Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 16:1-4. - (OLIVET.)References: 2 Samuel 9:3, 9-13; 2 Samuel 19:24-30.) David had taken his last look at Jerusalem, and was "a little past the top" of Mount Olivet in his descent on the other side, when he was met by Ziba, the servant of Mephibesheth, with an apparently thoughtful and generous present. This man was originally a slave of the house of Saul; became a freed man at its downfall; made his fortune out of its ruins; and had fifteen sons and twenty slaves. About seventeen years before, when inquiry was made for "any of the house of Saul," he gave information concerning the son of Jonathan. By the restoration of Mephibosheth to his patrimony, Ziba was reduced to his former status, and thenceforward cultivated the land for his master. And now, foreseeing the issue of the conflict, he sought to ingratiate himself with the king, regain his position, and obtain his master's estate. Such appears to be the key to his conduct. We have here an illustration of a benefaction:
1. Occurring at a seasonable moment; when most needed and least expected; valuable in itself, and still more for the faithfulness and kindness it seemed to manifest. A man of David's generosity could not but be greatly affected by it. But an admirable gift does not always express a commendable purpose (Deuteronomy 16:19; Ecclesiastes 7:7). "Whatever Ziba intended in this present, God's providence sent it to David for his support" (Matthew Henry).
2. Proceeding from unworthy motives: selfishness, covetousness, cunning craftiness (2 Samuel 1:2-10), hidden under an ostentatious display of loyalty, sympathy, and benevolence. Ziba was well acquainted with the character of David, and shrewdly calculated upon the means of improving his present necessities to secure his own advantage. Impure motives often lurk, sometimes unconsciously, beneath imposing benefactions.
3. Conferred at another's expense; and by the employment of deceit, treachery, and robbery. "The whole, though offered as Ziba's, is the property of Mephibosheth: the asses are his, one of them his own riding animal: the fruits are from his gardens and orchards" (Smith, 'Dictionary'). Poor Mephibosheth! He was at this moment waiting for the return of his faithless and pitiless slave with the ass, to enable him to follow the king. His own account of his absence was consistent with his actions (2 Samuel 19:24); and the treachery of Ziba could not be denied. "Treacherous servants are a curse to their masters." It is no uncommon thing for one man to seek the credit which is due to another, and obtain it by deceiving, disappointing, and injuring him.
4. Accompanied with a false accusation. "And Ziba said," etc. (ver. 3). It was not improbable that the adherents of the fallen dynasty might seize the opportunity to attempt its restoration (ver. 5; 2 Samuel 20:1); and already, perhaps, David entertained some suspicion of the loyalty of Mephibosheth. Hence Ziba might calculate on finding a ready hearing for his calumny. But "every tie, both of interest and gratitude, combined to keep Mephibosheth faithful to David's cause. Innocent men are often suspected and accused groundlessly. "When much treachery and ingratitude have been experienced, men are apt to become too suspicious, and to listen to every plausible tale of calumny" (Scott). "I cannot but pity the condition of this good son of Jonathan; into ill hands did honest Mephibosheth fall, first of a careless nurse, then of a treacherous servant; she maimed his body, he would have overthrown his estate" (Hall). "A false witness will utter lies" (Proverbs 14:5).
5. Receiving an undeserved recompense. "Behold, thine is all that belonged to Mephibosheth" (ver. 4). "David, in the excitement of a momentary misfortune, is here guilty of a double wrong - first in treating the faithful Mephibosheth as a traitor, and then in royally rewarding the false and slanderous Ziba" (Erdmann). "Hearsay is no safe ground of any judgment. Ziba slanders, David believes, and Mepbibosheth suffers" (Hall).
6. Followed by flattering servility. "I humbly beseech thee," etc. "He pretends to value the king's favour more than the gift he had bestowed" (Patrick).
