I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me.
3. The Ammonites did not wait for a formal declaration of war by David. Nor did they flatter themselves, when they came to their senses, that against one who had gained such renown as a warrior they could stand alone. Their insult to King David turned out a costly affair.
4. It requires but a very little consideration to see that the wars which are so briefly recorded in this chapter must have been most serious and perilous undertakings. The record of them is so short, so unimpassioned, so simple, that many readers are disposed to think very little of them. But when we pause to think what it was for the king of Israel to meet, on foreign soil, confederates so numerous, so powerful, and so familiar with warfare, we cannot but see that these were tremendous wars. They were fitted to try the faith as well as the courage of David and his people to the very utmost.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
Leviticus 19:27, we see how stringent was the law regarding this matter of shaving the head. It, is not for us to enter into the value of any such ordinances; suffice it to say that they were the distinct ordinances of the people of Israel, and as such had religious value and significance. There is a cruelty in our own day which seeks to injure men- through the medium of their religious convictions. To-day men are kept out of pecuniary positions because of their religious faith. Social advancement is barred to not a few persons on account of their religious convictions. Were such men without conviction, light-headed, and light-hearted, ready to adopt any form or ceremony as they might adopt a change of garments, their course in life would be much smoother; but because they are earnest, even to agony, their convictions are made into so many stumbling-blocks by which their progress is hindered. The counsellors of Hanun the son of Nahash were too blinded by their own passion to foresee the results of their foolish policy. What was a practical jest to them was an occasion of just anger to the king whom they had insulted. It is well to take some account of the resources of the enemy before being too defiant or adopting a course of lofty superciliousness. But folly seldom sees both sides of a question. It is a notable characteristic of the genius of history that it is always faithful to its own time. As the action of David would now be out of place as between Christian nations, so any other course than that which he adopted would have been out of place in relation to his particular injury. Read history in its own light. It is essential to adopt this canon of interpretation in reading many portions of the Old Testament; otherwise the mind will be thrown often into a state of moral bewilderment, and be ready almost to cry out against the Spirit of God.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me.I. MUTUAL HELPFULNESS. As occasion demands, says Joab, you will help me, or I will help you. Now, this is a word for us all. God has so ordained that we are mutually dependent on one another; and I hardly know which of the two is worse, the self-conceit of the man who imagines he can stand alone, or the selfishness of the. man who has no instinctive desire to help his neighbour when in trouble. Why, away from religion altogether, it is our duty both to lean and to carry; for it, is seldom indeed that there is not a stronger than ourselves, who can render us aid; and equally seldom that there is not s feebler than ourselves, to whom we may do a service. Too often the sentiment of the world is, "every man for himself" — the survival, If not of the fittest, at least of the strongest. Let the bold and lithe push to the front, and the weak go to the wall. There is a great deal of this in business, as some of you well know; certain men, elbowing and driving forward, not caring whom they push over or trample under their feet, if only they are successful themselves. The result is that many a good, able worthy fellow, simply because he has not the audacity, the impudence, of others, is left behind and gets disheartened. Now it is here that Christian principle should come in, balancing and regulating the various elements at work, giving confidence to the weak and-generosity to the strong, and so securing the largest amount of success and happiness.
II. MANLY HEROISM, "Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly." Never on field of battle did officer shout across to brother officer s nobler sentiment. The army has indeed, produced lame grand men, heroes in the truest sense of the world. But I would not for a moment wish to convey the impression that heroes are confined to campaigns and battlefields. I venture to assert that in the commonest spheres of civil and prosaic life may be found instances of an equally noble; though less showy, heroism. There are heroes of the workshop, of the counter, of the office, of the market-place, on whose courage may be put as severe a strain as though they stood upon the field of battle, amid the glitter of cold steel and the rattle of musketry. When a man has to fight with poverty, with losses, with bad debts, with disappointments, with temptations: and still keeps his head to the wind, battles on bravely, refuses to knock under, vows still to "trust in God and do the right," I say, though he has no epaulettes on his shoulders, nor medals on his breast, he is as truly s man and a hero as though he had stormed a citadel. "Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves," would be an excellent motto for the employees in many a London establishment. You want the "courage" of your principles, and then no fear of your "behaviour." When a man's life is dominated by the one aim, not to make money, not to find idle pleasure, but to please his Master in heaven, it is wonderful how much respect he commands, and how much pure inward happiness he enjoys.
