Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord… (2 Samuel 23:16) Please open your Bible at...
“Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!” (2 Samuel 16:7)
Please open your Bible at 2 Samuel 16. We are following the story of David and the great troubles that he brought on himself through his own sin and folly. God said, “I will raise up evil against you out of your own house” (2 Samuel 12:11). We have seen how Absalom, who always got what he wanted from David, led a rebellion against his own father. And since God had anointed David as the king, rebelling against David was rebelling against God.
Last week we felt the pain of David as he left Jerusalem, fleeing for his life. He crossed the brook Kidron, as our Lord did on the night he was betrayed. He climbed the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. But even as he wept, he worshipped. God was at work in all of David’s troubles, and even when David came under the discipline of God, the Lord never let him go.
Today, as we follow the story, we are going to meet two men who added to David’s pain and sorrow at this most difficult time in his life. You will be familiar with these men, even if you do not know their names. One of them is a liar, the other is an accuser. As we meet them, I want you to keep in mind that the enemy of your soul, the devil, is a liar and an accuser.
Satan lurks behind every lie and behind every false accusation. He is “the father of lies” (John 8:44), and “the accuser” of God’s people (Revelation 12:10). And in this story, we hear an echo of his voice in these two men: Ziba and Shimei.
The Liar: Ziba
When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him… (2 Samuel 16:1)
Picture this band of grieving people making their way up the Mount of Olives. When they get to the top, they stop at the place of worship where Ziba meets them.
Mephibosheth was the grandson of Saul. We have seen that David always acted with grace toward the house of Saul. This was remarkable because in those days, a new king would be ruthless in wiping out any descendants of the old dynasty.
But David was different. When he discovered that Saul had a surviving grandson, who was crippled, David went out of his way to bless him. David brought Mephibosheth into the palace and seated him at his own table. And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always” (2 Samuel 9:7). Mephibosheth knew that he had received unusual kindness and he was profoundly grateful.
Now Saul had a servant whose name was Ziba. This man oversaw a staff of 20 servants (2 Samuel 9:10). We would call him a “chief of staff.” So Ziba was a force to be reckoned with.
After the death of Saul, it was natural for Ziba to devote his service to Mephibosheth, Saul’s only remaining descendent, to whom David had shown such kindness. And here we are told that when David had passed over the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba met him.
Ziba came bearing gifts: Two donkeys loaded with bread, raisins, fruit and wine. David asks Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” (2 Samuel 16:2). Ziba explains: “The donkeys are for you to ride on. The food is to sustain you and the people who are loyal to you on your journey.”
Then David asks, “Where is Mephibosheth? (2 Samuel 16:3). At this point, Ziba tells a slanderous lie to the king, “He remains in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father’” (2 Samuel 16:3). Nothing could have been further from the truth.
We know this, because (spoiler alert!) when the rebellion ends and David the king returns (a great anticipation of the second coming of our Lord), the lie is exposed and Mephibosheth is vindicated. Far from wanting to seize the kingdom for himself, Mephibosheth had been in mourning for the entire time that David was away from Jerusalem.
But at this point in the story, this crippled man is slandered by a straight-out lie. And David believes the lie. Here’s Ziba with food and donkeys. He says, “Mephibosheth, to whom you have shown such kindness has turned on you.” David hears this story and he rushes to judgment. He makes a snap decision based on an unsubstantiated report.
Then the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours” (2 Samuel 16:4). So Mephibosheth lost everything because of a lie. The lie is told behind his back, and this crippled man has no opportunity to defend himself.
What can we learn from this part of the story? Here are three words and three Scriptures to keep in mind when you hear rumors and accusations that may or may not be true.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
David made a judgment based on first impressions. It appeared that Mephibosheth was ungrateful. It seemed that Ziba was loyal. David completely misjudged Mephibosheth, a man who loved him deeply and was only ever loyal to him. He did it because he believed the word of a man who turned out to be a scoundrel.
Is there an area in your life where you might be tempted to rush to judgment? Where are you tempted to jump to conclusions without having all the facts? Where are you tempted to make judgments about someone who may truly love you without really knowing what is in their heart?
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Someone has said, “God gave us two ears so that we can hear both sides of a story.” We live in a world of rumor, gossip, and spin. If we rush to judgment on every accusation we hear, we will fall into the same trap as David did and do great harm.
Remember our Lord Jesus was falsely accused: “Many false witnesses came forward” (Matthew 26:60). They twisted our Lord’s words and misrepresented the truth. After hearing from these false witnesses Caiaphas asked, “What more do we need?” Well, one thing would be to hear the defense! Never judge by appearances. Always ask the question, what if this is not true?
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
Put yourself on the other side of an accusation and ask how you would want people to act if a slanderous lie was told about you?
Remember, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. So show grace and mercy to others as you would want them to show you. Defend others as you would want them to defend you. Think the best of others as you would want them to think the best about you. Think the best unless and do so until compelled by the evidence to do otherwise.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
What should David have done when Ziba told him Mephibosheth had turned against him? He could have said, “Really? That does not fit with what I know of him.” He could have said, “I have heard this report, but I have not had the opportunity to hear the other side, and I am not in a position to know if what I have been told is true or not, so I will suspend judgment.”
God, in his time, will make the truth of this matter clear. He will bring to light the things now hidden. He will disclose the purposes of the heart. And until he does, I would rather suspend judgment than misjudge a brother or sister who, on the last day, the Lord may commend.
The Accuser: Shimei
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei… (2 Samuel 16:5)
When David passed over the Mount of Olives he headed into the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s tribe. Some issues never go away. Old wounds can remain close to the surface, and it doesn’t take much for them to be opened up again.