7. Revealed at length in its true character (ch. 19:27), as a selfish, deceitful, and base procedure; though even then the wrong done to the master is not fully repaired, nor the wickedness of the servant adequately punished.
1. Look beneath the outward appearance (John 7:24).
4. Wait for the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. - D.
2 Samuel 16:5-13. - (BAHURIM.)References: 2 Samuel 19:16; 1 Kings 2:8, 9, 36-46.) On pursuing his flight until he reached the Benjamite village of Bahurim (2 Samuel 3:6), David was encountered by another man connected with the house of Saul, who, instead of bringing flatteries and presents, flung "grievous curses" and stones; and (from a safe distance) gave vent to the long repressed rage which, in common with other partisans of the fallen dynasty, he felt on account of David's exaltation (ver. 8). "Along the ridge he ran, throwing stones, as if for the adulterer's punishment, or when he came to a patch of dust on the dried hillside, taking up and scattering it over the royal party below, with the elaborate curses of which only Eastern partisans are fully masters - curses which David never forgot, and of which, according to Jewish tradition, every letter was significant" (Stanley). Abishai returned reviling for reviling, and wished to take instant vengeance. But David said, "Let him a one," etc.; presenting an instructive contrast to both. "He strikes the same string of nobleness as before." We have here -
I. AN INSTANCE OF RAILING ACCUSATION. "Out, out [of the kingdom], thou man of blood," etc.! The language and conduct of Shimei were:
1. Cruel. He rails against David in the day of his calamity, and has "no pity."
2. Cowardly. Fear had kept him silent all these years; but "he that smiled on David on his throne curseth him in his flight" (Hall). Seeing that he is not pursued, he is encouraged to continue his imprecations, and becomes more furious (ver. 13).
3. Malicious; imbued with personal hatred. "The ungodly are always selfish. They judge of others, not by the laws of impartial justice, but by the standard of self-interest. David was called a usurper, a man of Belial, a murderer; and why? Because he had made himself the slave of lust, and had cruelly slain the noble Uriah? No; because he had been elevated by God to the throne of Israel, and had thus marred the prospects of the ambitious Shimei" (C. Bradley).
4. Unfounded and unjust. "Every word of Shimei was a slander." His accusations of wickedness in general, and of "the blood of the house of Saul" in particular (2 Samuel 4:11; 2 Samuel 21:6), are the offspring of a wicked heart. "Shimei curses and stones at David, and barks like a live dog, though Abishai calls him a dead one. The only unjust act that ever David had done against the house of Saul he had newly done; that was, giving Mephibosheth's land; and here a man of the house of Saul is soon upon him" (Lightfoot).
5. Misinterpretive. (Ver. 8.) Whilst recognizing the judgment of God, he makes a wrong application of it. "We may here learn how falsely and wickedly men sometimes wrest the providence of God, to justify their unjust surmises and gratify their malignant passions" (Lindsay).
6. Criminal. He is guilty of high treason and blasphemy, and might justly suffer the penalty of the Law (Exodus 22:28; 2 Samuel 19:21; 1 Kings 21:13); and if David had put him to death at the time, he would not have been condemned for injustice.
7. Provocative of wrath. Surely no man might more reasonably feel resentment than David; no man was ever more strongly incited to inflict punishment; and nothing but "a spirit of meekness" could have restrained him. It is not improbable that Psalm 109. records "the very words of Shimei, and the curses which he threw out against David, and which, as they could not but make a deep impression on his memory, he here repeats and then condemns. They are directly contrary to that temper and disposition shown by David in the other parts of the psalm; and they run all along in the singular number, whereas David speaks of his enemies in the plural" (C. Peters, 'Sermons:' 1776; see 1 Samuel 22:18, 19; 1 Samuel 26:13-25; Expositor, 2:325).
O God of my praise, be not silent!
