Meanwhile, having lost your job, you find yourself in need – not just for yourself, but for those who are with you as well. Someone you may not know well has respected you from afar. This person offers to provide your meals for an extended time. You later discover this man is wealthy and can afford the gesture, but a simple “Thank you” seems insufficient. How do you respond?
Some time later, the one who betrayed you has died. You agree to take your job back despite the fact you cared about this person a great deal. Immediately, you are confronted with an opportunity to get even with the customer who berated you. Then, you find out you were manipulated and have the authority to make matters right. How do you respond?
These scenarios are not random ideas, they are directly from the story of David. In reviewing this story, and examining the response of David in each situation, we can learn more about David, about ourselves, and most importantly about God. Ultimtely, what we will discover is that our response does not have to come from our circumstances. Our response to circumstances should come from who we are.
After Absalom’s death, David rightfully resumes his role as king. While he was deposed, David certainly encountered various individuals who greeted him in a variety of ways. The Bible records an unfavorable encounter with Shemei as well as a favorable one with Barzillai. Another interaction David expected was from Mephibosheth, but he had not joined the king when he left Jerusalem. With David back on the throne, each of these men has a new encounter with David. It is David’s encounters with these individuals that will be our focus today.
David Responds with Justice
All who were loyal to David left Jerusalem with him except for two distinct people – Hushai, who would act as a spy for David (2 Sam. 15:32-37) and Mephibosheth, whom David had earlier shown extreme kindness (2 Sam 9). Although David was deceived about the reason Mephibosheth remained, his solution to not strip Ziba of everything is consistent with a king not revoking a decree.
- David was deceived by Ziba who said Mephibosheth remained to become king. (2 Sam. 16:1-4)
- David’s Initial Response: Give Ziba what belonged to Mephibosheth. (v. 4)
- David’s Final Response: Continue to show kindness to Mephibosheth. After returning as king, David approaches Mephibosheth, and hearing the truth, David restores land to him. (2 Samuel 19:24-30) Although Mephibosheth may be well-cared for due to David’s return, his response (v. 30) is one of true appreciation for the king.
We are not told why David made the decision he did, but he made the decision quickly and confidently. Because he was king, and because Ziba had deceived him, no one would have thought twice if David had taken everything from Ziba. While we are not told why David responded as he did, the question is how would you respond to Mephibosheth? To the story about Ziba? Having been restored to his rightful place, David wanted to move on to what was important. He put the past behind him and now it was time to see what God was ready to do next – another example of being a man after God’s own heart.
David Responds with Mercy
As David travelled further from Jerusalem, he was met by a man named Shimei, a member of King Saul’s household. Shimei’s hostility towards a warrior like David is foolish, but David’s response shows he considered the bigger picture of what was happening.
- Shimei cursed and threw rocks at David and others because David was unworthy to be king. (2 Sam. 16.5-8)
- David’s Initial Response: David considered that many were against him and that may mean the Lord was allowing the events to transpire. (2 Sam. 16.9-14)
- David’s Final Response: David made an oath that Shimei would not die. Ultimately, David realized that his place as king was secure and his restoration was cause for celebration, not punishment. (2 Sam 19:16-23)
In this instance, the issue was more than mental (deception). This person actually physically assaulted David. Certainly David is much older now as he has grown children capable of being king. But, this is still David of whom was sang, “David killed his tens of thousands” (1 Sam 18.7). Even if some think this is an exaggeration, David is the commander of the army and one would be pretty stupid to attack him. But Shimei did attack and even though he has pleaded with David, notice that the army was waiting for the order to strike (2 Sam 19.21). Yet, when it came time for payback, David relented – and did so with a promise. David may have been a warrior, but his heart sought God and thus he showed mercy.
David Responds with Thanksgiving
As the king, David would have had many who were faithful to him in Israel. Certainly, some of these people would be willing to help David with any of his needs. One of the men who helped as David fled from Jerusalem was named Barzillai, whom David later seeks to reward by bringing him back to Jerusalem.
