The Merit of Another

In II Samuel 19:31-38 we find the seldom-told story of Barzillai and Chimham, which serves as another Biblical example of favor to one on the basis of the merit of another:

Barzillai was a rich man had helped support King David while he was in exile across the Jordan during Absalom’s revolt. When he was restored as king, David wanted his benefactor to come back with him to Jerusalem, so that he might return the favor. But Barzillai responded that he was too old; he could no longer taste food or hear music. He wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of the king’s court. But in :37 he said, “However, here is your servant Chimham, let him cross over with my lord the king, and do for him what is good in your sight.” In :38 David answered, “Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what is good in your sight; and whatever you require of me, I will do for you.” Thus Chimham received a place in the king’s household, NOT on the basis of what he himself had earned, but because of the merit of Barzillai’s actions towards David.

We see this principle of the treatment of the one on the basis of the merits of another in other places in scripture as well. Paul tells Philemon in :18 regarding the former slave Onesimus, “If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” Paul wanted Philemon to treat Onesimus NOT on the slave’s own account, but according to the merit that Paul had earned on his behalf.

Both of these episodes serve as pictures of what Jesus has done for us. We have not earned favorable treatment from God — in fact we have earned the opposite! By rights we are all “children of wrath, even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:3). But Jesus lived a perfect life; He DID earn favor with God. And when we put our faith in Him as Lord & Savior, we are not treated by God the way we deserve, but as in the cases of Barzillai and Paul, according to the merit of Another.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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