David sent several of his men on a mission of comfort. The king of Ammon died and his son was now on the throne, and the king of Israel wanted the son to know that he and his people cared.
This act revealed the heart of David, a man trained to lead a nation in the sheepfolds of his father. He cared for the flock with all of his attention and skill. Psalm 78 tells us that David was brought to the throne from the place where he watched over the “ewes great with young.” Could we imagine a more vulnerable group of animals? There’s nothing sharp about sheep. They possess no claws and no sharp teeth. They are often laden with thick, heavy, curly coats of wool. David learned compassion, patience, and guardianship from his days and nights with the flock.
Knowing this about his history, it is easy to see how David chose the way of kindness toward a neighbor in distress, as we read in 1 Chronicles 19. He meant to do good to this leader, but his motives were misconstrued.
Embarrassed and Scorned
The counselors to Hanun, the new king of Ammon, looked upon Israel ‘s delegation with suspicion. They were sure that Israel wanted to seize the moment and invade their land. And Hanun believed them.
The men from Israel were taken and embarrassed. The young king had them shaved, leaving each of them with a half a beard. Then, he slit their clothes up to their buttocks. They were sent home to David having lost face and with their rear ends exposed.
David got the news and told these men this: “Tarry at Jericho until your beards are grown.” Notice the place where these men were instructed to go. Jericho represented victory territory for the nation of Israel. There, Joshua led the people into the land God had promised them. The first place where the Lord revealed His power was at Jericho.
In the book of Joshua, we read of how God led His people in triumph over a great walled city. After a week of marches, the trumpets were sounded and the shouts went up and the walls fell down. Jericho was conquered.
David sent his ill-treated men to this site of great meaning.
Committed to the Gospel
What can we take from this story for our lives as Christians? I believe these words show us the reality of how the world system misunderstands all that we are about. Consider this: the 1 Chronicles encounter was set in motion by a death. David responded as he perceived the loss and the grief and the sorrow that the Ammonites were under. He sought to answer a need.
Christ, the Son of David, also responded to the death that rules this present evil world. He came down and was treated far worse than the men sent to Ammon. Jesus was rejected by His own people, given over to the Roman authorities, and hung battered and naked upon the Tree at Calvary.
He was lifted up from the earth to draw all men unto Him. To us who respond to His call and are born again, He has committed the Gospel message. We have standing as His ambassadors.
Now, we are sent by the Savior. We are sent as the men were sent by David. We are sent with a message of kindness for those who struggle. We are sent by King Jesus to a world beholden to death and in bondage to the fear of it (see Hebrews 2:15).There will be moments when those we so want to help will scorn us. Click To Tweet
We are not greater than the Master, however. He warned His disciples and us that as He was hated by the world so shall we be hated. There will be moments when those we so want to help will scorn us. Like the Ammonites, some will view our motives through the wrong lens. They will see us as trying to spoil their fun and compromise their freedom and identities.
We should count on losing face sometimes. That’s right, we can expect to be made a spectacle in mockery. We may be left exposed, bruised, naked, abused, rejected. All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. This is one of those promises that we would rather ignore.
But God is with us always. He invites us to Jericho, to the memory of triumph and joy. We are given rest and time to heal. He offers a hiding place, a secret space of fellowship and grace.
Restoration and Victory
Beards do grow again. Our faces regain a sense of order and decorum. We emerge from these seasons with confidence. We come to wear countenances of light and assurance. We gain wisdom and understanding of the times.
And, as the story in 1 Chronicles 19 continues, we hold to an even more significant hope. We know and believe that the Lord shall accomplish His ultimate victory.
The leaders of Ammon knew their actions offended David. Rather than apologize, they organized an attack on Israel, and they managed to get other nations to join with them.
The result was total humiliation for the Ammonites. Several nations purposed to never again cooperate in their adventures.
This speaks to the coming reign of the Lord. There shall be a day when all of His purposes will be fully realized. The defeat of the devil and his cosmic system is a given. The Word of God speaks to it often. Thus, we should continually ponder this and talk about it often as we gather together more and more.
Let us look toward this reality with a living hope, a longing heart, and confident spirit. One day we shall hear these words, “It is done.” Then, we shall sit down at a table prepared, a marriage supper of joy in the presence of the Lord.