Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 10 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 3/6/2016 in Novato, CA.
2 Samuel 10
“Wait at Jericho”
The Internet, especially social media sites and blogs, is a good way to find out what people really think about you as a Christian. To clarify, I don’t mean that these site will actually talk about your specifically. But that venue is one where non-Christians will often write against the views held by Christians. And what so often comes across is that many people think we are foolish, backwards, and even immoral because of our faith. Often their comments on these sites are written to shame us and ridicule us. They try to expose us in the world’s eyes as something disgraceful.
And what particularly strikes me about this venue of the Internet, is that it often gets people to say what they are actually thinking, when they wouldn’t have otherwise spoken it. So put two and two together. This probably means that you have at least some non-Christian friends who are too polite to tell you in person that they think you are foolish, backwards, and maybe even somewhat immoral, for your faith. Yet, they might actually think that. And if they don’t think that, maybe it’s because you haven’t actually let them know what you believe, and then maybe they would think that. I guess that’s my point in my introduction to today’s sermon. As a Christian today in America, if you actually share your Christian faith to others, you are bound to be ridiculed in one form or another. You are bound to be shamed by people, even if it they only think shamefully about you in their mind.
And so I want us to think about this, as we look at today’s passage. Here in the Old Testament, some of God’s people knew some shame for doing the Lord’s work. We start in our first point then to think about the insult and shame that God’s people faced here in this passage. We start in verses 1 and 2 and see how David learned about the death of Nahash, an Ammonite king. David wants to show kindness to their new king Hanun the son of Nahash. Let me begin by noting then that this word for kindness in verse 2, is the same word that we focused on last week in chapter 9. Remember, we said that was the Hebrew word hesed which was a very rich word about kindness, and love, and loyalty shown to someone, often in the context of a covenant relationship. Now we could understand why David wanted to show this hesed, this kindness, to Jonathan’s son. But why does he want to show it to this pagan king?
That’s an especially fair question when we remember the history with Nahash. This is presumably the same Nahash from back in 1 Samuel 11. He’s the one who came to the Israelites in Jabesh Gilead and told them to gouge out their right eyes and serve him, or otherwise he’ll destroy them. That’s when King Saul came to the rescue and saved the men of Jabesh. And then 1 Samuel 14 records Saul’s continued battles with the Ammonites. So why would David want to show kindness to such a man as Nahash? Well, we see in verse 2 that Nahash had actually shown kindness, hesed, to David. And so what this surely means is that by this time, the Ammonites had become subjugated to Israel and entered into a covenant of peace with Israel. In fact, that’s what chapter 8, verse 12, referenced, how David had subdued and extracted tribute from the Ammonites. Remember in that chapter we referred to how in Deuteronomy 20 it spoke of how the Israelites could make peace treaties with other nations, and then this nation would then become subservient to Israel. And to clarify, when I say they make a peace treaty, that would have been a covenant. And so in other words, at some point, this evil Nahash had finally come to be subjugated to David and entered into some kind of peace treaty covenant with David. When David speaks of Nahash showing him this kindness, this hesed, he surely has in mind that Nahash had been loyal to their covenant of peace. And so, now with Nahash’s passing, David intends to show this same kindness and hesed to Nahash’s son. And so David sends some representatives on his behalf as a gesture of comfort to King Hanun.
And yet, the princes of Hanun get him to reject David’s kindness and instead treat these servants of David shamefully. When I read this, I think of a similar situation that would happen to David’s grandson Rehoboam. When Rehoboam first becomes king, he listens to some bad advice and it ends up going bad for him as king because of it. Sadly, that will be the case for King Hanun as well. I think of how last chapter is such a foil to King Hanun here. Remember, when David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, Mephibosheth responded in humility and gratitude. But not Kind Hanun here. He decides to assume the worst and impute evil motives to David. He essentially accuses David of a lack of covenant loyalty, and in his actions does not show the proper kindness and loyalty to David that he should have shown.
And so verse 4 describes the shame and insult that King Hanun gives to David’s servants. He shaves off half their beards, which to an Israelite under the ceremonial laws would have been a shameful thing, per Leviticus 19:27. And he also cuts off their garments in some way so as to expose their buttocks, which clearly is a great disgrace to them. Isaiah 20:4 speaks to how such treatment is something an enemy army might do to the people it captures.
