Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, "Give me counsel. What should we do?"
Friendship is a vase, which, when it is flawed by heat, or violence, or accident, may as well be broken at once; it never can be trusted after. The more graceful and ornamental it was, the more clearly do we discern the hopelessness of restoring it to its former state. Coarse stones if they are fractured may be cemented again: precious ones never.
Bad men may and often do see and reprove in others the baseness they are themselves practising, and thus unconsciously condemn themselves. Absalom reproves his father's friend Hushai for supposed unkindness and unfaithfulness to him, while he himself, not merely a friend, but a fondly loved son, was usurping his father's throne, and ready to take away his life (see 2 Samuel 17:2, 4
). Nevertheless, the sentiment which underlies his remonstrance is just, and Hushai would have deserved severe rebuke if he had really been guilty of the conduct he was charged with. It was a time for David's friends to prove themselves to be friends indeed; and to desert him at such a time (as Ahithophel did) would have been perfidious in the extreme. Hushai, however, was serving him by obeying his directions and promoting his interests. Whether the deception he practised on Absalom was justifiable is another, question, depending for its solution on the answer to be given to the larger question whether and how far belligerents are bound by the ordinary laws of truth and righteousness. The remonstrance of Absalom is suitable to be addressed to any who are acting in a manner contrary to the duties of friendship. As one and another instance of unfaithfulness or unkindness occurs, the question might well be put to those guilty of them, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?" The force of the remonstrance would be proportionate to the degree of friendship which had existed, the benefits received, the professions made, etc.; and also the degree of flagrant violation of the laws of friendship which each act exhibited. And if to the obligations of friendship are to be added those of some other relationship, as here that of subject and servant of a sovereign, the guilt of unfaithfulness is increased, and remonstrance may well be more severe. The words are very suitable to be addressed to professed friends of our Lord Jesus Christ who act a faithless and disloyal part towards him.
I. CHRIST IS OUR ROYAL FRIEND. King, and yet Friend; Friend, and yet King. The claims of each relation to us strengthen those of the other. Although he is so glorious a King, he stoops to be and act the part of a Friend to the meanest and most sinful of his subjects.
1. He fills this position towards them:
(1) By his self-sacrificing services on their behalf (John 15:13).
(2) By admitting them to the closest and most confidential intimacy of which each is capable (John 15:15).
(3) By the greatness and abundance of the benefits he confers on them.
2. And they on their part take the position of friends to him:
(1) By their acceptance of his friendship.
(2) By their vows of eternal love, loyalty, and service to him. The relation of sovereign and subject is, in the best Christians, more and more lost in, though not destroyed by, that of friend and friend. A love boundless in its promptings and requirements overflows and obliterates the limits of mere law.
II. TO ACT AN UNFRIENDLY PART TOWARDS HIM IS DESERVING OF THE SEVEREST REBUKE, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?"
1. Conduct to which the words are applicable.
(1) Desertion of Christ in times of difficulty. "Why wentest thou not with thy friend?" (comp. Hebrews 13:13); "Let us go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach."
(2) Moral cowardice in respect to him. The words might well have been addressed to Peter when denying his Lord and Friend - were virtually addressed to him when "the Lord turned and looked" upon him (Luke 22:61). It would be well if they could ever be heard by us whenever, from fear of man, we are silent when we ought to speak for Christ, inactive when we should act for him.
(3) Parsimony in gifts and services for the promotion of his cause.
(4) Failure in duties of love to his friends and representatives - our fellow Christians, especially the poor and suffering. A timely reproach, reaching the heart, might prevent more terrible words at the day of judgment (Matthew 25:41-45).
(5) Any act whatever of inconsistency with our position and professions as disciples of Christ.
2. Their peculiar force. Arising from the words, "thy Friend."
(1) Who has proved himself a Friend indeed.
(2) Whom thou hast often addressed and rejoiced in as such.
(3) Whom thou hast often been glad to appeal to in that character for help and deliverance.
(4) To whom thou hast many times vowed eternal friendship, and fidelity unto death. The reproach, thus viewed, is adapted to break the offender's heart, producing the deepest shame and self-humiliation, and leading to the most earnest penitence and prayers for forgiveness.
3. From what quarter the remonstrance might come.
(1) From a man's own conscience and heart. It is well when these are sufficiently loyal to Christ to speedily address the offender after this manner.
