In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. 2 David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.2 Samuel 10:1-4 NIV
Leaders depend on the team they gather around them. The most important decisions a new leader will make get made very early in the beginning of a leader’s tenure. Kings in David’s time chose their spiritual advisors, financial managers, and military commanders. Hanun, the new king of the Ammonites, chose badly. When David responds kindly and respectfully to the death of Hanun’s father, his military advisers think the worst and perceive a threat. Hanun responds with an extreme act of disrespect. He shaves off half the men’s beards and cuts off their clothing, essentially making them naked.
The men seem to be most impacted by the shaving of half their beards. Their clothes could quickly be replaced. It would take considerable time for the beards to grow out and become even again.
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.Leviticus 19:27 NIV
To keep the law, they might have determined that they could not trim either the old growth or new growth. This would have left them with a permanently unbalanced beard.
Too late, the Ammonites under King Hanun realize that they have deeply offended David. Rather than issuing a quick and sincere apology the Ammonites hire Aramean mercenaries to help defend their country, but the help fails. After several military campaigns the Arameans make peace with Israel and become subject to them. Israel will also eventually defeat the Ammonites. Many Ammonites and Arameans die because King Hanun chose to follow bad advice. As so often happens, the followers pay the price for the foolishness of their leader.
What about us?
We all make decisions almost every moment of our waking lives. Some are insignificant. Which shirt will I wear today? Some are personally life and death decisions. Will I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior? I might ask for input about what shirt to wear and I certainly will seek guidance on my decision to accept Jesus. However, I would contend that the decisions requiring the most careful thought and wise advice are the ones that involve others. The more people that are potentially impacted the more critical it is to have the best possible advisers.
King Hanum had a huge disadvantage. He did not know God and could not call on His guidance to add to that of his military commanders. We do not have that disadvantage. We choose people to be part of our circle of trusted friends. I may have different things we look for in people to trust, but I want people in my circle who know God and seek his guidance in their own lives. I want people who will tell me the truth regardless of how it impacts my ego.
The leaders in our world today are faced with making decisions that have the potential to affect everyone on the planet. We should constantly pray that there are men and women among our leaders and their advisors who are continually seeking God’s wisdom. We should also pray that their voices will be heard.