Have you ever tried to help someone and it backfired? My father-in-law once got a flat tire in the winter. As he started to change the tire, a young man stopped and took over for him. As a farmer who repaired all his own equipment, my father-in-law was not looking for help and didn’t need it. But the young man didn’t ask and his kind deed led to frustration for both.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Colossians 3:12
In today’s reading, David was in the mood to show kindness. He had just welcomed the son of his enemy, Saul, to join his household (see 2 Samuel 9). His thoughts now turned to the neighboring country of Ammon. David received news that their king had died (v. 1). This man was an enemy of Saul’s and had brutally attacked the city of Jabesh Gilead (see 1 Samuel 11). But while David was on the run, he had made peace with this king. He decided to send some emissaries to express condolences to the new king on the loss of his father (2 Sam. 10:2).
This act of kindness was misinterpreted. They thought David was spying out the land for a future attack (v. 3). Their response was to humiliate the messengers. They “shaved off half of each man’s beard, [and] cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away” (v. 4). Both actions were not only humiliating but also violated the Mosaic Law (Lev. 19:27; Deut. 22:12). This public humiliation was a declaration of war. Talk about a kind gesture backfiring! But the Lord was with David and through the skill of Joab they were able to defeat the Ammonites and expand Israel’s power.
David was loyal to his promises. However, his example illustrates that doing the right thing does not always lead to a peaceful result. For us as believers, not all of our gestures of kindness will be welcomed or returned. Still, no matter the response, we are to remain faithful.