FRIENDSHIP AND RIVALRY
Lord, help me to strive for unity within our church.
Read 2 SAMUEL 19:31–43
31 Barzillai the Gileadite also came down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and to send him on his way from there. 32 Now Barzillai was very old, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. 33 The king said to Barzillai, “Cross over with me and stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you.”
34 But Barzillai answered the king, “How many more years will I live, that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king? 35 I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is enjoyable and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of male and female singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? 36 Your servant will cross over the Jordan with the king for a short distance, but why should the king reward me in this way? 37 Let your servant return, that I may die in my own town near the tomb of my father and mother. But here is your servant Kimham. Let him cross over with my lord the king. Do for him whatever you wish.”
38 The king said, “Kimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him whatever you wish. And anything you desire from me I will do for you.”
39 So all the people crossed the Jordan, and then the king crossed over. The king kissed Barzillai and bid him farewell, and Barzillai returned to his home.
40 When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over.
41 Soon all the men of Israel were coming to the king and saying to him, “Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him and his household across the Jordan, together with all his men?”
42 All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “We did this because the king is closely related to us. Why are you angry about it? Have we eaten any of the king’s provisions? Have we taken anything for ourselves?”
43 Then the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king; so we have a greater claim on David than you have. Why then do you treat us with contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing back our king?”
But the men of Judah pressed their claims even more forcefully than the men of Israel.
New International Version (NIV)
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“If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it… Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (Jas. 3:14,15).
Barzillai’s uncomplicated support of David contrasts starkly with the squabbling of Judah and Israel over their king in today’s reading. Barzillai was on the king’s side when David was on the run and the potential loser in the conflict, whereas most of Judah and Israel returns to Davidonly when he becomes the victor. Also, Barzillai has no particular interest in rewards (34–36), though at the king’s offer he suggests Kimham (probably his son; 1 Kings 2:7) to go with David. In contrast, Judah and Israel vie for influence. Christian leaders likewise attract different types of people: some of them are genuine friends who give support selflessly, whereas others jockey for the inside track, enabling them to get a sense of self-worth or prestige from being associated with a great leader.
The rivalry for pre-eminence here is a sign of immaturity that can plague leaders and churches. Jesus himself encounters it among his disciples (Luke 22:24–27), and so does Paul in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:11–17). Such attitudes point to worse divisions to come, needing only a figurehead to be a rallying point for the disgruntled. This is exactly what will happen to David’s kingdom, as described in the next chapter. While some splits in churches genuinely happen around doctrinal matters that are irreconcilable, many have underlying issues of jealousy, rivalry and real or perceived offences.
As God’s people, we should cultivate the kind of attitude recommended by Jesus and Paul, recognizing that true greatness is measured in maturity and faithfulness to the Lord. Our leaders especially need our prayers, both to recognize threats and to be able to deal with them early.
Pray for God’s protection over your church and for wisdom for its leaders so that it might faithfully represent Christ to the world.
Lord, help me to show kindness not only to those who are supportive in my life but also to those who challenge me