David has had to flee from Jerusalem, because his son, Absalom, had conspired against him and had appointed himself as king over Israel. And in last week’s chapter, we read about some of the people who still supported David. Remember? There was the Kerethites and the Pelethites and the Gittites, all of whom were foreigners, but they had bound themselves to David. And there were the priests and the Levites. And there was Hushai, who was David’s friend or counsellor. All of these people still supported David. Some of them went with him into the wilderness. Some he sent back to Jerusalem to act as his spies. And we read about David’s route and how he crossed the Kidron Valley and went up the Mount of Olives, where he learned that Ahithophel, one of his closest companions, had betrayed him and had sided with Absalom.
And we thought about how what happened to David foreshadowed what would happen to King David’s Greater Son, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God’s True Anointed King. And like David, he was rejected by the people. And like David, he crossed the Kidron Valley and he entered the Garden of Gethsemane which was on the Mount of Olives. And there, on the Mount of Olives, Judas, one of his closest companions, betrayed him with a kiss. What David went through foreshadowed the sorrow and suffering and the humiliation and the rejection of our Saviour. But the Saviour’s sorrow and suffering and humiliation and rejection was much worse than anything David suffered, because whereas David only had to flee the city for a while, the Saviour was taken out of the city and crucified. And when he suffered and died on the cross, he not only endured the hatred of an unbelieving world, who despised him and rejected him as their king, but he also suffered the wrath and curse of God. And he suffered the wrath and curse of God in the place of his people so that all who believe in him might have peace with God and the hope of everlasting life. And that’s why we must all trust in Jesus Christ the King, because he’s the one who suffered on behalf of his people so that we might receive the free gift of eternal life.
So we thought about those things last week. Today’s chapter is made up of four episodes, two involving David and two involving Absalom. David met Ziba and Shimei after leaving Jerusalem. And Absalom spoke with Hushai and then Ahithophel after entering Jerusalem. And what we’re going to do is think about Ziba and Hushai first of all, because they were not what they appeared to be. And then we’re going to think about Shimei and Ahithophel who were exactly what they appeared to be. And, of course, there are things we read in this chapter which foreshadow Christ our King and the good news of the gospel.
And so, the first episode is about this man Ziba. And in case you can’t remember who Ziba was, the narrator reminds us in verse 1 that Ziba was the steward of Mephibosheth. Do you remember Mephibosheth? He was Jonathan’s son. And therefore he was Saul’s grandson. In fact, he was Jonathan’s last remaining son, because his other sons were dead. And he was lame in both feet. Because of the covenant David had once made with Jonathan, David wanted to show steadfast love to Mephibosheth. And so, back in chapter 9 David ordered that all of Saul’s land should be given to Mephibosheth; and he let Mephibosheth eat at the king’s table for the rest of his life. It was an extra-ordinary act of kindness.
So, that’s Mephibosheth. Who was Ziba? He was one of Saul’s servants. And he had clearly done well for himself, because back in chapter 9 we were told that Ziba had 15 sons and 20 servants. He wouldn’t have been able to afford such a big family unless he had become rich himself. Well, David ordered that from that time on Ziba and his family and his servants were to farm the land for Mephibosheth. In other words, they were to serve Mephibosheth.
So, that’s who Mephibosheth is and that’s who Ziba is. And so, we read in verse 1 of today’s chapter that as David crossed the Mount of Olives, there was Ziba, waiting for him. And he had a string of donkeys with him which were loaded with provisions: bread and raisin cakes and fig cakes and wine. He’s brought the donkeys for David’s men to ride; and he’s brought the food and wine to sustain them on the way. And so, it appears that he’s there to help David. But is he all that he appears to be?
There are at least two reasons for thinking that he’s not all that he appears to be and that his support for David is not genuine. What are those reasons? Firstly, he lied about Mephibosheth. You see, David wanted to know where Mephibosheth is. And Ziba replies in verse 3 that Mephibosheth has chosen to remain in Jerusalem, because he was hoping that this trouble between David and Absalom would be the chance he’s been secretly waiting for to become king. According to Ziba, Mephibosheth thinks the house of Israel will give back to him his grandfather’s kingdom. That’s what Ziba said. And David accepts his story and decreed that from that time on all of Mephibosheth’s property now belongs to Ziba.
