When You're Attacked (II Samuel 16:1-14; 19:16-30)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 16:1–16:14
Crying for a King
When You’re Attacked
II Samuel 16:1-14; 19:16-30
(One Mission: Through Many Tribulations)
January 26th, 2014
I. God’s Anointed Under Attack
As we come to God’s word this morning, we need to look back to our last time together and remember what we learned. We saw in chapter 15 that God’s anointed is under attack. Absalom the son of David is attempting to overthrow his father, the king. Now, as we’ve talked about on several occasions, we know that this revolt is the result of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and the subsequent plot to kill her husband, Uriah. The prophet Nathan had announced God’s punishment, and now it was coming to pass.
But we have to remember that David is still God’s anointed king. God said nothing to David through Nathan about being rejected, like Saul had been rejected by God for his chronic disobedience. And if you recall from the last half of I Samuel, part of what set David apart as a man after God’s own heart (cf. I Samuel 13:14) was that he would not attack Saul, even when Saul was attacking him. David knew that Saul was God’s anointed king, and as such, it was up to God to remove him from the throne. David’s trusted in God’s way and God’s day for Saul removal and his ascension to the thone.
But that’s not what we see here, is it? Absalom has not been chosen as king, and yet, he dares to attack God’s anointed king. Even though God is using Absalom to fulfill His word against David, Absalom is still acting from arrogance and greed. And thus, he too will come under judgment.
As followers of Christ, we should live every day in light of the fact that God’s Anointed king came under attack. But I’m not talking about David. I’m talking about Jesus, the far-off son of David. A thousand years after David the messiah (anointed one), Jesus the Messiah was also attacked in Jerusalem. But unlike David, His suffering was not a result of His own sin. His suffered for our sins. But nevertheless, Jesus’ suffering was also part of God’s plan. This is how the first followers made the connection. Listen to their prayer…
“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,  who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:24-28)
So let’s keep this connection in mind as we think about what God has for us in the passages I’d like us to look at this morning. Turn with me II Samuel 16.
II. The Passage: “And Let Him Curse” (16:1-14; 19:16-30)
Now, you may remember from last time that David has fled Jerusalem in light of an imminent attack from Absalom and the sizeable army that his son has put together. Last week we listened to three conversations that David has he made his way out of Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley to the east of Jerusalem, and up the Mount of Olives, as he and his followers headed for the Jordan River.
As we’ll see this morning, David actually has five encounters on his trip eastward. So why did we separate the first three encounters from the two we will see this morning? Well, I think we’ll see the difference between those meetings and these meetings as we work through these verses. With that being said, look with me at the first four verses of chapter 16.
A. Ziba Provides as David Flees (16:1-4)
This is what we read about David as he continues to flee from Absalom…
When David had passed a little beyond the summit [that is, the summit of the Mount of Olives], Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of donkeys saddled, bearing two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine.  And the king said to Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king's household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who faint in the wilderness to drink.”  And the king said, “And where is your master's son?” Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he remains in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father.’”  Then the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” And Ziba said, “I pay homage; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.”
Now, we met Mephibosheth and Ziba back in chapter 9. You may recall that Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s son and King Saul’s grandson, and one of the only surviving male offspring from Saul’s family. Ziba, on the other hand, had been one of Saul’s servants. While Mephibosheth had been injured and paralyzed as a child, and had been taken far to the north for his own safety, it appears that after Saul’s death Ziba had been put in charge of Saul’s holdings.
But as we saw in chapter 9, David, to honor the memory of his friend Jonathan, wanted to show kindness to any survivors from Saul’s house. When he discovered Mephibosheth, he ended up transferring all of Saul’s holdings over to Mephibosheth and making Ziba and his sons the servants of Mephibosheth. This is why David’s first question in verse 2 is, “Why have YOU brought these?” David must know these much need provisions are for him and his followers. I think his question has to do with Ziba’s motivation. I think David’s follow-up question in verse 3 makes this clear: “Where is Mephiboseth?”
Now, Ziba has given David and us, the readers, an explanation for his actions. At this point, we can’t be sure what has really happened with Mephibosheth, and Ziba’s true motives. But nevertheless, David acts quickly in response to Ziba’s story and Ziba’s support. As we see from verse 4, he ends up giving Saul’s holdings backs to Ziba.
B. Shimei Persecutes as David Flees (16:5-14)
Let’s look at who David meets next on his journey toward the Jordan River. Verses 5-14…
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually.  And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.  And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!  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. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”  Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”  And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to.  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.”  So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust.  And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.
