 10:16), taking care nevertheless to avoid guile, and to be "harmless as doves." "When he was reviled," etc. (1 Peter 2:23).
III. PITY; or generous concern for the preservation of the imperilled. Foreseeing the misery and bloodshed likely to ensue from awaiting the attack of Absalom, he sought by flight not merely to save his own life, but chiefly:
1. To secure the safety of his helpless household, and aid the escape of his faithful followers (vers. 19, 20).
2. To spare the city the horrors of a siege. "He preferred the safety of the people to his own; and was thus also a figure of him who said, in the garden of Gethsemane, 'If ye seek me, let these go their way '" (Wordsworth).
4. To prevent the miseries of civil war (2 Samuel 2:26; 2 Samuel 3:1), and promote the welfare of the divided and misguided people. If collision could be now avoided, it might perchance be altogether averted (ver. 25), or at least occur with less injurious consequences. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the "sheep" (2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Samuel 24:17). "Let thy blessing be upon thy people" (Psalm 3:8). His piety was honoured, his policy justified, his pity succeeded by renewed attachment (2 Samuel 19:14), and, in all, the overruling providence of God was displayed. He left Jerusalem in humiliation and grief; he returned (three months afterwards) in triumph (2 Samuel 19:39, 40). Having practically resigned his sceptre to God, from whom he received it, God gave it back into his hands. "As David falls away from Jehovah to be more firmly bound to him, so Israel turns away from David to be (as the close of the history shows) more devoutly attached to him. The prelude to this first clearing up of the relations between king and people is given in the conduct of the faithful band who stand firmly by David in the general defection" (Baumgarten). - D.
2 Samuel 15:19-22. - (BETH-HAMMERHAK.)
1. David experienced much alleviation of his trouble; as in his flight from the court of Saul (nearly forty years before). He was not left alone (1 Samuel 22:1, 2). His "servants" gathered round him, and professed their readiness to follow him (ver. 15). Halting with his household at "the Far House," he found himself accompanied by his bodyguard, the Cretans and Philistines (under Benaiah, 2 Samuel 8:18); his six hundred veterans (under Abishai, 2 Samuel 23:17-39) who had been with him in his early wanderings and followed him from Gath onward (Gittites, equivalent to "Gibborim," 1 Samuel 23:13; 1 Samuel 27:2; 1 Samuel 30:9; 2 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 5:6); and a part at least of the regular soldiery - the host (under Joab, 2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 18:1, 2). His attention was arrested by the presence of Ittai the Gittite (who, from some unknown cause, had recently come from Garb) with his brethren (kinsfolk) and children. "The Lord has the hearts of all men in his hands, and if he be our friend, we shall not want friends" (Guild). "Our foremost friends are sometimes raised up among persons from whom we had the least expectations" (Scott).
2. He exhibited noble generosity in his conduct. "Wherefore goest thou with us?" etc. (vers. 19-21). "This unexpected meeting with Ittai appeared to the royal fugitive almost like a friendly greeting of his God, and dropped the first soothing balsam drops into the painful wounds of his deeply lacerated heart" (Krummacher). But David, now himself a wanderer, had no desire to make the condition of this "stranger and exile" more homeless and distressing by dragging him into his own misfortunes; released him from whatever obligations of service he may have incurred; advised him to offer his services to the new king; and expressed the wish, "Mercy and truth [from God] be with thee" (2 Samuel 2:6).
"I am a poor fallen man, unworthy now
3. He exerted a powerful attraction on his followers; as aforetime. His language was really a pathetic appeal; not unlike that of Jesus, "Will ye also go away?" etc. (John 6:66-69). "Ittai declared his resolution (with a fervour which almost inevitably recalls a like profession made almost on the same spot to the great Descendant of David, Matthew 26:35, centuries afterwards) to follow him in life and death" (Stanley). It was "a beautiful instance of loyal constancy and faithful devotion in a Philistine soldier at a time of apostasy and defection. His truth and fidelity are brought out in a stronger and clearer light by the contrast with the treachery of Absalom, Ahithophel, and eventually of Joab and Abiathar" (Wordsworth). He may be regarded, in his devotion to David, as a pattern of devotion to Christ. It was -
I. SEVERELY TESTED. Like him, the follower of Christ is often tried and proved, by:
1. The prospect of difficulties, privations, and perils in his service. These are all known to the Lord, for he has himself endured them; and he forewarns his disciples of them (Luke 9:57, 58; Luke 14:25-33). He would not have them follow him from mere impulse.
2. The promise of ease, safety, and advantage in other service; worldly pleasure, treasure, power, honour, in devotion to the prince and "god of this world."
3. The example and influence of many persons; bound by stronger ties to serve their rightful king; but forsaking their allegiance to him, joining in revolt against his authority, seeking his life, and heaping reproaches on his head (2 Samuel 16:11). "From that time many of his disciples went back," etc. (John 6:66; Mark 14:50; 2 Timothy 4:10; 2 Peter 3:17).
4. The peculiar circumstances in which he is placed, the special inducements suggested thereby, and the favourable opportunities afforded for the exercise of his freedom. There are times in which the Lord (however much he values and desires his aid) does not urge him to continue, but seems to do the opposite, and give him liberty, if he be disposed, to depart. So he tests his disciples, sifts the false from the true, and, though it cause the former to fall away, it makes the latter cling to him more closely than ever. The decision between Christ and antichrist has to be made, not only at first, but also often afterwards.