However — and here’s a spoiler for you — Absalom will eventually die. And David will eventually return to Jerusalem. And David will eventually see Mephibosheth again. And when he sees Mephibosheth again, Mephibosheth tells him a different story. In chapter 19, Mephibosheth will say that he intended to follow David into the wilderness on one of his donkeys. He needed to use a donkey, because he was lame. But Ziba betrayed him. He doesn’t say what Ziba did to betray him, but perhaps he took away his donkey and left him without transportation. And Mephibosheth went on to say that Ziba had slandered him to David. So, the first reason for thinking that Ziba is not what he appeared to be is the simple fact that he lied about his master. This is a man who cannot be trusted.
And the second reason for thinking Ziba was not what he appeared to be is this. After bringing the donkeys and provisions to David, he went home. We learn that in chapter 19 as well. So, instead of following David into the wilderness, as the Kerethites and the Pelethites and the Gittites had done and as the priests and Levites and Hushai had wanted to do, he went home. He got the reward he wanted, which was all of Mephibosheth’s property. And having got what he wanted, he went home.
And so, he appeared to be one of David’s supporters, but it looks as if he was only prepared to help David in order to help himself. The commentators think that Ziba was a manipulator who only thought about what was best for himself.
That’s Ziba. Let’s now jump forward in the story to the episode involing Hushai. Hushai — you might remember from the previous chapter — was loyal to David and wanted to follow David into the wilderness. However, David sent him back to Jerusalem to act as a spy. And so, when Hushai greeted Absalom in verse 16, his words are wonderfully ambiguous. When he said, ‘Long live the king!’, Absalom assumed he was referring to him (to Absalom), when he really meant:
Long live King David!
And when he said in verse 18 that he will serve the one chosen by God, Absalom assumed he was referring to him again (to Absalom), when he really meant that he would serve David, because David was God’s choice to be king. And the words in verse 19 translated by the NIV as, ‘Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.’ should really be translated, ‘Just as I served before the father, so I will serve before you.’ Yes, he’ll serve before the son, but he’s not serving the son; he’s still serving the son’s father, David. David had sent him to stand before Absalom in order to spy on him.
And so, Hushai was not what he appeared to be. He appeared to be on Absalom’s side, when in fact he remained loyal to David. And in the court of Absalom, he could act as a spy and he would do what he could to frustrate Absalom’s plans. And in the next chapter, we’ll see how he demonstrated his loyalty to David by contradicting the advice of Ahithophel which led to Absalom’s defeat.
There’s Ziba and there’s Hushai. Neither of them were what they appeared to be. Ziba appeared to be loyal to David, but he was only thinking about himself. Hushai appeared to be on Absalom’s side, when in fact he remained loyal to David. And the application for us today is to ensure that we are not like Ziba and we are like Hushai.
So, if we profess to be believers, who love the Lord and who want to serve him, then let us do that. Instead of thinking about ourselves, and what is best for me, as Ziba did, we must forget about ourselves and yield our life to God and think about how to love and serve him every day of our lives. Instead of thinking about what would make my life better, we should be thinking about how to serve the Lord better, because he is worthy of our worship and our daily devotion, because he alone is God, who made us and who sustains us and he sent his Son to save us.
And in many ways our daily life is like Hushai’s life, because he was living among the true king’s enemies. And yet, he remained loyal to the true king. And in our daily lives, we are side by side with those who do not believe and who are, by nature, the enemies of the true King, Jesus Christ. This is your daily life in school or college or in the workplace and perhaps even at home. You’re living side by side with those who are by nature enemies of the true King. But instead of becoming like them, instead of conforming to the ways of this unbelieving world, you must remain true and faithful and loyal to Christ the King who loved you and who gave up his life for you.
