Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #154

#154 "All In Good Time"
July 1, 2008
"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," (Deut. 32: 35) says the Lord." (Romans 12: 19)
Maybe because of some things that have happened in my life over the last few months, I was really drawn to a portion of Scripture tucked away in the book of 2 Samuel. I've never heard this passage preached by anyone before, and as many times as I've probably read it, I have no recollection of these words. God is awesome like that...revealing His right now word for the right now time. No wonder they say His ways are perfect!
2 Samuel 16: 5-14 tells the story of a man named Shimei, the son of Gera, from the clan of Saul's family. Not a name you've heard often, right? You don't find his name in the popular Bible stories, but his tale is a powerful one nonetheless. I pray that you will find comfort for today, or tuck it away for some future time when you encounter a Shimei situation of your own.
King David was met by Shimei when he reached Bahurim in his flight from Jerusalem, in the days when Absalom rebelled against him. Shimei ran along the ridge opposite David, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at him and his companions. He taunted David with false accusations. Researching this account today I was taken aback when I found out what Shimei's insults actually meant in the current vernacular. He called the king "a man of Belial or a man of blood."  It means "You are a good-for-nothing."
There are Shimei's in our own lives who run right alongside of us in life, yelling curses, throwing stones, and flinging dirt our way. They tell us that we're "no good, good-for-nothings". They falsely accuse. Let's look first at what the "man after God's own heart" did in response to his Shimei, and then I'll show you a couple more exciting things.
Abishai, David's bodyguard, begged the king to let him decapitate Shimei, but David said no. The king knew who the real King was. And He knew that God was sovereign. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, David believed that it was by God's permission that Shimei treated him in this hateful manner. His friends didn't see it that way. They knew that cursing the king was a capital offense (Psalm 105: 15) and they sought Shimei's death. But David believed that if he did not return evil for evil, God would one day repay him for his obedience. He saw Shimei as an instrument of God and believed that God would one day bring vindication. But for now, Shimei could continue cursing and throwing stones and showering him with dirt. Josephus said, "[David] went on his way without troubling himself with Shimei." The passage reads "...David and his men continued along the road...and arrived at their destination." Bless God! They arrived "exhausted", but you know what my friend? They arrived.
It can be exhausting when your Shimei is running right along side of you. You feel pain from the curses. You get some bruises from the stones. But if you do as David did and "not trouble yourself with Shimei" and continue along the road...you may arrive dirty and exhausted....but you'll arrive!
End of the story? I thought so when I first read it, but later I found out that this wasn't the end of the Shimei situation. Not by a long shot! (See 2 Samuel 19: 16-23) After the death of Absalom, the people of Judah invited David to come and rule over them and sent a delegation to the Jordan River to meet him and help him cross over. Lo and behold, who do you think came as part of the delegation? None other than Shimei. I think that he had to do some quick thinking because the king was coming and would surely remember Shimei's disrespect and despicable behavior, and punish him. He falls to the floor and begs the king for forgiveness. In his own words: "For I your servant (all of a sudden!) know that I have sinned (ya think!), but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king (pouring it on pretty thick)."   
Again, Abishai wants Shimei's head, but David grants mercy once more and vows that Shimei shall not die. And speaking of Joseph....I can't help but think of another situation where unjust harm had been done to a person and grace and mercy were granted in place of punishment. Remember when Joseph's brothers came to him after having thrown him into a pit and selling him into slavery? They begged for forgiveness and wanted to be Joseph's slaves. "But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Joseph provided for his brothers and their families, reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (See Genesis 50: 15-21)
There may come a day when your Shimei may come to you and ask forgiveness or need your help. Will you show them mercy and grace or will you exact revenge and cut off their head? What did Joseph do? What did David do? What will YOU do?
End of the story? Not quite yet. (See 1 Kings 2: 8-9) Before David was about to die, he was giving his charge to his son Solomon. David reminded the soon to be king that Shimei still dwelt among them. He reminded Solomon of Shimei's act of treason and while David had promised that he would not kill him THEN, he did not swear any farther than that. But Solomon was under no such obligation and Shimei may one day become a traitor to the throne again. David felt he needed to warn his son, as any good father would, and left the fate of Shimei first to God, and then to Solomon's wisdom.  
Solomon put Shimei under Jerusalem arrest. He could build a house and live there but he must never leave. He was seen as a dangerous man and might go back to his tribe and incite a rebellion against the king. Solomon was not being vindictive or unfair. He had previously granted mercy but would now punish for outright disobedience. The arrangement lasted three years and then Shimei left to find some runaway slaves. When Solomon found out about the offense, and as his father commanded, he ordered Shimei slain for this act of disobedience as well as the "wrong [he] did to David." Solomon said, "Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing."  (See 1 Kings 2: 36-46) Finally, the end of Shimei. Sometimes it may take years but... 
Delayed justice is not denied justice. Remember God says that it is His job to avenge and repay? Shimei may think he's secure when no immediate punishment is meted out for his stone/dirt hurling and cursing. He may think he's secure when you show him mercy and kindness instead of exacting your own revenge.
Don't trouble yourself with Shimei. Continue on the road with your eyes fixed on the Lord. You may be dirty and exhausted, but stay focused. You will arrive at God's intended destination for your life. In His perfect sovereignty He has allowed your situation. Nothing touches you without first going through Christ's nail-scarred hands. And get ready. One day Shimei may come to you and fall at your feet and beg for mercy. Give it to him. Forgive as the Lord forgave you, (Colossians 3: 13), graciously and freely. And always remember that your God is a just God. He will repay. In His own way. In His own time. Trust Him completely for that.  
PS....If you are struggling with your own personal Shimei(s), try reading Psalm 37 every day for a month. I promise that the living Word will minister to your wounded heart.
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