II. WORTHILY DISPLAYED, as it should be by every follower of "the Son of David," in:
1. The deliberate preference of his service to any other. "Just as in the great French Revolution, the famous Swiss Guard showed a brave, though mercenary fidelity, so Ittai, having eaten of the king's salt, determines that where his lord the king is, in life or death, he will be."
2. The disinterested motives by which he is actuated (Ruth 1:16). Ittai was not a mere mercenary, serving David for advantage (Job 1:9). He was influenced possibly by gratitude for the kind reception he met with on coming from Gath as "a stranger and an exile," by a sense of obligation imposed by friendship and previous engagements, by a conviction of the rectitude of the king's cause; certainly by admiration and affection for his person. Hence he wished to be with him, to share his sufferings and to aid in his defence. He was ready "to lay down his life for his sake." An intelligent, sincere, passionate love to the Person of Christ is essential to his service. "Lovest thou me?"
3. The open and solemn pledge of loyalty and fidelity. "As Jehovah liveth," etc. (1 Samuel 29:6; 2 Samuel 4:9). Ittai was doubtless a convert to the faith of Israel. "Whosoever shall confess me before men," etc. (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:10).
4. The practical, unconditional, whole hearted consecration of himself and all he possessed to the king's service. "And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him." "Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5).
III. GRACIOUSLY APPROVED. "And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over" (ver. 22), "with me" (LXX.). If he said no more, his look and manner would give peculiar significance to his words. The Lord testifies his reception and approval of every devoted servant by:
1. Giving him the assurance thereof in his heart.
2. Fulfilling his desire to be with him. "If any man serve me," etc. (John 12:26).
3. Appointing him to his post of duty, and making his way plain (John 11:9, 10).
4. Exalting him to a position of responsibility and honour (2 Samuel 18:2), in which he aids the king in gaining a great victory, and shares the joy of a great triumph. The latter, like the former life of this Philistine, is wrapped in obscurity. But his devotion to "the Lord's anointed" shines like a star among the heathen, and condemns the lukewarmness, selfishness, and unfaithfulness of many "who profess and call themselves Christians."
"Lo: of those
I. "MERCY:" HERE EQUIVALENT TO GRACE, KINDNESS, LOVE. Man is entirely dependent on the kindness of God both as a creature and as a sinner. All in some degree are its objects; but in desiring that it may be with any, we wish that they may enjoy it to the fullest extent, both in body and soul, in time and in eternity. It thus includes all manifestations and exercises of Divine grace.
4. Defending and preserving.
5. Comforting and gladdening.
6. Eternally saving.
II. "TRUTH:" EQUIVALENT TO TRUTHFULNESS, FAITHFULNESS. That perfection of the Divine nature which assures us that God will ever act in a manner true to himself as be reveals himself in his Word, and to the promises he has given us. In desiring that the truth of God may be with any, We pray that they may to the fullest extent experience how trustworthy are the revelations he has made of himself, how faithfully his promises are fulfilled, how happy they are who confide in him.
III. THE "MERCY AND TRUTH" OF GOD ARE OFTEN PRESENTED TOGETHER IN THE HOLY WRITINGS, ESPECIALLY IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS. They exhibit the two aspects of the nature of God with which we are chiefly concerned; and, taken comprehensively, include his whole moral character. To desire, therefore, that they may be with any one is to pray that God may be with him in the fulness of his Being, as his God; that he may experience for himself all that he can be to one of his creatures - his kindness in the utmost meaning of his faithful representations; his truth, not in the accomplishment of his threatenings, but in the amplest fulfilment of his gracious promises.
IV. THESE DIVINE PERFECTIONS ARE "WITH US" WHEN THEY ARE EXERCISED FOR OUR GOOD. This often takes place when they are not present to our consciousness. But the highest blessedness is to enjoy their exercise in the full consciousness that it is the "mercy and truth" of God that are blessing our lives. The crowning bliss is to enjoy their uninterrupted exercise towards us, and that forever.
V. FOR TO HAVE GOD'S "MERCY AND TRUTH" WITH US IS TO ENJOY ALL REAL GOOD, AND TO BE SURE OF ITS ENJOYMENT FOREVER. Hence these words express all that the wisest, kindest, and best can address to their friends in parting with them, or on birthdays, new year's days, etc. We cannot be so certain, that we are pronouncing a blessing on them when we wish them health, wealth, long life, abundance of friends, etc.
VI. ONE OF THE BEST EFFECTS OF GOD'S "MERCY AND TRUTH" is to produce their own likeness in those with whom they dwell, making them kind and loving, true and faithful. The possession and cultivation of these qualities are a necessary part of the evidence that we have savingly experienced the Divine grace and faithfulness, and a necessary condition of our continuing to enjoy them (see Proverbs 3:3, 4). - G.W.
2 Samuel 18:2) been entrusted with the command of one-third of the army in the battle with Absalom and his forces. The proposal of David (vers. 19, 20) was generous and reasonable; but to Ittai's loyal spirit was quite inadmissible. He expresses his determination to cleave to David whether for life or for death; and swears to do so by the life of God and the life of the king. His devotedness presents an example to subjects and soldiers, to servants and friends. His language is worthy of adoption by us in addressing our glorious King, the Divine Son of David. It reminds us of the words of Peter, when speaking for all the twelve (John 6:68) and when speaking only for himself (John 13:17), and which expressed his genuine determination, notwithstanding his subsequent fall. It reminds us also of the exhortation of Barnabas to the new converts at Antioch, "that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23) - an exhortation which meets with a cordial response in every Christian's heart. His resolve, his vow, is to cleave unto Christ for life and death; to follow him whithersoever he may lead.