(2) From other friends of Christ. Christians should be sufficiently faithful to their brethren and their Lord to lovingly reprove serious inconsistencies.
(3) From the enemies of Christ. As by David's enemy the words were originally spoken. Those who are not themselves Christ's disciples are often quick to detect the faults of those who are, and to taunt them with them. They sometimes thus render good service to Christians. Fas est et ab hoste doceri. - G.W.
Is this thy kindness to thy friend?
Friendship is the state of minds united by mutual benevolence. It has always been deemed one of the essential articles of human life and comfort. Men have pursued it for their honour, as well as for their happiness; for it is considered as disgraceful as it is distressing, to be without a friend. And who are those who, after a while, lose social intercourse and kind regards, but those who deserve it? — as whisperers, tale-bearers, backbiters, despisers of them that are good, and lovers of themselves. For he that will have friends must show himself friendly, "and there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother." General associations will not supply the place of a friend. Gossips and visitors and acquaintances are not friends, unless such as Cowper speaks of, "belonging to the lady who has her dear five hundred friends," whom she always found sycophants in her house, and every one of whom, before they reach their homes, are running her down. For while "the friendship of the world is enmity with God," it is hypocrisy with men; and no conditions or rank places a man above the attractions of friendship. Kings have laid aside their royalties to indulge in it. Alexander would have found a conquered world a void without an Hephaestion. The dearest relations in life cannot supersede friendship. To the beloved name of brother and sister, husband and wife, must be added that of a friend, in order to fill up the comforts of human life. Oh, friendship, thou benefactor and comforter of the human race! how necessary art thou in a vale of tears, and in a world full of "vanity and vexation of spirit!" Thou art the delight of sanguine youth, and the prop of trembling age. Thou art the sweetener of prosperity, and the solace of adversity. The burdened heart, at thy presence, is relieved, and afflictions by thy hand are deprived of their tears. But while we hail the individual who has found a real friend, we are constrained to observe that it Is not very easy to find one. And, when you have laid down the infallible marks of a real friend, many who have worn the title will be found unworthy of the name, and "weighed in the balances," will be found wanting. I make no apology for applying the inquiry to Christian experience. Nor shall I enter into the circumstances of the history in which it is found. Suffice it to say. it is the language of Absalom, complaining of the conduct of Hushai.
I. WE HAVE TO SHOW THAT YOU HAVE A FRIEND. His adversaries called Him "the Friend of sinners," and their design was to charge Him with being a Friend to their sins. This was infinitely false; but He was a Friend to their souls. This was infinitely true. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Now let us look at a few of the qualities of this friend.
1. The characteristic of Benevolence. What is benevolence? Benevolence among men is often little more than a commerce of selfishness, and the offspring of sordid gain. Friendship amongst men arises from the possession of some amiable quality in the object regarded, either real or imaginary. But His friendship arises from no excellency in its subject, but is all undeserved favour.
2. The second characteristic of this friendship h sincerity. He is a friend who loves, not in words — in tongue, but in deed and in truth. "He gives us all things richly to enjoy."
3. A third characteristic of this friendship is ability. Where the ear is heavy, that it cannot hear, the hand is often shortened, that it cannot save. Nothing is more painful to real affection than inability. To see a beloved object suffering beyond your reach, — to behold in him wants which you cannot relieve, — to witness in him pains which you cannot alleviate, — to hear the voice from parched lips, "Pity me, pity me, Oh ye, my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me," and to be able only to shed unavailing tears.(1) Speak we of wisdom? "His understanding is infinite."(2) Speak we of wealth? His riches are boundless. "The world is His, and the fulness thereof" in heaven and in earth. Speak we of strength?" Lo! He is "strong" Nothing is too hard for Him. The Emperor Theodosius, having, on a signal occasion, opened all his prisons and released the prisoners, is reported to have said, "And now would to God I could open all the tombs and give life to the dead!" This was a noble saying, but in him it was an ineffectual one. However it is not so in regard to the Lord Jesus.(4) Fidelity is the fourth characteristic of this friendship. It was wrong in David to say, "All men are liars." He owns himself that he said it in his haste, and he should not have said it at all. There were few who ever had more faithful adherents than he.(5) The last characteristic of this friendship which we shall mention is perpetuity. Now this is distinguishable from the former article. That regards the stability of friendship, this regards the continuance of it. For, however true, however faithful, a friend may be, he is mortal. "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to the dust: in that very day his thoughts perish." Mortality is written on everything here. Yet have we "set our hearts upon that which is not." But what is the language of Jesus? "I will never leave thee. nor forsake thee."
