David is on the run from his own son Absalom. He’s been met by Ziba, the servant of Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth. You may remember his story:
“(Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled.)” (II Samuel 4:4, NLT).
David showed mercy to Saul’s family so that while David was king, “Mephibosheth… lived in Jerusalem and ate regularly at the king’s table” (II Samuel 9:13). Now, fleeing from Absalom, David is met by Mephibosheth’s servant Ziba who “had two donkeys loaded” (II Samuel 16:1a) with supplies for David and his followers.
But when David asked Ziba about Mephibosheth, Ziba told him that "He stayed in Jerusalem” (II Samuel 16:3b). In other words, he’d sided with Absalom. At least David had a few loyal friends in Jerusalem who were able to keep him informed. Meanwhile, he had more problems to face on his journey.
“As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. ‘Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!’ he shouted at David. ‘The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!’” (II Samuel 16:5-8).
Shimei, a relative of Saul’s, was thrilled to see David getting his “comeuppance.” But the men with David had no intentions of allowing his taunts to go unpunished: “‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’ Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. ‘Let me go over and cut off his head!’” (II Samuel 16:9).
“‘No!’ the king said. ‘If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?’ Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, ‘My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today’” (II Samuel 16:10a, 10c-12).
“So David and his men continued down the road, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing as he went and throwing stones at David and tossing dust into the air” (II Samuel 16:13).
David had the authority and the means to deal with anyone who dared to speak against him; yet he allowed Shemei to run alongside him, “cursing as he went and throwing stones.” David told his men, “Leave him alone… Perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”
Wow! Now that’s what I call a passive response. David was getting older and, I believe, wiser. He had enough trouble on his plate with what was going on with Absalom; he needed to focus his energy on that problem. Shemei was a tiny bump in the road compared with what was going on with Absalom.
Folks, maturing means learning to pick our battles. Even more than that, it means learning to allow God to fight our battles for us.
“Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees.” (R. A. Torrey)