The Sword of Damocles

It was the Roman politician and philosopher Cicero who bequeathed us the famous story about the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius II and his courtier Damocles, which he had read in the History of Timaeus of Tauromenium.
In a cursory, Dionysius is a very prosperous king and this makes his servant Damocles covet him. He wants to have a taste of his King’s pie. He wants to join the high table club.
The king does not shillyshally but allows Damocles to have a bite of royal pie.
Damocles is placed on a golden couch covered with a most beautiful woven rug, embroidered with splendid works; he is bejewelled many sideboards with chased silver and gold; then chosen boys of outstanding beauty to stand by his table and responsively serve him. In addition liniments and garlands are provided; perfumes are burned; tables are piled up with the most first-class foods. Damocles seems to himself privileged.

In the middle of this mirth and merriment Dionysius orders a shining sword, fastened from the ceiling by a horse-hair, be let down so that it hangs over the neck of Damocles. This makes him look neither at those gorgeous waiters nor the magnificent silver work nor stretches his hand to the table. Eventually, the very wreaths slip off and he begs the king that he should be allowed to depart because he no longer wants to be fortunate.

In real life, things don’t necessarily get better as you go up the ladder. In fact, they get thick and sick. An upward movement does not always guarantee comfort and calmness. The higher you go spiritually, socially, financially, politically and intellectually, the more things are likely to get challenging. The higher we go the cooler it gets and the more tired we get. The cooler it gets the more fire we will need.
We sometimes admire certain people. We marvel at their successes, but we forget that they paid a price to get where they are. They are sacrificing daily to keep things glittering. Are we quick to grab the sweet fruit and not the bitter roots? It is foolhardy to expect otherwise.

An incident is recounted in the Holy Bible that I find running parallel to this whole narration. This is how the Message Version of the Bible puts it, “So Hanun seized David’s men, shaved off half their beards, cut off their robes halfway up their buttocks, and sent them packing.” 2nd Samuel 10:4.
This is quite a humiliation. In modern days, this would be comparable to a high commissioner, an ambassador or consular staff being stripped naked. It is tantamount to declaring war. It is an unfriendly gesture which can be returned generously.
This bizarre behaviour was meant to demean the new King of Israel -David.
Surprisingly, David did not take any action. It appears that he wasn’t interested in fighting. He only reacted when it was discovered that the Ammonites were mobilising forces in preparation for a battle.

In life, we don’t have to fight every battle! Sometimes we have to ignore the traps of Satan and his satraps. We can always avoid confrontations.
David was just starting to settle down as a king. I guess he didn’t realise that many guys were unhappy with his new status. There were only a handful of trustworthy friends and acquaintances. His new position had galvanised his enemies. His promotion created enmity.
If we read the entire Chapter we find that whatever David did to King Hanun was utterly in good faith, but Hanun had a different opinion. Even our good actions can be misinterpreted. Good intentions can sometimes be misjudged.

Are you used to being in lowly places to the extent that when help comes you questions the intentions?
Are we used to fighting all the time that when peace comes we mistrust it?
Are our lives punctuated with hatred from childhood that when love is shown we still doubt it?
Are we used to living in the gutter that when we are taken out of it we misjudge the intentions of our saviours?
Do we still have the ‘village’ in us even after being brought out of the village?
David’s new status had made Hanun and his nobles develop mistrust. They could not believe David was after no evil intentions.
In the previous chapter 5:17-25, we encounter a similar scenario. The Philistines marshal forces immediately they learn that David is the new king in town. They go after him hammer and tongs. David meet them head on.
It is as if none of David’s neighbours wanted him, King. His higher level was causing jittery. David thought the time for battling was over. He was wrong! New battles were to be fought. Becoming a king does not eliminate threats, in fact, it increases them.
Years later, deep within his household, we would find people like Absalom challenging him.

God will surely bless our hard work. He wants us to experience a turnaround. However, this turn around will attract new challenges, new opposition, envy, jealousy and attacks even from within. This should not come as a surprise.
As you go up, prepare for more battles.

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