II. That you HAVE OFTEN BEHAVED VERY INCONSISTENTLY, AND IMPROPERLY TOWARDS HIM, so as to constrain Him to say, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?" We premise here two things.(1) That it is not to be supposed that you can fully discharge the obligations you are under to this Friend, in this weak state of flesh and blood. But then you ought to be sensible of them, and show that you are willing to make suitable returns, though you cannot make adequate returns; and to be always asking, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Therefore,(2) we observe that God expects us to make suitable returns, and is disappointed if we do not.Oh, what instances of ingratitude and unkindness compel Him to say, "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?" He does expect gratitude and a sense of obligation in His beneficiaries.(1) It is reasonable and righteous for your friend to expect that you should obey him. "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them," saith the Saviour, "he it is that loveth Me." And none of His commandments are "grievous."(2) It is reasonable and righteous in your friend to expect that you should own Him and honour him before men.(3) It is reasonable and righteous in your friend to expect that you should readily believe him and confide in him.(4) It is reasonable and righteous in your friend to expect that you should be fair and open and unreserved with him.(5) It is reasonable and righteous that your friend should expect that,, if any of his friends and relations be near you, you should behave kindly towards them. David inquired on a particular occasion, "Is there any here of the house of Saul, that I may deal kindly towards them for Jonathan's sake?" The Saviour has brethren and sisters.(6) It is reasonable and righteous in your friend to expect that if he left any emblem or memorial of his, you should highly prize it. Such a memorial you have with regard to Him in the Lord's supper. It is the only representation of Him He has left in His church. Conclusion: There are such who have not this Saviour for their Friend: and is not this the case with some of you? — yea, with many of you. What! has He "no form, nor comeliness, nor any beauty, that you should desire Him?" who yet is "fairer than the children of men"; yea, who is "altogether lovely." We speak this to your shame. Lord Brooks was a nobleman of our own country, but so charmed was he with that wise and accomplished person, Sir Philip Sidney, that, when he died, he would have no other inscription upon his tomb than this — "Here lies the friend of Sir Philip Sidney." Oh, may my tomb but tell a tale that truly states here lies a friend of Jesus!
Trusting a friend so long as there is no room for doubt or distrust, is very well so far as it goes. A decent man can hardly do any less than this. It is always easy to trust a friend as far as one sees. But the real test of fidelity in friendship is when others doubt or question, and when there is room or occasion for two opinions as to a friend's conduct and appearance. True friendship evidences itself when one has to walk by faith, and not by sight. If one rests his trust on the friend because of what others think of that friend, that is one thing — there is no special friendship in that. But real friendship does not depend on outside testimony or opinions. —
()The love of friends is an active passion, and delights in rendering services and bestowing benefits. So sensible of this were the ancients that, in discussing the duties of friendship, what they asked was, not how much one friend ought to do for another, but where the limit was at which he ought to stop. They took it for granted that he would do, suffer, and give, all he could for his friend's sake; and they only prescribed to him to restrain himself at the point where his zeal might clash with some still higher obligation to his family, his country, or his God. In accordance with this they represented friendship in art as a young man, bareheaded and rudely attired, to signify activity and aptness for service. Upon the fringe of his garment was written Death and Life, as signifying that in life and death friendship is the same. On his forehead was inscribed Summer and Winter, meaning that in prosperity or adversity friendship knows no change, except in the variety of its services. The left shoulder and the arm were naked down to the heart, to which the finger of the right hand pointed at the words Far and Near, which expressed that true friendship is not impaired by time or dissolved by distance. Of this feature in the friendship of Jesus it would be easy to give examples.
()Mr. Payson, the American divine, was out one day with a brother minister who had to make a call at a lady's house, and Payson went in with him. The lady pressed them both to stay to tea. She was not a Christian woman, and Payson had other business, and 'therefore demurred; but as she pressed him very earnestly he sat down, and invoked the divine blessing, which he did in terms so sweet and full of holy unction that he impressed everybody. The lady waited upon him with great attention, and when he rose up to go he said to her, "Madam, I thank you much for your great kindness to us; but how do you treat my Master?" A work of grace was wrought in that lady by the question; she was brought to Jesus; she opened her house for preaching, and a revival followed..
