Monday, September 25, 2023

King David shows grace to his Enemies

Mourning and celebrating, have you ever felt happy, but sad at the same time? Has a moment of excitement or joy suddenly become sad for you? Or perhaps a moment of sorrow turned into a moment of joy?

The rebellion of Absalom has been defeated. King David’s troops fought bravely in the battle in the forest of Ephraim, and they emerged victorious. But in the midst of the fighting, Absalom, David’s own son was killed. Joab knew the order, that Absalom was to be spared but, he killed Absalom anyway. 

King David has been I'm sure on a rollercoaster of different emotions, fear, worry, excitement, victory, and so on. But now, it turns to sorrow. So while David’s troops are celebrating, David is devastated. Joab the leader of David’s troops finds out about this and is not happy.

We see it says in 2nd Samuel 19:1-4, “ Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 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.” The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David mourns for his son, even though his son had led a rebellion against him. David loved one who was his enemy. That’s the same with Jesus Christ our messiah. He loved us while we were his enemies. He loved us while we were sinners. David has a love even for those who despised him.

Meanwhile Joab is very angry with David. He sees the troops ashamed and hiding themselves even though they’ve just won a great victory. So Joab comes and rips into David.

It says in verses 5-7: "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. 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. 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.”

Joab actually threatens to lead a rebellion against David, if David doesn’t go out and greet the troops.

He mentions how he will make it worse for him than all the calamities he’s faced in his life so far. And we know after going through 1st and 2nd Samuel that David has been through a lot in his life. I’m sure that’s true for many of you as well. You’ve been through a lot. And it’s affected you. But God was with you through all of it, and he guided you as you sought after him.

So the king goes out. It says in verse 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.”

King David does go out to greet the troops as Joab requested. He wants to show his support for the soldiers who fought on his side. But I'm sure he's simply torn with emotions. He's proud of his soldiers and how bravely they fought in the battle of the forest of Ephraim. But he's also crushed and freshly grieving the death of his son. 

There have been many times in my life where I've been torn by opposing emotions in my heart. I'm sure you've felt that way too. And these events in David's life reminds me that God knows and cares when we are in incredible sorrow. God understands it, because God himself has gone through it. God has seen his people rebel against him, starting with Adam and Eve. And I'm sure God is greatly grieved by all this. 

Yet I'm sure he's very excited to see the many millions who have turned to Christ for salvation, and been adopted into His family. But at the same time, so many reject Him. I can only imagine the kind of mixed emotions the Lord almighty must have in His heart. Which tells me that God knows, understands and is able to encourage us who go through crazy emotional messes in our lives. 

In verses 9-10 we see the people of Israel in turmoil across the country arguing and debating in the marketplaces and in their homes, wondering, should we ask David to be our king again? 

It says, "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; and Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, has died in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?” (v. 9-10).

The rest of Israel is trying to figure out what to do next. Absalom is dead. So they think, well, we better rejoin under David’s leadership. But no one is taking the lead to move forward and do that. They just keep talking about it, arguing about it.

David isn't concerned yet with the northern tribes of Israel who are debating back and forth. He's first going to speak to the tribe of Judah, his own home tribe, in the south.   

Next, verses 11-15: "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 relatives, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 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.’”

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.” Then the king returned and went as far as the Jordan."

In verses 11-15 we see David regaining the tribe of Judah, who joins up with him once again. It's fascinating that David actually has to go to them. They don't come to him first. David is so incredibly humble he gathers them back to himself. They should've come to him, on their knees, begging for forgiveness for joining Absalom. But instead David goes to them! 

Then in verses 15-20: "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 Benjamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 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. 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 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 from the tribes of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.”

Shimei is the one who was shouting at King David and throwing rocks at him and cursing him when he was fleeing Jerusalem.

And David’s advisors tell him in verse 21: Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

This was a very serious offense in the ancient world, to curse the King and throw rocks at him, you could be put to death for that. Frankly, even in our modern world, if someone were cursing at the president of the USA, throwing rocks at him, he’d be taken down by secret service, and I’m sure in court they’d throw the book at him. He’d probably end up in prison for a few years at least. 

But notice that Shimei is repentant. He falls prostrate before King David and admits that he sinned against him. Shimei asks that his sins not be looked upon anymore. And Shimei is repentant in his timing as well. He comes early. He comes before any other other tribes have rejoined David. An act of loyalty and repentance in a moment like that can be a powerful display. 

This is essentially true repentance. It's meaningful repentance. You know you're 100% in the wrong. You ask forgiveness for your sin humbly, you turn away from it, and change your behavior to be the opposite of your sin. You join with the one you had sinned against, instead of rebelling against him.

Shimei deserves to be punished, to be executed, but, he is seeking forgiveness in a heartfelt and genuine way. It's real. It's from his heart.

But David's advisors suggest that Shimei be executed. 

Here is the King’s response: (verses 22-23) 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?” So the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king promised him on oath.”

Shimei is pardoned, and he is told he will not die. He will live. That’s what happens when we receive Jesus Christ as savior, and ask God to forgive our sins. We receive pardon, and fellowship. And God makes us part of his family again. It’s wonderful. But just like Shimei, it has to come from the heart. And it has to be married with repentance, with a real turning from past sins and toward the one offended. That's why we "repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Belief is joined with repentance, a turning away from past wrong behaviors and toward purity in Christ, knowing we're guilty, but embracing a new way, as we believe Christ can in fact provide it for us. 

So in conclusion, we're seeing the aftermath of the rebellion of Absalom. And we're seeing a divide between the north and south of Israel. But we're seeing the grace and mercy of King David that is also going to bring a lot of healing to the nation. 

It's a great reminder that God gives us grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, and therefore we need to show grace and mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Live that out today! God bless you.