What does it say?

David sends ambassadors to comfort the son of the king of Ammon who has died (2Sam 10). In an unimaginable insult, the son humiliates David’s men. Fearing David’s revenge, he reaches out to the Syrians to defend him. David and Joab intercept the Syrians and defeat them. The Syrians send another army that the Israelites also soundly defeat, causing the Syrians to break with the Ammonites and make peace with David. 1Chr 19 covers the same story told many years later for the Jews returning from exile in Babylonia.

Psalm 20 is a Davidic psalm written on the occasion of going to war. It seems to be in the form of a responsive reading, with alternating voices between the people and the king.

What does it mean?

The story of David extending kindness to Hanun upon the death of his father the king seems to reinforce our modern proverb that no good deed goes unpunished. It’s difficult for the Western mind to comprehend the magnitude of the insult in the way in which David’s ambassadors were humiliated. In a shame/honor society such an affront is beyond imagination.

Have you ever performed a heart-felt good deed only to have it shoved right back in your face with a sneer? It’s important to observe that David did not immediately retaliate; Hanun is the one who contracted the Syrians to do a pre-emptive strike against Israel adding insult to injury.

Psalm 20 is part of today’s reading because it is most likely a psalm written during the time described in our Samuel and Chronicles readings of the war with Ammon and Syria. This is a war in which David is not the aggressor but is acting defensively against the Syrian mercenaries who are coming against Jerusalem.

How will I respond?

Would I extend kindness to someone if I knew ahead of time that they would react by striking out at me? Would I extend kindness simply because it is the right thing to do regardless of the other party’s response? What is a specific act of kindness that I will do today with no regard for the recipient’s response?