I. WHENCE THIS DETERMINATION ARISES. Primarily from the marvellous power of Christ to attract and attach to himself the hearts of men. David had a similar power, of an inferior kind and on a smaller scale. Christ draws and influences, not only by his character and works, but by his Spirit working directly in the heart. But regarded as springing from the Christian's heart, the resolve and vow are the result of:
1. Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Saviour and King of men. Who has, therefore, a right to supreme homage and service (John 6:69).
2. Ardent love to him. In return for his love (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15); and as the result of knowledge and experience, perception of his Divine and human excellences, delight in his society and service.
3. Desire and hope to make him some suitable return for his love and self-sacrifice, and the invaluable blessings he has secured and conferred. The ardent Christian will pant for, and delight in, opportunities for serving Christ at the cost of peril, loss, suffering, disgrace with the world, or even sacrifice of life; and for showing his fidelity when others forsake him.
4. Conviction that safety, happiness, and life everlasting are to be found only with Christ.
"Whither, ah! whither should I go, 5. Memory of past vows. "I have sworn, and I will perform it" (Psalm 119:106). II. HOW IT IS TO BE FULFILLED. Not merely by warm feelings at times of special devotion, or by words of endearment, or promise, or lavish praise; but by: 1. Bold confession of Christ before men. Wearing his uniform, marching under his banner, acknowledging him openly as King and Captain. 2. Union and communion with his people. In profession of his Name, in worship, at the Lord's table, in social life, etc. Christ is in his Church; they are his visible representatives; openly with them all should be who wish to be "in what place their Lord the King may be." 3. Visiting constantly the places where Christ is specially to be found, and avoiding those which he avoids. Frequenting the closet, the sanctuary, the houses of poor, sick, and dying brethren. Avoiding the haunts of dissipation and iniquity. Going nowhere where we cannot think with satisfaction that Christ is near and approving. 4. Active and zealous cooperation with Aim. Doing, daring, enduring, in promoting his kingdom and the welfare of mankind. "Always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). "Enduring hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). Pressing eagerly to the front with Christ where his battles are to be fought, as Ittai with David, regardless of difficulties, danger, or death. 5. Perseverance in all. Which is the crowning proof of the deep sincerity of the determination. III. THE REWARDS OF SUCH DEVOTEDNESS. 1. Now. Further opportunities of, calls to, and fitness for, service, suffering, and honour. "What his guerdon here? 2. Hereafter. To be with Christ and share his glory and bliss evermore. "Enter into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12, Revised Version). - G.W.
5. Memory of past vows. "I have sworn, and I will perform it" (Psalm 119:106).
II. HOW IT IS TO BE FULFILLED. Not merely by warm feelings at times of special devotion, or by words of endearment, or promise, or lavish praise; but by:
1. Bold confession of Christ before men. Wearing his uniform, marching under his banner, acknowledging him openly as King and Captain.
2. Union and communion with his people. In profession of his Name, in worship, at the Lord's table, in social life, etc. Christ is in his Church; they are his visible representatives; openly with them all should be who wish to be "in what place their Lord the King may be."
3. Visiting constantly the places where Christ is specially to be found, and avoiding those which he avoids. Frequenting the closet, the sanctuary, the houses of poor, sick, and dying brethren. Avoiding the haunts of dissipation and iniquity. Going nowhere where we cannot think with satisfaction that Christ is near and approving.
4. Active and zealous cooperation with Aim. Doing, daring, enduring, in promoting his kingdom and the welfare of mankind. "Always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). "Enduring hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). Pressing eagerly to the front with Christ where his battles are to be fought, as Ittai with David, regardless of difficulties, danger, or death.
5. Perseverance in all. Which is the crowning proof of the deep sincerity of the determination.
III. THE REWARDS OF SUCH DEVOTEDNESS.
1. Now. Further opportunities of, calls to, and fitness for, service, suffering, and honour.
"What his guerdon here? 2. Hereafter. To be with Christ and share his glory and bliss evermore. "Enter into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12, Revised Version). - G.W.
2. Hereafter. To be with Christ and share his glory and bliss evermore. "Enter into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12, Revised Version). - G.W.
2 Samuel 15:23-29. - (ACROSS THE KIDRON.)1 Chronicles 12:28); the latter was a still older friend of David (1 Samuel 22:23), occupying the highest official position (Zadok being his vicar only, or sagan, 1 Kings 2:27, 35; 1 Chronicles 16:39), but not taking the most prominent part in active service, and perhaps entertaining "jealousy of his rival" (Blunt). They doubtless intended to render valuable service to the king by bringing the ark. Why, then, did he send it back? Not from want of proper regard for it (ver. 25, latter part). He did not, indeed, put a superstitious confidence in it, like Hophni and Phinehas. He esteemed and reverenced it as an appointed symbol of the Divine presence and "favour," and a valuable means of Divine worship and service (1 Samuel 4:11), just as highly as when he conducted it in triumph to its resting place (2 Samuel 6:16). But "he would not use the ark as a charm; he had too much reverence for it to risk it in his personal peril" (Stanley). He locked upon it as belonging to God and to his people, not to himself; considered, not only that it would be of no advantage to him in present circumstances, but also that he was not justified in removing it from the city and depriving the people of its presence; that rather it was the will of God that he should himself be deprived of it, at least for a season; and thus he honoured God in adversity as he had formerly done in prosperity. "David is always great in affliction. His conduct throughout, his goodness, resignation, and patience, are clearly evinced in all these trying scenes" (Kitto). Consider him as an example of:
1. Spiritual insight. He perceived the true nature and worth of the ark; that the symbol was distinct from the reality of the Divine favour, did not necessarily ensure its possession, was not an essential condition of it; that its value depended upon the relation of men to God (1 Samuel 6:1-9). Affliction often teaches us how to regard the outward privileges and ordinances of religion. "He was contented at this time to forbear the presence of the ark, having his confidence in God, and not relying altogether upon the external sacrament" (Willet).
