The Bible teaches that God is forgiving. The Lord is faithful and just to forgive sins because He is faithful to fulfill His promises concerning His judgment against sin. Mankind can be saved from the wrath of God because God is faithful to destroy the works of the devil Himself. People have the opportunity to receive forgiveness because the means by which God brought salvation was through the judgment of sin. Jesus’ death on the cross was not only the pinnacle of LOVE, but also God’s judgment upon sin. When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, the Lord promised that if he sinned, death would be the consequence. The wages of sin has always been death. God was always going to judge sin through death, and so to be fair God judged sin by death through the cross. We can be saved because God gracious; but God’s grace can be freely received because God is fair. He promised that the wages of sin is death so He took the form of flesh so that He could die and pay the debt that mankind could never pay off. He died so that we can live, and while the favor we receive is unmerited, the means by which God offers this favor is fair according to God’s own righteous standards.
This means God brings life out of fair judgment. Some will live on account of the suffering of others according to the judgment that is deserved based on God’s righteousness. This principle becomes complicated to understand from the human perspective because God works on an eternal plane. This means that God might be issuing judgment and making things equal and fair over a long period of time that may transcend generations, making the original sin or issue hard to recognize. In other words, today’s problems may exist because of yesterday’s mistakes. God may be equalizing things today because of unrighteous imbalances that occurred long ago. Though this might seem unfair to those who experience the hardships of God’s judgment concerning previous circumstances, it is important that God’s people not get caught up in the pain of the process of God’s work, but instead seek to learn from past mistakes and become participants in the work God does to bring justice.
The testimony of 2 Samuel 21:1-9 is a perfect example of this principle. This portion of scripture begins by explaining that towards the end of David’s rule as king, there was a three-year famine. The Bible doesn’t state the extent of the famine, but the severity of it does not appear to be horrific as in other portions of scripture since David took three years to inquire of the Lord about the famine. After the famine had gone on for three years, David sought the Lord to know why He was causing such a thing. Here it is helpful to see that David acknowledge God as the Author of their circumstances. David’s inquiry of God, even though it was late, shows that he trusted God’s sovereignty over all circumstances. He knew that God was responsible for the increase AND decrease of Israel as the Lord God Almighty. Thankfully, when David finally inquired of God, the Lord immediately responded, but His response can seem startling if one is not careful to consider the full context of God’s work.
When David inquired of God as to why the famine was taking place, God plainly stated that He was judging Israel on account of bloodshed that Saul had committed way before. Saul had died long before the famine, yet God was judging Saul. This makes God’s Word true that the effects of one’s sin can and will have an impact on the third and up to the fourth generation. This also shows that, no matter how much time passes, God will do the work that needs to be done to reckon things right and fair. No sin goes uncheck and unpunished, even if later generations receive the folly of such punishment. This should be taken as a STRONG WARNING to the people of today. Clearly the actions of today will have repercussions for the people of tomorrow. If we think we can sin against God today without consequence tomorrow, we are wrong. Next time we consciously consider sinning against the Lord, we should not only fear the consequence that will come to us, for Saul was certainly judged harshly for his own sin; but we should also consider how our denial of God will affect younger generations as well. Clearly our foolishness will have an impact on our children. This should be sufficient to keep the children of God from breaking God’s laws, statutes, commands, and rejecting His righteousness according to the standards of Jesus Christ!
While God’s judgment might seem unfair, it is important to consider how the context of the testimony shows that God’s judgment was successful to lead Israel to a place of restoration and justice. The perception of God’s injustice actually led to the place of peace, restoration and justice. God explained to David that He was judging Israel with a famine because “the bloodthirsty house of Saul” had killed many innocent Gibeonite people while Saul was alive. Here it is important to recall Biblical Israelite history. In Joshua Chapter 9, the Amorites had heard about the conquests of Israel and feared being destroyed like the other nations in Canaan. They tricked Joshua into thinking that they were from a far-away land, and convinced Joshua to make a peace treaty with them. Not knowing that they were actually from the land of Canaan, the people that God commanded to be destroyed, Joshua agreed to the peace treaty. He later found out that the Amorites were lying, but was committed in his oath. Thus, the children of Israel were restricted from causing any harm to the Amorites because of the oath that Joshua made. Yet, since they lied to Joshua, the Amorites were indebted to Israel as servants for the remainder of their existence. The Gibeonites were a remnant of the Amorites. This means that Saul had killed the very people that Joshua swore by the Lord to protect.
The Bible also explains why Saul killed these people. Though the Bible does not provide any other details in scripture regarding the event, the scriptures do state that Saul killed these people “in zeal.” This can be interpreted a number of different ways, and Bible scholars have speculated on many different ideas. While none of those proposals can be confirmed for sure, one thing is sure: Saul’s motivation was spurned by his flesh in zeal, not by the command of God. God would not have commanded His people to go against an oath made unto Him. No matter what Saul was trying to prove in his passion, he committed treachery against God by breaking an oath sworn to God, making it seem as if God is unfaithful to His promises. Additionally, it is important to recognize that when God explained why He brought the famine, He mentioned that Saul AND his household were “bloodthirsty.” This means that many of Saul’s descendants learned his violent and foolish temperament, and lived according to the same kind of sin. This was a problem in Israel that had yet to be fully dealt with. Though Saul and some of his sons died in battle, some of Saul’s “bloodthirsty” descendants remained, and the blood of the innocent Gibeonites had not yet been avenged by God.
This is why God brought the famine. The famine was not necessarily to judge the people of Israel, for each individual is responsible for their own sin. Rather, God used the famine to bring Israel’s attention to a sinful matter that had not been dealt with yet. Had God not brought the famine, David would not have inquired about the Lord concerning judgment. Had David not inquired the Lord about judgment, he would not have learned about the injustice done to the Gibeonites. Had David not learned about that injustice, he would not have had the opportunity to make things right and equal in the sight of the holy and righteous God. Thus, the famine was a good thing as a signal, bringing attention to a certain matter that God wanted to reconcile in righteousness. This is why it is good for the people of God to consult with Him to understand why certain trials might be taking place; seeking to know if God would want to deal with any specific issue in righteousness, no matter how distant the issue may seem. God may be using such an occasion to bring attention to issues that have yet to be dealt with, no matter how much time has passed. God is just, fair, and righteous. No matter how much time elapses, He is committed to making ALL things right. It is helpful to know which matter He is working on at any given time so that we can participate as instruments of righteousness, rather than sulk in bitterness, frustration, or depression.
Once David learned of the work God was doing, he immediately sought out the Gibeonites to see how they might want to see justice performed. The people of Gibeon did not seek silver or gold, showing that no matter how much money is given, it does not ever equal the value of life taken. The people of Gibeon also didn’t seek revenge in a wicked sense. If they were truly vengeful, they likely would have sought to kill members of Saul’s family long before David’s time as king. In fact, the restraint they showed in their request shows that they only sought to do as God would do. The people of Gibeon sought fairness, not vengeance. The Gibeonites asked David for the lives of seven of Saul’s descendants to be hanged in Gibeah – Saul’s hometown (seven being the number of complete, reflecting complete justice). They specifically requested to hang these people so that a message would be sent proclaiming the curse of Saul’s family on account of being “bloodthirsty,” since Deuteronomy 21:23 says that those hung on a tree are accursed of God. The reason that the Gibeonites sought to hang several members of Saul’s household was because God declared that it was Saul’s “household” that was bloodthirsty. So while it might seem unfair to punish the descendants of Saul for Saul’s previous treachery, the details of scripture clearly show that those people possessed the same wicked characteristics as Saul. The only condition that the Gibeonites had was that they did not want David to participate in the judgment. They wanted to ensure that David’s hands stood clean from further bloodshed, showing that their judgment was proposed with restraint, and in the manner that God would propose.
