David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. David sent the troops out – a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai, son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, ‘I myself will surely march out with you.’ 2 Samuel 18:1-2
The humiliation and betrayal that David suffered at the hands of his son, Absalom and his grind, Ahithophel, were huge. However, when David prayed, God stepped in and sent Hushai to the palace to nullify Ahithophel’s evil advice to Absalom as we saw in the previous lesson. Because of Hushai, David realized that God intended to restore him.
David had left the palace with just a handful of loyal subjects but over time, thousands of Israelites had joined the king in exile and by now he had a sizeable army, ready to do his bidding. In the verses that open the 18th chapter of 2 Samuel, we see a new David – a David who had been disciplined by the LORD, learned his lesson and was a changed man.
Change is always what God is after in us when He chastens us. David demonstrated the fruits of God’s discipline in three ways:
First, he became vulnerable. He declared that he would march with his troops; literally that he would lead them out. This was a courageous decision for as a seasoned warrior, David knew that those on the front lines are most often the first killed. But he dismissed all thoughts of his own importance and purposed rather to demonstrate his gratitude towards all those who stood with him; a gratitude that moved him to be willing even to lay down his life for his followers.
Secondly, David became even more teachable than he’d been in the past. In other words, he was humble. Notice vs. 3-4 of this chapter: The men said, ‘You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.’ The king answered, ‘I will do whatever seems bet to you.’ 2 Sam. 18:3-4
Formerly, David might have said, ‘Who are you to tell me what to do?’ But not now. He was comfortable with listening to and accepting advice. That’s how a humble man behaves. One way to define repentance is that you change your thinking and become teachable.
Thirdly, David manifested a gentle attitude toward his ‘enemy’, Absalom. The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, ‘Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 2 Sam. 18:5
In spite of the pain of betrayal, David’s heart was still tender enough toward his son that he warned his commanders against taking vengeance against Absalom. David knew that Absalom had sinned. He did not deny that, but he also knew that it was God’s business to deal with Absalom, not anyone else’s.
One of the signs that we have truly forgiven our enemies – anyone who has wronged us or injured us in any way – is that we are willing to let God take care of them while we renounce any and all inclination to take our own revenge.
How could David be so magnanimous, you may ask?
David remembered where he came from. He was a simple shepherd whom God chose and elevated to kingship. It was not David’s own doing.
David remembered that he had abused the privilege God gave him by sinning with Bathsheba.
David remembered that he was a forgiven man; therefore he could forgive Absalom.
David saw that God Himself was intervening and therefore he had full confidence that God would complete the task of restoring him to the throne in His time and in His way. David could rest in that assurance and be at peace within himself.
Is there someone who’s hurt you, betrayed you? Have you been struggling to forgive them?
Remembering how gracious God is to forgive us when we fail Him or sin against Him is the greatest motivation in helping us overcome the reluctance to forgive someone else. May the example of David inspire all of us to live a life that includes total forgiveness towards anyone at any time.