"And they have requited me with evil for good,
"This will be the reward of mine adversaries from Jehovah,
II. AN EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE AND FORBEARANCE. "Let him curse," etc. (vers. 10-12). The manner in which David endured it was:
1. Uncomplaining. He does not retaliate; does not even vindicate himself; but is silent (1 Samuel 10:26, 27; Isaiah 53:5; Luke 23:9). "When Shimei railed on him, he held his peace, and, though he had many armed men about him, yet did he not retort aught savouring of revenge, yea, repelled with the high courage of a patient spirit the instigation of the son of Gera. He went, therefore, as one dumb and humbled to the dust; he went as one mute and not moved at all .... Consider not what is rendered by others, keep thou thy place, preserve thou the simplicity and purity of thine own heart. Answer thou not the angry man according to his anger, nor the unwise man according to his indiscretion; one fault quickly provoketh another. If thou strikest two flints together, cloth not fire break forth?" (Ambrose, 'De Officiis').
3. Self-accusing. Although guiltless of the crimes imputed to him, he feels himself guilty of others not less heinous. "Conscience in that hour had her own tale to tell, of the Almighty Disposer of events, who speaks to us by the reproaches of men as well as by his own blessings. Had he not merited from God, if not from men, whatever disaster could befall the murderer of Uriah? David feels within him that destitution of the Divine presence of which the absence of the ark is but an outward type" (R. Williams).
"Pure from the blood of Saul in vain, Let Shimei curse: the rod he bears 4. Reverential; looking devoutly (as others did not) beyond Shimei to the All-seeing, All-holy, and Almighty One, by whom he was permitted to be an instrument of retribution, and even employed as such, although not thereby exonerated from guilt (2 Samuel 19:18-20). "Abishai looked only to the stone (as it were), an instrument; but David looked higher, to the hand that was the supreme caster, and chastiser of him, as all the godly do (Genesis 1:20; Job 1:21); which is the ground of their patience under sufferings (Guild). His vision of the supreme Judge fills him with holy awe and lowly penitence; his conscious offences against God make him reluctant to punish offences against himself; his dependence upon mercy disposes him to show mercy (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 6:14, 15; Romans 12:19-21). 5. Submissive; humbly accepting the chastisement of God; and deeming this to be his proper business now, rather than seeking to execute justice on another (Micah 7:9). "Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him" (2 Samuel 15:26). "The ways of Providence interlace, not only in capacity, but in retribution; one thing is set over against another. Yet the payment comes, not in the manner nor at the time we might expect, it seems not in the connection we think due; but it comes, like doom. Call Absalom thankless, Shimei brutal, etc. All these things read half a riddle, unless we own that God, in whose counsels these are all as instruments in the hand of a man of war, is just. He gave us wine, let us take also the gall from his hands. If it is not due to us now, nor for this, it was for something else at some other time." 6. Palliative. "Behold, my son seeketh my life," etc. (ver. 11). He makes light of present wrongs by comparing them with other and greater. "It is the advantage of great crosses that they swallow up the less." 7. Hopeful. "It may be that Jehovah will look upon my guilt [tears]," etc. (ver. 12). "This consciousness of guilt also excited the assurance that the Lord would look upon his sin. When God looks upon the guilt of a humble sinner he will also, as a just and merciful God, avert the evil and change the suffering into a blessing. David founded upon this the hope that the Lord would repay him with good for the curses with which Shimei pursued him' (Keil). "Ziba's gifts did more harm than Shimei's curses; for those betrayed him into an act of injustice, but these proved his patience" (T. Fuller). They also had the effect of making him more humble, pure, prayerful, and filling him with new confidence and joy in God (Psalm 109:30, 31). "A curse is like a cloud, it passes." "All things work together for good," etc. "Lord, I adore thy righteous will; REMARKS. 1. The best of men have been maligned; of the Son of God himself it was said, "He hath a devil." Can we expect to escape insult and provocation? 2. The maledictions of the wicked can do us no harm unless we suffer ourselves to imbibe their spirit. "No man is ever really hurt by any one but himself" (Chrysostom). 3. When reviled of men, instead of considering how little we have deserved their displeasure, we should rather consider how much we have deserved the displeasure of God. 4. We should also consider how little, in comparison with God, do we endure at their hands! 6. Imitate "the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1). 7. So what is meant for evil will turn to good. - D.