David agreed to the terms of the Gibeonites. He only had one condition of his own. He stated that the Gibeonites could not kill Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, since David had sworn an oath to protect Jonathan’s sons. Here it is clear to see that the justice of God is performed by ensuring all of God’s promises. God does not make things right by committing a wrong in some other place. David didn’t want to make one oath right by breaking another oath in another place. This characteristic is seen in the work of Jesus as the Messiah. He lived on this earth ensuring that every jot and tittle of the Law was fulfilled before giving Himself up as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. God did not judge sin by dismissing the proclamation of His own righteousness. He fulfilled every oath, even the ones He swore upon Himself. Jesus’ work on the cross is sufficient to atone for all sin to those who believe because God’s work to bring justice didn’t come at the expense of any other promises or oaths! Thus, David spared Mephibosheth, leaving seven other sons to be hung. The scriptures list these people, five of which were the sons of the daughter that Saul had promised to David as a wife, but later took back to give to another man. This shows that God was correcting a number of issues all at once, as only God can. The injustice that Saul committed in promising David a wife and then giving her to another man, was corrected as the children that were born of that unjust relationship were put on display as curses before God.
The Bible testifies that the Gibeonites hung these men on the first days of the barley harvest. This shows that God had removed the famine and opened up the gates of blessing upon Israel again, even before these injustices of Saul were made right. God’s blessings always come before mankind’s works of righteousness as gestures of God’s grace. The Gibeonites executed this justice on this particular day to honor God. The scriptures state three times that the people were hung “unto the Lord.” Their actions were not motivated by the flesh, but as offerings unto the Lord to correct issues that were wrong in Israel. God used the famine to bring attention to the matter, and David was diligent to respond to the issue, allowing the people of Gibeon to be reconciled back unto Israel as past bloodshed was avenged by God. The Gibeonites gave these people unto the Lord on the day that God exercised His authority to restore the crops, and thus, everything was put back into balance according to God’s righteousness at that time.
The typical way of human thinking in the modern world is that a title defines a person’s worth, ability, influence, and position. This is not true. The truth is, God is in charge no matter what title a person might have. There have been plenty of men and women throughout history that did not have favorable titles or positions of influence, and are considered heroes of faith because of the work that God did through them. For example, Rahab was a harlot. While she had a title, it was hardly one that a person might pursue to attain favorable influence. Yet Rahab was used as a critical instrument to lead the children of Israel into victory over the strong city of Jericho. Her position in life and title in life did not define how God would use her. The same could also be said of Pharaoh. He was a man that had a powerful title that made other people fear him. He had some of the greatest influence the world knew of at the time, and yet he was reduced to nothing because of God. No matter how much power his title might have attributed to him, in the end, it amounted to nothing. His position and title in life did not define how God used him.
Since this is true of all people, why do people chase titles and positions of influence over other men and women? Jesus used common men to leverage as His disciples. The Apostle Paul forsook his title and influence as a Pharisee to submit himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, the Jewish religious leaders had great power and influence over the children of Israel, but most of them were enemies of God living according to their own standards of righteousness defined by the titles and influence they made up for themselves. The Bible teaches that the time we spend chasing and working towards titles and positions of influence has absolutely no bearing in how the Lord will ultimately use His people. He is able and willing to use people with and without status and position in various ways, and since He is not a respecter of persons, the Lord’s will is always going to be done no matter how influential or accredited a person may or may not be.
This truth is illustrated through the testimony of Joab as documented in 2 Samuel 20:16-26. Joab was a man that was faithful to king David and a great servant to the army of Israel, but was also hungry for power, influence and control. He was diligent in his duty as a military leader. He was a great soldier and powerful warrior with amazing experience and plenty of victorious exploits. At the same time, Joab was a man that cherished his position and title more than the God who put him in those positions. The Bible shows that while Joab was used by the Lord to bring Israel great victories, he was often fonder of the glory he received as a general than he was for the grace God had shown the children of Israel in victory. Joab loved his job, but often lost sight of the God who gave it to him. Joab loved his position and title, but may have loved it more than the Lord Himself as illustrated by the means that Joab employed to keep his title.
The Bible explains that Joab served as the commander of Israel’s army from the time that David was anointed as king. Even before that, Joab was David’s right hand man when David was fleeing from Saul. Joab had stood by David’s side for many years, including his entire kingship. When many people deserted David, Joab stood by David’s side and remained faithful to the king. However, when David was seeking to reclaim the throne after the death of Absalom, David appointed his nephew Amasa as the commander of Israel’s army. David was not happy with Joab because Joab was responsible for the death of Absalom. Though Absalom was a wicked man that deserved death, David wanted to offer his son mercy despite his treachery. Joab disobeyed David’s commands, seeking to deliver his own brand of justice, and so was demoted in his position, and replaced by Amasa.
The Bible shows that Amasa wasn’t the greatest of commanders. He was coming into a tough position since Joab was the leader of Israel’s army for so long. The men weren’t as responsive to Amasa as they were to Joab as was illustrated when David told Amasa to quickly assemble Israel’s army, and Amasa could not do so in the time that David commanded. The Bible does not state that Amasa had much experience as a commander or military leader. The Bible does show that Israel’s army was more responsive to Joab and was not as willing to obey and follow Amasa. Joab recognized this. Though Joab was faithful to David, he was not supportive of the demotion that David gave to him. Joab did not like being replaced by Amasa. Though Joab still had the opportunity to fight on behalf of the Lord’s army in Israel, he did not have his previous position and was angry about that. Joab sought to take matters into his own hands and killed Amasa. Joab killed Amasa in front of his men and the men that were obedient to Amasa, and did so without shame. The scriptures explain that the men of Israel’s army immediately embraced Joab as the commander again, and the men continued in their original mission to pursue the man Sheba who was stirring up a rebellion against King David among the ten northern tribes of Israel.
As Joab pursued Sheba, they came to a city called Abel. The city of Abel was a peaceful city in which many wise people lived. When Joab entered the city, he was sought out by a woman that the Bible describes as a wise woman. Hearing about the violent reputation of Joab, she wanted to meet him and intercede on behalf of the people of her town. When she met with Joab she explained that her city was peaceful and was a city that people often went to in order to seek wisdom from the inhabitants in order to address their life issues. She pleaded with Joab to show restraint and refrain from tearing down the city in the course of their mission. She pleaded with Joab to keep from swallowing up the inheritance of Israel through the course of his mission, knowing Joab to be a man that indulged in violence.
When Joab heard the woman’s plea, he agreed. He informed the woman that he was not there to stir up trouble in the city or burn it to the ground. Though he was violent as part of his job, he was willing to show restraint and agreed to spare the people of the city. He informed the woman that he was merely seeking out an individual named Sheba because he was trying to lead a rebellion against King David. The woman understood the situation and agreed to help in order to keep the circumstances from being bloodier than they needed to be. She told Joab to keep his eye on a wall, and assured him that in time, Sheba’s head would be thrown over the wall. In other words, she vowed to seek out Sheba if he was in the city, and bring justice to him herself. The scriptures state that the woman exercised her wisdom, inquired of every person in the city and eventually found Sheba. The people cut off Sheba’s head according to the promise of the woman, and gave it to Joab as proof that justice had been served.