III. TRUE PATRIOTISM. Listen again to General Joab: "Be of good courage, brother, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God." Now you will notice the motive which he adduced. Bravo! ye sons of Zeruiah! "God and our country" was their cry. It was no empty, silly Jingo shout, like that which we have heard in our own day from a hysteric rabble that clamour for glory, but would turn tail with the first shot that whizzed about their ears; it was a call to action and to danger, impelled by love to Israel, and to Israel's God. Sirs, patriotism is one of the noblest sentiments that can occupy the human breast; but .there is no patriotism so pure and disinterested as that which is kindled at the altar of love to God. Never was there a more remarkable instance of it than the dauntless British officer to whom I have already adverted. Self-negation characterised his whole career. After all his great work in China, General Gordon left the country as poor as he entered it, having refused all rewards. When a sum of £10,000 was forwarded to him by the Emperor, he divided it all amongst his troops. On his arrival in England he declined every honour, preferring to bury himself in obscurity. The very medals that were showered upon him he put no value upon, and would even have them melted down to provide relief for those who were in want. GENUINE PITY. "And let the Lord do that which is good in His sight." I do not venture to say that Joab was a saint, nor would I like to answer for many things which he did: but on this occasion, certainly, his conduct and language were admirable, and worthy of imitation. "Abishai," he seems to say, "you and I shall do our best, and leave the issue with God. We cannot command success, but we can do our duty, and leave the result in higher hands than our own." It is a fine thing to see a God-fearing soldier. It is an interesting feature of our time that there is in the British army a very considerable amount of deep and unaffected piety. Some of our highest officers, some of our most distinguished generals, both abroad and at home, are real men of God. They are none the less, but all, the more, valuable as soldiers. They have more pluck and less fear than the others A man is all the braver soldier for being a Christian. When true piety is engrafted on a fearless and gallant nature, it forms a splendid character. For a noble and beautiful Christianity, commend me to a converted soldier. "General Gordon," says one of the morning papers, "is not a man whose actions or whose fortunes can be estimated by the ordinary standard to which human affairs are submitted. His singularly pure and lofty character impresses every one with whom he is brought into contact. He believes himself to be always fulfilling a mission from a higher authority than any earthly government. A man of this heroic mould, who combines no small share of worldly wisdom with the integrity of a saint and the simplicity of a child, may walk securely in places where any other foot would slip. But, on the other hand, General Gordon would march quietly on to what he knew was certain destruction, if he believed that to do so was his duty."
(J. Thain Davidson, D. D.)
(Norman McLeod, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Be of good courage and let us play the men
I. FOR THE DESCRIPTION OF GOOD COURAGE you may take it thus: Good courage is that gracious disposition of heart whereby a man, being called by God unto any service, does adventure upon difficulties either in doing good or enduring evil, and that without fear.Here are four or five things considerable in this description.
1. Good courage is a gracious disposition. There is a moral boldness and a natural audacity, and this is not good courage, for the former is in heathens, and the latter is in brute beasts.
2. Again, there is a sinful desperateness whereby men are apt and ready to rush upon all that is evil, and are sinfully bold, and they think him a fool or a child that will not drink, and be drunk, and whore, and run into all kind of evil: this is not good courage. Good courage is hemmed in with waiting upon the Lord.
3. Again, there is a vaunting, bragging, boasting cavalierism which hath no true courage. Such a cavalier was Rabshakeh, who said, "With us is valour and courage;" when he defied the hosts and servants of the living God. Good courage is the health of the mind; this vaunting, bragging, boasting is the swelling of the mind, not courage.