Let Shimei curse: the rod he bears
4. Reverential; looking devoutly (as others did not) beyond Shimei to the All-seeing, All-holy, and Almighty One, by whom he was permitted to be an instrument of retribution, and even employed as such, although not thereby exonerated from guilt (2 Samuel 19:18-20). "Abishai looked only to the stone (as it were), an instrument; but David looked higher, to the hand that was the supreme caster, and chastiser of him, as all the godly do (Genesis 1:20; Job 1:21); which is the ground of their patience under sufferings (Guild). His vision of the supreme Judge fills him with holy awe and lowly penitence; his conscious offences against God make him reluctant to punish offences against himself; his dependence upon mercy disposes him to show mercy (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 6:14, 15; Romans 12:19-21).
5. Submissive; humbly accepting the chastisement of God; and deeming this to be his proper business now, rather than seeking to execute justice on another (Micah 7:9). "Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him" (2 Samuel 15:26). "The ways of Providence interlace, not only in capacity, but in retribution; one thing is set over against another. Yet the payment comes, not in the manner nor at the time we might expect, it seems not in the connection we think due; but it comes, like doom. Call Absalom thankless, Shimei brutal, etc. All these things read half a riddle, unless we own that God, in whose counsels these are all as instruments in the hand of a man of war, is just. He gave us wine, let us take also the gall from his hands. If it is not due to us now, nor for this, it was for something else at some other time."
6. Palliative. "Behold, my son seeketh my life," etc. (ver. 11). He makes light of present wrongs by comparing them with other and greater. "It is the advantage of great crosses that they swallow up the less."
7. Hopeful. "It may be that Jehovah will look upon my guilt [tears]," etc. (ver. 12). "This consciousness of guilt also excited the assurance that the Lord would look upon his sin. When God looks upon the guilt of a humble sinner he will also, as a just and merciful God, avert the evil and change the suffering into a blessing. David founded upon this the hope that the Lord would repay him with good for the curses with which Shimei pursued him' (Keil). "Ziba's gifts did more harm than Shimei's curses; for those betrayed him into an act of injustice, but these proved his patience" (T. Fuller). They also had the effect of making him more humble, pure, prayerful, and filling him with new confidence and joy in God (Psalm 109:30, 31). "A curse is like a cloud, it passes." "All things work together for good," etc.
"Lord, I adore thy righteous will;
1. The best of men have been maligned; of the Son of God himself it was said, "He hath a devil." Can we expect to escape insult and provocation?
2. The maledictions of the wicked can do us no harm unless we suffer ourselves to imbibe their spirit. "No man is ever really hurt by any one but himself" (Chrysostom).
3. When reviled of men, instead of considering how little we have deserved their displeasure, we should rather consider how much we have deserved the displeasure of God.
