Living Lessons On Punctuality From the Pages of Scripture:The ability to detect needs in the lives of others usually comes by experiencing these same needs in ourselves. Similarly, the most thoughtful and appreciated gifts are often those which the giver would like to receive himself. When an embattled king fled to the wilderness, an alert man promptly brought him an abundance of practical provisions. The first item on the list is as significant as it is unusual. It suggests that the giver needed the same in a similar emergency.
Who gained recognition in Scripture because of his generosity to a king during a time of national crisis? Barzillai.
How Is Giving To Needs Which Others Are Not Able To Meet Illustrated In Scripture?He lived in the land of Gilead, east of the river Jordan. God called him "a very great man" for good reason. During many years of life he experienced the joys of serving as a priest of the Lord. But in that capacity he also tasted hardships, sorrows, and disappointments. The faithful priest became neither proud over success nor bitter over defeats. Instead, he developed a keen sensitivity to the needs of others and a generosity in meeting them. One day he learned that a revolt was taking place in his nation and that his beloved king was being forced to flee for his very life. The king was even now seeking refuge in a large forest near this great man's home. Quickly he met with two other friends and together they gathered a huge supply of vital provisions for the king and those who fled with him. As they did this, they must have realized that such an act would be considered treason by the rebel leader. If the exiled king was unsuccessful in regaining the throne, this man and his friends would no doubt be killed. However, he lived up to the meaning of his name --- iron hearted, and courageously brought the provisions to the king in his wilderness camp. Included in his gift were wheat, barley, flour, corn, beans, honey, butter, sheep, cheese, and cattle. But first on the list was something both unique and significant. It revealed the ability of this great man to detect special needs. He brought beds for the use of the king and his men. Refreshed and encouraged by all of these provisions, the king and his men went out to battle, and God gave them the victory. The rebel leader was killed and the king made preparations to return to his city. Once again this great man gave the king assistance. The king was so moved by this kindness that he invited the man to return with him and eat at his royal table. This special invitation was humbly declined, as the great man explained that he was eighty years old and that he might become a burden to the king. However, he did offer to have his son take his place. The king welcomed the idea and brought Chimham back to the palace. In the years that followed, this son not only served the king but many others as well. He founded an in to care for travelers and strangers. This was very unusual in that day. So successful was this inn that it continued to be used for hundreds of years. In fact, it was mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah, 435 years later. Another fact that makes this inn and the history behind it even more significant. Many years later, a couple inquired at a very popular inn. It was already filled; however the inn keeper graciously provided what accommodations he could. The inn that Chimham established was by Bethlehem, the same city in which Christ was born. The beds which Barzillai gave to David in the wilderness established a tradition which his descendants continued. God may have honored this family by allowing one of its members to meet a need for Christ which others were unable to meet. [From 2 Samuel 17:27-29; 19:31-39 and Jeremiah 41:17]
What Danger Did Barzillai Risk By Helping David?Barzillai and his family risked the sure vengeance of Absalom if he succeeded in his rebellion. At the time Barzillai first assisted David, Absalom clearly had the advantage. He enjoyed the outward support of the entire nation. The soldiers at his disposal were like "...the sand that is by the sea for multitude..." (2 Samuel 17:11). The city of Mahanaim was of little help in David's defense. "Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there" (2 Samuel 17:13). Should Absalom succeed there was no hope that mercy would be shown to David's supporters. Absalom had murdered his brother and betrayed his father. David himself did not expect his son to show pity. "...Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly..." (2 Samuel 15:14). Barzillai committed himself to David's cause at the darkest hour because he would not be part of the wicked rebellion.
Why Did Barzillai Refuse David's Offer To Come To Jerusalem?David was grateful to Barzillai for his courageous and generous support. He wanted to repay him for his kindness and would spare no expense or effort to make him comfortable in Jerusalem. But Barzillai's response gives another view of his exemplary character. He was not interested in power, advantage, or palace pleasures. "...Can I discern between good and evil? Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any more of the voice of singing men and singing women?..." (2 Samuel 19:35). He preferred to die near his beloved home in Gilead where he could continue his influence for good. Rather than be a burden to David in Jerusalem, he would be a beneficial ally in Gilead.