4. Again, there is a fierce, angry, revengeful disposition, whereby men are ready to run upon cruelties: this is no good courage, "The righteous is as bold as a lion." The lion himself is merciful, not revengeful; if a creature lies down before him he will spare it. It is a gracious disposition of heart. The truth is, the heart of man is the artillery yard where all the thoughts of courage train continually.
5. Again, I say, whereby a man being called by God unto any service. God's call is the ground of a Christian's courage. This was pretended in Rabshakeh's speech; "Hath not the Lord sent me?" And this was, in truth, the ground of Joshua's courage: "Be of good courage, have not I commanded thee?" I add, all this must be done without fear: and therefore in Scripture these go together: "Be of good courage; fear not, neither be dismayed." The more a man's fears are enlarged, the more his courage is lessened; and the more a man's courage is enlarged, the more his fears are lessened.
II. IN EVIL TIMES, IN TIMES OF DANGER, GOOD COURAGE IS VERY REQUISITE. In time of danger good courage is the strength of a man, it is the spirits of a man, it is the sparkling of a man's heart, it is the life of one's life. Saith Solomon, "The spirit of a man shall sustain his infirmity." Without strength there is no bearing of burthens. Now this is the way to be strong, to stand under burthens in evil times: "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart."
1. Again, evil times are full of changes, and good courage will keep us from the power of those. It is a good speech Seneca hath: He is a stout man whom prosperity doth not allure; but he is most stout of all whom the change of things doth not disturb. And in another place, saith he, He hath no great mind that can be bent by injuries. And evil times are full of injuries. Without courage a man will easily be bent by them; bent unto sin and bent unto what is evil.
2. Again, evil times are very expensive. Then a man shall be called to lay out much: his estate, his house, his liberty, his body, his all: and no affection, no disposition so spending as courage; good courage will make a man Spend and be spent for God.
III. If this be so, you see what OUR DUTY is: to be of "good courage, and play the men."
(W. Bridge, M. A.)
I. There must be A GENERAL INTELLIGENCE in order to conserve the best interests of popular government. We have never as yet been able to measure the elevating power of a common or general intelligence upon communities, and nations. Some one has said that "a spelling book and a copy of the New Testament dropped into a land, will lift up millions of tons of ignorance and superstition. They will widen the streets, pile up the palaces of trade in every mart, lift up the roof of the poor man's cottage, and drive the ghosts and demons from every forest and mountain solitude." Would you know the power of a well-equipped intellect, and the multiplying forces of education, sit for a moment at the feet of the statistician. Here you will learn that only one-fifth of one per cent of our population graduate from our colleges, yet this little handful of men have furnished thirty per cent. of all congressmen, fifty per cent of all our senators, sixty per cent. of all our presidents, and over seventy per cent of all our supreme judges. See that inspiring host leading in the van of the armies of our civilization. There they come with stately tread, three hundred thousand strong; trained men and women who have passed satisfactory examinations, and whose province it is to disseminate a more general intelligence among the people, and train our children for efficient citizenship. We have ten times as many teachers as Athens has inhabitants when she was mistress of Greece, and legislator of the world. We have more than thirty times as many teachers as Xenophon had in the immortal legion. We have more than twelve times as many teachers as there were soldiers in the army of Hanibal, when he descended from the Alps into the plains of Italy, and shook the inhabitants with mortal fear. We have more than fifty times as many teachers as there were soldiers who followed Caesar over the Rubicon to the conquest of the world. We can depend upon these cultivated and trained men and women for much in the way of strengthening the empire of thought. The magnificent possibilities before them are manifest when we consider the fact that they have under their tutelage more than twelve million students, four times as many as there were inhabitants in the thirteen colonies when our fathers won liberty for mankind. But what signifies intelligence, mere mental power or school drill if there be lacking the element of heroic courage? Devoid of this the scholar becomes a mere pigmy; coupled with it he becomes a giant.
