2 Samuel 16
In last week’s lesson we saw that Absalom usurped his father’s throne while King David, in sackcloth and ashes, walked barefoot across the Kidron Valley, weeping. (2 Sam. 15:30) He did not beg God to deliver him from this humiliation; rather he received the chastening with dignity and understood it was a fulfillment of the word given him by the prophet, Nathan: ‘The sword shall not depart from your house.’ 2 Sam. 12:10
To receive humiliation and trial with dignity is the first lesson we derive from this scene. A friend of mine calls it ‘dignifying the trial’. Few people come to terms with the truth that many (not all, but many) trials and difficulties come to us as a result of our own decisions and/or behavior. It is a noble practice to stop and ask ourselves: Is this trial the fruit of something I’ve done in the past? It takes a measure of humility and integrity to do so for we often prefer to blame others instead. David did not respond to Absalom’s treason with blame and vindictiveness; he humbled himself and walked away, conscious that the fruit of his past sin was now being manifest.
As if exile wasn’t enough, God also allowed two men to take advantage of his humiliation. A bitter pill indeed. Both of these men believed that David was finished and that Absalom was the ‘man of the future’.
The first man was Ziba whom David had appointed to take care of Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son. When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine. The king asked, ‘Why did you bring these?’ Ziba answered, ‘The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the desert.’ The king then asked, ‘Where is your master’s grandson?’ Ziba said to him, ‘He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks ‘today the house of Israel will give me back my grandfather’s kingdom.’ Then the king said to Ziba, ‘All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours. 2 Samuel 16:1-4
Ziba went on his way but if he’d had the slightest idea that David would return from exile, he would not have lied about Mephibosheth. He was, however, convinced that David was finished.
Has someone in your life told you that ‘you’re finished’ or treated you with contempt and pushed you aside for whatever reason? Has someone told you that there’s no hope for you because of a mistake you’ve made? There’s good news for you. No mistake or sin is too big to be forgiven if you repent. And if you repent, our God is a God of restoration. His gift and His callings are uncompromised by your failures; only your ability to walk in them to the full. Once you repent, He restores you – that’s a promise of God and He does not fail!
The second man was Shimei. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, as was Saul. The Benjamites had accepted David as king but resented that he was from the tribe of Judah, not their own tribe. While David was in power, they kept quiet, but seeing him banished and replaced by his son, they now considered him a ‘has-been’ and fair game for their criticisms.
People will often withhold their true feelings about a leader but let that leader make a mistake or be humbled in some way, they’ll be the first ones to come along and let that leader know exactly what they think of them! Shimei had that chance now, seeing David without a crown and clothed in sackcloth.
As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei, son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you reigned. The Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son, Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood. 2 Samuel,16:5-8
Notice: Shimei not only claimed to know God better than David did, but he also accused David of stealing Saul’s throne! No one ever thought such a thing! But Shimei was a Benjamite and obviously resented a Judean ruling over him. To our knowledge, David did nothing to harm Shimei personally so why such a vicious attack?
It is important to remember that when people attack you, especially if it’s vicious, many times you have done nothing to deserve it; it’s simply that they are jealous of you. Jealousy is that sin few people talk about but it’s deadly. Perhaps we’ll deal with that in a different post.
Meanwhile, how did David react to Shimei’s attack?
- He refused to retaliate although he had the power to do so. One of his men wanted to cut off Shimei’s head but David refused to allow it. Vengeance is God’s prerogative, not ours. We must remember that.
- David accepted the attack as God’s will. But the king said, ‘What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David, then who can ask ‘Why do you do this?’ 2 Sam. 16:10 David understood that Shimei was but a tool in the hands of God to humble David and he submitted without resentment. It was more important to David what God thought than what men thought.
- David understood that by accepting the chastening of the Lord, he put himself in a position where God could bless him in the future. ‘It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.’ (vs. 12)
David evidenced by his reaction to Shimei’s attack that his highest priority was to act in a godly manner regardless of what he faced. He and the people arrived at their destination and there the LORD refreshed David.
Do you know that it was at that time that he wrote Psalm 23 and Psalm 37? Psalm 23 is perhaps the most famous of all the psalms and it was birthed out of the midnight of David’s life.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters; He restores my soul.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake;
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.
In the darkest hour of his life, David found his inspiration in God who had his undivided attention. Does He have yours?