What Does Barzillai Teach Us About Giving?Barzillai demonstrates giving with a pure heart. His motive was simply stated, "...the people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty..." (2 Samuel 17:29). What a contrast he provides to the impure motives of Mephibosheth's servant, Ziba. In similar circumstances he deceitfully gave his master's goods to David to gain his master's land. (See 2 Samuel 16:1-4.) What a contrast to the Pharisees who later would gather a crowd when they gave alms in order to win their applause. (See Matthew 6:2.) Barzillai was interested only in the Lord's approval. He also demonstrated the importance of giving to those in need. God uses even the smallest acts of kindness in ways we cannot imagine. Barzillai knew that David was in need, but he could not have known how deeply discouraged and depressed he was. He had not seen the king leave Jerusalem when he "...wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot..." (2 Samuel 15:30). The Lord used Barsillai as His instrument to encourage David. Barzillai illustrates the principle, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my bretheren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:35, 40.)
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:Symplocarpus foetidus means, literally, "a foul smelling plant with a united fruit." Found in the swamps of eastern and central North America, it grows a brownish purple and yellow hood that surrounds a large cluster of small yellow flowers. The skunk cabbage looks so much like a tropical plant, that street vendors once gathered thousands from the swamps of New Jersey and sold them in New York as exotic lilies. As the first plant that appears in spring, it often provided lifesaving food for early settlers and Indians whose winter provisions had run out.
How Is Meeting Needs When Others Are Unable To Do So Illustrated In The World Of Nature?A large black bear emerged from its winter den and lumbered into the forest. Its massive paws left a clear trail in the snow that still covered the ground. Because of the snowfall, the hungry bear was unable to locate any green plants or fresh berries. Determined to find food, it approached a large beehive. With one swipe of its powerful paw, the bear knocked the hive to the ground. Breaking it open, the famished bear quickly began to devour the sticky honeycombs. The startled bees tried in vain to defend their home and store of provisions, but the bear stomped on the fragments of the hive, killing many of the bees. The dazed survivors fled the scene of destruction, but realized that it would only be a matter of seconds before they would perish. It was almost too cold for them to fly, and they possessed only enough energy to travel a very short distance. At this time of year there would be no flowers filled with nectar to replenish their strength. Suddenly the bees sensed the sweet aroma of nectar. How could this be? It was only February, long before any forest flowers would appear. Throughout the swamp, little patches of snow had melted beside strange looking hoods that had poked up through the ice and snow. These unique plants had been prepared for such an emergency as this. The bees dropped down for a closer look. They saw a small cluster of yellow flowers within each protective hood. The flowers had actually developed during the previous fall and were shielded from the harsh winter by their brownish purple hoods. Entering the hoods, the bees discovered another remarkable feature - an internal temperature of seventy two degrees. The excited bees flew from plant to plant gaining warmth and restoring their energy. After collecting an ample supply of nectar, they traveled the final distance to the safety of a new home. The bees survived because the skunk cabbage had met basic needs when other plants were unable to do so.
The Characteristics of the Skunk Cabbage in Scripture:The skunk cabbage is a flower. Its unique characteristics have clear parallels in Scripture. Its ability to provide food and warmth while other plants are still dormant is a picture of God's command to believers to be ready at all times to share food and clothing with those who come to them with special needs (see Isaiah 58:7). The skunk cabbage makes a spectacular appearance, but if winds are too cold, it will soon perish. God repeatedly affirms in Scripture that man's life is like a flower, and "...as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone..." (Psalm 103:15-16). The skunk cabbage, like our lives, contains a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. God wants each of us, by meditating on His Word, to transform every experience into healthful spiritual food that we can share with others. The bee illustrates this by turning the nectar of the skunk cabbage into honey. (See Psalm 119:103) The amazing root system of the skunk cabbage allows it to overcome many adverse weather conditions. A Christian who has no roots in the Word will wither when pressures come, because he has no "....root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word by and by he is offended" (Matthew 13:21).