Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“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.” ~2 Samuel 19:14-15
David once again proves his political savvy when he shrewdly “asks” the elders of Jerusalem to invite him to return to the City of David as the rightful king. Of course he could have marched right into the city, but he wants to put the elders in a difficult position. He forces them to support him publicly. David also promises one of Absalom’s commanders a military position, presumably to gain the loyalty of the soldiers under his command.
Once the king’s show of strength is under way, the political posturing begins. Shimei, the man who cursed David as he fled, meets him, hat in hand, with a large greeting party. He offers to provide any assistance David needs on his return journey. He also apologizes profusely for his inappropriate behavior. Later, David must decide between the contradictory stories of Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, and his servant, Ziba, regarding the reason Mephibosheth did not join the king in exile.
What becomes apparent in today’s reading is that David handles himself wisely and gracefully in victory. He is not naïve to all the posturing that is taking place. He doesn’t trust Shimei (see 1 Kings 2:8-10), but he refuses to give him what he deserves. Moreover, king concedes a compromise in the case of Mephibosheth and Ziba, albeit one that suggests he trusts neither man.
Not all of the men confronting David are doing so through conversation and flattery. The firebrand, Sheba, tries to take advantage of the fact that the capital is temporarily king-less. His head is removed and his rebellion is scotched. David does what he has to do to return to his rightful throne, but he is not ruthless. He will not be bamboozled, but he will show benevolence! He is king, but he is kind.
How we handle ourselves in victory is as important as how we handle ourselves in defeat. When God blesses us with success, we can be glad without gloating. We can show kindness to those who have wronged us without being hopelessly naïve. In fact, kindness is always in order. If we love only those who love us, we are no better than pagans (Matt. 5:47). Even they do that! David stands as an example of courage and benevolence. He is truly a man after God’s own heart, a model for all of us who come behind him.