Thank you, Jesus, for the peace you offer, both in our glad and sorrowful times. Thank you for your joy that no circumstance can overwhelm.
Read 2 SAMUEL 19:1-23
19 [a]Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
5 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”
8 So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.
Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.
David Returns to Jerusalem
9 Throughout the tribes of Israel, all the people were arguing among themselves, saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies; he is the one who rescued us from the hand of the Philistines. But now he has fled the country to escape from Absalom; 10 and Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, has died in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”
11 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? 12 You are my relatives, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you are not the commander of my army for life in place of Joab.’”
14 He won over the hearts of the men of Judah so that they were all of one mind. They sent word to the king, “Return, you and all your men.” 15 Then the king returned and went as far as the Jordan.
Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan. 16 Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 With him were a thousand Benjamites, along with Ziba, the steward of Saul’s household, and his fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed to the Jordan, where the king was. 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.
- 2 Samuel 19:1 In Hebrew texts 19:1-43 is numbered 19:2-44.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.’1
Some wars end with a negotiated peace settlement and some, as here, with victory and defeat. Both situations need careful handling on all sides. Particularly in a civil war, where both sides must continue to live together, minimizing post-war effects on losers as well as winners is essential. We can all think of situations where disputes from centuries ago have an ongoing powerful influence on the attitudes of those left behind, who still see themselves on different sides. For us, with the privilege of hindsight, this chapter is as much a cautionary tale as an example. It raises questions for us to consider if ever faced by such circumstances. Perhaps that applies not just in the aftermath of war, but also after family or church disputes.
First (vs 1–8), we are presented with the issue of whether, how, and when personal grief, which is obviously significant, should take precedence over leadership responsibilities. At first glance, the story seems to affirm Joab’s conclusion that David had to concentrate on his own supporters. It is possible that we are being asked to consider whether David’s grief for ‘the opposition’ could also have been harnessed in the reunification of the nation. Second, verses 9–23 deal with issues relating to defeated opponents. Here David shines. A significant part of Absalom’s support came from Judah, David’s own tribe. Winning them back was crucial. Appointing Amasa to lead David’s own army was a brilliant strategy. Showing mercy to Shimei provided an encouragement to other previously vociferous opponents. Both stories involve Joab, now deposed by Amasa, whose brother, Abishai, has his advice rejected.
Finding a way forward after serious and especially violent disagreements is so difficult. Ask for God’s help to search for solutions which can bring blessing to all sides.
Lord God, I ask for an end to conflicts in my country and around the world; I pray for wise, gracious, and unifying leaders.
1 1 John 3:23
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