Here it is critical to realize how the Lord brought justice against the rebellion of Sheba. The Lord used a woman with wisdom and a group of people who lived in peace to restore peace in Israel. The Lord used the wisdom of a woman without a title, whose name is not even mentioned in the scriptures, to bring justice against the man that sought to rebel against the Lord’s anointed. God did not even use Joab. God did not use anyone in Israel’s army. Though Joab was so adamant to possess his title as commander, his title didn’t have any use in the mission to bring Sheba to justice. Joab killed a man to take his title back and that title meant absolutely nothing in the work that God did to end the rebellion in Israel. Joab was willing to resort to violence against his own countrymen to get what he wanted and when he received what he wanted, it did nothing for him. The job he felt his title enabled him in was completed by a nameless wise woman. What good did the title do? What good did his actions do? How much did his title accomplish?
To make matters worse, the Bible explains that Joab was continually embraced and restored as Israel’s commander. The problem is that King David accepted Joab’s restoration despite the means that Joab employed to take his title back. David didn’t administrate any form of discipline whatsoever. David didn’t chasten Joab in any sort of way. He just let his fleshly desire for influence, power, and position be an acceptable standard in Israel as of titles were important among the people of God. This was not true before, was not true at the time of David, and has not been true since.
There are many people who criticize God for the bad things that happen in the world. When tragedy strikes, many seek the opportunity to blame God. When people are taken advantage of, people often take the opportunity to blame God. There are plenty of people out in the world that try to blame God for the things that they don’t like in life. However, the problem is that most of these people are individuals who do not seek God. How can one blame God for being absent in a situation if one never pursued God to begin with? How can one blame God when God does not meet one’s personal expectation when one spends one’s life rejecting God and ignoring Him? The scriptures show plenty of examples of the tragedies that inevitably take place when God’s people ignore Him. The Bible shows that when God is absented in the decisions and actions of His people, bad stuff takes place. The scriptures never show God commanding His people to pursue personal increase to satisfy certain greedy and selfish desires. Yet the scriptures do show that when people deny the Lord to do these things, people get hurt and bad things happen.
Such was the case in the testimony of 2 Samuel 20:4-15. In this portion of scripture, the Bible shows that David appointed Amasa his nephew, and the new general of Israel’s army, to quickly assemble men to pursue Sheba, a man that was stirring up a rebellion against David in Israel. When David returned to Jerusalem, he appointed Amasa as the general of Israel’s army in place of Joab. Though the scriptures do not specifically mention why David did such a thing, the scriptures do show that Joab was not accepting of the king’s decision. Joab was a faithful servant of David, sent to do all of the things that David desired, even the dirty work of David such as when he was told to have Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. Joab was violent, but a well-seasoned and faithful fighter that had great relationships with the men who fought for David. Joab was their leader, and while they were obedient to accept David’s appointment of Amasa, they were ultimately loyal to Joab, regardless of the treachery that Joab would employ to get his way.
Amasa struggled with the first set of commands that David gave to him. David knew that Sheba’s actions could pose a greater danger to the people of Israel than Absalom’s. David knew that Sheba had to be stopped. David knew that the more time Sheba had, the more dangerous he would become. So, David knew he had to respond quickly and with purpose in order to put a stop to the division that was taking place in Israel. Therefore, when David commanded Amasa to assemble men to pursue Sheba, he told Amasa to do so quickly, giving him three days-worth of time to complete the task. Amasa could not get the work done in the time that David gave. Amasa took too long, and David knowing the risk involved, called to Abishai, the second in command, and had him gather the chief mighty men of Judah to pursue Sheba. Amasa could not handle the workload in the time provided so that David had to move forward with another plan.
Abishai, having a great deal of experience, was able to do as David commanded in the time that David desired. He assembled the mighty men of Judah that had fought together with David for many years. Among those men was Joab. Though he was no longer the general, he responded to his brother’s call (Abishai was Joab’s brother), and went out to pursue Sheba as David commanded. While they were waiting at a meeting point before officially beginning their pursuit of Sheba, Amasa came upon the men. Abishai had gathered his men to a large stone marker in Gibeon and Amasa eventually made his way to the same place a little later. When Joab saw that Amasa arrived late, ill-equipped, yet with the authority from David that he desired, he made an effort to make things right according to his own reasoning. He intentionally changed the sheath of his sword so that his sword was loose inside. He intentionally repositioned the sword to face forward while riding out to meet Amasa so that the sword would lean forward. The sword then inevitably fell out of its sheath as Joab rode towards Amasa to greet him. This was Joab’s plan all along. He felt that if it appeared his sword fell out by accident, Amasa would not suspect any ill-will from Joab. Joab’s plan was successful. When his sword fell out by “accident,” he picked it up and carried it with him while he went to greet Amasa, seemingly in friendly fashion. Joab embraced Amasa to greet him with a kiss, and in the process, drove his sword into the heart of Amasa.
Amasa was driven through by the sword of his own man because this man wanted the authority that the king had given to Amasa. Joab exercised deception and treachery to kill Amasa in front of everyone. He had no shame. He had no remorse. Joab didn’t care about the king’s appointment. Joab didn’t care about the risk of further dividing Israel while they were supposed to be pursuing Sheba. Joab didn’t consider the consequences that might have taken place if the men that Amasa brought to fight responded against Joab and the loyal supporters that he had. If Joab had considered the consequences, he conducted himself in a manner that reveals he didn’t care about the consequences. He did what he wanted to do in order to take what he wanted to possess. A man died in the process, and witnesses were forced in a tough position.
The Bible testifies that after Joab killed Amasa, he resumed his position as general of Judah’s army. The men that he had fought with in the past embraced him so that things were as the way they were when Joab was leading them when David was king commanding victories over the Philistines long before. Once again, Joab had taken justice into his own hands, and once again, he was seemingly able to get away with it. The men were just as loyal to Joab as they were to David, and when Joab made himself leader again, they were happy to oblige. The men united with Joab and made preparations to carry on with the mission that David commanded, and began their pursuit of Sheba. Meanwhile, the men that had arrived with Amasa were left to make a decision. Would they follow Joab as the rest of the mighty men, or would they stand loyal to Amasa as David appointed him general? The scriptures state that the men that arrived with Amasa were startled at first. Seeing Amasa with his entrails leaking out of his body from the single wound that Joab delivered had the men frozen in their tracks. However, an unnamed man went and moved the body of Amasa, put a sheet over him, and the people were then willing to unite to pursue Sheba under Joab’s command. The people essentially took the evidence of Joab’s wrong, moved it to the side, covered it up, and moved forward as if it never took place.
There are people that look at these sorts of testimonies and point accusing fingers at God. However, it is important to recognize that the absence of God in the testimony is the reason that the testimony is filled with violent tragedy and evil. God never commanded Joab to desire authority in the manner that he did. God never commanded Joab to kill Amasa to take what he wanted. God never commanded the people to allow Joab to do whatever he wanted without consequence. God never commanded the people to just take the evidence of evil, move it to the side, and cover it up. In fact, when one understands the things that God DID command, one will see that God’s commands are opposite the actions of those involved in this testimony. God commands selflessness and humility, not selfish pursuits to increase and improve self. God commands people to abstain from murder. God commands people to abstain from coveting. God commands people to punish sin and deal with it so as to remove it from the presence of His people. God commands His people to be holy as He is holy, not accepting of sin or trying to cover it up in deception. When people deny God and His righteousness according to His word, tragedies like that of 2 Samuel 20:4-15 are often great possibilities, if not inevitabilities.
The Bible explains that serving the Lord is all about serving His people. The problem for God’s people though is that we don’t necessarily know who God’s people really are. The scriptures teach that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked so that we struggle even to know our own hearts. This doesn’t mean that the Lord won’t provide assurance of our salvation; but if we can’t fully understand our own hearts and motives, how can we know and understand the hearts of others to know whether or not they are truly God’s people? In fact, the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John both wrote about how they were linked up with some people for a time in ministry, only to be betrayed much later, discovering that not everyone who says they are of Christ is really of Christ. Consider Judas Iscariot and how he was able to convince the other eleven disciples that he was a true friend and disciple of Jesus. Since it is clear that we as people cannot really identify God’s people, then we must endeavor to serve all people and let the Lord sort things out as we go. Jesus did not just serve the needs of a few. The Bible states plainly that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world, not just believers. Though it is only believers that enjoy the benefits of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, Jesus gave Himself for everyone, whether they were for Him or against Him – and being God in flesh, He DID know the hearts of all, and died on their behalf anyway, even while we were all still yet sinners.
