As if it weren’t bad enough — 2 Samuel 16-18

I hope you’re enjoying the stories of David as much as I am. There is so much good stuff in here that it’s hard to decide what to comment on. There’s wisdom and something to think about in almost every line. Alas, neither you nor I have the time to write or read a tome, so we’ll just have to save some of it til next year about this same time, right?

Climbing the ladder the wrong way — Ziba was servant to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan that David had taken under his wing and provided for out of loyal friendship to Jonathan. But being a servant wasn’t Ziba’s cup of tea, stewarding Mephibosheth’s land and property, never having any of it as his own, while Mephibosheth got to sit at the king’s table! Ziba believed himself better than that; he deserved to be the boss, not just Mephibosheth’s servant. And now that the nation was in turmoil Ziba thought he saw a chance to advance his fortunes, by currying the king’s favor and bad-mouthing Mephibosheth. Do you have a difficult time with your place in the world, in your family, in the church, at work, at school, etc.? Is there resentment? Do you look for ways to turn things around and be the boss? Now, there’s nothing wrong with clean ambition and climbing the ladder ethically and appropriately with the right spirit. But sometimes we face the same temptation as Ziba, to rise above those we resent by whatever means — currying favor with the boss and bad-mouthing our immediate boss, making him look bad.

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours —In order to spare his beloved Jerusalem, David took the battle away from it by leaving the city behind (an interesting lesson all by itself). But as David and his army were leaving a resentful relative of the late king Saul, Shemei by name, decided to heap insult upon injury by loudly cursing the king, throwing rocks (they still do stuff like that in the middle east), and throwing up dust as David and company retreated from his capital. One of David’s commanders was ready to kill him on the spot, but David forbade it. “What if God has told him to curse me?” David reasoned. David is pretty down. It was bad enough already, now it was even worse. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. But it also gets better. Life is a sine wave of ups and downs, and we need to remember this for times, when we’re in the midst of the downs — and the ups.

David’s humility — But this part of the story also provides a great contrast between David and Saul. Both Saul and David were humble men at the start, but as time wore on Saul lost his humility and grew in a spirit of entitlement. Conversely, David never displays a scintilla of possessiveness of the throne or hubris. On a scale of 1 to 10, if Saul is 1 and David is 10, where are you?

Textual notes — Having sex with David’s concubines: This wasn’t a mere act of lewdness. This was a clear claim to the throne; it was common for any conqueror in ancient times to take the queen or harem of his vanquished enemy — it said, “I am now the king.” Absalom is, because of Ahithophel’s advice, saying it loud and proud, “I am now the king; David is no longer the king.”

A friend in need — Barzillai was a man of wealth and influence who offered to David the comfort and supplies that he needed at a time when he really needed it. We all have been in similar need in our lives and know how appreciated it is, when a friend takes a stand to support or help or encourage you. Be a Barzillai to someone else; nothing will be more appreciated.

Joab, the loose cannon, again — We’ve touched on Joab’s disobedient character already. And here he kills David’s enemy, his son Absalom, despite David’s specific command not to do so. Joab’s anger and impulsiveness leaves a wake of death and destruction behind him. Be discerning, be thoughtful, good intentions can ruin a reputation and all the good that you might have done. “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.” Ecclesiastes 10:1, NAS95.

A parent’s heartbreaking, lament — Too many times, too many times have heartbroken parents moaned words like this, too late, over terrible mistakes and choices and sins that their teen or adult children have made. The time to do something about it had passed, the once pliable clay had hardened, and now sorrows were multiplying. Be a good parent now, talk with your kids now, apply appropriate discipline now, set the right example now, teach them God’s ways now — not later.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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