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FAMINE A PUNISHMENT FOR SIN
2 Samuel 21:1. Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
THE reign of David was full of troubles occasioned by his own sin: but here we view him and his people afflicted for the sins of others. Saul, his predecessor in the government, had grievously oppressed the Gibeonites, whom Joshua, at his first entrance into Canaan, had pledged the nation, by covenant and by oath, to protect. This breach of covenant God overlooked, as it were, at the time, but now punished by three successive years of famine.
The history teaches us,
In what light we should view public calamities—
[The Scripture uniformly represents them as punishments inflicted on account of sin. Personal troubles may be sent for the purpose of calling into action the grace that has been bestowed, and for the advancing of God’s glory in the exercise of that grace [Note: This was the case with respect to Job.]. But the troubles of a nation are judgments sent from God. In this light, “war, famine, pestilence, and the noisome beast,” are frequently mentioned; and in this light they should be viewed. We are indeed very averse to regard them as coming from God: we are ready to ascribe them to second causes, and to overlook the first Great Cause of all: but in the Scriptures we behold them, as in the plagues of Egypt, so manifestly proceeding from a divine hand, that we cannot help referring them to God: and thus we ought to do, whatever be the more immediate occasion of them [Note: Isaiah 26:11.]— — — David in the first and second years of famine did not behold any expression of the divine displeasure, or think of inquiring wherefore the visitation was sent: it was only when the pressure of the affliction was very heavy and of long continuance, that he thought of tracing the hand of God in it: had he acted in the first year as he did in the third, we have no reason to think that the judgment would have been repeated: but his blindness constrained God to repeat the stroke, till it was noticed as proceeding from him. In like manner God will continue his chastisements to us, till we are made sensible that we have offended him, and provoked his just displeasure.]
Whatever be the calamities with which we are afflicted, we may learn from this history,
The way in which we may get them removed—
We should inquire into the sinful causes of them—
[David inquired of the Lord; and was informed that the troubles now sent were visitations for sin committed by Saul long ago. The particular offence of Saul is not elsewhere noticed in the history; nor does it appear to have been much regarded by any of the people. His cruelty to the Gibeonites indeed had been notorious; but, as the Gibeonites were the lowest of the people, and not descended from Abraham, the oppression they endured excited no sympathy or compassion. God however resented it; and he will resent the injuries that are done, however mean the objects may be who suffer them, or however great the tyrants may be who inflict them.
And, if we would inquire of the Lord, might not we find some cause for the long protracted war in which we have been engaged, and for the repeated failure in our crops of corn? Yes, many public causes may be assigned, such as the general contempt poured upon God’s word, and Sabbaths, and name, and people, and, above all, upon his blessed Gospel; and every individual (for it is of individuals that the community is formed) may find in himself abundant reason for those judgments with which God has visited the land [Note: Preached in June 1812.].
It is highly necessary also that those whose distresses are of a private and personal nature, should take occasion from them to inquire of God, as Job did, “Shew me, O Lord, wherefore thou contendest with me [Note: Job 10:2.]” — — —]
We should put away whatever is displeasing to God—
[The injuries which had been done to the Gibeonites could not be repaired; nor could Saul who had committed them be punished, because he was now dead. David therefore asked the Gibeonites what redress they required? They sought not any thing for themselves, either in a way of pecuniary compensation, or of freedom from the yoke which they had so long borne: but they required that seven of Saul’s sons should be delivered into their hands, to be put to death. This was not a vindictive act, but an act of retributive justice: and it was approved by God, who after the execution of these persons was pacified towards the land [Note: ver. 14.]. Such a kind of retribution would not be justifiable amongst us; because the children are not to suffer for the parents’ crimes: but, as ordered of God, it was right: and, if the whole truth were known, we should probably find that the sons of Saul had aided and abetted the wicked devices of their father; and that they therefore justly suffered as partners in his crime.
But though we cannot act precisely as David or the Gibeonites did, we may, both nationally and individually, put away the evils which have displeased our God; and indeed we all without exception are bound to “crucify our flesh with its affections and lusts.” It is in this way only that we can hope to avert the divine judgments from us; for, though nothing but the blood of Christ can wash away sin, it never will or can avail for the pardon of any, who do not turn unto God in newness of life.]
From hence then we may learn,
The danger of sin—
[Sin, however forgotten by us, is remembered by God; yea, the whole of our sins, even from the earliest period of our existence, are as much in the immediate sight of God, as if they had been committed this very day: and there is a time when we must answer for them all. Let sin then be repented of, and put away; for it will surely bring the wrath of God on all who retain it unlamented, and unsubdued.]
The benefit of Christ’s atonement—
[The blood of Saul’s sons was poured forth as a sacrifice to national justice, and as a means of averting the divine displeasure; and it was considered by God as an atonement for the sin which Saul had committed. How much more then will God accept in our behalf the blood of his own Son, who was sent into the world for the express purpose that he might expiate our guilt, and procure for us reconciliation with our offended God! Think of this, all ye who are accused by Satan and your own consciences, and who are trembling for fear of the divine judgments; and know that his blood once shed on Calvary is now available for you, as much as it was the very instant it was shed: it is a fountain, which, if you bathe in it, will effectually cleanse you from all sin — — —]
The importance of searching our own hearts—
[The crime of Saul was probably thought a meritorious act both by himself and those whom he employed as his agents in the persecution; for we are told, he sought to extirpate the Gibeonites “from a zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.” But God did not judge as he judged; nor will he form his estimate of our conduct from our opinion of it: self-love is apt to blind us, and to make us think well of many things which God abhors. But he will judge our actions according to their quality in his sight. Let us then “search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord:” and, forasmuch as we are blinded through the influence of our own corruptions, let us beg of him to “search and try our hearts, and to lead us in the way everlasting.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 21". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
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