A LACK OF VINDICTIVENESS
Lord, make me into a Christian who keeps my promises.
Read 2 SAMUEL 19:18b–30
18 They crossed at the ford to take the king’s household over and to do whatever he wished.
When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king 19 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. 20 For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first from the tribes of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.”
21 Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed.”
22 David replied, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?” 23 So the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king promised him on oath.
24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. 25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?”
26 He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever you wish. 28 All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?”
29 The king said to him, “Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the land.”
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely.”
New International Version (NIV)
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“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (Jas. 3:17, NASB).
In today’s episode, David must resolve two issues stemming from his flight: undeserved criticism from an enemy and lack of support from a supposed friend. Shimei has cursed David earlier as the man responsible for Saul’s death (2 Sam. 16:7,8). Since David was on the run from Saul’s murderous rage for years and spared his life twice (1 Sam. 24,26), the accusation is bitterly unfair. Not only that, but cursing God’s chosen king was a grave sin punishable by death (Exod. 22:28; 1 Kings 21:10). In the ancient world a curse or a blessing was seen as potentially performative, bringing about the reality it evoked, just as the words “I pronounce you man and wife” do in a marriage ceremony. David, however, refuses to take revenge in the guise of justice, recognizing in the reversal of his fate the Lord’s vindication of him (22) that overrules Shimei’s curse. Knowing that God is on his side, David could let go of hurt and leave Solomon to deal with him (1 Kings 2:8,9,36–46).
Christians may be tempted to retaliate for unjust criticism in subtle ways, taking advantage of legitimate opportunities to make negative comments or to get back at others. It is much harder for David to deal with his seeming abandonment by Mephibosheth, Saul’s lame grandson, to whom the king showed kindness and support even though he could have become a potential usurper to the throne. Mephibosheth is probably innocent (24), yet we sense David’s impatience with the man’s long-winded explanation—though he believes enough of it to offer him back half his land (29), formally promised to his servant Ziba (2 Sam. 16:4). Seeming betrayal or lack of support from those we have helped can often be more painful to handle than the harsh words of our enemies.
May we follow Jesus’ example, who restored Peter in love despite his betrayal and, when reviled, did not retaliate but “entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).
Lord, help me to forgive and then accommodate those who have wronged me when we must still work together.