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Sunday, May 1, 2016

When Good Intentions Are Misinterpreted (1 Chronicles 19:2)

"David thought, "I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness." So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father."

Both Samuel and the Chronicler record the story of David's misinterpreted kindness to Hanun, the son of Nahash, the new king of the Ammonites. Second Samuel places this story directly after David's display of kindness to Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul. This Hebrew word (chesed) could actually be translated "covenant faithfulness," both by its usage in the OT in general and especially in the story of Mephibosheth. David shows kindness to Saul's grandson because David had "cut a covenant" with Jonathan, Mephibosheth's father and Saul's son.

Nahash had also shown David kindness, so David seeks to return that kindness to his son. When his emissaries arrive, the Ammonite nobles assume the worst, voice their assumptions to the new king, and shame David's ambassadors. This shame is so great that they cannot even return to Jerusalem until their beards grow. Further, David is forced to battle to avenge this dishonoring of his men (and thus to him).

Two great truths flow from this story. First, do not be surprised if your good intentions are misinterpreted; you may do good to another at church, work, school, or even in your home, only to find that someone has misread your intentions, judged your motives, and responded with evil to your good. Your only real recourse is to take this hurt to the Lord--if ever anyone could sympathize with being misunderstood, the Lord Jesus knows your hurt.

Second, and more powerful in this story, the shame heaped on David's men brought retaliation from the king that eventually meant the defeat of the Ammonite kingdom. Why? Because David rightly interpreted their actions--they were not actually shaming the men; they were shaming the king who sent those ambassadors. The true target of their shame was David himself.
This story finds it parallel in the book of Acts. Saul the Pharisee has made it his business to attack the followers of Jesus. On the Damascus road, he encounters the Lord Jesus Himself, who says to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" The Lord Jesus takes Saul's attacks on His people as a personal attack on His kingdom and on His person. Jesus sees the shame others heap on us when we act in His name, and one day He will avenge His people.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: 2 Samuel 23:8-12; 1 Chronicles 11:1, 10-14; 20:5-8; 2 Samuel 21:19-22; 2 Samuel 10:1-19; 1 Chronicles 19:1-19-20:1; Psalm 33

  • Today's reading begins with a listing of David's mighty men. Identify the greatest of these and list the qualities that made them great. How can you develop these qualities in your own life and walk with God?
  • When David sent Joab and the army out against the Ammonites, how did Joab display faith in God and express that faith to motivate others?
  • The psalmist expresses several reasons to trust God; list these reasons and develop a way to teach them to someone else from these verses.
  • The day's reading ends with a strange statement about David. What choice does David make, and what consequences follow that one seemingly insignificant choice?

Turning Truth to Prayer
Have your motives been misinterpreted, your intentions misread? Go to the Lord now, choose to forgive the person who hurt you by this action, and turn the situation over to the Lord. Ask Him to avenge you, and trust Him to avenge in the most effective way. Remember, He may bring reconciliation rather than revenge; that's exactly what He did when He forgave you!