2 Samuel 16:1-14 Victory Is About Picking Your Battles and Staying the Course
2 Samuel 16:1-14
1 When David had gone a little beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, was waiting there for him. He had two donkeys loaded with 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 bunches of summer fruit, and a wineskin full of wine. 2 “What are these for?” the king asked Ziba. Ziba replied, “The donkeys are for the king’s people to ride on, and the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become exhausted in the wilderness.” 3 “And where is Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson?” the king asked him. “He stayed in Jerusalem,” Ziba replied. “He said, ‘Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul.’” 4 “In that case,” the king told Ziba, “I give you everything Mephibosheth owns.” “I bow before you,” Ziba replied. “May I always be pleasing to you, my lord the king.”
5 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. 6 He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. 7 “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. 8 “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!” 9 “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!” 10 “No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”
11 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. 12 And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” 13 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. 14 The king and all who were with him grew weary along the way, so they rested when they reached the Jordan River.
As David makes his way towards Jordan, he was met by two unhelpful encounters that may detract him from the goal of regaining control over Israel. Ziba’s purported betrayal on the part of Mephibosheth, preposterous it may sound, serves to induce frustration and distraction. Shimei’s showers of missiles and false accusations serves to stir up wrath and consequently murder. Today’s passage teaches us to keep our focus on the course of God’s mission and to pick our battles carefully; not to be distracted by the agents of darkness who play on our emotions of injustice and frustration.
The donkeys are for the king’s people to ride on, and the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat – As Ziba was appointed to look after Mephibosheth’s estate, he saw the crisis as an opportunity to benefit by cunning at his master’s expense. He effectively capitalizes on David’s vulnerability and his need of sympathetic gesture of support. However, his imagined event concerning Mephibosheth’s change of heart is preposterous at best. First, it is Absalom’s rebellion where large numbers are defecting to him; in no way the crippled Mephibosheth is able to command a following to revive Saul’s legacy: Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul. David was taken in by Ziba’s frivolous ruse. However, in an evil day of chaos and mass defections, it is hard to distinguish between friend or foe, fact or fallacy.
If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him? – As David makes his way for Jordan, they are met by Shimei, a member of Saul’s clan who showers David with stones and abuses. Shimei’s allegations against David have nothing to do with his murder of Uriah, but his alleged usurping of Saul’s throne by murder: You stole his throne… for you are a murderer! As a matter of fact, Shimei’s allegations are unfounded; he is merely a mouthpiece for those who resented the ending of Saul’s legacy that saw the rise of David to power. Abishai’s offer to decapitate Shimei is promptly rejected by David citing that he may have been instructed by God to curse him: If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him? David knows that he is currently under judgment, he believes submission to Shimei’s abuses will help expiate his guilt.
We must keep our focus on the big picture and choose our battles carefully. The devil is a strategist, he sends his agents during times when we are discouraged to distract us from the things that truly matters. He agitates us by inducing emotions of abandonment, and accusing us of wrongdoings. David is a case in point. He was met with two unhelpful encounters who are representatives of Saul’s clan. Ziba’s encounter seeks to induce feelings of betrayal and ingratitude while Shimei’s encounter is intended to remind David of his sin and God’s judgment over him. Both encounters are meant to work in cascading fashion, to throw David off the course of regaining control over his kingdom. The battle is in Jerusalem and not on the Olivet slope. If David is not careful, he may just let Abishai have his way and incur unnecessary bloodshed. Therefore, we must keep our eyes constantly focused on the bigger picture, the kingdom of things and not be wrong footed by the agents of darkness. Hence, we must pick our battles carefully and not be swayed by the cunning of the devil.
Are you easily swayed and distracted by emotions of injustice and hurt? Perhaps, it is wise to get some help in dealing with your emotional wounds. At the same time, remind yourself that victory is about choosing your battles correctly and staying the course of Christ.
Dear Lord, I understand victory comes when I focus on the things that truly matter. If I could stay the course, in due time victory will be mine. Give me wisdom and clarity of thought so that I may be level headed and wise to choose my battles. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.