4. We should also consider how little, in comparison with God, do we endure at their hands!
6. Imitate "the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1).
7. So what is meant for evil will turn to good. - D.
I. SHIMEI'S CURSING. A striking picture here: David, in the midst of his people and servants, including his famous "Ironsides," marching along the ravine; and from a town on the heights, this fierce Benjamite rushing forth, cursing and throwing stones as he comes; and then moving along the ridge which overlooked the line of march, keeping pace with the king and his company, vomiting forth his rage in bitter taunts and reproaches, and casting down stones and dust; his fury increased by the calmness with which those below marched on, heedless of his impotent rage. It was an outburst of feelings long pent up which dared not express themselves until David seemed to have fallen from his throne beyond recovery. Shimei was a relative of Saul, and chose to regard David as the author of that king's downfall, and of the humiliation of his house, and chargeable with all the bloodshed that had accompanied these changes. And now, in his view, the Divine retribution has at length visited David for his usurpation of the throne, and the "bloody" measures by which he had reached it; and he triumphs over the fallen monarch with bitter resentment and scorn, and unmeasured invective, unsoftened by the spectacle of humiliation and grief which presented itself to his view. In his passion, like most angry people, he is not scrupulous in adherence to the truth. David was not guilty of wantonly shedding blood to reach the throne; he had spared Saul again and again when he might have slain him; and he had punished with death one who professed to have killed him, and others who had treacherously murdered his son. Nor was it nearer the truth to call David a "man of Belial" (a worthless, wicked man). But Shimei cursed the more freely because that was the only way by which he could vent his malice: he was powerless to do anything else. Yet he showed some courage, or at least recklessness, in so freely reviling one who, though fallen, was surrounded by brave warriors, any one of whom could so easily have effectually silenced him (as Abishai desired to do), if permitted by their king. Violent anger is, however, often as regardless of prudence as of truth. Its courage is as that of a maniac.
II. DAVID'S MEEK ENDURANCE OF IT. He doubtless felt it to be annoying and humiliating to be thus bespattered in the presence of his friends, and trampled on so savagely by so contemptible a foe. To be falsely charged with crimes he had carefully avoided was no small addition to his already too heavy affliction. A very natural and justifiable resentment would prompt him to permit the swift punishment that Abishai begged to be allowed to inflict. But he restrained such feelings, and meekly endured the insults heaped upon him. His words reveal the secret of his meekness
1. He recognized the infliction as from God. With the freedom which the sacred writers employ when speaking even of human wickedness as it fulfils Divine purposes, he declares that God had bidden Shimei to curse him (ver. 10), and no one must forbid him. Besides his general faith in God as universal and rightful Ruler, just and good, the memory of his own ill desert doubtless aided him, and the conviction that God was chastising him for his sins. Contrition prompted and nourished submission. He no longer saw in Shimei the cruel and vindictive slanderer, but the rod in the hand of his righteous yet merciful God. To his tormentor he would not have submitted, but to his heavenly Guide and Friend he could and would. And evermore the best remedy for impatience and resentment under afflictions and provocations is the recognition of our Father in heaven as ordering and appointing all; and the exercise towards him of confidence and love, humility and self-surrender. Thus Job discerned, behind and above Sabeans and Chaldeans, lightnings and tempest; and would have discerned behind and above Satan, if he could have known him as his accuser and the prompter and mediate cause of his calamities, - the Lord; and therefore could say, "The Lord gave," etc. (Job 1:21). Thus also One who was greater than Job or David could say, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).
2. The thought of the greater trouble of his son's conduct helped to reconcile him to the lesser trouble of Shimei's. (Ver. 11.) What was chiefly burdening and paining his heart is shown in these words. The ravings of "this Benjamite" was a small matter in comparison.
3. The hope that God would regard him with pity soothed him. (Ver. 12.) He felt that he was in a condition fitted to awaken the Divine compassion, and hoped it would be exercised towards him. In like manner, we may yet more confidently be assured that be who chastises pities us, as a father the children he is correcting (Psalm 103:13).
4. He trusted that God would render him good in place of the evil he was suffering. (Ver. 12.) Not that he thought he deserved it, or that his sufferings gave him a claim on God for it; but, confiding in the mercy which had pardoned him, he could hope for it. Shimei might curse, but if God would bless (Psalm 109:28), all would be well. So may we be sure that all that God appoints us to endure from men or from circumstances and events, he will cause to issue in a thousandfold more of blessing, if we trust and serve him, and resign ourselves to his will (see further in homily on 2 Samuel 15:25, 26). In conclusion:
1. In Shimei we see an example to be carefully avoided. Let any who permit themselves outbursts of passionate anger and railing, see here what a repulsive spectacle they present to others, and how sad a spectacle to him whom they call their Master. Let all give heed to St. Paul's injunctions in Ephesians 4:31, 32
2. In David's meek endurance we see an example to be closely imitated; yea, by Christians exceeded. For we have a still better Example, corresponding to a higher Law than David knew (see 1 Peter 2:23; Matthew 5:44, 45; 1 Peter 3:9). - G.W.
