1 Samuel 11.). Nahash their king (perhaps a son of the former Nahaeh) had rendered friendly service to David. But on the accession of Hanun, his son, the old hostility of the children of Ammon revived, and showed itself in a way that made conflict inevitable. To this the growing power of David and his recent subjugation of their kindred, the Moabites (2 Samuel 8:2), doubtless contributed. Their deliberate, wanton, and shameless treatment of his messengers was the occasion of "the fiercest struggle, and, so far as the Israelitish kingdom of God was concerned, the most dangerous, that it ever had to sustain during the reign of David." In it we see -
I. A PERSONAL CONTRAST. David requited the kindness of Nahash with kindness to his son; condolence on his bereavement, congratulation on his accession (ver. 2); but Hanun requited the kindness of David with insult and injury to his servants (ver. 4; Isaiah 20:4). The conduct of the one displayed gratitude, sympathy, confidence, and benevolence; that of the other ingratitude, contempt, distrust, and malignity.
1. How different in character the men who hold similar positions! David and Hanun were both kings, their heads were pressed by the same "crown of pure gold" (2 Samuel 12:30; Psalm 21:3); but in spirit they were wholly unlike.
2. How different the construction put on similar actions! Such actions are regarded by men as good or evil, according to their ruling disposition; just as the same objects appear of different hue according to the colour of the medium through which they are viewed. Hence what is well meant is often ill interpreted.
3. How different the consequences that flow from similar influences! Kindness is like sunshine, that melts the ice and hardens the clay; causes pleasure to the healthy and torture to the diseased eye. It tests, manifests, and intensifies the good or evil in the heart, and leads to opposite courses of conduct. Its proper tendency is to produce its like; but its actual effect is often the contrary (John 13:27). Even the kindness of God is perverted by hardness of heart to more abounding wickedness (Isaiah 26:10; Romans 2:4, 5). If it be sinful to "recompense evil for evil" (Romans 12:17), how much more to recompense evil for good (1 Samuel 25:21)!
II. A PUBLIC DISHONOUR. It was not a private and personal indignity put on these ambassadors, but an open and national insult offered to their king and people, by Hanun and his court (ver. 3), who probably expressed therein the prevalent suspicion and hatred of the children of Ammon.
1. How prejudicial the indulgence of jealousy and suspicion to the maintenance of peace and good will among nations!
2. How pernicious the influence of evil counsel and calumny on the political principles and policy of rulers! "We see in this the bitter fruits which evil counsel to princes, especially to those who are young and inexperienced, produces" (Guild). "The slanderer inflicts a threefold wound at one stroke. He wounds himself by his breach of charity; he wounds his victim by injuring his good name; he wounds his hearers by poisoning their minds against the accused" (St. Bernard).
3. How provocative the exhibition of ingratitude, injustice, and contempt to resentment and retaliation (ver. 6)! It turns kindness into wrath, seems to justify the drawing of the sword, and inspires the hope of victory (ver. 12). "Thou knowest not what may show itself when thy contempt awakes the lion of a sleeping mind."
III. A PRESUMPTUOUS AND FATAL DEFIANCE. It was a challenge by the worshippers of Moloch, confident in their strength and success, to the people of Jehovah; the first step of a renewed attack "against Jehovah and against his Anointed" (Psalm 2.). The opposition of the ungodly to the kingdom of God, though it slumber for a season, ever breaks forth afresh.
1. How infatuated their hostility! They are heedless of the warnings afforded by the past.
2. How groundless their confidence! "They trust in vanity."
3. How certain their overthrow!
"He that sitteth in the heavens laughs,
1. We should not be deterred from doing good by the fear that it may be requited with evil.
2. Although others may render evil for good, we should render good for evil (1 Samuel 11:12, 13).
3. The noblest victories are those which are gained by patience, forbearance, and all-conquering love (Romans 12:21). - D.
And David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father.I. THE GENEROUS MESSAGE OF DAVID.
1. In its accession.
2. In its form.
II. THE DISGRACEFUL TREATMENT OF DAVID'S MESSENGERS. Shaving their beards and shortening their garments, a double insult in the East, where long beards and long garments are badges of honour. Many Orientals would rather die than lose their beards (signs of dignity and ornaments of freedom), and Turks used to regard beardless Europeans as runaway slaves.
III. THE CONSIDERATE KINDNESS FOR THE DISGRACED MESSENGERS.
Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father
(J. Reid Howatt.)
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