II. "BE OF GOOD COURAGE," shouts the heroic Joab. Much need of courage, you say, on the field of battle. Yes, and there is none the less need of courage in the every-day struggles of life. There are evils to be exterminated and abuses to be corrected. The sanctity of law must be maintained, and our free institutions perpetuated and defended at all hazard. We want men who are lawfully in earnest. William Lloyd Garrison touched the keynote of success when he said: "I am in earnest. I will not, equivocate. I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and hasten the resurrection of the dead." It is the man of heroic enterprise who will hew his way through the sable walls of ignorance, opposition, and prejudice, and create for himself and his coadjutors a new world, We need courage in the everyday conflicts of life. No coward can successfully contend with poverty, with had debts, unscrupulous associates, failures, and temptations. He must have courage to stand fire, stand firm, and, if need be, stand alone. It takes manly courage to stand alone in the face of opposition. Every man needs courage when he goes to exercise the sacred office of his franchisement; and he should put as much conscience into his vote as he does into his prayers. Do not become dispirited because you are not on the popular side. With three hundred men on the side of right, Gideon put to flight one hundred and thirty-five thousand men of war.
III. BE LOYAL TO YOUR OWN CONVICTION OF DUTY AND RIGHT. It is said of the last and greatest apostle of our Lord that he "conferred not with flesh and blood." He sacrificed whatever he had prized of an earthly character in order that he might be loyal to his convictions of duty. When he was apprised of the fact that the way which he had marked out for himself was beset with difficulties, and that "bonds and imprisonments awaited him," his reply was plain and emphatic: "None of these things move me." Give us a few more men who would rather be right than popular, who Would rather be in harmony with God and conscience than with party or party declarations. You may not be called upon to prove your loyalty as did the heroes at Gettysburg, Atlanta, and the wilderness, but there are formidable enemies yet to meet and conquer. These will test your mettle. Think of the forces of intemperance, the growing evil of gambling, unchastity, infidelity, and the appalling array of unscrupulous politicians and demagogues. Never did loyalty mean more than it does now. The long-suffering wifehood, sisterhood, and motherhood of the nation is calling aloud for redress. The oppressed are looking to us for alleviation and help. To disappoint them is to prove recreant in the most important trust, and suffer defeat in the greatest battle ever fought.
IV. The fourth pillar we mention is EVANGELICAL RELIGION. Science and art have wrought wonders. The world stands amazed at their achievements. They have tamed fierce beasts of prey and brought the elements of nature into subjection. They have spanned the ocean, annihilated distance, joined continent to continent, given life to steam, a tongue to the wire, and a voice to the lightning. But these fierce passions in the human heart are more fierce than beasts of prey, and disturbing forces more tumultuous than nature's stormy winds and tempests and more difficult to control than the most subtle elements. No mere human skill can master these. Christian science as taught in the school of Jesus Christ alone can enable man to obtain the mastery over these. There is a broader field for the Church to-day than ever before. "Egypt and Ethiopia" are not only reaching out their hands to us, but Europe and Asia are clasping ours, and instead of being under the necessity of crossing the restless Atlantic, our work is facilitated by their coming to our own doors. Finally, religion wipes guilt from the conscience and drives darkness from the mind. It gives hope to the heart, light to the eyes, and strength to the hand. It will make life pleasant, toil sweet, and death triumphant. It gives faith to the fearful, courage to the timid. It robs the grave of its terrors, and death of its sting, and gilds the pathway to man's future abode with an eternal brightness.
(G. W. Shepherd.)
I. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH WE SHOULD BE ACTUATED. Joab appealed to(1) the patriotism of the people. This was a tender chord, and would at once respond in tones of strongest sympathy. What wonderful things have been clone in the name of patriotism! The record of the doings of Hereward, the last of the English, of Hampden, Cromwell, Pym, of Washington, Tell, Garibaldi, etc., what illustrations they furnish of the power of love of "our people." Christ came to "the test sheep of the house of Israel." and He commanded His Apostles to "begin at Jerusalem;" and, although all the world claims our sympathies and help, yet our first and ever increasing claim is our own people: and for them we are to ardently fight and pray. Joab appealed to(2) the philanthropy of the people. The soldiers were to remember the centres of population, the great hives of industry, "the cities" with their teeming thousands: and as they thought of women and children, they were to "play the men" in the day of battle. All large-hearted men have love for their race, as well as for their own country and countrymen; and such men as Wilberforce and Howard, and Moffatt and Livingstone, have shown us what can be endured and accomplished where philanthropy takes strong possession of the human breast. Joab appealed to(3) the piety of the people. "Cities of our God." When we put forth any effort to lighten and elevate men, we ought to remember that we are laying ourselves out for those whom God has created, and preserved, and redeemed; all souls are His. They may be in the hands of aliens; a diabolical power maw, have usurped the place of the rightful king; but we are, to go forth, armed with the whole panoply of God, to fight the battle of the Lord and win the world for Him.