And so think of how wrong this was of the Ammonites to do this. It was wrong because David was showing them kindness, and kindness should elicit kindness in return, not suspicion. It was also wrong based on the established peace and presumably the covenant of peace that they had between the two nations. David’s actions would have been a way to confirm that covenant with this next generation king, but their actions instead violate that covenant. And this was also wrong in how they treated messengers. Surely in that culture, you were supposed to treat messengers like this with honor, whether you like their message or not. We even have a saying today that shares a similar mentality, we say, “Don’t shoot the messenger” if someone is tempted to blame a messenger when really it’s sender of the message not the messenger that’s to blame. And so think about that here. If King Harun thought David was doing something wrong, he should blame David, not these servants of David. Essentially, the reproach and insult that these messengers receive was really something directed to King David. But nonetheless they had to experience the brunt of it.
And there’s an application in this whole first point to us. We may experience insult and shame from the world, even and especially when we go with the to the gospel. Think about it. We bring them the kindness and comfort of the gospel. They should rejoice at our coming; they should thank us for bringing them that message, but so often they don’t. Instead they might insult us. They might shame us. They might ridicule us and speak evil of us. But the insult and shame we get is actually what they are giving to Christ. But like David’s men, we in our identity with the Messiah will often bear this in Christ’s place. Jesus said in John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.”
And so in light of this insult to God’s people here, King David is upset. Verse 6 describes this, that even the Ammonites knew that they had made themselves repulsive to David. And so surely fearing retribution, they hire some Syrians to help them fight Israel. This now brings us to our second point for today. David sends Joab and his army of mighty men to take on these Ammonites and Syrians. When we see this, we see the strength of Israel in Joab and his brother Abishai and in the soldiers. Ultimately that is a strength which comes from the LORD!
Well, as the army assembles, we see that the Ammonites had a plan. They find a way to take on the Israelite army on two fronts. In the front of the Israelite army, the Ammonites are at the entrance of their city gate. In the back of the Israelite army are the hired Syrian armies. And so suddenly the Israelite army finds itself essentially surrounded. A quick application here is that when you find persecution from the world as a Christian, and you then start to push back, engaging their unbelief with truth, don’t be surprised if they then double down on their own efforts to persecute you. That’s what Israel faced here.
And in fact this strategy does seems at least to give Joab some pause here, because it requires him to come up with a quick strategy. He divides the army up in two, and has his brother Abishai take some of the forces and each take a battle front. The plan includes that they can each come to the other’s aid if needed. That’s verses 9-11. And then I love Joab’s words here. Look at verse 12. Joab says,
“Be of good courage.” In other words be strong and do all that you can. And Joab says, “and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God.” So Joab helps them to think about this in terms of religion. They recognized their special privilege as God’s people and that should spur them on to courage and strength. And then Joab concludes by saying, “And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” So, he ultimately calls the people to trust in the LORD! And that of course is the ultimate source of their strength and courage. It would need to come from faith in the LORD and in the LORD’s ability to deliver them. And so these are words to encourage us too. In light of the spiritual battles we face today as God’s people, we need to take courage. We need to realize that we serve for the good of God’s people and for the name of Christ. And we need to remember that God is the one to give us strength and success, and to trust him in it all.
Well, Israel ended up winning that battle. The Syrians end up fleeing, which causes the Ammonites to retreat back into their city. Joab then takes the Israelite army home in victory. But then there is one final battle in this passage. And that leads us to our third point for today. To see how this last battle leads the Syrians to a repentance of sorts. You see, after the Syrians flee, they then go and gather reinforcements. See, verse 16 says that King Hadadezer goes and gets more Syrians from across the Euphrates River and comes back down to make another attack against Israel. David learns of it and he assembles the army again and takes them out against them. The result is a big win for Israel and a big defeat for the Syrians.
But the result is more than that. Look at verse 19. There is a change of mind that goes on for the Syrians. The different Syrian kings realize that this was a mistake to attack Israel. You could say that they came to their senses. And so it says that they “made peace with Israel and served them.” In other words, they now become subjugated to Israel and enter into some covenant of peace with them. And notice that last part of verse 19. They “were afraid to help the people of Ammon anymore.” Remember why they helped the Ammonites in the first place. It was for money! But the lesson there is that evil doesn’t pay. But the point here is that these Syrians end up in some form of repentance. What I mean is that they realize that they can’t succeed in opposing Israel and they have a change of mind to stop that and to turn and begin to do the right thing. They make peace instead with Israel and become their servants.
