READING: 2 Samuel 19-21
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: These chapters deal with David’s return to power after the civil war with the forces of Absalom. While somewhat a minor figure in the text, Barzillai captures my attention. He was a wealthy old man (80 years old) who had provided supplies for David and his men when they were in Mahanaim (2 Sam. 17:27-29). David later invited him to go with him to live in Jerusalem, where the king would provide for him (2 Sam. 19:31-33). Here’s the response of Barzillai, followed by my reflections:
2 Sam. 19:34-37 Barzillai replied to the king, “How many years of my life are left that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king? I’m now 80 years old. Can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or drinks? Can I still hear the voice of male and female singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Since your servant is only going with the king a little way across the Jordan, why should the king repay me with such a reward? Please let your servant return so that I may die in my own city near the tomb of my father and mother. But here is your servant Chimham: let him cross over with my lord the king. Do for him what seems good to you.”
1. Barzillai recognized that age really does affect us. As he grew older, he wondered if he
could even enjoy the pleasures of living in Jerusalem. His taste buds had dulled, and he
couldn’t hear like he used to. He would be only a burden to the returning king.
2. Barzillai apparently understood that pleasure is temporary. He was unconcerned about
the pleasures of Jerusalem. In fact, he had apparently served David without a desire for
reward. What mattered to him was simply dying a dignified death near his family.
3. Barzillai focused on the next generation. It’s possible that Chimham was Barzillai’s son;
and even if not, Barzillai wanted to make sure that someone else received the blessing
PRAYER: As I get older, I find myself thinking like Barzillai (which is probably why these texts give me pause). The process of age does change us, but that process sometimes reminds us about things that matter — like serving others, investing in the next generation, and dying well. Let’s pray that we will live this way regardless of our age.
TOMORROW’S READING: Psalm 5, 38, 41-42