Summary: What character of the Bible best describes you? Do you start out well only to finish poorly and offer God every excuse you can think of?

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Barzillai – 27th April 2008 am

2 Samuel 19:32

Background – David running from Absalom


The Holy Spirit says something of Barzillai that He says of very few people. He says that he was “a very great man.” The Bible does not hand out this kind of praise openhandedly. It marks Barzillai out for special notice.

His name means man of iron or strong, he was what we would call today a highland chief. Alexander Whyte says that he had highland characteristics of loyalty, courtesy, hospitality and a passionate love of the hills and valleys. His holdings were in the fertile territory of Gilead on the far side of Jordan.

John Phillips says that “Barzillai blazes out, for a brief, glorious moment, like a meteor in a dark night sky, then plunges back into the obscurity from whence he came.”

I. Barzillai’s Testimony – Excellence (2 Samuel 17:26-29)

a. The Way He was Living Was a Testimony

2 Samuel 17:26-27

You can just imagine Barzillai observing from a distance the comings and goings of the leaders in Israel. All through the days of Eli, Samuel, Saul and David, he watched and was not impressed with most of what he saw.

He had seen Eli fail not only as a priest but also as a parent. The behaviour of his sons was a scandal. He would regard Samuel with respect but was no doubt frustrated by the fact that even Samuel had failed to rule his own sons. Barzillai would view Samuel’s death as a national calamity.

He would have no time for Saul, a man big in statue but little in soul. I’m sure he would approve of Jonathan, but shake his head at Jonathan’s failure to fight Goliath.

But David! He was a different kind of person; he was a man after God’s own heart. You can just imagine old Barzillai watching all of the shenanigans of Israel’s leadership and then seeing David and thinking, “That’s more like it! That’s my kind of leader!”

He liked David, he liked what he heard about him. He liked David’s goodness, he liked his effective government, he liked his exceptional grace. He felt a pull towards David even though, as far as we know, Barzillai had never met David face to face.

It sounds a lot like us in regards to the Lord. We have never seen Him face to face, but we feel that pull towards Him. The words of Jesus to Thomas apply to us, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29)

In David’s hour of need Barzillai nailed his colours to David’s mast. Public opinion had been cleverly shifted to Absalom as the result of some clever propaganda by Ahithophel. David had been rejected by the nation of Israel.

There was no hesitation from Barzillai’s point of view, he marched straight to Mahanaim and declared himself for the Lord’s anointed. It was a courageous thing to do, you see he was not a fair weather supporter of David. He wasn’t there to support him when it was the popular thing to do.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? You see it is not the popular thing to support the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the popular opinion that He is God, that He is the Way. Have we become fair weather supporters? Luke 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

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