But let’s move on to consider this man, Shimei, whom we read about in verses 5 to 14. And this is a man who was exactly what he appeared to be. There’s no doubt about it: he was one of David’s enemies.
The narrator points out in verse 5 that he’s from the same clan as Saul. And from what he does and says, it’s clear that he thinks David was responsible for killing Saul and his sons. And so, he cursed David. And he pelted David and his men with stones. He called David a man of blood. In other words, he called David a murderer. He called him a scoundrel. The Hebrew word he used can also be translated ‘worthless man’. The same expression was used to describe Eli’s sons who were wicked men and it’s used in the Bible to refer to rapists and murderers. So, it was quite an insult. And here’s Shimei saying that David is a worthless man. And he thinks that God is now repaying David for all the blood David shed in Saul’s family. He thinks David has murdered his way to the throne. And so, according to Shimei, God is repaying David by taking the kingdom from David and giving it to his son:
You have come to ruin, because you are a man of blood.
Now, none of what Shimei said is true. David did not murder his way to the throne. Our narrator has been very clear about that. So, when David had the opportunity to kill Saul, he refused to do so. When Saul and his sons were killed, David had nothing to do with it. When David heard about their deaths, he was filled with sorrow and he grieved for them. One of Saul’s surviving sons, Ishbosheth, was appointed king in place of Saul. He was murdered in his bed, but David again had nothing to do with it. In fact, David executed the men who were responsible. What Shimei was saying about David was not true.
Well, Abishai, who was Joab’s brother and another of David’s soldiers, is ready to go over to Shimei and silence him by cutting off his head. He wouldn’t think twice about it. But David rebuked Abishai. And instead David was prepared to accept this abuse from Shimei. Look what he says in verse 10:
If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David’, who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?
And again, in verse 11, he says that the Lord told him to curse David. Now, I don’t think the Lord appeared to Shimei and told him directly to curse David. I think David is simply saying that this is God’s will. It’s God’s will for Shimei to curse David and to accuse him falsely. God — who controls all his creatures and all their actions — decreed that Shimei should stand at the side of the road and curse David. And David was willing to accept it as God’s will for him.
So, that’s Shimei. Again let’s jump forward in the story to the episode involving Ahithophel in verses 20 to 23. And he too was exactly what he appeared to be, because though he was once loyal to David, he has now thrown in his lot with Absalom; and from what he advised Absalom to do, it’s clear and there’s no doubt about it, but he’s become an enemy of the true king.
In verse 20 Absalom asked him for advice: what should he do now that he’s in Jerusalem. And Ahithophel’s plan is a wicked plan. He told Absalom to lie with his father’s concubines whom David had left in the city. Sleeping with them would be an offence to David. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything more offensive. But not only would it be an offence to David, it would also be a sign to the nation. Taking David’s concubines would signify that Absalom had taken David’s kingdom for himself. Absalom not only possessed David’s wives, but he also possessed his kingdom.
And Absalom listened to Ahithophel’s advice. But he didn’t do it in private, did he? No, we’re told that he pitched a tent on the roof, and there he lay with the women. And while the tent prevented anyone from actually seeing what he did, nevertheless everyone who saw the tent knew precisely what he was doing. And they knew that there was a new king in Israel.
There’s Shimei and there’s Ahithophel. Both were enemies of the true king. Shimei accused David and cursed him and threw stones at him. And Ahithophel encouraged Absalom to do this wicked thing against the true king.