2. Deep humility. Having acted unworthily of the ark of the "testimony," and disobeyed the commandments of God, he deemed himself unworthy of the honour of its presence. His deprivation of it was a just chastisement for his misuse and abuse of it. "I am not worthy," etc. (Genesis 32:10; Luke 5:8; Matthew 8:8).
3. Holy affection toward the "habitation" of God (Psalm 26:8); toward God himself; and toward his people. Hence, although banished from the ark of God, he desired that the God of the ark should still be honoured by others, and do them good. "Observe his disinteresed self-sacrifice for the good of the people. He would not punish his subjects for his son's sins" (Wordsworth). "It argues a good principle to be more concerned for the Church's prosperity than for our own, to prefer Jerusalem before our chief joy, the success of the gospel and the flourishing of the Church above our own wealth, credit, ease, safety, even when they are most at hazard" (Matthew Henry). "Let thy Name be magnified forever" (2 Samuel 7:26).
4. Lofty faith in the presence of God in all places, his superintendence of all events, his acquaintance with all hearts, his righteousness and goodness, favour, guidance, mercy, and truth (ver. 20). It is "an instance of David's clear faith in the omnipresence of God and of his spiritual elevation from the outward symbols of the sanctuary to the Divine essence that was symbolized by them." "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord," etc. (Psalm 3:8; Psalm 4:3; Psalm 5:7).
5. Unquenchable hope. "If I find favour," etc. (ver. 26). So far from despairing of God's favour, he cherished the expectation of being delivered "out of all his troubles," brought back to Jerusalem, seeing the ark again, and worshipping in his tabernacle with joy. "My hope is in thee" (Psalm 39:7; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 71:14).
6. Entire resignation, "And if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him" (ver. 26; 1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 12:15-23). "He besought God, as Alexander Severus told his soldiers a generous and a wise man should; praying for the. best things and bearing whatever should befall" (Delany). "This marks strongly his subdued and right spirit, partly induced, we doubt not, by the humility of his own conscious transgressions. He fell; but it was the fall of the upright, and he rose again; submitting himself meekly in the mean time to the will of God" (Chalmers).
7. Practical wisdom. "Art thou a seer? return to the city," etc. (vers. 27-29); "Behold! return," etc. (LXX.). "The peculiar exercises of religion ought to precede, but not to exclude, the use of every prudent means of securing success in lawful undertakings" (Scott). When, in time of adversity, we decline the aid of our friends in one form, because it seems to us injudicious and improper, we should gladly avail ourselves of it in another; knowing that by such instrumentality the help for which we look to God is most commonly vouchsafed. "Among the few faithful amidst the faithless, the first place belongs to the priests, whom loyalty and interest alike bound to the throne. So they were ready if they had been permitted to have carried even the ark to share the exile of the king. They will have their loyalty crowned by seeing the ark, the tent of a once nomad worship, signifying by its flame a spiritual life, set up in Jerusalem; the younger amongst them may see a temple rise, the scene of as noble a worship as the world has yet known" (R. Williams). - D.
1 Samuel 4:3-5). We take the verses, however, as evidencing David's profound submission to the will of God, and illustrating the nature and excellence of godly resignation.
I. TO WHAT HE WAS RESIGNED. To whatever might be the will of God. To the enjoyment of the Divine favour, or the experience of the Divine displeasure. In particular:
1. To defeat or victory in the contest with his unnatural son; and, as results of one or the other:
2. To the permanent loss or the regaining of his throne.
3. To exile from Jerusalem or return to it.
4. To banishment from the ark and house of God or restoration to them. This is specially referred to in ver. 25:5. To death or life.
II. THE NATURE OF HIS RESIGNATION.
1. It was not insensibility or indifference. How much he felt the position in which he was placed is evident from his language here, and his tears and other signs of mourning referred to in ver. 30. Those who do not feel their troubles cannot cherish resignation to them. Troubles which do not trouble require no exercise of submission. Resignation may be most eminently displayed by those who are most susceptible of suffering.
2. It was not a stoical submission to the inevitable. This is better than vain struggles and useless murmurs, but is not godly resignation.
3. Nor did it involve abandonment of all prayer and effort to secure what was felt to be desirable. David, while surrendering himself to the disposal of the Most High, carefully planned and laboured, and was prepared to fight, that he might obtain the victory. Christian resignation is not fatalism.
4. It was trustful, loving submission to whatever might prove to be the will of God. David recognized the hand of God in his adversities, saw that the issue of events would be according to the Divine appointment, and on this account was prepared to acquiesce in it. "Let him do to me as seemeth good unto him."
III. MOTIVES TO SUCH RESIGNATION.
1. The rightful sovereignty of God. He does rule over all, whether we will or no; and the recognition of his right to rule will much aid in producing willing submission to his will. "You know, my dear," said a poor man to his wife, when they were mourning the loss of a peculiarly interesting and affectionate child, "this family is God's garden, and he has a right to come into it and pluck any flower that pleases him best."
