Peacemaking can be hazardous business
2 Samuel 10: I’d like to show some kindness to Hanun, the son of Nahash.
There’s a bit of a mystery here. The only other Nahash we have in Scripture is a brutal king who was going to partially blind the men of a village in Israel. His threat energized Saul’s early leadership of Israel. It’s unlikely that the man named in this story is the same one. In some way unknown to us the Nahash mentioned here showed a kindness to David, possibly during his time in exile. David, now settled as king, hears of Nahash’s death and sends representatives to express his sympathy to his son, Hanun. However, Hanun takes them to be spies. He humiliates them and sends them back to David. This event sets off the war that’s described in this chapter. Although these events happen on a large scale, such things do happen in everyday life too. We try to do the right thing, to be peacemakers, only to be rebuffed. Happily, such things don’t have to always end in war. Had Hanun not responded as he did, an alliance might have been formed here, similar to what Israel formed with Hiram of Tyre under Solomon. Probably a larger reminder is that even our best intentions can sometimes backfire. My responsibility is to be a peacemaker and, as Paul writes in Romans 12, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As we see here, it isn’t always possible, but it should be our first effort.
Take Away: More often than not it is possible to live a peace…as the people of the Lord we’re to make that our priority.
When trouble comes knocking
Acts 24: I do my best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors.
Paul’s first formal hearing is before the governor, Felix. In spite of the compliments paid him by Tertullus, the lawyer for the Jewish leaders, Felix is a corrupt official who isn’t above receiving bribes. However, as Paul points out, Felix is in some ways best suited to hear the case. He, himself, has a connection to the beliefs of the Jews because he’s married to a Jewish wife named Drusilla. He’ll have a better grasp on some of the finer points of this case than others. Tertullus contends that Paul is a ringleader of a group of Nazarene troublemakers. Paul responds that this simply isn’t true. He hasn’t even been in the country for several years and, at the Temple, he was minding his own business when others started the riot. He adds that he makes it his practice to get along with both God and man. Paul may have been at the center of a riot, but it wasn’t his intention. In fact, if he has it his way, he makes friends with everyone and focuses his energies on doing the right thing in all circumstances. This leads me to a couple of thoughts. First, Paul’s goal should be my goal. I’m to “do my best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors.” Christians aren’t to be trouble makers. Rather, we’re to be good citizens and good neighbors. Second, sometimes my best isn’t going to be good enough. Like Paul, I don’t have to make trouble to get into trouble. Sometimes trouble finds me. When that happens to Paul, he stands his ground, shows proper respect, and trusts God to see him through the unwanted trouble. His example is a pretty good example for me and for all those who live for the Lord.
Take Away: Paul’s the same guy who says, “If possible live at peace with all men.”