That’s how it was for the extended family of the house of Saul when it came to David. David was the king. The house of Saul may not have liked it, but there was nothing they could do about it, and they got on with their lives. But Absalom’s rebellion opened all the old wounds.
We see this in Shimei, a man who was filled with hatred towards David. Shimei was a true partisan — he could see no bad in Saul and no good in David.
We are told that when David came to Bahurim, Shimei came out and “cursed continually” (2 Samuel 16:5). This man had a foul mouth. He could barely put a sentence together without cursing. His mouth spewed out the hatred that occupied his heart and his hatred was directed toward the king.
“He cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David…” (2 Samuel 16:5-6). Ziba came bearing gifts; Shimei came throwing stones! One was a liar, the other an accuser, and both were enemies of the king.
Shimei was a man on a mission. Picture David and his people walking along a path in the valley. Shimei is on a ridge above them, “stalking” them as they walk. From that ridge he is shouting curses, throwing stones, and even flinging dust (2 Samuel 16:13).
Put yourself in David’s shoes: He has lost the love of his son and the support of his people. He has been driven from his home and from his job, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he now has the sound of curses ringing in his ears.
Shimei says, “Get out, get out… you worthless man” (2 Samuel 16:7). Do you know what it is to have the voice of condemnation ringing in your ears? It’s always at its worst when you are at your most vulnerable. Get out, you worthless man!
Then Shimei makes an accusation against David that is completely untrue. “The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom” (2 Samuel 16:8). Shimei is quite sure he knows what God is doing. He is filled with hate, but he speaks in the name of God!
Now David had security: “All the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left” (2 Samuel 16:6). Abishai, one of three hotheaded brothers, along with Joab and Asahel (who died earlier in the story), gets tired of this. “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king” (2 Samuel 16:9)? David, you are the king. No one should treat you like this! Let me deal with him! I will put an end to this!
What would you have said? Think about a person who is a thorn in your side. How relieved you would be if that person was no longer in your life! How tempting it must have been for David to say, “Deal with it.” He only needed to say the word and it would all have been over for Shimei. But David would not do that! Instead, he says something quite extraordinary: “Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to” (2 Samuel 16:11).
What can we learn from this part of the story? Here are three things to keep in mind when you are cursed, harassed or the object of false accusations.
1. Recognize the hand of God even in what is painful.
“Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to.” (2 Samuel 16:11)
David saw the hand of God even in being accused and cursed by Shimei. He knew that God had called him to walk through this valley of humiliation.
The accusations that Shimei made against David were not true. David was not guilty of the blood of the house of Saul. But he did have the blood of Uriah on his hands. So he is able to say, “I did not do what I am accused of, but I have sinned enough to be cursed and banished, as Shimei says, for the rest of my life.”
When Paul speaks about his “thorn in the flesh,” he says it was “a messenger of Satan to harass me…” (2 Corinthians 12:7). But then he says the thorn was “given me”, and clearly he means that it was given by God. Paul’s testimony is that God used the thorn in his flesh to bring him into new discoveries of God’s grace and strength in his weakness.
David tells the same story: “Shimei was a thorn in the flesh for me, but God used his hatred and his lies to advance his redeeming work in my life.”
We see this so clearly in our Lord Jesus: When faced with denial of Judas, Peter was — like Abishai — ready to put an end to it. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).
2. Focus on the main problem, not on frustrations that soon will pass.
David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! (2 Samuel 16:11)
Shimei is a thorn in the flesh, but he is not the main problem. The real problem is Absalom’s rebellion. It’s that the king has been rejected, and God’s people have been gripped by a massive deception.
Shimei is a pain and a frustration. He adds insult to injury. But David shows godly wisdom in identifying the main problem and keeping his attention there. Dealing with Shimei is not the issue. What matters is that the king is restored to his rightful place!
Ask yourself: What really matters here? What will matter in five or ten years’ time? What matters is that Christ the king should be honored. What matters is that the marriage should continue. What matters is that the church is built up and that the gospel should advance.
3. Never stop hoping in God.
“It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Samuel 16:12)
Ziba’s lies and Shimei’s accusations did not have the last word in David’s life. God restored him, and in this we see an anticipation of our Lord.
Lies and insults were hurled at Jesus, but “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). And on the third day, God raised him from the dead, vindicating him as the true king that he is.
The King: David
Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the men of Judah to meet King David. And with him were a thousand men from Benjamin. And Ziba… with his fifteen sons, and twenty servants… (2 Samuel 19:16-17).
When Absalom’s rebellion ends, a call goes out to bring back the king! David comes back from his refuge to the river Jordan. Who do you think would be the first to meet him? The liar and the accuser — who brought such pain to David — are the first to greet him and bring him back over the river Jordan!
Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king… “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart. For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king” (2 Samuel 19:18-20).
You never can predict what God will do in the life of a person who brings you pain and causes you harm!
Abishai was all for executing judgment on the spot, but David will have none of it: “The king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king gave him his oath…” (2 Samuel 19:23).
There’s no doubt in my mind that Shimei had a genuine change of heart. Some commentators say that this was just about getting on the right side of the king. Well, of course! Who wouldn’t want to do that!
Somewhere along the line, conviction came to Shimei’s heart: “I have been cursing the king, and if he comes back in triumph, I will be done for! So here is what I will do: I will go out to him in repentance and I will cast myself on his mercy.”
Jesus Christ is the King of kings. All power and authority belong to him. If you have resisted him, hated him, lied to him, accused him, and insulted him, what will that mean for you when the King comes back in power and glory?
Learn from Ziba and from Shimei! Go to the King now and cast yourself upon his mercy! Seek forgiveness, and peace, and reconciliation with him!
If you will come to him in repentance today, Jesus gives you his word: Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). And Jesus never breaks his promise.
© Colin S. Smith
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