Obviously, this man Shimei is clear and direct in terms of his feelings about King David. As we read in verse 5, this man is one of Saul’s relatives, and therefore, probably blames David for the deaths of Ishbosheth (one of Saul’s sons) and Abner (Saul’s general). Maybe he also believes that somehow David is ultimately responsible for Saul’s death as well.
But notice that Shimei has a theological perspective as well. He rightly sees Absalom’s revolt as God’s punishment against David, but for him, it is punishment connected to the suffering of Saul’s household. But David also has a theological perspective. Ironically, it is Abishai, David’s nephew and the brother of the man who killed Abner, it is Abishai who wants to punish Shimei for his cursing. But David is clearly thinking about how God might be at work in all this, and he would rather wait than wade into the waters of further violence.
We read in verse 14 that David’s entourage finally completes the 21 miles journey from Jerusalem to the Jordan. Understandably, everyone is exhausted, I’m guessing both physically and emotionally.
C. Shimei Prostrates as David Returns (19:16-23)
Okay, let’s break some rules and skip ahead in the story to II Samuel 19, verse 16. Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! David DOES eventually make it back to Jerusalem. Absalom’s attack against God’s anointed fails, and after a number of weeks, maybe months, David is on his way back. What’s interesting is how the author, as we will see, includes a second set of encounters on David’s journey to Jerusalem, encounters that mirror these meetings we just looked at, as David journeyed from Jerusalem. Look for example at 19:16…
And 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 the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan before the king,  and they crossed the ford to bring over the king's household and to do his pleasure. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan,  and said to 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.”  Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD's anointed?”  But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?”  And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.
You can just imagine what Shimei must have been thinking when he heard that Absalom’s coup attempt failed, and that David was on his way back to Jerusalem. He probably wasted no time knocking on doors and explaining his situation to the thousand other Benjamites that he brings with him according to verse 17. He probably begged all of them them in the same way he begged for David’s forgiveness.
And of course, here’s Abishai again, wanting to punish Shimei for his insolence. Now, let’s be clear: Abishai is not wrong for wanting to defend God’s anointed king. Ultimately, to curse God’s anointed is to curse God himself. Therefore, Shimei’s pride and hatefulness deserves a strong response. But David knows politically it is time for reconciliation, not reprisals. So in verse 23, David promised Shimei that he would not die. But we know this is a simplified version of what he actually said. How do we know that? Well listen to David in I Kings 2:8…
And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ (I Kings 2:8)
There’s the full version of his oath. And if you look at the wording there, it is simply a promise that DAVID would not kill him. But that didn’t mean the next king, Solomon, could not deal with Shimei’s sin. Read I Kings 2 and you can discover how Solomon would later deal with Shimei the son of Gera.
D. Mephibosheth Pleads as David Returns (19:24-30)
But there’s another ‘mirrored’ encounter in this chapter. Look at verse 24…
And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety.  And when he came to Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?”  He answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me, for your servant said to him, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go with the king.’ For your servant is lame.  He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you.  For all my father's house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?”  And the king said to him, “Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.”  And Mephibosheth said to the king, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.”
So even though Ziba is mentioned in this chapter, in verse 17, the second ‘mirrored’ encounter is this meeting between David and Mephibosheth. And as we see here, clearly Mephibosheth presents us with a totally different explanation for what happened when David left Jerusalem. According to Mephibosheth, he didn’t stay in the city with delusions of grandeur. No, he was left in the city by Ziba, who deliberately went to David with a mouth full of lies about Mephibosheth.
Now, I think the author has left us with some intentional ambiguity. On the whole, Mephibosheth’s story makes more sense, since he would have to be delusional to think Absalom’s revolt was somehow going to lead to him becoming the next king on Saul’s throne. AND Ziba does come across as a greedy manipulator who has a score to settle with Mephibosheth. But we can’t be sure. And obviously neither can David. That’s why he simply divides Saul’s holdings between the two men.
III. Learning from the King’s Faith
So let’s go back to the issue we started with this morning: God’s Anointed king under attack. Clearly, David’s biggest threat was Absalom. But seeing both sides of these stories, the stories of Ziba, Shimei, and Mephibosheth, we know that David was attacked, even as he fled from Absalom’s attack. David was most likely manipulated, and he was most definitely maligned and mocked. This is why these two encounters should be separated from the ‘in flight’ meetings we read about in chapter 15.