This is the model that God’s people are supposed to follow. This is the way God’s people are supposed to spend their time. We are to focus on addressing the needs of others, seeking opportunities to spiritually increase those around us by pointing them to the Lord Jesus through humility, selflessness, compassion, mercy, grace, and love. According to the Apostle James, this service must take place without partiality. This means that our service unto others cannot be with the expectation to receive something back in return. Our service unto others must be with the motive to genuinely increase their spiritual, physical, mental, or emotional condition. When Jesus ministered on the earth, He was often found helping those who could not help His ministry in response. He sought out the blind and lame, those who were destitute, those who were outcasts and despised by the popular crowds, and even children. The scriptures state that “true and undefiled religion” is helping widows and the fatherless. This doesn’t mean that all “religious” service should be focused on literal widows and orphans. Instead, it is important to recognize that neither widows or orphans were in positions to provide increase back then. The idea is to help those who cannot provide any help in return, which matches the same ideas communicated in the Old Testament for the children of Israel to compassionately receive widows, the fatherless, and foreigners since they were once in a similar spiritual condition, but God reached out to help them.
As God communicated His desire for His people to act like He does towards people in pitiful conditions in the Old Testament, it is important to recognize that there were people who demonstrated the characteristics of Christ long before He was born into flesh in this world. For example, in 2 Samuel 20:3 the Bible explains that King David demonstrated the characteristics of Jesus in this area. Recall that when Absalom, David’s evil son, chased his father out of Jerusalem in order to kill him and usurp the throne of Israel, Absalom violated his father’s household. The scriptures testify that when David left his home to flee his son, he left ten women in his home to take care of his home while he was gone. He left ten of his concubines to tend to his household affairs while he was absent. While David was gone, Absalom followed an evil suggestion to move into David’s home and take his concubines as his own. The Bible explains that Absalom went into David’s home and violated David’s concubines, breaking the commands of God. Absalom destroyed any chance of restoration with his father by doing this, and did so publicly before all of Israel. Absalom brought great shame to those women and scared them for life in the midst of his pursuit for greatness.
After Absalom was killed and David moved back into Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 20:3 explains that David made it a priority to restore these women and address their needs. Though Israel was divided over where the king should dwell, David worked to serve the needs of these shamed women. Though the man Sheba was making a mess of Israel, leading yet another rebellion against David’s kingship, David sought to address and serve the needs of those women. The restoration of those women would not have provided any benefit to the kingdom of Israel, or even David’s personal reputation. Nevertheless, when David returned home, one of the first things that he did was gather those violated women, put them in seclusion so as to remove them from public shame, and continued to support them all until the days of their death. He didn’t seek to cast them away as damaged goods. He received no personal gain from his work of service. These women would have been despised and looked at with scorn by the rest of Israel, but David took it upon himself to show compassion and meet their needs in such a way so as to remove the shame of their condition. This is what it is to serve the Lord by serving His people.
The Bible teaches that a little leaven, leavens the whole lump. This teaching uses a culinary principle to teach a pretty compelling spiritual principle. A leavening agent like yeast is necessary in order to make bread rise. However, the amount of leaven that is necessary to make a whole loaf of bread rise is very little. You don’t need to use the same amount of yeast as you do flour. A general rule of thumb is that it only takes about a teaspoon and a half to raise three cups of flour. This means that a little leaven has a very profound effect on the substance that its mixed with. Paul used this concept to teach an important lesson about sin in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7. He said there that a little leaven leavens the whole lump, meaning that a little bit of sin amongst one person in a congregation can infect the entire congregation like leaven does with flour. Paul repeated this point to the Galatians as well.
There is another principle that goes along with this idea; that bad company corrupts good morals. Good morals are good until bad company joins along, and like leaven affects the whole lump, a little bad company infects good morals. This illustration is made clear in real life through the testimony of King David and the issues he had to deal with when he was making an effort to resume the kingship in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 20:1-2 the Bible explains that while most of the children of Israel embraced David as king and were excited to receive him back in Jerusalem, there was one man that became cancerous to God’s will and caused a great division. The scriptures testify that the then northern tribes of Israel were in opposition against the two southern tribes of Israel. Since David was a man of the tribe of Judah, they made efforts to receive him, not just as Israel’s king and an Israeli kinsman, but as a blood relative. David had not shown the people of Judah partiality or extra favor in any sort of way, but the ten northern tribes of Israel objected to David dwelling in Judah. They never gave a basis as to why they were opposed to David dwelling in Judah, and never offered a reasonable alternative, but objected to Judah’s actions nonetheless. They were jealous, greedy, and opinionated to the extent of division.
A man named Sheba took advantage of the quarrel that happened between the tribes. The scriptures testify that this man was a troublemaker. The scriptures actually refer to him as a rebel, and in the King James Version of the Bible, call him a “man of Belial.” The phrase “man of Belial” is a strong phrase in the Hebrew culture. It refers to a man that is not rebellious to a generic subject or person, but rebellious to God Himself! Belial was a false god that pagans worshiped. It was a god that promoted the philosophy of indulging in the flesh. Thus, a “man of Belial” was a man that sought to indulge in the flesh, according to the false religious teachings of Belial. These people were not followers of God, nor His commandments. These people were despisers of God and His righteousness. They were greedy, selfish, and self-righteous. This is the way that the Bible describes Sheba.
The Bible testifies that Sheba started to complain about David living in Judah. Of the people that griped among the ten norther tribes of Israel, Sheba seems to have been the loudest. The scriptures teach that as a “man of Belial,” he not only despised his brethren in Judah, but also the inheritance of God. Sheba began to tell people that David was not an important man worth quarreling about. He told the people of the ten northern tribes that since David was a man of Judah, he, as well as the rest of the ten northern tribes, didn’t have a connection or relationship with David or Judah. He was basically stating that the ten northern tribes weren’t part of Judah so didn’t need to be concerned with the affairs and inheritance of Judah. Sheba didn’t care about the work that God proclaimed He would do for Israel through the tribe of Judah. Sheba didn’t care about the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that would be fulfilled through the tribe of Judah. Sheba wanted to disconnect himself and disassociate himself from Judah out of spite and jealousy.
Sheba communicated his wicked attitude to many people in Israel so that it became infectious. Many people began to take his side. The Bible explains that eventually all of the ten northern tribes rejected David as king in Israel because he was ruling from Jerusalem. Though the people of Judah remained loyal to David, the rest of the ten northern tribes rejected David and followed the rebellion of one foolish man. They too were quickly despising the inheritance of God that was promised to flow to all of Israel through Judah. They too were willing to separate from God’s promises and the means by which He would fulfill them.
Here it is important to note an incredible effect that took place. The scriptures explain that when David was received into Jerusalem, all of Judah and half of the northern ten tribes embraced David when he crossed over the Jordan River. In contrast, when Sheba began to protest and complain, all of the people of the ten northern tribes despised Judah and David’s rule. Notice that the entire united tribe of Judah was sufficient only to compel half of Israel to embrace David with enthusiasm while it only took one man to sway all of the northern tribes to despise Israel. It is clearly much easier to sway people unto evil than it is to influence good. The Bible clearly shows that it only takes one bad apple to ruin a whole bunch. It only took one man to ruin the work that the whole tribe of Judah was able to do for only half of the people.