2. His omnipotence. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God" (1 Peter 5:6). Because he is almighty, his will must be accomplished; resistance is futile. At the same time, he is almighty to support, to bring good out of evil, and to "exalt in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).
3. His wisdom and goodness. Which assure us that he does not act according to arbitrary choice, but that what "seemeth good unto him" is really good; so that in submitting to him we are acquiescing in our own ultimate well being.
4. Our sinfulness and unworthiness. David was doubtless aided in resigning himself to the will of God by the memory of his heinous sins (comp. Judges 10:15; Nehemiah 9:33; Lamentations 1:18; Lamentations 3:39; Daniel 9:14; Micah 7:9). We deserve more suffering than is inflicted upon us; we merit no good. thing; the more readily, therefore, should we resign ourselves to whatever may be appointed for us.
5. The blessings enjoyed by us or assured to us. The memory of past enjoyments, which tends to embitter present griefs, should nevertheless awaken a gratitude which tends to reconcile us to them. "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). The mercies still remaining to us, duly appreciated and acknowledged, will have a similar beneficial effect. The way in which God has led us through past difficulties should strengthen confidence in him, and render us willing to trust him with our future. Specially, if we are Christians indeed, let us keep in mind:
(1) The relation in which we stand towards God, as his children, redeemed, reconciled, renewed; and the childlike spirit which becomes us.
(2) The unspeakable blessings which as Christians we enjoy. Pardon, peace with God, access to him, assurance of his fatherly pity and love, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with his special guidance, support, and consolation.
(3) The promises made to us of all needful good (Psalm 84:11; Matthew 6:33); the cooperation of all things for our good (Romans 8:28); the Divine care, sympathy, and support (Psalm 55:22; Hebrews 13:5, 6); and final deliverance from all affliction, and enjoyment of eternal glory - glory far outweighing all present trouble, and prepared for and increased through its right endurance (Revelation 21:4; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18).
6. The cross of Christ illustrates and enhances all other motives. The love of God in Christ assures us in the darkest hours that he is love, and his ways are love. The sufferings of Jesus as our atoning Saviour make sure to us all spiritual and eternal blessings. His greater sufferings are adapted to reconcile us to our so much lesser ones. In his resignation we have the brightest and most powerful example, and reasons for imitation of it. As our fellow Sufferer we know that he can, and are assured that he does, sympathize with us; and that he is the better able to succour us.
7. The benefits which flow from resignation.
(1) "The peace of God" (Philippians 4:7), and with it strength to endure: power also to do whatever may be possible towards deliverance.
(2) Evidence to our own consciousness that we are the children of God.
(3) Good influence over others. Proof to them of the worth of religion. In conclusion, let us lay to heart that in any case we must suffer affliction. The only question is how and with what results? Shall we suffer in faith and hope and. submission, and thus secure Divine approval, support, and blessing? or shall we suffer impatiently and rebelliously, thus adding to our sufferings, and gaining no blessing from them? "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" (Isaiah 45:9). - G.W.
1. What a scene of fallen greatness and bitter grief is here depicted! He who yesterday reigned in Jerusalem, as the anointed (Messiah) of Jehovah, is today a homeless fugitive (ver. 20), toiling up the ascent of Olivet, in deep humiliation and undisguised sorrow, with head covered (2 Samuel 3:31, 32; 2 Samuel 19:4) and feet bare; accompanied by stern warriors and tender women and children, all, like himself, with covered heads "going and weeping." It is "as one long funeral procession of men wailing over the fall of all their hopes" (Plumptre).
2. What an instance of moral excellence and overcoming faith is here afforded! "The greatness of David did not depend on his royal state; it was within his lofty soul and inseparable from his commanding character" (Milman). He is considerate, generous (ver. 19), submissive (ver. 26), prayerful (ver. 31), grateful (2 Samuel 16:4), forbearing (2 Samuel 16:10), and hopeful (2 Samuel 16:12). His suffering manifests his sincerity, his outward shame his inward worth; and "out of the depths" of his trouble he rises to the loftiest elevation (Psalm 130:1; Psalm 84:6; 2 Samuel 23:13, 14; Hosea 2:15).
3. What an outline is here furnished of the ideal representation, given by psalmist and prophet, of the suffering Servant of Jehovah (Psalm 22.; Isaiah 53.), and fully realized in him who, on the same spot, a thousand years afterwards, wept over the sinning and perishing city! "And when he was come near," etc. (Luke 19:41-44; Luke 23:27-31). Consider -
I. THE SORROWS OF DAVID. Why did he weep? Not so much on account of his exile, privation, etc., as on account of:
2. The ungrateful treatment which he received, from his son whom he tenderly loved (2 Samuel 16:11), from his subjects whom he faithfully served, from his adversaries who hated him "wrongfully" and "without a cause" (Psalm 69:3-5). Neither his former transgressions nor his recent defects justified rebellion against his authority as king. Indeed, his personal piety and theocratic policy made him to many an object of hatred and reproach; and in him the Divine King of Israel himself was despised.(Psalm 5:10; Psalm 22:8; Psalm 42:3; Psalm 69:7, 9, 20). "Though David suffered for his many sins, he had yet through penitence already obtained forgiveness of sins. Thus he was the righteous sufferer, who could appeal to God for the purity of his heart and the holiness of his cause" (Erdmann).
