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ready and eager to fight the battles of the rebellious son against his father, the Lord's anointed. Little did David anticipate this when fulfilling the lusts of his flesh and of his mind. But such were the bitter consequences of his ways; and if by all this God was shewing his hatred of the sin which, nevertheless, he had put away, surely David must have learnt by it all, with deepening horror and self-loathing, what the true character of his sin was.
And so he did. Beautiful is the meekness with which he bows to the hand that smites him. See his care for the ark of God. “And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness. And lo, Zadok also, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God: and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city. And the king said unto
back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation.” Precious as it was in his
eyes, he would not have the ark of God to be the companion of his wanderings, when these wanderings were occasioned by, and the witness of his sin. If it please God, he shall be brought back to it; but if not, still let not the ark of God be disturbed. “But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee: behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him." What prostration of soul is here! How conscious is David of having no claim by nature, and of having forfeited every title resulting from the relationships which grace had established. He is cast entirely on mercy, and
mercy is not to be, cannot be, dictated to. He is content that it should be with him in everything as the Lord pleases. “And David went up by the ascent of Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered; and he went barefoot; and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up weeping as they went up.". What a procession. At Bahurim, Shimei curses him and casts stones at him, crying after him, " Come out, come out, thou bloody
man, and thou man of Belial: the Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man." How every word must have gone to his heart. It was not, indeed, as the reviler said,
because of the blood of the house of Saul. David had never taken pleasure in their blood; he had spared Saul himself once and again when he had his life in his hands. But this is no comfort to him now. He knows that he has shed blood, innocent blood, and though Shimei be ignorant of it, every word he utters, revives the whole scene in David's memory, and gives it a voice in David's conscience. And see how softly he treads and how meekly he bows. Abishai would go over and take off Shimei's head. But what says David ? ? " What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say; Wherefore hast thou done so?... Behold my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life; how much more now may this Benjamite do it? Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him." And what is it that enables David thus to “accept the punishment of his iniquity?" The next verse discloses the secret. “It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day." His soul has drunk in the consolation of that word." The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die;" and now, severe and complicated and apparently interminable as his trials are, he has in the depths of his soul a confidence in God which keeps him from fainting under the rebukes of His holy hand. And now that in the depths of his distress, this expression of confidence in the Lord's grace has been drawn out of him; now that he has fully bowed to all that has come upon him (“ I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it") the fact becomes apparent that the worst is over. From this time, the Lord turns his captivity. It is not that it is all overthat he has seen the last of it. No, the sword is never to depart from his house as long he lives. But there is in important turn in his affairs. Instead of being, as at were, given up into the hand of his enemies, the Lord begins now to act manifestly on his behalf. Ahithophel's prudent counsel is rejected by Absalom, and in despair he goes and hangs himself. The two armies of David and Absalom are drawn out for battle, and David receives an affecting proof of the place he fills in the hearts of those who still cleave to him. They insist that he shall not go out to the battle. “The people answered, Thou
“ shalt not go forth; for if we flee away, they will not care for us; but now thou art worth ten thousand of us; therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.” The battle is set in array, and very soon the followers of Absalom are discomfited before David's servants. But alas, victory, in a case like this, has its pangs and its sorrows, scarcely less pungent than those of defeat. When the just judgment of God has armed brother against brother, and father against child, even though victory should be on the side of righteousness, at what a fearful cost is it won. Twenty-thousand men of Israel dead on the field can be no matter of rejoicing to Israel's king. Nor is this the worst. David had charged the captains concerning Absalom. (It may be that it was tenderness of nature, but what, save tenderness became one in David's circumstances ?)
“ Deal gently for my sake with the young man, with Absalom. his words; and he returned into the city to await the result. Tidings are brought him of the victory which God had graciously wrought.
66 Is the
young man Absalom safe?" was his only reply. Another messenger arrives and proclaims the victory; the same question is proposed to him; and when he replies, “the enemies of my Iord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is," he can contain no longer.
” He sees in himself the cause of all these calamities to the nation and to his household — he thinks not of his own deliverance and triumph but of his son's destruction
a And thus, when on his death-bed, he hears that Adonijah is in rebellion against Solomon who had been chosen of God to be his
and he goes away to weep. “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had
, ! I died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” The people catching the spirit of their king and taking his tone, mourn with him. “The victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his
son; and the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.” Joab, consummate politician as he was, fears the result of this, and remonstrates with the king. But how apparrent in what he says is his total want of sympathy with the feelings of the king, and with the true character of that day's victory. It was the victory of grace, delivering David out of the hands of his wilful, rebellious son; but delivering him in such a way as to speak most loudly and distinctly to his heart, that it was for chastisement on his own sin that all this had been permitted to take place. But what is all this to Joab? His heart has not been softened and broken and moulded by restoring grace ; and so he can taunt the heart-broken parent with his grief. “For this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well,” David makes no reply to his reproaches; but for the people's sake he arises and sits in the gate. The people strive with each other as to who shall have the honour and the joy of bringing the king back. 6. So the king returned, and came to Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to conduct the king over Jordan."
There he is met by Shimei of Bahurim. Not that Shimei's heart was changed, or that he had any more love for David than when he had cursed and cast stones at him as he went. No; he was one of those whose conduct changes with the change of circumstances. He went with the stream. When David was fleeing for his life, he would heap reproaches and curses upon him. Now that he is returning in safety and triumph, he crouches at his feet, and sues for mercy. “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou re
member that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart." Abishai would fain have him put to death. But what says the king? “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries to me? Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? For do not I know that I am this day king over Israel?” Have we not here two precious secrets as to the spring whence flow the forgiveness of injuries, the long-suffering, the forbearing one another in love, which are so largely enjoined on us in the New Testament. David was here acting on principles altogether beyond the dispensation under which he lived. His personal need and failure had made grace everything to him. And if there was a triumph that day it was the triumph of grace. And shall he celebrate the triumphs of the grace that had delivered him out of the pit which he had dug for himself, and was now restoring him to Jerusalem and the sanctuary and the throne from all which his own sin had banished him-shall he celebrate the triumphs of restoring grace like this by avenging his own quarrel and executing justice on Shimei? His heart recoils utterly from the thought. "Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel !" Besides, what need? Is it questionable whether David is to wield the sceptre and fill the throne? If it were still a disputed point, there might be some ground for proceeding to extremities with one like Shimei. But when God has fought our battles, we surely have no need to fight them ourselves.
66 Do not I know that I am this day king over Israel. Therefore the king said unto Shimei
, Thou shalt not die. And the king sware unto him.” Thus did the
grace which had restored his soul, and the assured certainty of all the blessing which that grace had bestowed, become with David the ground on which to act in full grace to his now humbled and crouching adversary. It was not a question of what Shimei deserved, no, nor whether Shimei was really humbled. His deservings were evident enough, and his humiliation was sufficiently questionable. But was it for the one who owed all he