2 Samuel 16:9, 10. - (BAHURIM.)References: 1 Chronicles 2:6; 1 Samuel 16:6; 2 Samuel 2:18; 2 Samuel 10:14; 2 Samuel 21:17; 2 Samuel 23:18; 1 Chronicles 18:12.) Of the three sons of Zeruiah (2 Samuel 5:39), the youngest, Asahel, was slain in early life (2 Samuel 2:23); the oldest, Joab, was now present (ver. 10), "little trusting the revolution which a capricious stripling (like the Stuart Monmouth) was to lead;" the second, Abishai, was one of the earliest, bravest, and most faithful of David's supporters. As on a former occasion, when he sought to destroy Saul with a stroke, so now his thoughtless, headstrong, and undevout impulses needed to be checked. "The characteristic trait of his nature was a blunt, impetuous ferocity." His passionate emotion was -
I. NATURALLY EXCITED by the conduct of Shimei; and was, in some respects, commendable; inasmuch as it showed:
1. An ardent affection toward the king, his "lord;" like that of James and John toward Jesus (Luke 9:54), and of Peter and the other disciples (Luke 22:49; Matthew 26:51). The zeal of the Lord's enemies against him calls forth the zeal of his friends on his behalf.
2. A burning indignation against wrong doing. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil."
3. A vehement desire for the triumph of justice. He doubtless felt that the offender deserved to die; and was eager to "take off his head," in order to the vindication of the royal honour, the maintenance of the Divine Law, and the promotion of the public good. He thus displayed something of the zeal of Phinehas (Numbers 25:13; Deuteronomy 33:9) and of Elijah (1 Kings 18:40; 2 Kings 1:10); without, however, being justified therein by the same necessity and authority, or imbued with the same simple, pure, and lofty spirit. It is difficult to indulge in resentment, even when proper to do so, without sin (John 2:17; Ephesians 4:26).
II. WRONGLY INDULGED. "Let me go over," etc. This request was marked by:
1. Inconsideration and want of judgment. It is doubtful whether his attempt, if permitted, would have succeeded, for Shimei was hardly likely to be without defenders (2 Samuel 19:17); it could scarcely fail to hinder the king's flight and imperil his safety; and its success would have effected no useful purpose at such a crisis. Zeal is often blind and misguided (Romans 10:2; Philippians 3:5; Acts 17:5) as to the right end, the proper means, and the suitable time. "Zeal without knowledge is as wildfire in a fool's hand."
2. Vindictiveness; such as frequently mingles with deserved indignation toward evil doers; is bitter (James 3:14) and violent; and makes him who entertains it partaker of the evil which he condemns. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."
3. Presumption and vain glory; not altogether unlike that of Saul (2 Samuel 21:2) and of Jehu (2 Kings 10:16). How often do men feel confident of the rectitude of their course, although acting contrary to the will of God! and how often, whilst apparently full of zeal for public justice and "the glory of God," are they really full of pride and self-will!
"True zeal is merciful and mild,
III. RIGHTLY REPROVED. "What have I to do with you," etc,? The spirit of Abishai and Joab (who, perhaps, joined in the request) was different from that of David; which, in its self-control, patience, and forbearance, displayed the highest heroism, and foreshadowed the meekness of Christ. "True Christian zeal is no other than the flame of love. This is the nature, the inmost essence of it" (Wesley). What is contrary to it should be rebuked by:
1. The indication of the will of God (ver. 10).
2. The exemplification of a spirit of submission (John 18:11) and charity.
3. The assurance of the blessing with which it will be followed (ver. 12). "So the travellers went on. The roads diverged. The curses died away. The stones fell short of their aim. The evening closed on that long day of weariness and sorrow - the dreariest day that David had ever known; and he and the partners of his exile rested for the night" (Plumptre). - D.