This is why the scriptures command the people of God to be extremely careful about whom we keep company with, and how we speak among others. If a little leaven indeed leavens the whole lump, it is important to be aware of one’s attitude and words to ensure that one is not being used as leaven to sway more people away from the fellowship of the Lord in godliness. Likewise, one must be vigilant and aware of the attitudes, words, and conduct of others in one’s environment. If there are people who despise the promises of God and try to propose “better ways” that exclude God’s will, one must quickly flee lest one become corrupted from just a little leaven. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome that they should be wise concerning what is good, but simple concerning what is evil. In other words, the people of God don’t need to be educated in any of the ways of evil since it doesn’t take much evil to cause a whole lot of damage. History confirms this as concept as true!
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the early church was the selflessness that dominated the attitudes of the people. When the early church heard the testimony of Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah of Israel, they were filled with the Holy Spirit to the extent that their affection for worldly things and selfish ambitions quickly began to change. It is not as if the people of the church didn’t struggle with the flesh and personal desires, but the momentum of the church’s growth was largely founded on the selfless attitudes of the people. The scriptures testify that the people were “of one accord.” The word used in the original language was a word often used in a musical context. It paints the image of many musicians playing different instruments in harmony with one another according to the leadership of the conductor. In case of the early church, the instruments were the various people of different backgrounds and dialects, the conductor was the Holy Spirit, and the song being played pertained to the praises of God on account of the fulfillment of His promises through Jesus Christ! This is how the church is “supposed” to operate. The people had no problem in selling their possessions, making everything in common with one another so that no one was in need, because the primary concern of each and every person was the distribution of the Gospel. The testimony of Jesus Christ needed to be spread and this task was paramount! Therefore, the church was willing to do whatever it took to get the job done, knowing that the results would bear eternal fruit unto the glory of God.
On the other hand, the New Testament epistles often exhort the young churches that came within the first generation of believers to abstain from selfish ambition, greed, backbiting, gossips, and other personal issues that were disruptive to the unifying work of the Holy Spirit. These warnings and exhortations are given so often because people are people. It doesn’t take long for a person that was high on the Holy Spirit one minute, to think in purely selfish ways the next minute, and this was true of the churches back then as well. People have opinions. People have their own ideas. People have their own unique desires, and often times, these desires don’t line up with the unique desires of the person next to them. This is why Jesus commanded that those who desire to follow Him must first die to self by denying personal ambition. When personal ambition is involved amongst God’s people, the Lord is no longer the one directing the orchestra. People begin to play their own songs, and the result is not a beautiful harmonious masterpiece. Instead, the church resembles an orchestra playing different songs at different times, at different tempos, with different purposes. It is pure noise that the scriptures identify as division.
Division is an ugly thing among the people of God; especially since God’s desire is to be one with His people. As the Father is one with the Son, the Father desires to be one with His people through His Son. This can only take place when His people are “of one accord” seeking the Lord Jesus as the priority in life. When personal preference and desire supersedes one’s desire to follow the selfless and humble example of Christ, division is right around the corner. This has always been true among God’s people. This is not true of the church only. For example, in 2 Samuel 19:40-43 the scriptures show that, though God was restoring the children of Israel according to His intents and purposes, the personal ambitions and opinions of the people became cancerous to the unifying work that God desired. The scriptures explain that when David crossed over the Jordan River to make his way back home to Jerusalem, he took the man Chimham with him according to the promise he made to Barzillai. However, Chimham was not the only person that accompanied David back to Jerusalem. The Bible testifies that David had a massive group of people that desired to escort David back to the place he belonged. The scriptures declare that all of the people of Judah and half of the people of Israel assembled together to escort and receive David as king in Jerusalem. It was likely a wonderful sight to see so many people a part of the restorative work of God.
However, it did not take long for the people of Israel to corrupt the work God was doing. The Bible explains that as David made his way back to Jerusalem, some of the people in Israel (the northern ten tribes) found a reason to complain. Here it is important to recognize that when people find reasons to complain concerning the restoration work of the Lord, the flesh has officially made an appearance, requiring immediate repentance! Such complaints fester among God’s people to cause opposition concerning opinions, at which point division will take place in some manner later in time. This was the case in 2 Samuel 19:40-43. The people of the northern ten tribes complained to the people of Judah, asking why David was being taken to Jerusalem, which is in the region of Judah. They didn’t like the fact that David was the king of all Israel, but was dwelling among the people of Judah. The people of Israel didn’t propose another solution that might have been fairer; they just criticized the people of Judah as if they had it in their minds to hoard David to themselves, depriving the rest of Israel as their king. The assumption of the people of Israel was foolish and their attitudes were wicked. There was nothing about David’s history, nor the history of the people of Judah, that suggested David would be kept from being accessible to the northern ten tribes. Nevertheless, those people expressed their opinions, their selfish ambitions, and complained.
When one person or group of people expresses an opinion against another person or group of people, that will inevitably lead to division and spite as the other person/group will try to defend or justify their position. This inevitably leads to a “back-and-forth” petty quarrel that causes emotions to flare up into something bigger if left unchecked by humility, repentance, mercy, and forgiveness. This is exactly what happened upon David’s arrival in Jerusalem. When the people of Judah heard the opinions and preferences of the people of Israel, they immediately took the “opportunity” to defend themselves so as to explain why David was being taken to Jerusalem. The people of Judah explained that David was from the tribe of Judah. His family lived in Judah. The people of Judah were the people that David grew up with. They also explained that, though they were David’s relatives, they were not seeking special favor from David as king, and David was not treating them with any sort of partiality – especially at the expense of the rest of Israel.
When Judah responded to explain these things, Israel proceeded to have a rebuttal. This went on and on because the people of Judah would not let up. They were provoked by the people of Israel and would not stop with fierce words towards their brethren in the north. This led to division so that people were forced to take sides. The “half” of Israel that was united with Judah to welcome David would soon respond against those same people later. It is important to recognize that the people of Israel that first complained about David’s dwelling had no basis for their complaint. They made an assumption about another group of people, and coupled that false assumption with selfish motives. Those two things sparked an opinion that was stated bluntly, which caused friction against those they addressed. The people of the northern tribes were not in the mindset of selflessness and humility when they complained. The people of the northern tribes were not seeking to please the Lord in their accusations against and harsh tone towards their brethren of Judah. As a result, Israel was divided and the unifying work that God sought to do was not fully enjoyed and realized.
The priorities of God’s people can be seen in how they spend their time, money, and other resources. If someone claims to be a Christian and desires to serve the Lord, those people will usually take advantage of opportunities to do so according to the patterns of scripture if their proclamations are true. While many people make verbal claims about how they want to serve the Lord and be committed to Him, there are few that actually undertake the lifestyle of God’s servant according to the patterns of scripture. While there are many “volunteers” that will periodically show up to help with various church tasks, the scriptures explain that a “servant of the Lord Jesus” is one that considers themselves to be “bondservants.” These men and women were individuals that gave up all of their rights and opportunities in this life to ensure the distribution of the Gospel. These men and women were individuals that stored treasures in heaven so were willing to part with treasures on this earth. These men and women were individuals that invested their time into knowing the Lord according to the scriptures because they genuinely desired to be connected to God. These men and women were individuals that invested into the distribution of the Gospel by sharing their possessions with those in need, and financially supporting those who went out as preachers and teachers. These men and women didn’t have to explain that they desired to serve the Lord. The things they did and the reasons they did them were sufficient evidence to prove where their hearts were, and how they were aligned with the desires of God and His eternal purposes.