And there’s an application again to the gospel in here. We’re reminded again today of how under the old covenant there was a mechanism for outsider Gentile nations to have some form of a covenant of peace with God’s people. We talked about that in chapter 8 two weeks ago. We see it hear again, and we are reminded of how much better we have it now under the new covenant. It’s this offer of peace that is offered to the world. It’s a peace in Christ where you can not only come into peace with God’s people and their king. But you can become a part of God’s people, in wonderful allegiance to their king. And that King is King Jesus, who gave up his life on the cross, and rose again on the third day, in order to make this way of salvation possible. And so the application then comes to us not only to remember the gospel today. But remember that as Christians, we are to bring this gospel offer of peace to the world. We are King Jesus’ messengers to this world with this message of peace and comfort.
And so in closing, this brings us all back to how we started our message for today. We said that as we go and bring the gospel to this world, some people will shame us and ridicule us and insult us. But what I want to leave us with is the encouragement of verse 5. When King David’s men were shamed like this, he told them to wait in Jericho until their beards have grown, and then return. What’s the encouragement then for us in that statement? Well, if Kind David knew his men’s shame and disgrace, then King Jesus surely knows whatever shame and disgrace we face. If King David cared for his men in the midst of their shame, so then all the more King Jesus will care for us when we face such.
Of course, Jesus knows all about such shame and disgrace. He was a man full of sorrows, despised and rejected by men, stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He was betrayed by a close friend. He was beaten repeatedly in public, and then stripped of his clothes, and led to the cross, where he hung there, in that cursed shameful death of a criminal. And he did it for our sake, making his soul an offering for our sins. In other words, he did it to identify with us, in order to save us.
And so when I say that King Jesus knows about your shame and sorrow as your witness for Christ, this is a big part of what I have in mind. When I say that he is there to comfort and care for you, don’t miss what he’s already done for us. This is part of how he comforts us. When we suffer shame for his sake, it’s our identifying with him. But that only serves to remind us how he already suffered shame for us, to save us. That should comfort us. The very fact that we suffer shame in his name, should comfort us in what he’s already suffered for us. That’s what we find in the book of Acts, when they first started facing persecution as Christians. Acts 5:41, the Apostles rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace and shame for the name of Jesus.
And of course Jesus comforts us not only in what he’s already done for us. But he also comforts us in what he will yet do for us. Like we saw here in the battles of this passage, King David vindicated the name of these shamed servants. And we too will be vindicated. Christ is coming again. When he does, all the shame and ridicule that the world has put on us, will be shown to be wrong. They’ll be put to shame, actually at that day. And so we should take heart. King Jesus knows our sorrows and shame as we witness for him. And he has our back.
And his comfort is not just a thing of the past at the cross and the future when he returns. But in the in-betweens, then too he is concerned to help us in our struggles. For example, isn’t that what Jesus did for the Apostle Paul who was shaming and persecuting Christians. Jesus confronted Paul on the road to Damascus and Jesus asked why he was persecuting him. Of course, think of that. Paul was not directly persecuting Jesus. He was persecuting the Christians. But Jesus identified with us and stepped in and caused Paul to stop persecuting the Christians and join with them. And of course God then said that would mean that Paul himself would then face persecution and shameful treatment because he had become a Christian.
And yet many others through the world became Christian through Paul’s ministry. And that too is another example of how Jesus comforts us right now when we are shamed for Christ’s name. There is a comfort when people in the world do hear our gospel call and are converted and saved. That’s what happened in a sense for these Syrians. They recognized they needed to turn from their rebellion and seek peace. And though some people today will still remain in their defiance, others will repent and be saved. There is a great comfort in that, seeing how God makes use of our testimony. We are comforted that all our sorrows are not in vain!
And so brothers and sisters, be encouraged again today, even when you are shamed by the world. Like David told his men to wait for a little while in Jericho, we too are told to wait just a little while on this earth. Christ will come back. He gives us comfort even along the way amidst the shame and sorrows. But trust in his promise that he is coming again soon. Praise be to God! Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.