2 Samuel 16:15-19. - (JERUSALEM.)2 Samuel 15:37). On his unresisted and triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, Absalom was met by Hushai with the exclamation, "Long live the king!" (1 Samuel 10:24). Such a display of loyalty to himself on the part of "David's friend" (companion, favourite) appeared to him so inconsistent that he asked, in ironical astonishment, "Is this," etc.? "One might have said to him, 'Is this thy duty to thy father?'" (Patrick). But Hushai's answer was, in effect, that (being bound to prefer the public good before his own private obligations or affections) he could do no other than abide with him whom Jehovah and the people had chosen king, and would as gladly and faithfully serve the son as he had served the father. Although proceeding from a good motive and serving its special purpose, it was marked by flattery and dissimulation; and these, in common with other sins, are certainly inconsistent with the proper character of a "friend of God" and of Christ (1 Samuel 18:4). The question may be regarded (in the latter application) as expressive of -
I. RECOGNIZED OBLIGATION. (Proverbs 18:24; Job 6:14.) "Absalom had not so little sense as not to consider that no man ought to forsake a friend in his distress." If kindness (love, gratitude, faithfulness, useful service) be due to others, how much more to him who said, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15)! What does his friendship require? To be with him, to follow him, to share his sufferings; to "walk as he walked" (1 John 2:6), without guile, in truth, purity, self-denial, etc.; to be separate from "the evil that is in the world," to confess his Name before men, to seek his honour, to aid his friends, and to promote the accomplishment of his purposes.
II. SURPRISING INCONSISTENCY; too often observed (1 Samuel 29:1-11) in those who are his real or supposed friends:
1. When they exhibit indifference to his transcendent claims.
2. When they refuse to bear "the cross."
3. When they love "the friendship of the world" (James 4:4).
4. When they solace themselves with his friendship in secret, but shrink from confessing him openly.
5. When they profess that they know him, but "in works deny him."
6. When they employ deception and other "carnal weapons" (2 Corinthians 10:4) in his behalf.
7. When they honour success irrespective of the means by which it is attained.
8. When they neglect and despise those whom he loves.
9. When they are zealous for him in some things, but not in others of greater moment.
10. When they are much concerned for their own safety and advantage, and little concerned for his glory and the welfare of mankind. Alas! how often is he "wounded in the house of his friends"!
III. SEARCHING INQUIRY. Is there not ground for it in the conduct and speech of many? Is the answer which may be given to it satisfactory? Will good intentions and beneficent ends justify unrighteous means (Romans 3:8)? Should the answer satisfy others and even ourselves, will it satisfy him "who searcheth the heart"? "Search me, O God," etc. (Psalm 139:23).
IV. DESERVED REPROACH; which the enemies (and not merely the friends) of Christ are ready to utter, and an enlightened conscience confirms. "As many as I love I rebuke," etc. (Revelation 3:10). But he rebukes that he may restore. "When thou hast driven him away and lost him, to whom wilt thou then fly? and where wilt thou find a friend? Without a friend, life is unenjoyed; and unless Jesus be thy chosen Friend, infinitely loved and preferred above all others, life will be to thee a scene of desolation and distress. Of all that are dear to thee, then, let Jesus be the peculiar and supreme Object of thy love" (A Kempis, 'Of the Friendship of Jesus'). - D.
