Last week, I continued to read about the life of David in my very favorite chronological Bible.
I’ve studied David’s life in the past and I feel like I have a pretty good grip on who he was – yet every time I read about him, I’m struck by small details that evaded me the previous, oh seven or eight times I’ve studied him.
Sometimes I think details don’t stand-out to us because they aren’t meaningful at the time. This time around, it was the story of Shimei that jumped from the pages.
If you’ve ever been openly criticized, then I’m guessing Shimei’s actions and how David dealt with him would catch your attention, too.
Just to give you some background, David, who had been hunted and despised by Saul, the very man who was his mentor, had taken over as king – which was God’s plan.
However, this wasn’t David’s last rodeo with being pursued by an enemy. His own son, Absalom, greedily sought the throne and was willing to do anything to get it.
Here’s what went down:
As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”
“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!”
“No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”
Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” So David and his men continued down the road, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at David.
Can you imagine?
Here’s poor David, pursued with the intent to be overthrown by his own son, being heckled for something he didn’t even do. For crying out loud – Saul was the bad guy.
Yet David wouldn’t agree to Shimei’s beheading. He just went on his merry way and allowed the man to heckle.
I cannot even begin to tell you how in the opposite spirit this would be for me.
I’m not sure how far along the road I would make it before I snapped and chastised the guy for not getting his facts straight. I’m pretty sure I would follow it up with telling him where to go, too.
I’m a justice-seeker. I like to see things make “right.”
Yet later in the New Testament, we’re told ” . . . do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39)
Again, a little in the opposite spirit of what my flesh wants to do.
Yet at the same time . . . Maybe instead of hitting back, I need to retract.
Maybe instead of using my words to wound, I need to say nothing at all.
Maybe instead of reaction, I need to do some subtraction: take away pride, take away defensiveness and take away the urge to justify.
Hard to do? Totally.
But not impossible – because eventually, if we combat our gut reactions with the opposite spirit, the opposite spirit becomes our gut reaction.
Action, combined with self-control and trust, must always precede habit.
We’ll see how the story ends tomorrow . . . .