Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Colonnade and shops in Bath, England

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 9, 1 Sam 16-18

Today's readings are 2 Sam 16-18.

David’s own son has risen up against him. He is on the run, hoping to avoid bloodshed and further turmoil in the family. Now, making matters even more tense, two accusations arise concerning David’s treatment of Saul.

The first takes place between David and Ziba, Mephibosheth's servant. Ziba shows up with gifts for David and his men (2 Sam 16:1). David asks a few pointed questions which Ziba does not directly answer claiming Mephibosheth has stayed behind, hoping what was once Saul's would be restored to him (2 Sam 16:2-3). In other words, Ziba claims Mephibosheth is betraying David's earlier generosity toward him because he is Jonathan's son. Being an heir of Saul, Mephibosheth hopes to regain what was taken from Saul, or so Ziba claims. For whatever reason, David decides to believe Ziba and, without bothering to verify Ziba's claims, gives him all that belongs to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 16:4).

Shortly after Ziba's appearance, another of Saul’s relatives begins to follow the retinue, accusing David of having done wrong regarding Saul (2 Sam 16:5-14). The man, Shimei, claims to be speaking for the Lord, but his abusive language and hostile actions seem to indicate otherwise. David insists on leaving the man alone, confident that time will tell if Shimei is correct.

These two incidents show the inner turmoil David is enduring. In Ziba’s case, David seems so eager to identify those who are loyal to him, he readily accepts the idea that Mephibosheth has betrayed him. Concerning Shimei, David is patient and hesitant to retaliate, leaving things in the hands of the Lord. All David wants to do at this point is make it to the other side of the Jordan which is presented as an area of safety.

It’s easy to make hasty decisions when we’re under pressure. The text does not show David as taking time to pray about either of these men, one with gifts, the other an antagonist. There are times when we can be so desperate for our ordeal to end that we make less than prudent decisions that may have consequences further down the road.

There’s more to glean from these two incidents. The contrast between Ziba and Shimei is startling. Ziba ingratiates himself to David; Shimei harshly accuses David. Both are wrong, but only to a degree. In a very real way, regardless of various motivations and very human inclinations, David errs on the side of grace in both cases, leaving the ultimate fate of both in God's hands.

Loyalty seems to be the recurring theme in these episodes in David’s life. Between all the tension and subterfuge, the reader is left trying to figure out who is loyal to who and, more importantly, who will be loyal to God. Keep in mind that this all started with David’s act of disobedience in his affair with Bathsheba. David repented with a contrite heart from that sin. Now it seems God is allowing David to undergo a series of harsh trials. Why? Is David being punished for his sin? Is God testing David’s repentance for authenticity? No! As we will see, God is refining David. David’s stumble with Bathsheba reveals that he is not yet perfect and needs heart work. As David continues to learn to depend on God, God perseveres in bringing David closer by using every circumstance in his life.

Hushai, who remains loyal to David, infiltrates Absalom's inner circle and becomes an adviser as does the evil Ahithophel, who some think is the likely grandfather to Bathsheba. Ahithophel's advice to Absalom leads to one of Nathan's prophecies (2 Sam 12:11) over David being fulfilled as Absalom publicly lies with David's wives (2 Sam 16:15-23).

Hushai manages to save David by advising Absalom to postpone an attack on David. We hear that this decision to wait will ultimately doom Absalom (2 Sam 17:1-14). In yet another display of God's sovereignty, the outcome of the battle between Absalom and David is determined before it ever begins.

When the fighting ensues, Joab, contrary to David's orders, maliciously kills a helpless Absalom (2 Sam 18:1-18). David, the king, has won a major victory! David, the father, grieves woefully over the loss of his son, even though Absalom had betrayed him (2 Sam 18:19-33). David, even though he sometimes makes questionable decisions, remains an exemplar of God's grace and mercy. 

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