Absalom is dead. He had killed his half-brother. He had set himself up as king in place of his father. He had taken over the city of Jerusalem. He had slept with his father’s concubines. He had gone out in battle to destroy his father’s army. But now he was dead. And those who had sided with him fled to their homes. The rebellion against David was over.
Verses 8b to 14
What happened next? Verse 9 tells us what happened next. According to verse 9, throughout the tribes of Israel, the people were all arguing with each other. What were they arguing about? Well, they were arguing about David. Clearly there were some who thought David should return as king. But since they were arguing about it, presumably there were others who were against it. But the ones who were in favour of his return were saying that David was the one who in the past delivered them from their enemies including the Philistines. So, they remembered that he was a mighty and conquering king who fought on their behalf and who had — in the past — rescued them time and time again. But now, because of Absalom, David has fled the country and he’s now living on the other side of the Jordan. But Absalom is dead. So, we’re without a king. We should bring David back, shouldn’t we? We should ask David to be king again, shouldn’t we?
That’s what some of them were saying. Presumably there were others who were against it. Maybe they thought they should appoint someone else. We tried David. We tried Absalom. Let’s choose another king. Or perhaps they wanted to go back to the old days before there were any kings. Whichever it was, there were some who were against David’s return; and there were some who were for it. And although the narrator doesn’t tell us explicitly, from what we read in the rest of the chapter, it seems that the pro-David group won and they decided to ask David to return. And so, they made plans to go out to David and to bring him back.
Word gets to David that the people of Israel want him to return and they’re preparing to come out to him to bring him back. And David sends word to the elders of Judah. by the hand of Zadok and Abiathar the priests, encouraging them to get a move on. You see, David himself was from the tribe of Judah. And he’s saying to his tribesmen not to be last. Don’t be the last ones to bring me back. You’re my flesh and blood. So, don’t delay, but hurry up. Come and get me.
And lest anyone think that David will want to take revenge on all his enemies, he makes clear in verse 13 that he was prepared to make Amasa commander of his army in place of Joab. Do you remember Amasa? Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army. Any other king in David’s position who had won a great victory over his rival might have decided to take revenge and to wipe out everyone who had once opposed him. And maybe that’s why some of the Israelites were reluctant to ask David to return. Maybe that’s why the people of Judah were slow to go out to David, because Amasa was from the tribe of Judah. So, maybe they were afraid that David would want to take revenge on all his enemies and everyone associated with his enemies. But David makes clear to them in this message he sent to Judah that that was not his intention. If he was prepared to make Amasa the commander of his army, then he’s the sort of man they can trust not to take revenge.
And look at verse 14: he won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man. And they sent word to him, asking him to return with all his men. So, they wanted David to return and to be their king once again. And David has already shown them that he’s not the kind of king who wants to take revenge on his enemies. They don’t need to be afraid of him, because he’s wants to establish peace in the land.
Verses 15 to 23
And so, we read in verse 15 that David the king returned. That is, he began to make the journey back to Israel and he arrived first of all at the River Jordan. And look: according to the second part of verse 15, the people of Judah have come as far as Gilgal to meet him and to bring him across the Jordan. So, they responded to his message and instead of being the last to meet him, they were the first.
But they weren’t on their own, because Shimei came with them. Remember Shimei? He was the man who met David when David was fleeing from the city. And Shimei cursed David and he hurled all kinds of abuse at him, accusing David of having murdered his way to the throne. It was all nonsense, of course. But he was convinced that David was a scoundrel and a worthless man. And so he cursed David. And more than that, he threw stones at David. And at that time, David patiently bore all of his abuse.
Well, here’s Shimei again. And he’s brought 1,000 men with him as well as Ziba, who was once Saul’s servant. And perhaps when you read that it’s Shimei and he’s got 1,000 men with him, you’re a bit worried. Have they come to fight against David? But no. Look at verse 18: Shimei and these men crossed the river at the ford to take the king’s household over and to do whatever the king wished. Shimei has come to help David. And he fell prostrate on the ground before David. He’s submitting himself to the king. And he asks the king not to hold him guilty. He says to David: Do not remember the wrongs I did. Put them out of your mind. Isn’t that what God promises to do for us? He promises to remember our sins no more. He promises not to count our transgressions against us? Shimei is asking David to do for him what God is willing to do for his people. And Shimei acknowledged his guilt. He said to David:
For I your servant know that I have sinned.
He’s confessing his guilt and he’s asking David for mercy. He knows he’s sinned, but now he has turned from his sin and he’s the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down to meet the king. He had been the first to curse David; now he was the first, or one of the first, to welcome David.
And, of course, his life is entirely in David’s hands. David could have refused to show him mercy and he could have given the order for someone to strike Shimei down dead. In fact, Abishai is there; and he’s all set to kill Shimei. He said in verse 21:
Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the Lord’s anointed.
