Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 6 October 2022:
Today in 2 Samuel 10, David sends a delegation to king Hanun to console him concerning the recent death of his father. Hanun, the young, inexperienced, poorly advised king of the Ammonites misinterprets David’s gesture of kindness, believing it to be a trick, and responds by publicly humiliating and dishonoring David’s envoys. The result is a pointless war between the Israelites, Ammonites and Syrians where over 40,000 people needlessly die. It is not at all hard to understand why Hanun acted the way he did: sending spies as envoys is a common tactic, and David’s modus operandus included this sort of deception. Remember in 1 Samuel 27, king Achish trusted David while David was secretly massacring villages within his land, leaving “neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath.” (1 Samuel 27:11) During the death of a king and the subsequent transition to new leadership, a kingdom is very vulnerable, and Hanun surely felt insecure and defensive. A wiser David would have recognized the sensitivity of the situation and would have dealt with Hanun more carefully; but David, rather than considering Hanun’s perspective, assumed that Hanun would see things from his perspective, a big mistake we often make in our relationships. Hanun on the other hand reacted to David’s poorly timed gesture rashly, likely due to his insecurity as a new king.
Insecurity makes people defensive and often causes them to assume the worst in others. Insecurity can destroy relationships. Hanun did one of the worse things someone can do in a relationship, he belittled, embarrassed, humiliated and dishonored David and his men. He robbed them of their dignity. In this case, neither party had the maturity, self-confidence, or moral courage to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. It continued to escalate into great destruction. The first rule in relationships is to seek first to understand rather than be understood. We must be sensitive to the vulnerabilities and insecurities of others. If we have offended someone, we must quickly seek forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation, even if the other party is not wholly innocent. If we have been offended, we must quickly forgive and seek reconciliation. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) “ Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) Finally, we must NEVER dishonor or humiliate another person, but rather treat all people with dignity and respect.
2 Samuel 10:5 — When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
Good leaders protect the dignity of others.
2 Samuel 10:6, 7 — When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, the Ammonites sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob, 12,000 men. And when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men.
Misunderstandings can escalate into tremendous destruction. “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14)
2 Samuel 10:9-15 — Joab used the tactics of interior lines, forming a defensive circle in order to quickly maneuver within his interior to mass his forces against the more dispersed, thinner lines of his adversaries. He also exploited the weakness that forces of an alliance have in their inability to effectively reinforce one another. Much later in history, Napoleon would gain great success implementing these same tactics when outnumbered. Simply stated, Joab was good at what he did, and God used Joab’s talents for God’s purposes. God calls us to be excellent at whatever we put our hands to, and He will likewise use our talents for His purposes. When our talents bring us victories, make sure you give God all the glory. It is a terrible thing to try to share God’s glory.
2 Samuel 10:18 — David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there.
- Proverbs 19:19 — A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
Today’s readings provide one of the history’s most powerful examples of how misunderstandings, misjudgments missteps, and misdeeds in relationships can quickly escalate out of control and result in great destruction. Don’t miss the lessons in this powerful story, which has been recorded in the Bible for your spiritual growth – “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) Consider how the story of David and Hanun relates to your past relationship problems and how the stories lessons can help you avoid future needless conflicts:
To recap, David sends a delegation to king Hanun to console him concerning the recent death of his father. Hanun, the young, inexperienced, poorly advised king of the Ammonites misinterprets David’s gesture of kindness, believing it to be a trick, and responds by publicly humiliating and dishonoring David’s envoys. The result is a pointless war between the Israelites, Ammonites and Syrians where over 40,000 people needlessly die. Let’s learn from this story so we can bring life into our relationships and not death:
Don’t misinterpret another’s motives. The Bible warns time and time again of the dangers and sinfulness of misinterpreting another person’s motives – “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) You might be able to judge another person’s actions (though you often misinterpret even what you see or hear), but you must never think you understand the complete ‘why’ behind their behavior or judge (condemn) them. Despite what you might be tempted to think, you really don’t know why they did what they did, their motives or their situation which contributed to their actions. Sometimes we think someone has wronged us when they really didn’t; sometimes someone wrongs us unintentionally; and sometimes someone intentionally wrongs us simply because they don’t know how to do otherwise or because they are merely lashing out while in great personal distress – you just don’t know. However, you do know that we are all sinners who need God’s grace as well as grace from others, and you also know that you have been saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ and appointed by God to be an ambassador and minister of grace. So, what choice do you have but to show grace in all situations while pointing to Jesus Christ and His Gospel of grace?