3. The national calamity which he beheld - the distress of "all the people that was with him" (ver. 23), the distracted condition of the country, the ruin which thousands would, bring upon themselves: filling him with commiseration (1 Samuel 15:35: Psalm 119:136):
4. The Divine displeasure which he experienced against his sin and the sins of the people; regarding this calamity as a sign thereof, enduring it in common with them, and bearing it, as far as possible, in his own person (2 Samuel 24:17). "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow," etc. (Lamentations 1:12; Jeremiah 9:1). "When I fall I shall arise," etc. (Micah 7:8, 9; Psalm 31:5).
II. THE SORROWS OF CHRIST; arising from:
1. His relation to a sinful race, whose nature he assumed and among whom he dwelt, "yet without sin;" the suffering "which a pure and holy nature must feel from the mere contiguity of evil; and the reflected and borrowed shame and pain which noble natures feel for the sins of those with whom they are closely connected" (Caird).
2. His rejection by the world, which he came to save; being reproached, persecuted, betrayed, deserted, condemned, and crucified; and thus made the victim of human wickedness. His righteousness and love, his Divine dignity, as the Son of God, the King Messiah (2 Samuel 7:16), rendered his treatment peculiarly sinful, and reveals the sin of men in its true light.
4. His endurance of Divine abandonment to the power of darkness and death (Psalm 22:1; Luke 22:44; Mark 15:34; Hebrews 5:7).; wherein (without the sense of personal guilt and remorse) he gathered into his experience all the griefs endured by the servants of God in all ages from and for transgressors, and all the woes of humanity arising from alienation from God; and whereby, in unfaltering trust and entire self devotion, he fulfilled the Father's will, overcame sin, death, and hell, and "became unto all them that obey him the Author of eternal salvation." "The chastisement was laid upon him for our peace; and through his stripes we were healed" (Isaiah 53:5, 10; Psalm 22:8, 16, 18, 24-31).
III. THE SORROWS OF THE CHRISTIAN. For everyone who follows Christ must tread the path of sorrows (not only such as are natural, but such as are spiritual and Divine), on account of:
1. The manifold sins of which he has been guilty against the Lord (Matthew 5:4).
"We have not time to mourn. The worse for us.
2. The evil effects wrought thereby in himself and others.
"Weep not for broad lands lost;
3. The sinful opposition of men to Christ, his kingdom, and his people; unbelief, enmity, and persecution; the effects of which he shares with his Lord and for his sake (John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:13; Philippians 1:29; Colossians 1:24). "For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping," etc. (Philippians 3:18).
4. The miserable condition and gloomy prospects of the impenitent. He mourns over them "with many tears" (Acts 20:19, 31) "in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:8), and is willing to undergo the greatest sacrifice and suffering for their salvation (Romans 9:2, 3). "If we suffer we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 5:12). - D.
2 Samuel 15:31. - (MOUNT OLIVET.)References: 2 Samuel 15:12, 34; 2 Samuel 16:15, 20-23; 2 Samuel 17:1-7, 15, 23; 1 Chronicles 27:33.) While ascending the Mount of Olives, David received intelligence that his counsellor, Ahithophel the Gilonite, had gone over to Absalom. He was the wisest statesman in Israel, and nothing was more adapted than his counsel to ensure the success of the revolt. The effect which his defection produced upon David is evident from the prayer (suggested probably by his name, "brother of a fool") that forthwith broke from his lips. As he continued his, journey, he, perhaps, reflected on the former course of Ahithophel (the Old Testament Judas) in the light of present knowledge, and indulged some such sentiments as are expressed in Psalm 41., 'The comfort of the afflicted and betrayed;' Psalm 55, 'Prayer against a treacherous friend;' Psalm 69., 109. Observe that -
I. A FAMILIAR FRIEND MAY BECOME A DEADLY FOE.
"For it is not an enemy, etc.
1. Dislike of the religious earnestness and theocratic policy of David.
2. Ambition to be the sole adviser and prime minister of Absalom. "There may have been jealousy of Joab, or the natural tendency to worship the rising instead of the setting sun, or the impatience of a hypocrite at the round of religious services in which he was compelled to bear a part, affecting a devotion he did not feel, Psalm 55:13, 14" (Plumptre).
3. Revenge "for the dishonour done to his family in the person of Bathsheba, which no subsequent marriage could repair or efface" (Delany). "He was urged by the desire of punishing David's greatest crime, if he were not at the bottom of the movement. It is but reasonable to trace in the conspiring Ahithophel one of the intricate methods by which the judicial providence of God works out its own ends; suffering a great offender, notwithstanding his penitence, to eat the fruit of his deeds; yet reserving for treachery in time its reward" (R. Williams). "This text is a glass wherein God's justice is plainly to be seen. David had formerly forsaken Uriah, and now God suffers Ahithophel to forsake David.
(1) Let us learn, when our friends forsake us, to enter into a serious scrutiny with our own souls.
(2) The most politic heads have not always the faithfullest hearts.
(3) False friends will forsake thee in times of adversity" (T. Fuller). "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook," etc. (Job 6:15; Jacox, 'Stray Side-Lights on Scripture Texts').