PeopleAbishai, Absalom, Ahithophel, Arkite, David, Gera, Hushai, Mephibosheth, Saul, Shimei, Zeruiah, Ziba
TopicsAbsalom, Ab'salom, Advice, Ahithophel, Ahith'ophel, Counsel, Opinion
Outline1. Ziba, by presents and false suggestions, obtains his master's inheritance
5. At Bahurim, Shimei curses David
9. David with patience abstains, and restrains others, from revenge
15. Hushai insinuates himself into Absalom's counsel
20. Ahithophel's counsel
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 16:20-23
LibraryBut Although Patience be a virtue of the Mind...
8. But although patience be a virtue of the mind, yet partly the mind exercises it in the mind itself, partly in the body. In itself it exercises patience, when, the body remaining unhurt and untouched, the mind is goaded by any adversities or filthinesses of things or words, to do or to say something that is not expedient or not becoming, and patiently bears all evils that it may not itself commit any evil in work or word. By this patience we bear, even while we be sound in body, that in the midst …
St. Augustine—On Patience
That Nob was placed in the land of Benjamin, not far from Jerusalem, whence Jerusalem also might be seen,--the words of the Chaldee paraphrast, upon Isaiah 10:32, do argue. For so he speaks; "Sennacherib came and stood in Nob, a city of the priests, before the walls of Jerusalem; and said to his army, 'Is not this the city of Jerusalem, against which I have raised my whole army, and have subdued all the provinces of it? Is it not small and weak in comparison of all the fortifications of the Gentiles, …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
David and Jonathan's Son
'And David said, is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake? 2. And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. 3. And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 4. And the …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Godly are in Some Sense Already Blessed
I proceed now to the second aphorism or conclusion, that the godly are in some sense already blessed. The saints are blessed not only when they are apprehended by God, but while they are travellers to glory. They are blessed before they are crowned. This seems a paradox to flesh and blood. What, reproached and maligned, yet blessed! A man that looks upon the children of God with a carnal eye and sees how they are afflicted, and like the ship in the gospel which was covered with waves' (Matthew 8:24), …
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12
Appendix 2 Extracts from the Babylon Talmud
Massecheth Berachoth, or Tractate on Benedictions  Mishnah--From what time is the "Shema" said in the evening? From the hour that the priests entered to eat of their therumah  until the end of the first night watch.  These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer. But the sages say: Till midnight. Rabban Gamaliel says: Until the column of the morning (the dawn) rises. It happened, that his sons came back from a banquet. They said to him: "We have not said the Shema.'" He said to them, "If the column …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
Importance in Luke's History of the Story of the Birth of Christ
IT needs no proof that Luke attached the highest importance to this part of his narrative. That Jesus was indicated from the beginning as the Messiah -- though not a necessary part of his life and work, and wholly omitted by Mark and only briefly indicated in mystical language by John -- was a highly interesting and important fact in itself, and could not fail to impress the historian. The elaboration and detail of the first two chapters of the Gospel form a sufficient proof that Luke recognized …
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay—Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. T hat which often passes amongst men for resolution, and the proof of a noble, courageous spirit, is, in reality, the effect of a weak and little mind. At least, it is chiefly owing to the presence of certain circumstances, which have a greater influence upon the conduct, than any inherent principle. Thus may persons who appear to set death and danger at defiance in the hour …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
Meditations for one that is Like to Die.
If thy sickness be like to increase unto death, then meditate on three things:--First, How graciously God dealeth with thee. Secondly, From what evils death will free thee. Thirdly, What good death will bring unto thee. The first sort of Meditations are, to consider God's favourable dealing with thee. 1. Meditate that God uses this chastisement of thy body but as a medicine to cure thy soul, by drawing thee, who art sick in sin, to come by repentance unto Christ, thy physician, to have thy soul healed …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
No Sorrow Like Messiah's Sorrow
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold, and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow! A lthough the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophecies (Luke 24:44) , bear an harmonious testimony to MESSIAH ; it is not necessary to suppose that every single passage has an immediate and direct relation to Him. A method of exposition has frequently obtained [frequently been in vogue], of a fanciful and allegorical cast [contrivance], under the pretext …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate, …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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