- Barzillai provided food and a place of rest for David and all who travelled with him. (2 Sam. 17:27-29)
- David’s Initial Response: Rest his troops for battle to defeat Absalom’s army (2 Sam 18:1-6)
- David’s Final Response: In appreciation for the hospitality received, David extended an offer of hospitality for Barzillai to come to Jerusalem to live. Barzillai declined due to his age, but sent a servant to be with David instead. (2 Sam. 19.31-40)
Many times leaders will forget their place and expect people to provide for them and be dutiful without question. But David was not such a leader. Of course, as the king, he expected loyalty from his troops which could be easily manipulated as we saw in the story of Uriah. But when David was right with God, he was thankful for what he had. We saw that in verse 22 when he pardoned Shimei, and here he does it with Barzillai. Yes, Barzillai declined David’s offer, but it is David’s response that deserves to be highlighted here.
David’s initial response to each of these men was not rash. Even giving the property to Ziba was quite reasonable due to the details he was provided and the duress he was facing. However, David’s final response to each of these men was made due to the humility of a king. It must not be overlooked that each of the final responses was made in the midst of grieving the loss of his son (sorrow), not to mention preparing to re-establish himself as king (joy).
The truth is that we cannot control the circumstances around us, but we do have the ability to control our responses. The question is: Will you be defined by a response or will you define your response?
Remember the scenario with which I began. You have just lost your job having been betrayed by someone you trusted (for David, his son). You are manipulated as you are trying to leave (for David, by Ziba), and as you finally begin to get away you are physically harassed (for David, by Shimei). How do you respond? Maybe you can handle the job part. Then maybe you are able to put aside the manipulation. But eventually most will say, “Enough is enough!” and begin to lash out. Not David. Why? Because He trusted God. Why? Because He was a man after God’s own heart. David was not a perfect man, but he was a man who continually turned back to God.
And that is what we need to do. When we succeed, we need to express thanksgiving to God. When we fail, we need to repent and turn back to God. Life is full of choices and many of those choices are a response to what someone else has done/will do for us.
What is interesting is that both Mephibosheth (v30) and Barzillai (v 34-37) reject the offer made by the king. The problem is that too many people do that today. See, our King has made us an offer – the offer of life. Maybe we are like Barzillai and offer excuses as to why we cannot except the offer – we are too old, we are too young, we have too much to do, we have done such bad things, etc. But that is letting the situation define us rather than accepting what Jesus is offering. Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. So, if he is offering, the offer is good in spite of yourself. We need to be more like Mephibosheth, who turns down the offer of stuff, because He is simply thankful to be with the king.
So, how do you respond to the offer of THE King – King Jesus? The offer of salvation. The offer of abundant life. The offer to be blessed as you are poor in spirit, as you mourn, as you hunger and seek righteousness, etc. The offer to have God’s kingdom come, to experience love and joy everlasting, etc., etc., etc.
The JOURNEY letter for today is: R – REVERE.
Choosing the right response becomes easier as we follow Jesus more closely. The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart which means He revered God because He sought to be more like Him. Again, like us, David was not perfect, not even close. But to REVERE God does not mean that we are perfect, but that we desire to worship Him for who He is – and He is perfect!
NEXT STEP(S): LEARN
I will repeat the primary question once more and explain it. “Will you be defined by a response or will you define your response?”
When we react, we are defined by our response. For instance, we can all remember a time when someone did something to someone else and beforehand said, “Watch this.” The watching was not just for what was to be done, but was also because the reaction of the person was known before the act happened. Why? Because the response defined the person – that is, the person reacts the same way every time.
But if we are proactive (instead of reactive), we have defined the response. We will not be perfect at this in every occasion, but David must have already considered the possibility of being ridiculed by someone or his reaction would likely to have been to have Shimei killed after the first rock was thrown.
So, take time to think how God would respond. Then seek to do the same. That is why this week’s step is LEARN. We must first begin to understand how we typically respond. Then we seek to know how God responds. And then we make whatever changes are necessary. So, LEARN your response. LEARN God’s response. Then LEARN how to better emulate God.