II. GREAT GIFTS ARE SOMETIMES PERVERTED TO UNGODLY USES. "That oracular wisdom which made his house a kind of shrine (2 Samuel 16:23) seems to move the spirit of the sacred writer with an involuntary admiration" (Stanley). "His great crimes were enhanced by his immense talents, of which God gave him the use and the devil the application." His criminality appears not only in
(1) his sanctioning and promoting rebellion against the authority of the king; but also in
(2) his lawless and shameless advice against his honour (2 Samuel 16:21, 22), whereby he sought to make reconciliation and compromise impossible in the view of all, and to gratify his revenge in the most effective and significant manner (2 Samuel 11:2, 4, 11); becoming, consciously or unconsciously, an instrument of retribution. "This cursed policy showed him rather an oracle of the devil than of God" (Matthew Henry).
(3) His malicious and cruel proposal to take away his life (2 Samuel 17:2). None but a man devoid of all moral and religious principle could have given such counsel. A powerful intellect is, alas! too often united with a depraved heart. "It is often found true by experience that persons of superior penetration and wisdom are of bad intentions; they see further than other men, and are under a temptation to turn their minds to the overreaching of others, and effecting mischief; their ability in accomplishing wickedness is a snare and a temptation to them; they find they can do it, and therefore are ready and willing to do it" (W. Jones, of Nayland). "This man, while he was one of David's deep counsellors, was one of David's fools, that said in their hearts, 'There is no God;' else he could not have hoped to make good an evil with worse, to build the success of treason upon incest." "Oh the policy of this Machiavelli of Israel, no less deep than hell itself! Oh the wisdom of the Almighty, that can use the worst evils well, and most justly make the sins of man his executioners!" (Hall).
III. GOD IS ABLE TO FRUSTRATE THE CRAFTIEST COUNSELS. "Turn," etc., "either infatuate him, that he may give foolish counsel; or, let his counsel be rejected as foolish, or spoiled by the foolish execution of it" (Poole). "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness," etc. (Job 5:13; 1 Corinthians 3:19). Of this David was persuaded from:
1. His supreme and infinite wisdom, in comparison with which the highest human wisdom is foolishness.
2. His abundant and varied resources for the direction and control of men's purposes and actions, so that they are made of none effect, or turn out contrary to what was intended and expected.
3. His frequent and extraordinary interpositions for that end. History is full of such instances (Acts 4:28). So are individual lives (1 Samuel 23:24-28). "Though Ahithophel spoke as an oracle of God (as we often see statesmen wiser than priests), yet as he turned to treachery his counsel turned to foolishness."
IV. A GOOD MAN HAS AN UNFAILING RESOURCE IN EVERY TROUBLE, viz. sincere, believing, fervent prayer. "Call upon me," etc. (Psalm 1:15).
1. However beset by the craft and power of his adversaries, he cannot be deprived of this privilege, but has access to God in all circumstances, at all times, and in all places (ver. 32). "A Christian cannot always hear, or always read, or always communicate, but he may pray continually. If he be on the top of a house with Peter, he may pray; if he he in the bottom of the ocean with Jonah, he may pray; if he be walking in the field with Isaac, he may pray when no eye seeth him; if he be waiting at table with Nehemiah, he may pray when no ear heareth him; if he be in the mountains with our Saviour, he may pray; if he be in the prison with Paul, he may pray; wherever he is, prayer will help him to find God out. Every saint is God's temple; and he that carrieth his temple about him, saith Austin, may go to prayer when he pleaseth. Indeed, to a Christian every house is a house of prayer; every closet a chamber of presence; and every place he comes to an altar whereon he may offer the sacrifice of prayer" (Swinnock, 'The Christian Man's Calling').
2. The depth of his helplessness and peril is an incentive to higher earnestness and an argument for the fulfilment of Divine promises. "Ejaculations are short prayers darted up to God on emergent occasions. When we are time bound, place bound, or person bound, so that we cannot compose ourselves to make a large solemn prayer, this is the right instant for ejaculations, whether orally uttered or only poured forth inwardly in the heart" (T. Fuller).
3. And his prayer is not offered in vain. Sometimes while he is "yet speaking" (Isaiah 65:24) the answer comes (ver. 32). "In answer to a single emphatical ejaculation the counsel of the prudent is carried headlong" (Scott).
"As for me - unto God will I cry,
2 Samuel 15:32-37. - (THE TOP OF MOUNT OLIVET.)References: Joshua 16:2; 2 Samuel 16:16-19; 2 Samuel 17:5-15; 1 Chronicles 27:33; 1 Kings 4:16.) Like Uriah and Ittai, he may have been of Gentile origin and a proselyte; was far advanced in life (ver. 33), "the king's friend" or confidential adviser, and doubtless, in disposition, more congenial with David than the cool and calculating Ahithophel. "In him David saw the first gleam of hope. For warlike purposes he was useless; but of political stratagem he was master. The moment before the tidings had come of the treason of Ahithophel. To frustrate his designs, he was sent back just in time to meet Absalom arriving from Hebron" (Stanley). Notice:
1. His opportune presence; in answer to prayer (ver. 31); at a time of need, when others were unfaithful, trouble oppressed, and danger threatened. A faithful friend is one of Heaven's best gifts. "When friends come to us just at the moment when we want them, and for a purpose which no one else could accomplish as well as they, and for a time which is precisely conterminous with our necessity, it is hard not to look on them as much sent from God as the angels who met Jacob at Mahanaim, or who stood by the open tomb to tell Mary of Christ" (Thorold, 'On the Use of Friends').
"When true friends meet in adverse hour,
2. His genuine sympathy; voluntarily and appropriately expressed; and adapted to cheer and strengthen. "There are eight chief uses in the gift of friendship - viz. counsel, defence, appreciation, correction, society, intercession, aid, sympathy" (2 Samuel 7:1, 2; 1 Samuel 18:1-4).