Both of them were wicked men and enemies of the true king. And the true king suffered because of them. And David’s humiliation and suffering foreshadows the humiliation and suffering of our Saviour, because the Lord Jesus was falsely accused, wasn’t he? During his ministry, he was accused at one stage of being insane. And the Pharisees accused him of being demon-possessed. He was accused of being a blasphemer and a Sabbath breaker. He was accused before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. And just as David did not retaliate when falsely accused, so the Lord Jesus did not retaliate, but he submitted to it. And so, he did not strike out at his accusers. Though he could have called down a army of angels to defend himself, he yielded himself to it. When Peter drew his sword to fight against the guards in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord told Peter to put his sword away. And when he stood before Pilate, he remained silent and did not defend himself. And when he was eventually crucified, he did not resist the soldiers and he did not answer back those who insulted him. As Peter tells us in his first letter, when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to his Father in heaven, just as David entrusted himself to God, believing that it was God’s will for him to be insulted by Shimei. And it was God’s will for David to suffer like that, because by suffering in this way he was foreshadowing the suffering of our Saviour, who endured all these things for us and for our salvation. Christ was prepared to endure the hatred of the world, and to suffer the wrath and curse of God, because there was no other way to save us from our sin and misery than for him to suffer these things to pay for our sins and to make peace for us with God. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth, but he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. David put up with Shimei’s cursing in order to foreshadow the Saviour who remained silent before his accusers and who sufferer and died for his people.
And, of course, Ahithophel foreshadowed Judas, because Ahithophel was once loyal to David, but then he turned on David and betrayed him, just as Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus. But here’s the thing. Although Ahithophel did a wicked thing when he advised Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines, he was in fact fulfilling the word of the Lord. He was fulfilling the word of the Lord, because didn’t God say through the prophet Nathan in chapter 12 that the Lord was going to bring calamity on David because of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah? Because David took Uriah’s wife, God was going to take David’s wives and give them to someone close to David. And what David did in secret, this person would do in broad daylight before all Israel. That’s what God announced through Nathan the prophet. And so, though he did not know it, when Ahithophel advised Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines, he was fulfilling the word of the Lord.
And do you see the significance of this for us? It’s a reminder to us that even God’s enemies who do wicked things are under God’s control. And though they will do everything they can to attack Christ and his church, nevertheless God is able to use their wickedness for his own purposes. God is the Great King who rules over the heavens and the earth. He controls all of his creatures and all of their actions. He works all things out according to his wise and holy purposes. And he is so great, and so powerful, and so wise, that he’s able to use our sins and shortcomings to accomplish his purposes. We see this in the cross of Christ, because while wicked men put the Lord Jesus Christ to death by nailing him to the cross, what they did was according to God’s purpose and foreknowledge. It was all part of his plan for our salvation and he worked through Judas and through the Pharisees and the Sadducees and through Pilate and through the Roman soldiers to accomplish our salvation. And since our God does not change, but is forever the same, then what he was able to do in the days of David and in the days of the Lord Jesus, he’s still able to do today. And so, when we hear of the wicked things people do in the world to oppose and to attack Christ’s church, we don’t need to be anxious or afraid. Instead we should wait and see how God will use their wickedness for his own good purposes. And this is true for us in our personal lives as well, because hasn’t God promised us that he will work all things together for the good of his people? He will work all things together: the good things that happen to us and the bad things that happen to us. He’s able to work through all of these things for our good.
In fact, can we go back to verse 12 for a moment? The NIV says:
It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good….
However, it’s more likely that we should translate David’s words in this way:
It may be that the Lord will see my iniquity and repay me with good….
You see, David is testifying to God’s grace, his kindness to sinners who don’t deserve his kindness. David was only too well aware of his iniquity, because though he hadn’t done what Shimei accused him of, he had sinned in other ways. And yet this was his hope: that God would look upon his iniquity and do him good. Why would he hope for such a thing? It’s because David knew that the Lord is gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve and he’s doesn’t repay us according to our iniquity. David had done wrong. He deserved not only to be cursed by Shimei, but to be cursed by God. He deserved to suffer the wrath and curse of God. And yet, he believed that God is gracious and would give him what he did not deserve. He deserved to be cursed, but he was hoping that God would do good to him. And that is our hope too, because we too are sinners who deserve nothing from God but his wrath and curse. And yet, because God is gracious, he sent his Son to pay for our sins with his life. And now that we have peace with God, we can expect good from the Lord and we can expect him to work all things together for our good.
What’s on your mind? What’s worrying you? What’s upsetting you? Listen: the God who loved you and who sent his Son to die for you has promised to work all things together for your good. Instead of being anxious, trust in him. And wait to see what God will do.