II. THE SPIRIT BY WHICH WE SHOULD RE ANIMATED. The moral quality of any work we do resides in the intention; and the success in any work we attempt depends mainly upon the spirit in which we prosecute it. Joab inculcated(1) a magnanimous spirit. It was not enough that the soldiers be armed, that they be great in number, and march against the foe; they must have love to God and their country, large-heartedness, and noble-mindedness, or they would not succeed. They must have soldier's hearts as well as soldier's dress: "Be of good courage." Joab inculcated(2) manliness. "Play the man." There are some men who are hosts in themselves; such men as Alexander and Wellington reckoned among their soldiers for thousands. Joab felt he did not want invalids, cripples, or children in the battle, but "men," — men who would strike and stand in the hour of conflict; not cowards nor slaves, but brave, free men, for the army of Israel. This is the great want of this and every age. In our churches, holding the various offices, we want men of sound judgment and manly hearts; in our schools, and in every department of Christly labour, we want manliness, not puerility, not namby-pambyism, not sentimentality nor effeteness. The gentleness of women and the masculineness of man combined — then we have true manliness.(3) Resignedness. "Let the Lord do as seemeth Him good." This would inspire and sustain the men; they were to do their best, to be brave and manly, and leave results with God. When we go forth in our holy crusade against sin, and endeavour to win renown for the name that is above every name, we should go forth in a resigned spirit, in submission to the power and wisdom and goodness of God. For "the battle is the Lord's," and He knows best what amount of success it will be best to let us secure and see.
(F. W. Brown.)
Homilist.I. COURAGE. Courage is not mere fearlessness. There is in many natures a stolid indifference to danger. It is said that Nelson never knew what fear was. True courage always implies a supreme love for right. Right is appreciated more titan ease, comfort, property, health, even life itself, and for it all are willingly sacrificed when necessary. The finest example of true moral courage, you have in Paul who for the sake of what he believed to be right, braved the greatest perils, and with a daring valour confronted his greatest enemies. He did not count his life dear to him so that he might discharge his obligations.
II. GENEROSITY. "Let us play the men for our people and for the cities of our God." The selfish man, the man who lives to himself, and for himself alone, is destitute of the chief element of true manhood. We do not "play the men," when we fight for our own little interests, or battle for our own little sect, but when we stand up from the dictates of pure generosity and struggle for the good of others.
III. PIETY. "The Lord do that which seemeth Him good." True piety is a devout acquiescence in the will of the great God, and without this there can be no greatness of character. It is not until we feet his will to the supreme rule of our life that we experience the pulsation of a true manly heart.
Whose courage dwelt not in a troubled flood
Of mounting spirits and fermenting blood; — But
Lodg'd in the soul, with virtue over-ruled,
Inflamed by reason, and by reason cool'd.
