2 Samuel 19:8-30
Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told to all the people, saying, Behold, the king does sit in the gate…
David, in his extreme and protracted sorrow for the death of Absalom, forgot to do justice to the attachment, sacrifices, and victorious valour of his friends. At news of this great and inopportune grief — no song of victory! no clear-shining eyes, no erect triumphant bearing! — "the people gat them by stealth that day into the city as people, being ashamed, steal away when they flee in battle." A perilous ingratitude this on the part of David. David's forces had been victorious; in the death of Absalom the head of the rebellion had died, and yet David was in no haste to return to Jerusalem. Though the anointed of the Lord, he had been the elect of the people to the throne of Israel. And now, after this great national upheaval, if be is to reascend the throne it must be at the earnest call of the nation. So he remained still at Mahanaim. "Now, therefore, why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?" The king! Now there was but one. Let him, then, with all clue honour be brought back to his own! So spake the people throughout the country. But the men of Judah, David's own tribe, were ominously silent — committed too strongly, it may have been, to the cause of Absalom to return quickly to their old allegiance. David would quicken their lagging loyalty. The high priests, Zadok and Abiathar, were sent to the elders of Judah with the question which touched at the tribal love of pre-eminence "Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house?" with the remainder that they were the king's "brethren, his bones and his flesh;" and with the promise that Amasa, their captain, should supersede Joab in the command of the king's forces. Thus the king "bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man." "They sent this word unto the king, Return thou, and all thy servants." That was enough for David, unwise David! Not waiting to be escorted by all the tribes, not even by all the tribes that had been staunchest in their attachment to him, and foremost in resolution for his restoration, David, accompanied by Judah alone, and only half of Israel, crossed the Jordan and came to the ancient, camp at Gilgal. Little likely that the Ten Tribes — with such rivalry as prevailed between the tribes — would consent to be thus largely ignored. Much confusion and trouble to spring from this unwisdom of the king; presently, another spurt of rebellion, and further off — but not wholly unconnected with the rankling memories of this — the division of the nation into two never-again-united kingdoms.
I. SORROW, HOWEVER POIGNANT, SHOULD NOT HINDER US FROM DUTY, OR PREVENT THE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE. Has this unhappy civil war brought only grief to him? Is his son the only one that has perished? Alas! the many mothers in Israel, never to look again on the brave soldier-son! Sorrow, with impartial, unwelcome step, enters palace and cottage. But, however keen and consuming, life's duties still remain to the living. We are not to be absorbed from recognition of these — gratitude among them, thankfulness for sympathy. It may speak in lowly tokens of remembrance, in courteous health-inquiries. Let it be recognised.
II. THE EVIL RESULTANT FROM PARTIALITY IS WRITTEN HERE. To the folly of favouritism not only are liable those in high places. It must be watched against by all who exercise any influence over others. The head of any community, however small, owes a debt of justice to each member of it. In the home, where the father and mother are the uncrowned king and queen, this folly needs especially to be avoided.
III. THE BEAUTY OF A CONTENTED SPIRIT APPEARS IN MEPHIBOSHETH. The crippled prince, not lame in soul as upon his feet — a true unselfish son of Jonathan through all — goes home with words of contentment, and glad, thankful loyalty upon his lips. Goes out of our sight and hearing; goes into the silence of a past which has no further word respecting him to speak to us. Went to the narrowed fortune and duties of his narrow life. Went, we doubt not, quiet and contented, and so on to the end. On with eye fixed on a princedom with no crippling hindrances to service, or to a lot in the eternal Canaan which should be his wholly and for ever. Then, son of Jonathan, "Go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand" — never to be removed — "in thy lot at the end of the days." Much might be said of the contentment of that man, as exemplary to us, when we are wronged. Well for us if, with our larger light, we have at all times a spirit as patient and thankful as his! I will be a star of glory, a rose of beauty, in the darkness and desert barrenness of life.
IV. PIOUS FORECASTS, COMELY IN ALL AND ESPECIALLY IN THE AGED, IS SEES IN BARZILLAI. Little do we know of him. But how much we seem to know, so vividly does he live to us in this ancient chronicle. Let Chimham go to the great city, take a place at Court, bear his part in the high places of the national life, this was not for Barzillai. His eyes were not so bright as once, nor his ears so alert. He would abide among his own people. He would die in his nest. He would be buried by the grave of his father and his mother. There, in the hallowed, familiar spot, he would have his dust to rest till the great awakening.
V. In David, victorious over rebellion, and restored to his throne, we have suggestion of HIS GREATER SON COMING BACK TO HIS OWN. Over rebellious hearts, over a rebellious world, Christ is triumphing onward to His universal reign. Not by weapons of war, but by love, he is vanquishing men unto Himself. The rebellious world is His world. The rebels are HIS creatures. He is but coming back to His own. He has the right of Creation to us. He re-enforces it by the winning right of redeeming love. Back to His own! In a sense you are all His. In the full, willing sense — surrendered to Him, be wholly His. Be the usurper dethroned. Be the rightful King acclaimed — obeyed.
(G. T. Coster.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent.
WEB: Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. They told to all the people, saying, "Behold, the king is sitting in the gate." All the people came before the king. Now Israel had fled every man to his tent.