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From Chris's Heart

January 2011
The Trouble with Suspicion
by Nick Harris

For the past four months, I have been preaching a series of sermons entitled, "The Saga of David ben Jesse." In this series, I have covered most of the events recorded in I and II Samuel that deal with the life of this "man after God's own heart."

However, it came to my attention several days ago that I had skipped over a very important episode from this man's life. In this episode, the army of the nation of Israel had gone to war with the people of the small kingdom in Transjordan known as the Ammonites. The Ammonites occupied the territory located in and around the modern city of Amman, Jordan.

The territory controlled by the Ammonites sat astride the commercial route that begins where modern Aqaba, Jordan is located and commences at the ancient oasis of Damascus. Control of this route, known as the Kingís Highway in antiquity, would have been an enormous asset to the economy of the state of Israel, but David had cut a covenant with the king of Ammon and the intended to keep this covenant.

However, something occurred that created a state of suspicion and mistrust, and the result of this state of suspicion and mistrust offers an object lesson as to how wars and other internecine struggles can develop between nations, families and individuals. I have found that where ever suspicion and mistrust exist is possible for any and every situation to be misjudged. Inevitably, bad decisions are made and often the results are catastrophic.

The background to this misunderstanding has been recorded for us in II Samuel 10:1-19. The episode actually began several years earlier when David entered into a relationship with the Ammonite king. The two men entered into a covenant together, and for many years, peace between Ammon and Israel prevailed.

Then Ammonís king suddenly died, and his son Hanun took his place. Some of the friends of the new king had become aware of the growing power of the kingdom of Israel in that region of the world. Israel was now strong enough to attack Ammon if they desired to do so. This gave rise to fear, and nothing good comes from fear, and that was especially true in this situation.

The situation developed in the following way: After the King of Ammon died and David sent a delegation to assure the new king of Ammon, Hanun, of his good intentions toward the Ammonites. However, some of the powerful princes among the Ammonites convinced Hanun that this delegation was no more than a group of spies, intent on overthrowing his government. So, this new King arrested the members of the delegation shaved off their beards and bared their buttocks in public, shaming the members of Israelís delegation. It was impossible for David to ignore such an incident. He attacked and defeated the Ammonites, and many innocent men died.

How tragic! David's only motivation in sending this delegation was to demonstrate his loyalty to his late friend, and to the son and legitimate successor to this king. He was attempting to honor and perpetuate
a promise made to a friend. I have always believed that those person who possess real leadership ability are those who demonstrate loyalty and trustworthiness in all of their dealings. That is the only way to destroy suspicion. But in the case of David and Hanun, the loyalty of David was defeated by the folly of Hanun. This young man acted on the worst possible advice.

So, here, we have two contrasting styles of leadership: an honorable king following the dictates of conscience and the stipulations of a treaty, and a foolish leader who follows ill-conceived advice and leads his nation into a senseless war. World leaders could glearn a great deal today by carefully reading II
Samuel 10:1-19.

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