The testimony of King David shows that his great reputation and influence was on account of many men and women that surrounded David in this type of way. David had many people throughout his life that loved the Lord and expressed that affection for God’s will by taking care of David because they believed God’s will was for David to rule as the king of Israel. The Lord frequently brought men like Jonathan (King Saul’s son) into David’s life to help him in times of need. While God desired to exalt David as the true king of Israel, He also desired to use many of His people to prop David up into the position that He ordained. The testimony of 2 Samuel 19:31-39 reveals that a man named Barzillai was another one of these individuals that served the Lord with everything he had by taking care of the Lord’s people in ways that facilitated the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises. The scriptures explain that when David made efforts to return back to his home in Jerusalem after fleeing for his life to the wilderness, many people in Judah sought to meet David to embrace and receive him as the true king of Israel. David was met by Shimei who had previously received David’s mercy and sought the opportunity to repent and receive David’s forgiveness for previous misconduct. David was met by Mephibosheth as Mephibosheth sought to express his joy for David taking his rightful place as king from Jerusalem according to God’s will. Lastly, David was met by a man named Barzillai who sought to live his last breaths expressing his trust in the Lord that David should be king.
The scriptures explain that Barzillai was an eighty-year old man. Though David was making efforts to leave the wilderness and cross the Jordan River back into the region of Judah, this eighty-year old man desired to escort David back into his homeland. While Barzillai was an old man, the Bible also testifies that he was a very wealthy man. The reason that Barzillai was so determined to escort David back into Judah was because Barzillai had been a longtime financial supporter of David. When David fled into the wilderness with his people to run from the threats of Absalom, Barzillai provided David with supplies and food. Though Absalom was successful in swaying many of the hearts of the people in Israel to his wicked cause, Barzillai was not one of those men. Barzillai was a man that desired for David to be king according to God’s will, and expressed that desire by helping David in the way that God permitted him. God gave Barzillai lots of money and resources, so he used them to take care of God’s people in their times of need so that they could be equipped to do the jobs that God appointed for them. Though the church was not “born” until the Day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2, the testimony of 2 Samuel 19:31-39 shows that some of the people still conducted themselves in a manner that paralleled the movement of the Holy Spirit that day.
When Barzillai showed up to receive David, the scriptures state that David was touched and humbled. He saw this eighty-year old man that was not in great shape, struggling to endure the demands of crossing the Jordan River because he wanted to be involved in the work God was doing to restore David back to the throne of Israel. Truly this was a man whose heart was centered on these types of things, not the things of the world, seeking comforts and greater wealth. Seeing this, David told Barzillai that he would ensure Barzillai a place in Jerusalem. David was essentially offering Barzillai an opportunity to sit at the king’s table in a place of honor since he was so helpful for so long. However, while David’s offer was honorable, Barzillai declined. He explained to David that he didn’t have much longer to live and desired to return to his hometown and die in peace in the town of his family. David obliged of course, yet the physical condition of Barzillai and his understanding of his shortening life make his efforts that much more compelling. Barzillai was so committed to helping David and welcoming him as the king according to God’s will that he desired to spend his last free breaths making the physical effort to do so. This is a true servant whose heart is stayed on the things of the Lord!
Barzillai continued to exemplify a selfless servant of the Lord. Since the king made an honorable offer that Barzillai was physically unable to receive, Barzillai asked David to give that honor to a man that was likely his son; a man named Chimham. Barzillai introduced Chimham as a servant of David’s, explaining that Chimham would be equally as committed to David and God’s will concerning David as Barzillai was. When David heard the request, he was excited to fulfill Barzillai’s dying wish and took Chimham with him into Jerusalem. The scriptures show that, while many have some version of a “bucket list,” Barzillai’s bucket list was written for the benefit of others. He exerted himself physically to benefit King David. He exerted himself financially for the benefit of King David. When others tried to bless him in ways that he was unable to receive, he didn’t let the blessing go to waste, but ensured others were imparted a blessing. While the testimony of Barzillai is short, it is profound as an example to show the mindset and heart-felt commitment to the things of the Lord that a true servant of the Lord should have. Barzillai is not often mentioned as a hero of faith as David is, but Barzillai was used by God to promote the will of God concerning David because he gave everything he had to God’s purposes!
The Lord will often put His people in positions to test their hearts, providing the opportunity to show where their greater affection is. Do we have a greater affection for God, or the things He provides? Do we worship the Creator or the things He created? Do we praise the Provider, or the substance of provision? Do we glory in the Giver or in the material things that He gives? The Bible calls for the people of God to be spiritually-minded. Though the Lord does provide for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of His people, the essence of His goodness is spiritual. Yes it is true that God sustains His people physically, but only for a time so that He can regenerate His people spiritually, equipping His people with new bodies according to the likeness of His own eternally glorious image! The Bible implores God’s people to keep these things in perspective. While God is good to provide the things we need and then some, this is not the essence of His goodness. The essence of His goodness resides within His own attributes. He is good because He is holy. He is good because He is righteous. He is good because He is just. He is good because He is merciful. He is good because He is gracious. He is good because He is LOVE.
The truth is, God’s people are supposed to recognize these things so that whether we are abounding in opportunities or resources or abased with very little, God is our constant, and He is always eternally awesome! Our desires should not be based on receiving the “things” God gives, but in receiving God Himself, who died for us and gave Himself to us. Whether circumstances change for the better or worse, the Lord is to be our Rock and our foundation; our strong tower and our shepherd. The testimony of Mephibosheth provides an EXCELLENT example of what our faith should look like today. In 2 Samuel 19:24-30 the Bible explains how Mephibosheth dealt with the difficulties of his life and the gracious offer that King David extended to him. The testimony of Mephibosheth reveals how a true lover of God should feel concerning His will and fleshly desires.
The testimony begins as King David made efforts to go back to Jerusalem to reestablish himself as the king of Israel. The people of Judah were making efforts to receive David and were unified in their desire for him as king. As the people prepared to embrace David, Mephibosheth went to meet David before he was able to get to his home. Recall that Mephibosheth was the last remaining son of King Saul. He was a handicapped man that had issues with his legs, which required him to have a caregiver. His caregiver’s name was Ziba. Before David left Jerusalem to flee from Absalom, David had swore to Mephibosheth that he would take care of him. David ensured that Saul’s possessions were given to Mephibosheth as his inheritance, but in order to honor Saul as the past king of Israel, David took Mephibosheth into his own home to eat meals, permitting him to sit at the king’s table to dine.
Additionally, David appointed Ziba as the chief servant of Mephibosheth’s household. Ziba was in charge of everything and had authority over all of Mephibosheth’s own home. Everything was in order and well received. Mephibosheth enjoyed the provision that David provided, and embraced the opportunity to dine with the king. Ziba was honored to watch over Mephibosheth’s household and be included in his inheritance to a large degree. However, the circumstances dramatically changed when David fled from Jerusalem in fear of his life. While David was camping in the wilderness to keep from Absalom, Ziba sought out David to deceive him in hopes to increase his own selfish desires. Ziba lied to David saying that in David’s absence, Mephibosheth was making efforts to take the kingship of Israel back unto the family of Saul, proclaiming that Mephibosheth was jealous and figured the kingship was supposed to stay within the tribe of Benjamin, and specifically within the bloodline of Saul. This was not true. Mephibosheth never expressed this desire, but because David didn’t make efforts to validate Ziba’s claim, David responded impulsively in his flesh and took the inheritance of Mephibosheth and gave it all to Ziba. This is what Ziba wanted all along. Ziba left King David with contentment as he basically stole the inheritance of a crippled man he was appointed to serve. Mephibosheth on the other hand was left with nothing.
