Last time, we considered the amazing love of God, showered on those who do not deserve or expect it. What if God does that and someone rejects it? This incident from David’s life sheds light on that issue.
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2 Samuel #11 . 2 Samuel Chapter 10
I want to begin this time with a little bit of my own personal interaction with this text. Last time I made the point that the whole Old Testament points to Jesus, and everything in it is helpful for us who trust in him. In all honesty, I was regretting that statement this week as I looked at 2 Samuel chapter 10. I felt like I had painted myself into a corner, because I didn’t want to preach on this text. The reason I didn’t want to preach on it is because I was having a hard time seeing what value there is in these verses. I started to wonder: are there any texts that were really more for the people back in ancient Israel, or even Jesus’ time, and now, these days, we don’t need them anymore?
I don’t know about absolutely needing these texts, but the Lord immediately brought several New Testament verses to my mind:
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27, ESV2011)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:14-17, HCSB)
4 For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. (Rom 15:4, HCSB)
12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. (Heb 4:12, HCSB)
I have underlined several words here that show that these things refer to all scripture. Hebrews says the scripture is living and active – meaning, among other things, that it continues to be relevant for every generation. So I couldn’t just say “there is no point in studying 2 Samuel Chapter 10.” There is a clear principle taught in the New Testament that it is all worth studying and knowing, and it can all be used to teach us, correct us and draw us closer to Jesus.
So, trapped by my own words last week, I started asking the Holy Spirit to show me the point of 2 Samuel 10 for us today. I sure didn’t see it at first. But let me share with you what the Lord showed me as he began to open my eyes.
First, this is still all ultimately about Jesus. It should help us get to know him better. Last week, we saw that David revealed the heart of God’s ultimate Messiah, Jesus. The heart of Jesus is to find the lost and broken and show them God’s everlasting and faithful love. David lived that out, and Mephibosheth received that love.
But there is another possible outcome. Jesus wants to show God’s faithful and everlasting love to each person. But what about the person that doesn’t want it, who won’t receive it? That is what 2 Samuel 10 is all about. It is the other side of the same coin, the second part in the same story of God’s love for people.
You’ll notice that 2 Samuel 10 begins with the same basic idea as the last chapter. David, led by the Holy Spirit to show us what Jesus is like, seeks another person whom he can show God’s love and favor to. Many English bibles say that David wanted to show “kindness” to Hanun, the king of the Ammonites. This is the same Hebrew word we talked about last time: chesed. It certainly can mean simply kindness, but it can also mean “the faithful eternal love of God.” In the Psalms chesed is used more than 100 times, and almost always it is translated “faithful love,” “unfailing love” or “enduring love.” So David is still showing us how Jesus reaches out to show his love.
In 2 Samuel 10, the one David is reaching out to is Hanun, son of Nahash, king of the Ammonites. Hanun’s father Nahash was the first enemy that king Saul met in battle. Nahash was a cruel king who besieged the Israelite city of Jabesh-Gilead and tried to humiliate the residents. Saul defeated him. We don’t know what Nahash did for David – it isn’t recorded, so he may not have helped him very much, but obviously, he gave him some support, probably when David was on the run from Saul. Even so, it would be a stretch to suggest that the Ammonites were allies of Israel at any time in recent history. Now David reaches out to the Ammonite Hanun, sending representatives to express his condolences on the death of his father. Just as most kings would have considered Mephibosheth a threat, most would also have considered Hanun an enemy. In addition, the Ammonites were among those Canaanite tribes who worshipped idols and at times led the people of Israel away from the Lord. But David reaches out to Hanun in his grief, seeking to show him the faithful love of God.
However, Hanun responds in a way that is entirely different from Mephibosheth. If you remember from last time, Mephibosheth was overwhelmed with David’s kindness. He came when he was summoned and he gratefully received what David gave, and entered into a lifelong relationship with him, eating at his table every day. Hanun’s response is more like saying: “Up yours! Screw you!” and then spitting in David’s face. The shaving of the beards and the cutting of the clothes of David’s emissaries was a deadly insult.