Promote, build, and protect trust. To his defense, it is not at all hard to understand why Hanun doubted David’s motives: Sending spies as envoys is a common tactic, and David’s modus operandi included this sort of deception. Remember in 1 Samuel 27, king Achish trusted David while David was secretly massacring villages within his land, leaving “neither man nor woman alive to bring news to Gath.” (1 Samuel 27:11) Would you have given David the benefit of the doubt? All relationships are built on trust, and David made it hard for people to trust him. As Christians, we must live lives which promote, build and protect trust —
- Romans 12:9-21 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Trust others as a gift of grace rather than making them earn it. Think of trust as forgiveness in advance with hope that forgiveness will not be required; it is an investment in relationship, and some investments are risky but offer potentially high payoffs. As Christians, we should strive to be above reproach, maintaining a reputation of trustworthiness. However, as Christians, we must also be willing to be trusting, to be vulnerable, to keep the door for relationship open.
Despite David’s history of deception, in this case, David’s intentions were good, but Hanun assumed the worst and, therefore, provoked the worst possible response from David. If Hanun had given David the benefit of the doubt, this story would have turned out quite differently. While we all can appreciate the saying, “Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned,” to some degree, trust must be given too – forgiveness in advance, knowing that we will all continue to sin and fall short. Trusting others is a demonstration of grace, giving unmerited second chances, even “seventy-seven” chances. (Matthew 18:22) After all, the Bible says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Will you get hurt more if you trust more? Yes. However, this suffering is in fellowship with Christ, taking up your cross daily in His Name for sake of the message and ministry of reconciliation, enduring all things for sake of genuine love for God and for others. Trusting in the untrustworthy is faith that God can change them even though it may not seem possible; it is seeing in them a better person they haven’t met yet; it if refusing to give up on them even when they have given up on themselves; it is being willing to suffer for someone else, regardless the outcome, just because we love them and want them to step into the life God wants for them. Have you ever asked yourself why Jesus never kicked Judas out of His small, trusted group though He knew Judas was stealing money and would ultimately betray Him unto death?
- 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8, 13 (NIV) – [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
- 2 Timothy 3:12 — Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted….
- James 1:2-4 — Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- 1 Peter 4:13, 16, 19 — But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed…. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name…. Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
- Colossians 3:12-15 — Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Consider this story relayed by R.C. Sproul about the trusting spirit of Thomas Aquinas:
- “The story begins with Thomas entering a classroom. The professor is not yet there, but most of the students are. They are all, however, by the window, craning their necks with excitement. Thomas asks what they are looking at so intently. ‘Thomas, come quickly,’ the students respond, ‘there are pigs—FLYING!’ Thomas rushes to the window, only to be met by the uproarious laughter of his fellow students. As the laughter dies down, Thomas gently but potently exposes their sin by saying simply, ‘I would rather believe that pigs could fly than that my friends would lie to me.’ We can, if we are imbued with the spirit of the age, mock such a trusting attitude. We can scorn such credulity. We can even baptize our cynicism with supporting biblical texts. ‘Come on now, Thomas. Don’t you know we’re to be harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents?’ (Matt. 10:16). Or, we can see it for what it is—an expression of that godly character which made Thomas a great man. We can see it as that which we should be most zealous to emulate in his life.”
Remain sensitive to others’ vulnerabilities and concerns. During the death of a king and the subsequent transition to new leadership, a kingdom is very vulnerable, and Hanun surely felt insecure and defensive. A wiser David would have recognized the sensitivity of the situation and would have dealt with Hanun more carefully. Rather than considering Hanun’s perspective, David judged Hanun’s actions from his own perspective, a big mistake we often make in our relationships. Hanun acted foolishly, but did David consider why? As a younger man, had David ever acted so foolishly? Let’s go back to 1 Samuel 25 and the story of Nabal and Abigail: Abigail rushed to the scene to stop hot-headed David from vengefully killing Nabal and his men – “She fell at his feet and said…. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal… folly is with him…. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live…. And David said to Abigail, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!” (1 Samuel 25:23 -33) It seems David learned nothing from the wisdom of Abigail. He didn’t seek to understand Hanun’s situation and immaturity, and David went back to his vengeful ways. How tragic.