But did you notice the other connection between these two meetings? All of these encounters were connected in some way to Saul. Remember, Ziba was Saul’s servant, Shimei was Saul’s relative, and Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson. Why is that important? Well, because it shows us that after his foolish foray onto the path of greed and lust and deception and murder, David is coming back to his former faith in God’s will for his life. Once again, David is on the run in the wilderness. Once again, David is under attack from the house of Saul. But he does not resort to violence. He waits. He watches. He trusts.
Maybe this morning, God is calling you back to a former faith. Maybe you’ve also strayed from that path of trust; a trust that was once so strong. David’s journey is such a beautiful picture of God’s mercy and that humble faith, even as we deal with the consequences of our sin.
But there’s something else here. I think God has also wants us to learn from David’s example here, specifically David’s example of what you should do when you’re attacked.
As we see here, we can be attacked in many ways, sometimes aggressively, verbally or physically, and sometimes passive-aggressively, through manipulation or indifference. I’m sure you can think of instances of when you’ve been attacked or at least felt attacked. Let me give you five things I think we can take from this passage, as we connect some of what we see here with the rest of God’s word.
1. When you're attacked, know who is attacking you.
David was so upset about Absalom’s attack, that he failed to be discerning about Ziba’s story. The only explanation for David transferring all of Saul’s holdings over to Ziba is that David was emotionally off balance. He didn’t even wait to hear Mephibosheth’s side of the story, and according to chapter 9, Mephibosheth was someone who ate at his table all the time. Having been hurt by his son’s betrayal, David was vulnerable to Ziba’s deception.
We can also fall into a similar trap when we are not careful to think about our own hearts. It’s hard to not let emotions get in the driver’s seat when we’re attacked, but we need to ask God for a clear head in times like that. But this leads directly to point number two…
2. When you're attacked, don't rush to judgment.
Like David, when we are emotionally vulnerable, we can be emotionally manipulated. And when we are emotionally manipulated, we can make rash decisions in response. But remember what God teaches is in Proverbs chapters 15 and 17:
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (Proverbs 15:28)
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. (Proverbs 17:27)
James, the half-brother of Jesus gives us similar advice:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19)
But when we look at David’s encounter with Shimei, I think we’re reminded that…
3. When you're attacked, remember your own sin.
As we see from David’s response to Abishai and to all his servants in verse 11, he is well aware of why he is fleeing from Jerusalem. His response to Shimei’s insolence is tempered by the reality of his own insolence before God, how he despised God and his word in taking Bathsheba and killing Uriah.
There’s a great verse from Ecclesiastes 7 that touches on this same kind of humility:
Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)
Stay humble when you feel like you’re being attacked. See the person, not first as an enemy, but as a fellow slave of sin. When you do that, it is much easier to desire God’s best for that person, rather than getting defensive and vindictive. It is much easier to see that person’s need for forgiveness when you are thinking about the forgiveness you’ve received from God.
4. When you're attacked, look for what God may be doing.
I love the way that David is so transparent in terms of looking for God’s hand in his situation. How many of us, when attacked, even viscously like this, how many of us stop and ask God for His perspective on what’s happening? As you seek Him, in light of His word, He may give you perspective on the other person’s heart, or, He may remind you of how He is at work, for our good, in all of our sufferings. Remember what the Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter…
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:6-7)
David might not have known what Yahweh was doing in the encounter with Shimei, but he knew that Yahweh was IN it; or we could say, he know God was OVER it. Do you see how God is over your life, even over the really hard stuff? And as Peter reminds us here, God is over it in order to refine us and bring himself “praise and glory and honor”.
5. When you're attacked, turn the other cheek.
What David does with Shimei is the very thing we have been taught to do by David’s far-off son. Remember what Jesus said…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
You see, David chose not to respond to Shimei for several reasons: first, because of his uncertainty about God’s plan, and secondly, for political reasons. But Jesus does not give us what we deserve for our sins, not because He was uncertain of God’s plan. No, it was because He knew God’s plan and came to fulfill it. And it was because of His love for Shimeis like us.
And those are the very things that should motivate us when we’re attacked. The gospel calls us to live in light of the King’s example…King Jesus that is. May our responses when attacked point back to Jesus, and God’s merciful and gracious response through Him, even mercy and grace for us, who are guilty of attacking the High King of Heaven.