When Mephibosheth approached King David, it was to address this very matter. However, Mephibosheth did not seek to address the matter of the material possessions in his inheritance. When Mephibosheth spoke with David, he wanted to ensure David of his integrity. He told David that he never desired to take David’s kingship. He explained to David that Ziba deceived him in order to steal the inheritance. When David learned this he felt really bad. David immediately sought to make things right and told Mephibosheth to split the inheritance with Ziba as they had previously. However, Mephibosheth denied the inheritance. He didn’t care about the possession. He didn’t care about the riches. He didn’t care about the stuff and things that came with the land and household. Therefore, Mephibosheth told David that Ziba, since he wanted it so badly that he lied in order to attain it, could keep it all.
Mephibosheth then went on to explain the truth of his understanding concerning God’s work through David. He confessed that David was like “the angel of God.” In other words, Mephibosheth recognized that David was God’s unique tool to do an incredible work in Israel. Mephibosheth didn’t care for his possessions nearly as much as he cared about David serving as Israel’s king from the place that God appointed. Mephibosheth confessed that he was deeply humbled when his whole family died but David took him in and invited him to dine with him on a regular basis. Thus, Mephibosheth stated the following to King David:
“For all my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king. Yet you set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore, what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king?”
In other words, Mephibosheth understood that he had already received an abundant and excessive amount of blessing in the past from David. The mere opportunity to be embraced by David and fellowship with him as the king was satisfying to Mephibosheth considering his shameful and pitiful position. Mephibosheth was the recipient of grace from the king, and that was good enough for him. Since the distribution of the inheritance was causing drama, he was willing to let it go, being content and satisfied with his relationship to the king of Israel. Mephibosheth took more joy in seeing David reign as the king of Israel from his home in Jerusalem than his own personal increase. Mephibosheth took greater joy in seeing the will of God fulfilled more than his own wealth expand.
This is how the attitudes of God’s people should be. The people of God should recognize the position of pity and shame that we existed in before we were able to freely enjoy fellowship with the King of kings and Lord of lords on account of His grace. The people of God should find more value in the intimacy of the relationship we have with the Lord in fellowship more than the personal increase of our selfish desires. The children of God should value a connection to God more than possession of stuff. After all, what right do we have to cry out to the Messiah King of Israel for more based on how much He’s already given us? Jesus, our Messiah Savior has given us free access to the glory and majesty of Himself as God! He has proclaimed the offer that as He stands at the door and knocks, He promises to answer the door in order to fulfill His desire to dine with those who desire Him. The point is that God’s people should desire God, not only the things He gives or the opportunities He provides. Sure, God’s goodness is communicated in the gift of salvation, which is based on forgiveness of sins and eternal life; but the Lord forgives sins and grants eternal life so that we can enjoy His essence for all of eternity. The kingdom of God is not good because of the stuff that is there. The kingdom of God is good because Jesus is there, ruling in the place that He should, administrating His goodness by the excess of His own awesome attributes. As Mephibosheth was content, satisfied and excited mostly by the idea of the king of Israel ruling from the place that was appointed to him as an instrument of God according to His promises, the children of God should be content, satisfied, and excited mostly by the idea of Jesus ruling and reigning over all things according to His eternally unconditional promises.
The Bible teaches that the Lord desires mercy and not sacrifice. It is important to understand why the Lord desires mercy. The Lord expects His people to act mercifully towards others because the Lord delights in mercy, and His essence is mercy. The scriptures explain that His mercies are renewed daily. The foundation of salvation is built on the rock of Jesus Christ, but the core of that rock is mercy. The Bible explains that while believers are commanded to approach the throne of grace with boldness, one will first find mercy when one gets there. If God is not merciful, then none have the opportunity to be saved. God is slow to anger, not delivering the punishment and judgment that all people deserve as transgressors against His righteousness. He doesn’t give people what all people deserve, and while He patiently endures human failure, we as God’s children are afforded the time to hear the truth, receive the truth, repent in truth, and walk according to the truth of Jesus Christ. Since this is the means by which God saved us, this is the means by which He uses us to save others. Thus, the command to show mercy is an opportunity, not burdensome obligation.
Since our own salvation was built on the premise of mercy, then the Lord has proved the type of miraculous work that He can do with mercy. Mercy facilitates forgiveness, which is sufficient to raise the dead, making people spiritually whole in the Lord, restoring that which sin, death, and hell seek to destroy. An example of this truth is seen in the testimony of King David. The Bible explains that David had an opportunity to show mercy to a man named Shimei while Absalom was pursuing David. Shimei was a descendant of King Saul and was offended by David taking over the kingship. In his mind, the kingship of Israel should have remained in the line of Saul and in the tribe of Benjamin. God had different plans and Shimei was unaware of those plans. Therefore, Shimei sought the opportunity to insult and curse David while Absalom chased David. When David and his men were traveling in the wilderness, Shimei would follow them from the other side of the cliffs and hurl rocks and David and his men, essentially saying that Absalom was right to try and kill David. Shimei’s insults and curses against David grew so intense that one of David’s men named Abishai offered to shut Shimei up by cutting off his head. David commanded Abishai to stand down, admitting that the Lord was using Shimei as an instrument to test patience. David recognized that he did not have the authority to deal harshly with the people God was using to refine and test his own faith; but instead admitted that God would see David’s suffering and have compassion on him, trusting that the Lord would reward David’s patience later. Though David could have had Shimei killed, he deferred, practiced patience, and offered mercy.
Later after Absalom was killed in battle and David was able to make efforts to go back home to Jerusalem to be restored as king of Israel, the Bible documents the fruit of David’s mercy towards Shimei. First, the scriptures explain that the people were divided and lost without David as king. The people did not have the leader that God appointed to them leading them, so the scriptures explain that the people quickly divided against one another, seeking to live in isolation, independently, and individually. The people of Israel were not unified as one great nation as God had promised because they were without the leader that God appointed. This teaches a very important Biblical principle: without the Lord’s anointed, God’s people are scattered, divided, weak, and afraid. The Lord has appointed shepherds, especially “the Good Shepherd” to lead His people. If those shepherds don’t lead according to the leadership of the Good Shepherd, God’s people are scattered, divided, weak, and afraid. The temperature of the church’s strength is directly related to the leadership of the church itself. If the man that leads is not leading according to the commands of the Son of Man, then the people will be lost.
As the people quarreled with one another, some of them recognized the need for David and realized the mistake that was made when they received Absalom as king instead of David. They were so quick to receive Absalom as king though he was an unproven leader, a liar, a murderer, and a schemer. David on the other hand was faithful to Israel. Though he once made efforts to fight against his own people on the side of the Philistines, the Lord prohibited him from doing so. The people recalled how David was a faithful servant to Israel, delivering them from many enemies, including the Philistines. They knew they were wrong to let him flee and were ready to receive him back as the true king of Israel – as God’s true anointed.
As these things were taking place, David began making efforts to go back home to re-assume his authority in Jerusalem. He first called out to the priests – Zadok and Abiathar – the two men who had helped him spy out Absalom while Absalom was conspiring against David. David called out to them inquiring as to why they did not immediately reach out to David to restore him as king once word got out that Absalom was dead. Apparently some time had transpired after Absalom’s death so that the priests were content with no leadership in Israel though the people were scattering without direction. According to David, Zadok and Abiathar were the last to respond to David when he announced he was going back to Jerusalem. They were not immediately ready and excited to receive him as they had grown content in their position without leadership.
To get the people fired up and excited about his return, David made a political decision with the army of Israel. David appointed a man named Amasa as the commander of Israel’s army. Though Joab was still the man that operated in that position, David’s move was successful to unite Israel. David’s efforts were strategically beneficial to unite Israel, though this appointment would cause friction later on. This shows that David was willing to undergo the difficulty of making decisions that would not be received by everyone in order to promote the bigger picture concerning God’s purposes and promises. In David’s eyes, it was worth Joab’s anger to unite Israel according to God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible testifies that as a result of David’s return to Jerusalem, correspondence to the priests, and appointment of Amasa as commander, the people of Judah were united so that they were “swayed just as the hear of one man.”
