Eating humble pie – surely you’ve heard that phrase before. It was the ‘dish of the day’ for a number of people as David made his way back to Jerusalem after the defeat and death of Absalom. Interestingly, it was the tribes of Israel who called for David to return while David’s own tribe, Judah, remained coldly aloof. (2 Samuel 19:9-10) To bring them around, David did two things: he reminded them they were his own kinfolk and he made an ingenious diplomatic decision.
King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: ‘Ask the elders of Judah, Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? You are my brothers,my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the King? And say to Amasa [former commander under Absalom] ‘Are you not my flesh and blood? May God deal with me be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joav.’2 Sam. 19:11-13
By appointing Amasa commander, David appeased those who had supported Absalom and regained their loyalty.
He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man. They sent word to the king, ‘Return, you and all your men.’ (vs. 14)
His diplomacy succeeded but there can be no doubt that it must have saddened David to have been put in a position where he needed to persuade his own people to support his return to the palace. But to Judah’s credit, they did ‘eat humble pie’, albeit though it was sweetened with David’s graciousness.
But they were not the only ones.
You may remember Shimei, the man who had cursed David as he climbed the Mt. of Olives fleeing from Absalom. He certainly would have most to fear that King David was again ruling in Jerusalem. However, we see something very different, even surprising.
Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan. Shimei, son of Gera, the Benhamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David…When Shimei, son of Gera, crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, ‘May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.’ (vs. 15-20)
Note the underlined words – I know that I have sinned…Shimei recognized his sin, admitted it to the king and repented, asking for forgiveness. This little known biblical figure calls to every generation to do as he did – to ‘eat humble pie’ before those whom we have offended or abused. In our present society, the responsibility to acknowledge and admit our failures is too little taught, even less carried out. Under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ we say things unbecoming to our calling as the people of God. Sadly we often don’t even recognize that our speech is offensive not only to others, but also to God Himself.
Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want. The greatest freedom is living in obedience to the Word and Ways of our God.
There’s still one more person who had to ‘eat humble pie.’ His name was Abishai. He was incensed that David might forgive Shimei and welcome him back into the kingdom. Abishai had taken up an offense against Shimei because of what he had said to the King.
When Abishai questioned David, ‘Shouldn’t Shimei but put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed!’ (2 Sam. 19:21) the king’s answer put him in his place.
What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? This day you have become my adversaries! Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Do I not know that today I am king over Israel? (Vs. 22)
Then the king turned to Shimei and said, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king promised him with an oath. (Vs. 23)
The Torah teaches that sin brings death. Yet King David, having been humbled himself when forgiven by God for his sin with Bathsheba, knew well the power of repentance. Seeing it in Shimei, he gave to Shimei the same forgiveness that he himself had received earlier in his life.
Getting our feelings hurt is part of life. It happens to all of us at one time or another. Conflicts with others inevitably arise and wounded egos have a choice. We either massage our hurts and they swell out of proportion in our minds; or we forgive and put it behind us like King David.
People sometimes say, ‘It’s hard to forgive.’ I suggest to you today that: NO, it’s not hard to forgive…IF WE REMEMBER that we ourselves have been forgiven by a loving God. There is no person alive who has not sinned at some time or other. We know from the word of God that if we return to Him with sincere repentance, He forgives us – He promised to do that in His infallible Word. We are enjoined to imitate His behavior towards us by forgiving those who offend or hurt us.
King David demonstrated what I like to call Total Forgiveness. He not only forgave Shimei’s despicable behavior towards him, David even refused to apply any punishment for it. He graciously welcomed the one who spoke evil against him back into the kingdom with no conditions or stipulations. That, my friend, is how God forgives. And the same God said to us: You shall be holy as I am holy.