2 Samuel 14:14
For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither does God respect any person…
The "wise woman," having succeeded in that which she pretended to be her object in coming to David, skilfully approached the real purpose of her visit. She insinuates, in general and guarded language, that he was cherishing thoughts which were "against the people of God," and that the decision he had given in favour of her son was inconsistent with his not fetching home again his own banished one. Then, in our text, she presents, still in a general and indefinite way, reasons why the king should restore his banished one.
1. The universal mortality of mankind. "We must needs die," etc. This may contain a hint that it was useless longer to be grieved or angry about Amnon's death - nothing could restore him to life. Or, just as likely, it may be mentioned as a reason for doing rightly (in this case, exercising mercy) while we may, since we and those we can benefit will soon be alike in the grave; and for doing nothing to embitter this brief life to any while it lasts, or to shorten it needlessly by our conduct. Or it may be intended to soften the king's heart and prepare him to exercise compassion, as God is said to pity us because "he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13, 14).
2. The long suffering of God. "Neither doth God take away life" (Revised Version); i.e. He does not usually strike down the sinner at once in his sins, but bears long with him, and gives him space for repentance. This may be a skilful allusion to the mercy shown to David himself (2 Samuel 12:13, "Thou shalt not die").
3. The provision which God makes for the return of sinners to himself. "He deviseth means, that he that is banished be not an outcast from him" (Revised Version). In this also there may be an allusion to God's treatment of David, in sending to him Nathan to rouse his conscience, bring him to repentance, and then assure him of pardon. Or the woman may have in her mind the provisions of the Mosaic Law for restoring to the congregation and the temple services those who had been separated from them through contracting some uncleanness or committing some sin (see Leviticus 4; Leviticus 5; Leviticus 6:1-7). Or she may, by a flash of inspiration, have had a glimpse of the great principles underlying these legal and ceremonial appointments, and which are more fully made manifest in Christ. We, at least, can hardly err in interpreting her words in the light of the gospel. Thus regarded, they suggest to us -
I. THE CONDITION OF SINNERS. That is, of mankind apart from Christ. They are "banished," and in danger of being "expelled," from God, and becoming utterly outcast.
1. "Banished;" self banished, like Absalom.
(1) Sin separates between man and God; severs from the Divine friendship and favour; from the Father's home, society, and blessing; from the family of God, its occupations, privileges, and joys. Men may be externally associated with the godly in worship and service, yet banished spiritually, cut off from real communion. Two persons may sit side by side in the same church, one holding converse with God and having fellowship with his people in their worship, the other having no real participation in these exercises, far from God even in his house. Of the banished there are two classes - those who have never known God, and those who, having known him, have turned away from him. The case of the latter is the saddest (2 Peter 2:20, 21).
(2) Sin ever tends to produce increased separation from God. In heart, and also outwardly. When the heart is alienated from God, distaste for the forms of worship, and all that reminds of him, increases; and often ends in the entire abandonment of them. As the prodigal son went "into a far country" (Luke 15:13). "Banished." It is a wretched condition. To depart from God is to commit great sin; to be destitute of the highest blessings and exposed to the worst miseries. To be without him is to be without true life, solid happiness, and well grounded hope.
2. "Banished," but not yet utterly outcast.
(1) Although they have forsaken God, he has not quite forsaken them. He does the good continually in his providence; and, by the blessings he bestows upon them, protests against their unnatural conduct, and urges them to return to him.
(2) They are in constant peril of becoming entirely cud hopelessly outcast; for the practice of sin hardens the heart increasingly, and threatens to obliterate in the sinner's nature whatever might leave a hope of repentance and reconciliation. And "the wrath of God" ever "abideth on him" (John 3:36), and may at any moment banish him "into the outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12, Revised Version).
II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD. To secure "that his banished be not expelled from him;" but be brought back, reconciled, restored to himself, his family, and service. To "fetch home again his banished." Whence this purpose?
1. The Divine knowledge of the nature and consequent worth of man. That he is not as the brutes, but was "made after the similitude of God" (James 3:9). That, though he "must needs die" and become as spilt water, he must needs also live after death. Hence he is worthy of much Divine expenditure in order to his salvation. The spiritual nature and the immortality of man render him an object of intense interest to his Maker, and to all who recognize them.
2. The desire of God that his purpose in the creation of mankind should not be frustrated.
3. The abounding love of God. Though the sinner is banished from his favour, he is not from his heart. He yearns over him while he expresses his displeasure with his conduct. He expresses his displeasure as one step towards his restoration. He desires the happiness of the sinner, but knows he cannot be happy apart from himself. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
III. THE MEANS HE DEVISED FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS PURPOSE.
1. The incarnation and work of his Son Jesus Christ. He came "to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). By his personal manifestation of God, his teaching, example, and especially his death, he became the Way to the Father (John 14:6). He "suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
2. The gospel. Which is God's message to his banished ones, calling them back to him, and showing the way of return.
3. The Church, its ordinances anal ministries. One main business of the Church, its ministers, yea, of all its members, is to labour to "fetch home again" God's banished ones.
4. The events of life. The providence of God is subservient to his grace. The Lord Jesus is "Head over all things," that all may further the accomplishment of the purposes for which he lived and died on earth, and lives and reigns in heaven. Hence providential events, on the wide scale and in individual life, are often rendered effectual unto salvation.
5. The gift of the Holy Spirit. To render all other means effectual in the hearts and lives of men. To convince, incline, persuade, convert, sanctify, save.
IV. THE IMITATION OF GOD IN THIS RESPECT TO WHICH WE ARE CALLED. The woman thus spoke that she might induce David to recall his banished son, Absalom. So we are called to imitate God:
1. By a readiness to forgive and restore our own banished ones; those who have forfeited our favour by misconduct. Some are implacable even toward their own children, however penitent they may be; but this is contrary to Christ, and quite unbecoming those who owe their own place in God's family to his forgiving mercy.
2. By hearty cooperation with God in the work of restoring those who have departed from him. This is the most glorious purpose for which we can live, the Divinest work in which we can engage. In this work we must bear in mind that to be successful we must conform to the methods which God has devised and furnished; as, in fact, in all departments of life, success springs from learning the Divine laws, and acting in harmony with them. There is no room for our own inventions, no possibility of independent action. In such imitation and cooperation we should be impelled to faithfulness and diligence by the consideration that both ourselves and those we are to benefit "must needs die" (see John 9:4). And let the same consideration lead those who have departed from God to return with all speed (see John 12:35; 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). Let not all the Divine thoughts and methods of mercy be, in your case, in vain. For all had respect to you individually. This we may be aided to realize by the singular number used here, "his banished one." "It was for me that all this movement of Divine love took place, add all these wonderful means have been employed. For me the Saviour died; to me the Divine message is sent," etc. Let not your return, however, be like Absalom's, in outward act only, but in heart. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.