“And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever helped someone do something wrong? Let’s not go so extreme, though. Have you ever helped someone do something foolish? How’d that go for you? Did they get caught? Did you get caught with them? Did you face any consequences with them? Worse yet, did you face consequences that they didn’t face? Depending on either how close the relationship is or else how big the promise of potential reward is, there are times when we are sorely tempted to join in on something that just isn’t very wise.
Syria certainly found that out the hard way here. King Hanun had offended David personally and deeply. He had taken a gift of friendship, threw it in the mud, and stomped on it a few times before mailing it back covered in return to sender stickers. He knew David would be looking to respond and that the response would likely be in the form of a school yard butt-kicking played out on a national scale. So, he hired some muscle to stand on his side of the line.
Syria knew David’s reputation. They knew how he had basically defeated everybody he had faced in battle. And yet, the payoff from the Ammonites was too much to refuse. So they joined in the action.
David’s smaller force beat both the Ammonite and the Syrian forces, and then turned around and defeated an even stronger revenge Syrian force sent to save face from their first beating. They wound up as another vassal state sending an annual tribute to David for the privilege of him not just wiping them off the face of the earth. Can you say, “Oops”?
When we get an invitation to join in something foolish (and so we’re clear: attacking David while he was king was foolish), the answer always has to be, “No thanks.” It doesn’t matter how good our relationship with them is. It doesn’t matter how big the “guaranteed” payoff is going to be. It doesn’t matter who we’re purportedly helping. If it is unwise or even just flat out sinful to do, we’ve got to stay away. That’s not a path we want to walk. Ever. For any reason.