Now, it is true, Hanun received some bad advice. But even so, he believed his advisors, rather than the emissaries of the kind king, and the responsibility for that belief was all on him. Yes, he had people lying to him. But he also had David’s men telling him the truth, and Hanun made a choice to believe the lies rather than the truth. The consequences were all his own fault.
Now, I don’t know what would have happened if Hanun had repented and sent messengers to David acknowledging his wrong and asking for forgiveness. But Hanun, realizing that he had done wrong, proceeded to do even more wrong. He armed for war, and called on allies to help him. He was proud and stubborn and was willing to make both soldiers and civilians pay for his own mistakes.
The consequences were severe. David sent his army to besiege the capital city. Joab and his brother Abishai commanded the armies, and they defeated the Aramean allies of Hanun, while the army of Hanun fled back inside the walled city. Then the Arameans were upset, and sent another army. David himself took charge of the army of Israel, and the Arameans were defeated a second time. They never again helped the Ammonites.
Ultimately, though it took at least a year, the Ammonites themselves were utterly defeated and their capital city destroyed. Hanun lost his crown, and possibly his head; while his people were made into heavy-laborers for the Israelites (these final events are recorded in 2 Samuel 12).
Hanun demonstrates for us what happens when we reject the faithful love of God that is offered through his chosen messiah, Jesus. Mephibosheth humbly received that love, and it blessed him for his entire life. But Hanun rejected it. It took some time, but ultimately, because he rejected it, he lost everything, and ruined the lives of tens of thousands of others.
We like to talk about the love and mercy and grace of God. I know I do. And it is ours if we will trust the good heart of Jesus. When we receive it, we are brought into a daily relationship with Jesus, just as Mephibosheth had a daily relationship with David.
But the other side of the story is this: it does not go well for those who reject the love of God offered in Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s true, people lied to Hanun about David and his intentions. And the devil will use people to lie to us about Jesus. But ultimately the truth was there for Hanun to choose, if he would just trust David. And the truth about Jesus is there, if we will just trust him. When we refuse to do that, we are inviting destruction upon ourselves. None of our allies or misplaced hopes will be able to save us.
This isn’t just an Old Testament teaching either. The writer of Hebrews says this:
1 Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it. 2 For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith 3 (for we who have believed enter the rest), in keeping with what He has said: “So I swore in My anger, they will not enter My rest.”
…..5 Again, in that passage He says, They will never enter My rest. 6 Since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again, He specifies a certain day — today — speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated:
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
…..10 For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. 11 Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-8)
This is pretty clear: we need to rest from our own self-life, our own works and ambitions, and rest in God’s great love for us, surrendering to him. If we don’t, we are in a pattern of disobedience and the good news we have heard about Jesus does not help us. Paul writes something similar in 1 Corinthians:
1 Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. 5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness.
6 Now these things became examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did.
In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength. But you would have none of it. (Isaiah 30:15)
Jesus himself mourned because the people of Jerusalem refused to receive him, and he said that as a result they would experience much suffering and sorrow. He also said this:
16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.
We usually only read verse 16. But verse 18 adds that if we reject God’s chosen messiah, we have condemned ourselves. About 75% of all Americans think there is a heaven, and they will go there when they die. 40% of people think it doesn’t even matter how you relate to God, he’ll accept everyone anyway. But the bible is clear: grace and truth and eternal life are offered through Jesus Christ alone. When you reject Jesus, you reject God, and you condemn yourself. John wrote:
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1John 5:11-13, HCSB)
Hanun shows us the route of “not-life.” It is real. Some people do reject Jesus. Believing the lies someone told them is not an excuse for people when they also have the truth in front of them. You have the truth in front of you if you are reading this now.
Jesus Christ does offer forgiveness, second, third and 233rd chances, love, grace and peace. He offers us daily relationship with himself, and joy. But outside of Jesus, none of that is ours. It all comes only in and through Jesus. If we reject Jesus, we reject it all, and none of the other things we rely on will be able to save us. So let’s pay attention to the writer of Hebrews, and today, let us not harden our hearts. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, not Hanun.