Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” ~2 Samuel 16:12
We arrive at another low in the life of David, the ideal king. His son, Absalom, has successfully won the hearts of many Israelites. He is young, handsome, and charming, and he spends four years working on the sly to gain a following. Absalom sets himself up as king in another city as he prepares to launch an invasion into Jerusalem. Ever the strategist, David sizes up the situation, recognizes that he can’t hold the city, and decides to flee. This maneuver saves his life and the lives of loyal subjects. It also saves the capital city, its infrastructure and citizens, from destruction. As a side benefit of sorts, fleeing insures that David will only be surrounded by his most ardent supporters. The men who “are ready to do whatever the king chooses” include Ittai and his 600 Philistine fighters, who choose to stay at David’s side rather than win their freedom; Ziba, the former steward in King Saul’s house, who waits on the far side of the Mount of Olives with much needed supplies for the beleaguered ruler; and Zadok and Hushai, who enter Absalom’s court as spies for the rightful king (2 Sam. 15:15).
However, there are those who take advantage of the situation. Shimei, a clansman of Saul’s family, runs alongside the king’s procession hurling stones and insults, cursing as David rides out of the city with his mighty men. But when one of the king’s guards asks permission to remove Shimei’s head, David’s heart for God is revealed once again. “Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will repay me good for the cursing I am receiving today” (2 Sam. 16:11-12). David puts his trust in God at this moment! The king is not saying that God approves of Shimei’s sinful words, but he does recognize that God is sovereign, even over the sinful deeds of others.
John Calvin (d. 1564) cited this very passage, among others, in his classic work of practical theology, Institutes of the Christian Religion. He writes: “Those who ascribe just praise to God’s omnipotence may safely rest in the protection of him to whose will are subject all the harmful things which, whatever their source, we may fear; whose authority curbs Satan with all his furies and his whole equipage; and upon whose nod depends whatever opposes our welfare” (Institutes, 1.16.3). Not even Shimei could curse unless God allowed it. And so David trusts God. In so doing, he refuses to get even and throws himself on God’s mercy. He would rather be the wronged than be the wrongdoer. He knows that, in time, God will bring justice.
Perhaps you have been horribly wronged, and you feel that you have only a few devoted friends to stand by you. David’s encounter with Shimei is a reminder to trust God. The curses of madmen are not somehow outside of the purview of His providence. He is still sovereign, even over the Shimeis of this world! The Judge of all the earth will do what is right (Gen. 18:25). Trust Him, pray to Him, ask for justice, do what is right, and watch the Lord work in marvelous ways on your behalf (Luke 18:1-8).