2 Samuel 17:2, 4). Nevertheless, the sentiment which underlies his remonstrance is just, and Hushai would have deserved severe rebuke if he had really been guilty of the conduct he was charged with. It was a time for David's friends to prove themselves to be friends indeed; and to desert him at such a time (as Ahithophel did) would have been perfidious in the extreme. Hushai, however, was serving him by obeying his directions and promoting his interests. Whether the deception he practised on Absalom was justifiable is another, question, depending for its solution on the answer to be given to the larger question whether and how far belligerents are bound by the ordinary laws of truth and righteousness. The remonstrance of Absalom is suitable to be addressed to any who are acting in a manner contrary to the duties of friendship. As one and another instance of unfaithfulness or unkindness occurs, the question might well be put to those guilty of them, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?" The force of the remonstrance would be proportionate to the degree of friendship which had existed, the benefits received, the professions made, etc.; and also the degree of flagrant violation of the laws of friendship which each act exhibited. And if to the obligations of friendship are to be added those of some other relationship, as here that of subject and servant of a sovereign, the guilt of unfaithfulness is increased, and remonstrance may well be more severe. The words are very suitable to be addressed to professed friends of our Lord Jesus Christ who act a faithless and disloyal part towards him.
I. CHRIST IS OUR ROYAL FRIEND. King, and yet Friend; Friend, and yet King. The claims of each relation to us strengthen those of the other. Although he is so glorious a King, he stoops to be and act the part of a Friend to the meanest and most sinful of his subjects.
1. He fills this position towards them:
(1) By his self-sacrificing services on their behalf (John 15:13).
(2) By admitting them to the closest and most confidential intimacy of which each is capable (John 15:15).
(3) By the greatness and abundance of the benefits he confers on them.
2. And they on their part take the position of friends to him:
(1) By their acceptance of his friendship.
(2) By their vows of eternal love, loyalty, and service to him. The relation of sovereign and subject is, in the best Christians, more and more lost in, though not destroyed by, that of friend and friend. A love boundless in its promptings and requirements overflows and obliterates the limits of mere law.
II. TO ACT AN UNFRIENDLY PART TOWARDS HIM IS DESERVING OF THE SEVEREST REBUKE, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?"
1. Conduct to which the words are applicable.
(1) Desertion of Christ in times of difficulty. "Why wentest thou not with thy friend?" (comp. Hebrews 13:13); "Let us go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach."
(2) Moral cowardice in respect to him. The words might well have been addressed to Peter when denying his Lord and Friend - were virtually addressed to him when "the Lord turned and looked" upon him (Luke 22:61). It would be well if they could ever be heard by us whenever, from fear of man, we are silent when we ought to speak for Christ, inactive when we should act for him.
(3) Parsimony in gifts and services for the promotion of his cause.
(4) Failure in duties of love to his friends and representatives - our fellow Christians, especially the poor and suffering. A timely reproach, reaching the heart, might prevent more terrible words at the day of judgment (Matthew 25:41-45).
(5) Any act whatever of inconsistency with our position and professions as disciples of Christ.
2. Their peculiar force. Arising from the words, "thy Friend."
(1) Who has proved himself a Friend indeed.
(2) Whom thou hast often addressed and rejoiced in as such.
(3) Whom thou hast often been glad to appeal to in that character for help and deliverance.
(4) To whom thou hast many times vowed eternal friendship, and fidelity unto death. The reproach, thus viewed, is adapted to break the offender's heart, producing the deepest shame and self-humiliation, and leading to the most earnest penitence and prayers for forgiveness.
3. From what quarter the remonstrance might come.
(1) From a man's own conscience and heart. It is well when these are sufficiently loyal to Christ to speedily address the offender after this manner.
(2) From other friends of Christ. Christians should be sufficiently faithful to their brethren and their Lord to lovingly reprove serious inconsistencies.
(3) From the enemies of Christ. As by David's enemy the words were originally spoken. Those who are not themselves Christ's disciples are often quick to detect the faults of those who are, and to taunt them with them. They sometimes thus render good service to Christians. Fas est et ab hoste doceri. - G.W.