Saturday, March 27, 2021

Men Disgraced

There's a story in 2 Samuel 10 that ought to be convicting to all of us, but not in the way that you might think.

The story begins with the death of the Ammonite king and the succession of his son, Hanun, to the throne. Now, King David decides that he's going to send an envoy of men to convey his condolences to the son and to establish the kind of good relationship with Hanun that he had with the new king's father. 

We could stop right there, and that would be talking point enough. It's certainly something that the king of Israel is on such good terms with a foreign king, particularly the king of a people they were supposed to have destroyed at one point. The Ammonites share part of the Promised Land that was supposed to be Israel's, and here is David, all buddy-buddy with the king. But let's keep moving on in the story anyway, shall we?

Hanun receives David's envoy with pleasure, until his advisors get in his ear. They tell him that it can only possibly be a trick, that David - the known warrior and conqueror - must certainly be planning to gain an inside track into the Ammonite kingdom so that he can destroy it and establish the land for himself and his people. (Ah, so even Hanun knows they are not 'supposed' to be friends!) This, despite the fact that David had never taken advantage of his friendship with Hanun's father in this way. This, despite the fact that David had not made a move on the Ammonites to this point. 

See, all you have to do is introduce a little bit of fear, and all of a sudden, what you thought you were once sure of no longer seems certain. David's envoy seemed friendly enough, but was it all just an act? 

Hanun's not taking any chances. He takes hold of David's men, shaves off half of their beards, cut off their clothing so as to expose their hind sides to the world, and then told them to go home to David. 

Of course, they could not go home. Not in the kind of shape that they were in. Their shaven beards were a mark of disgrace, and their exposed hind sides were a mark of shame. They could not go back to Israel like this. And how would they ever explain to David what happened? Well, you see, my king, we went to express your condolences, and they shaved us and exposed us and sent us away. How can anyone fathom what just took place? 

David, true to his character, shows gentleness and mercy to his men and provides for them to remain at a distance until their beards grow back. We can only assume he also sent them new clothing that had not been cut, so as to re-cover their shame and restore their dignity. David never wants to make the mark of the Ammonites the story of these men, and he gives them a chance to leave it in a place outside their camp. 

But Hanun realizes...oops. This probably was not a good idea, after all. If David hadn't been coming for the Ammonite kingdom before, he certainly would be now. The Bible tells us that Hanun realized he had made himself, and his people, detestable to David, detestable to a man who was such good friends with his father. So he mounts up his troops and decides that he's going to take the offensive. He's going to march against David before David can march against him. He's going to take the battle to God's people instead of waiting for God to send His people against the Ammonites. 

And that's where we're going to pick this story up tomorrow. 

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