This is true courage, and such as we ought all to cherish. This will render men vigilant and cautious against surprise, prudent and deliberate in concerting their measures, and steady and resolute in executing them. But without this they will fall into unsuspected dangers, which will strike them with wild consternation; they will meanly shun dangers that are surmountable, or precipitantly rush into those that are causeless, or evidently fatal, and throw away their lives in vain. There are some men who naturally have this heroic turn of mind. The wise Creator has adapted the natural genius of mankind with a surprising and beautiful variety to the state in which they are placed in this world. He that winged the imagination of a Homer or a Milton; he that gave penetration to the mind of Newton; he that made Tubal-Cain an instructor of artificers in brass and iron, and gave skill to Bezaleel and Aholiab in curious works; nay, he that sent out Paul and his brethren to conquer the nations with the gentler weapons of plain truth, miracles, and the love of a crucified Saviour; he, even that same gracious power, has formed and raised up an Alexander, a Julius Caesar, a William, and a Marlborough, and inspired them with this enterprising, intrepid spirit; the two first to scourge a guilty world, and the two last to save nations on the brink of ruin. There is something glorious and inviting in danger to such noble minds; and their breasts beat with a generous ardour when it appears. "The Lord do that, which seemeth Him good." This may be looked upon in various views; as: —
I. IT MAY BE UNDERSTOOD AS THE LANGUAGE OF UNCERTAINTY AND MODESTY. Let us do all we can; but after all, the issue is uncertain; we know not, as yet, to what side God will incline the victory. Such language as this becomes us in all our undertakings; it sounds creature-like, and God approves of such self-diffident humility. But to indulge sanguine and confident expectations of victory, to boast when we put on our armour, as though we were putting it off, and to derive our high hopes from our own power and good management, without any regard to the providence of God, this is too lordly and assuming for such feeble mortals; such insolence is generally mortified; and such a haughty spirit is the forerunner of a fall.
II. This language, "The Lord do as seemeth Him good," may be looked upon as EXPRESSIVE OF A FIRM PERSUASION THAT THE EVENT OF WAR ENTIRELY DEPENDS UPON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Let us do our best; but after all, let us be sensible, that the success does not depend on us; that it is entirely in the hands of an all-ruling God. That God governs the world is a fundamental article of natural as well as revealed religion: it is no great exploit of faith to believe in this: it is but a small advance beyond atheism and downright infidelity. I know no country upon earth where I should be put to the expense of argument to prove this. The heathens gave striking proofs of their belief of it, by their prayers, their sacrifices, their consulting oracles, before they engaged in war; and by their costly offerings and solemn thanksgivings after victory. And shall such a plain principle as this be disputed in a Christian land? No; we all speculatively believe it; but that is not enough; let our spirits be deeply impressed with it, and our lives influenced by it: let us live in the world as in a territory of Jehovah's empire.
III. That these words, "The Lord do what seemeth Him good," MAY EXPRESS AN HUMBLE SUBMISSION TO THE DISPOSAL OF PROVIDENCE, let the event turn out as it would. We have not the disposal of the event, nor do we know what it will be; but Jehovah knows, and that is enough: we are sure He will do what is best, upon the whole; and it becomes us to acquiesce.
IV. These words, in their connection, may intimate, that, LET THE EVENT BE WHAT IT WILL, it will afford us satisfaction to think that WE HAVE DONE THE BEST WE COULD. We cannot command success; but let us do all in our power to obtain it, and we have reason to hope that in this way we shall not be disappointed.
(S. Davies, A. M.)
I. THE INTERESTS WE HAVE AT STAKE. OUR PEOPLE AND THE CITIES OF OUR GOD: in other words, our civil rights and our religion. The defence of their persons and possessions against lawless power, and the secure enjoyment of the means of happiness here and hereafter, were the great motives that induced men to submit originally to government. And every particular government is good or bad, as it answers or fails of answering these purposes.
II. THE SPIRIT WITH WHICH WE OUGHT TO DEFEND OURSELVES AGAINST THEM. "Let us be of good courage, and play the men." These words may seem to express the duty of the soldiery alone: and, without question, they express that peculiarly; and, joined with the following ones, clearly show that a strong sense of religion and a virtuous concern for the common welfare are the true principles that will give military persons bravery and success, as they did to those whose history the text relates. But still the more literal translation is, "Be strong, and let us strengthen one another."
III. AN HUMBLE DEPENDENCE ON HEAVEN FOR THE EVENT OF ALL.
(Fiske, "Through Nature to God. ")
And Joab drew near, and the people that were with him unto the battle.
(G. M. Irvine, M. A.).