3. His tested loyalty. Would he prove his fidelity, not by going into exile (ver. 21), but by returning to Jerusalem, professing allegiance to Absalom, endeavouring to frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel, and communicating secretly with David? "The boldness and originality of this step revealed the remarkable genius which, on former occasions, as in the contest with Goliath, had devised methods so original yet simple for the attainment of its object" (Blaikie). This deceptive policy is recorded, but not commended; it was not contrary to the ideas which prevailed among Eastern nations at the time on the subject of veracity; it has been since practised by Christian monarchs, statesmen, and warriors, toward their enemies, in perilous emergencies, as a justifiable stratagem; and often approved, like a skilful choice of weapons in conflict with an enemy, or like a clever move in a game of chess. It ought not, therefore, to be censured in David with undue severity; and "we must not think that the king's religion was a hypocrisy because it did not bear at once the fruit of the spotless honour and unswerving truth that mark the highest forms of Christian goodness" (Plumptre). But such duplicity cannot be justified on the ground of necessity; or that those against whom it is practised may have (like Absalom) "forfeited all the rights of society" (Delany); or that the end which is aimed at is good. In the light of revelation it must be condemned (Leviticus 19:11). "And in this respect we have (in David) a contrast with the Divine Antitype, the Son of David, who in all his sorrows and sufferings retained his holiness, purity, and truth unsullied and undefiled" (Wordsworth).
4. His ready service. (Ver. 37.) He at once complied with the wishes of the king, and evidently without any conception that what he was about to do was morally wrong. "We can hardly excuse his thrusting himself even upon a traitor's confidence in order to play the traitor; though the picture is characteristic of the East; and this is one of many drawbacks which remind us that the Bible embodies an experience and a tone of sentiment which are not always perfect models for the franker races of the West. At least let us remember, though a friend may ask many things of us, he should not ask us to sacrifice the truth and the right; for these are not ours to give him" (R. Williams).
5. His daring courage. Should his treachery be discovered, he might have to pay the penalty with his head.
7. His complete success. (2 Samuel 17:14.) "In justifying the ways of God to men, and admiring the issues of his will, we are in no case obliged to approve actions which have nothing but their success to commend them" (Kitto, 'Cyc.'). - D.
Luke 19:41). In David's time there appears to have been a "high place" there, where men were accustomed to worship God. It seems strange that so near to the tabernacle such a place should have been tolerated, however difficult it was to abolish such set rate worship elsewhere. Perhaps, however, this was simply "a place of prayer" (Acts 16:13), not of sacrifice or incense-butting, in which case it would not come under the con, demnation of the Mosaic Law. One can hardly doubt that such places of worship must have been scattered over the land long before the known existence of synagogues. How otherwise could social religion, or religion at all, have been maintained? Three visits a year to the tabernacle or temple, and those of the men only, could not have been sufficient. How also could the sabbaths have been kept as days holy to the Lord? But without attempting to settle such questions, this Scripture may be used as suggesting some thoughts on places of worship.
I. THEIR SANCTITY.
1. Because specially set apart and used for the worship of God. Consecrated in the purpose of men, and by their devotions; by the prayers by which they are dedicated, and the worship constantly offered afterwards.
2. Because they are scenes of Divine manifestation and gracious operation. (Exodus 20:24; Psalm 63:2; Matthew 18:20.) They are meeting places, not only between men and men, but between God and men, heaven and earth, consecrated by the presence and blessing of God.
II. THEIR VALVE.
1. As witnesses.
(1) For God; reminding men of him, and calling on them to worship and serve him.
(2) Of the nature of men; as spiritual, fitted and designed for worship, and immortal.
2. As inviting to rest from ordinary occupations and employment in spiritual exercises.
3. As furnishing valuable opportunities for the exercise of gifts for the good of others. Gifts of teaching, singing, organization, etc.
4. In uniting men to each other in sacred bonds, and fostering mutual love and service.
5. In promoting piety, holiness, and happiness. The moral virtues, as well as the godliness, of a people depend to a large extent on their places of worship.
III. THEIR BLESSED ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMORIES. There "our fathers praised" God (Isaiah 64:11); thither "we walked in company" with our own parents and best friends (Psalm 55:14); there many of our most happy and profitable hours have been spent. There, it may be, we were first led to Christ; there we have often met with God, and consciously received his blessing; there we have received instructions and influences which have moulded our character and elevated our lives. There we have been relieved of anxieties, calmed when agitated, comforted when sorrowful, revived when languid, recalled to duty when we have wandered, strengthened in faith and courage when we have become enfeebled. There many a glimpse of heaven has been gained, and many a foretaste of its bliss enjoyed. Many have attended their place of worship from childhood to old age; and esteem it one of the chief blessings of their life. "Planted in the house of the Lord," they "flourish in the courts of our God," and still "bring forth fruit in old age" (Psalm 92:13, 14), waiting to be transplanted to "the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).
IV. OUR CONSEQUENT DUTY IN RESPECT TO THEM,
1. To be thankful for them.
2. To take our part in establishing and maintaining them.
3. To attend them. Frequently, regularly, punctually. To be negligent in these respects is to dishonour God, and to rob ourselves of blessing.
4. To induce others to do so. Happy the city, happy the land, in which places where men worship God abound, and are attended by crowds of true worshippers! - G.W.