As Israel was unified and prepared to receive their king, Shimei went out to meet David first as he moved to cross the Jordan River. Shimei was compelled to seek David out before everyone else in order that he could express remorse for his previous conduct and seek forgiveness from David. Though Shimei had previously cursed David as the king, David’s resilience to persevere in the Lord compelled Shimei to relent in his wicked position and embrace David as the king of Israel. Shimei humbled himself before David, apologized for his previous conduct, and asked David not to impute any iniquity upon him. At that moment, Abishai encouraged David to ignore Shimei’s words and have him executed for his previous insults. Clearly Abishai was not a man of compassion and mercy. David once more commanded Abishai to stand down and offered forgiveness to Shimei. David swore that he would not cause harm to Shimei or his family and fully restored him unto his household and embraced him as a fellow countryman of Israel.
Here it is critical to recognize that David’s first offer of mercy facilitated the restoration of Shimei. Shimei was a man living in hate and resentment. He despised David as the king and his heart was against God’s will for David to be king. In essence, Shimei was an enemy of God despising God’s anointed, God’s purposes, and God’s promises that were to come from David. However, when Shimei lashed out against David and David offered the hand of mercy to Shimei, David afforded Shimei the time to sober up. David’s mercy allowed Shimei to recognize that his heart was wrong so that when Israel was preparing to embrace David, Shimei desired to be a leader in that embrace. The mercy that David offered was received so that Shimei had the time to recognize his wrongdoing, seek forgiveness in humility, and be restored by the king. This testimony is a microcosm of how our salvation works. While the Lord offers us mercy though we curse Him, it affords us the time to recognize our wrongdoing, humbly seek the King of kings to be forgiven, at which time He promises to fully restore us unto His kingdom! Thus, while the testimony of David and Shimei provides a picture of salvation, it is also an illustration that mercy promotes salvation and restoration!
The Bible teaches that God’s people are to be light in the world. Jesus commanded His followers to let their light so shine before men so that they may see the good works done according to His example, and glorify the Father. However, this does not mean that God’s people are simply supposed to do things seen in the Bible but with poor attitudes. If God’s people are like shining lights, and the world is a dark and dying world, then the world will see the quality of light that shines through God’s people to know if it is dim or bright, flickering or constant, dirty or brilliant. This means that, while God’s people are supposed to do good works that demonstrate faith in Jesus Christ, God’s people are also supposed to do them with the attitude that Jesus had. The people of God are to endure the difficulty of works of faith, trusting in the outcome that God will provide. God’s people are called to look past the hardships and sufferings that come with serving the Lord and recognize the benefits of the outcome of God’s work like Jesus did.
When God’s people focus on the difficulty of circumstances rather than the benefits of God’s work, believers can have poor attitudes, which can be contagious to those around them. As lights in the dark world, the quality of light that God’s people show will have an effect on those in the surrounding area. God has made it so that His people have great influence on those around us. That influence might not always be warmly received, but the influence is real nonetheless. This means that, when we walk into a room where there is tension, we have the opportunity to lighten the tension by our attitudes, reflecting the light of Jesus Christ. Likewise, when we walk into a room being miserable and difficult, we can change the dynamics of the environment for the worse, bringing others down with us. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to our attitudes and how we are carrying ourselves. Are we sulking over the difficulty of life, or rejoicing in anticipation of the outcome of God’s work?
King David showed how powerful the wrong type of attitude can be. In 2 Samuel 19:1-7 the Bible explains that David was mourning the loss of his son Absalom. Absalom had been killed in a battle that he organized in order to steal the throne and rule of Israel from David. Absalom was a liar, a backbiter, a murderer, a traitor, and a tool of the devil to divide Israel against the king that God appointed for them. Absalom was an enemy of God and was rightly judged on the battlefield. God ensured that Absalom reaped what he sowed. Though Joab was wrong to disobey the orders of his king by killing Absalom, it was good that Absalom and the rebellion he led were destroyed. The sin that Absalom lived in and perpetuated had been purged from Israel so that God could move forward towards the fulfillment of the promises He made to Israel through David.
The victory over Absalom not only meant the destruction of a terrible man, but also the opportunity to re-unify Israel. Most of Israel had sided with Absalom, but now that David’s men had been victorious, the children of Israel only had one man to follow – David. As such, David would have been able to move back into Jerusalem, lead the people as he had in the past, and brought peace into the land where there had been conflict and division. However, David’s response to the death of his son actually stimulated more division and chaos. The scriptures explain that David really grieved the death of his son. While one might find it hard to imagine the difficulty of loosing a child, it was not as if David’s loss was accidental and unprovoked. Absalom was not an innocent man. He was a wicked man that had offended God and broke His Law many times over, never seeking repentance. Though it would have been hard to deal with the loss of his son, David was too focused on the difficulty of the loss, forgetting that Absalom’s death was the work of God’s hand to bring justice. This doesn’t mean that David should have thrown a party over the death of his son, but David should have made a better effort to recognize the benefits of God’s work rather than sulking in the difficulty of God’s work.
The Bible testifies that David went around crying out loud, “Absalom my son! O, my son Absalom!” This confused and discouraged the people. They knew Absalom to be a wicked man. They knew Absalom was seeking to kill King David, yet King David was mourning the loss of the man that sought his life. The people knew that King David could be restored back to his home, but they saw King David crying over the man that stole his home. The Bible states that this made the people grieve as well. While God had brought a great victory, the people did not celebrate for long. Seeing David in his mourning, the people turned from victory into mourning. The scriptures state that God desires to take our mourning into victory, and yet David had led the people into a contrary state.
Joab recognized what was happening and sought to put an end to the misery. The Bible explains that Joab pulled David aside and explained to him how the effects of his attitude were cancerous amongst the people. Joab pointed out that David’s attitude was having an infectious effect so that the people were not rejoicing over God’s work, but sulking with David in his misery. The people were no longer looking to the benefits of God’s work, but were focused on David’s sadness. Joab pointed out that David’s sadness had been so contagious that it disgraced all of Israel. Joab even pointed out to David that the people had the sense that if Absalom had lived, but all of Israel died, that David would have been satisfied. David didn’t argue the point, showing that it was likely true. Joab pointed out that David had lost perspective of God, His work, His purpose, and David’s own duty. David was called to lead the people into the joy of the Lord according to God’s promises. Yet David had indirectly led the people into chaos, depression, and division just by his attitude. Choosing to forget the true nature of his son and overly grieve the loss of an evil man, David allowed his flesh to ignore the glory of God’s sovereignty that had brought restoration back to Israel. Rather than unify Israel, David was dividing them.
Joab pointed out that David needed to change his attitude immediately. He assured David that if he did not change his attitude and lead the people in joy over the great work that God had done, the people would depart in depression and follow David no longer. They would have seen weakness and ineffectiveness in David’s leadership. The people would not have seen a man anointed by God to do the work of God according to the power of God. The people would only remember the pitiful sight of a father mourning over the loss of a terrible and wicked son that caused havoc in all of Israel. While Joab had his flaws and often thought that he knew how to fix everything, he was spot on in this case. David’s attitude was infectious as the king of Israel so that a poor attitude caused dismay amongst all of God’s people. This should be a clear warning to all of God’s people that when we decide to ignore the glory and majesty of God’s work and the outcome of it in order to focus on the difficulties of life, people take notice, and are affected by that attitude so that bitterness, chaos, and division are the result.