Remain aware of your own vulnerabilities. Hanun on the other hand reacted to David’s poorly timed gesture rashly, likely due to his insecurity as a new king. Insecurity makes people defensive and often causes them to assume the worse in others and subsequently sin against them. Insecurity can destroy relationships. How do you act when you feel threatened? Do you start to assume the worse in others? Do you begin to treat people as if they were really as bad as you only imagine them to be? Be careful of your preemptive strikes that can start needless wars.
Always protect the dignity of others. Hanun did one of the worse things someone can do in a relationship, he belittled, embarrassed, humiliated and dishonored David and his men. He robbed them of their dignity. In this case, neither party had the maturity, self-confidence, or moral courage to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. The dispute continued to escalate into great destruction.
The first rule in relationships is to seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. We must be sensitive to the vulnerabilities and insecurities of others. If we have offended someone, we must quickly seek forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation, even if the other party is not wholly innocent. If we have been offended, we must quickly forgive and seek reconciliation. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) Finally, we must NEVER dishonor or humiliate another person, but rather treat all people with dignity and respect.
James 3:1, 13, 17-18 — Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness…. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom…. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words, though words are still required. We certainly need to communicate the truth, but we also need to demonstrate the truth. The regalia of the true professor is the fruit of the Spirit, beginning with love and ending with self-control – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
We don’t really understand, or know, what we don’t practice, and we can’t teach what we don’t understand. When we attempt to teach the truth while living no differently than the world around us, we appear to invalidate the very truth claims we are proclaiming, bringing discredit upon the Gospel.
- 1 John 2:4-6 — Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Ray Ortlund in his book, The Gospel, observed the following –
“In his prophetic book, Witness, Whittaker Chambers tells of a young German woman whose father had been fervently pro-Communist. The he became strongly anti-Communist. Why? She said, ‘You will laugh at me, but you mist not laugh at my father. One night, in Moscow, he heard screams. That’s all. Simply one night he heard screams.’ This happens in our churches too. People come to hear good news. But then they hear screams. They hear cries of anguish and distress in churches that preach the Gospel in concept but inflict pain in reality. That is shocking, but it is not new. The prophet Isaiah writes: ‘The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.’ (Isaiah 5:7, NIV) How many people in our cities are ex-Christians, and even strongly anti-Christian, because they went to church to hear “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) but it was drowned out by strife and trouble?… The problem was not what they [churches] believed doctrinally but what they had become personally, and they didn’t even realize it.”
When your deeds don’t match your words, you bring discredit to God’s word. James goes as far to say that hypocritical teaching is “earthly, unspiritual, [and] demonic.” (James 3:15) What did Jesus say? “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20) James echoes Jesus’ words – “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:11, 12) Jesus also said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) Careless words are not only rash or inappropriate words, they are also true words you couldn’t ‘care less’ to obey yourself.
We are called to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus]commanded.” (Matthew 28:19-20) However, we must be very careful to teach and lead by example – “Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
- John 17:3 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
- John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- John 8:31 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- 1 John 2:20-21 — But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
- John 17:22-23 — The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Just like witnesses can only testify in court to what they have seen or have experienced personally (secondhand knowledge is hearsay), teachers can only teach what they know personally from experience. You will teach the Jesus you know, and the Jesus you know will be revealed by your love. If your doctrine doesn’t match your behavior, return to the feet of your Teacher, Jesus.
- Luke 10:38-42 — Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 October 2022: Seek to be more trusting, more forgiving, and more gracious in your relationships today. Open the door of second chances (endless chances) to others, and keep it open, just like you want God to do for you. Demonstrate the fruit of the Gospel in your relationships with others so you can share the Gospel with others.
Proclaim the truth in word and in deed to God’s glory. Don’t be a hypocrite (the Greek word for stage actor) while you serve and Christ’s ambassador.