When they were leaving Jerusalem, Abishai was ready to slice off his head. And he’s ready to do the same again. And David could so easily have agreed with him and said the word and Shimei would have been dispatched. But just as the Lord was gracious and merciful to David, so David was prepared to be gracious and merciful to Shimei. ‘Should anyone be put to death in Israel today?’ he asked Abishai. This was not a day to kill, but a day to make peace. And so, he announced his judgment:
You shall not die.
And he took an oath to reassure Shimei that David would not take his life. He was safe.
And so, once again we see that David had no intention of taking revenge on his enemies. When Shimei came, humbly, confessing his guilt and asking for mercy, David the king was prepared to show him mercy and to declare that there was peace between them.
Verses 24 to 30
Next comes Mephibosheth. Remember him? He was Saul’s grandson and Jonathan’s last remaining son. And he was lame in both feet. Back in chapter 9 David wanted to show steadfast love to Mephibosheth because of the covenant he had once made with Jonathan. And so, at that time, 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. But then, when David was fleeing from Jerusalem, Ziba — who was once Saul’s servant and who become Mephibosheth’s servant — brought supplies to David to help him and his men on their way. And at that time, David asked Ziba where Mephibosheth was. And do you remember? Ziba told David that Mephibosheth had chosen to remain in Jerusalem, because he was hoping that the trouble between David and Absalom would be the chance he’d been secretly waiting for to become king. According to Ziba, Mephibosheth thought that the house of Israel would give back to him his grandfather’s kingdom. And at that time, David accepted Ziba’s story and decreed that all of Mephibosheth’s property should now belong to Ziba.
So, that’s the background. But look now at verse 25. Mephibosheth went down to meet David. And look: since David left Jerusalem, Mephibosheth had not taken care of his feet and he hadn’t trimmed his moustache and he hadn’t washed his clothes. You can imagine therefore that he wasn’t a pretty sight and the smell would have been hard to bear. The commentators think he neglected his personal hygiene to show his solidarity with David in exile. David in exile wouldn’t have time to wash his clothes or himself very much. And so, out of solidarity with David, Mephibosheth did not wash. In other words, Mephibosheth had remained loyal to David and Ziba had lied about him to the king.
But look how humble Mephibosheth was. He asks the king to do whatever pleases him. And he acknowledges that all of Saul’s descendants deserve nothing but death from David. Any other king might have wiped out all of Saul’s descendants after Saul had died. That was the custom in those days. When you become king, the first act of business was to kill the previous king’s family. But not only did David let Mephibosheth live, he also showed him extraordinary kindness by letting him eat at the king’s table for the rest of his life. David has been extraordinarily kind to Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth acknowledged it: I deserved nothing but death; and you gave me a place at your table. I have no right to ask for anything now, because I do not deserve anything from you.
And isn’t that how we go to God? When we pray to God, we can’t make demands upon him, because he does not owe us anything; and we do not deserve anything from him but condemnation for all that we have done wrong. We can’t make demands upon him. We can’t force him to do anything for us. He doesn’t owe us anything. All we can do is ask for mercy.
And Mephibosheth knows he can’t make any demands upon David. And when David decides that he and Ziba must now share the property, he does not protest or argue, but he says:
Let him [that is, Ziba] take everything, now that my lord the king has arrived home safely.
He doesn’t care about the land, so long as David is back.
The commentators debate David’s decision. Why did he not return all of the land to Mephibosheth? Why only half of the land? Some think David was unsure who was telling the truth; and so the best thing to do is to get them to share the land. Mephibosheth’s dishevelled appearance suggests he’s telling the truth, but who knows? And so, since he didn’t really know what to do, he told them to divide up the land between them.
Verses 31 to 39
And then David meets Barzillai, who was one of three men we read about at the end of chapter 17 who had come out to support David when he had fled from the city. And according to verse 31 he came to send David on his way. And you can see from verse 33 that David wanted Barzillai to come back with him to Jerusalem. But he turned down David’s invitation, because he says he’s an old man and he would only be a burden to David. So, he’d rather remain where he is and be buried close to his parents’ grave. But he asks if David will take this man, Kimham, with him. We don’t know who Kimham is, but presumably he’s Barzillai’s son. And look at verse 38: David is willing to take this man and he’s willing to do for the man whatever Barzillai asks. And so, if he can’t reward Barzillai for Barzillai’s loyalty and kindness to David, then he’s prepared to reward Barzillai’s substitute.
And so, what have we seen? The people decided they wanted David to be king again. And on the way back to Israel, he demonstrated what kind of king he is. He’s not a king who wants to take revenge, but who was willing to show kindness to Shimei, who came to him, humbly, confessing his guilt and asking for mercy. And he was willing to reward Barzillai because of Barzillai’s faithful service.
David was God’s Anointed King at that time and he foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s True Anointed King. That is, David was a model of the one who was to come, an example of the kind of king God was going to send one day to rule over his people. And so, if the people wanted to know what the coming king would be like, all they had to do was look at David and the kind of king he was. And that means we’re able to draw these comparisons between David and the Lord Jesus.
And just as David delivered his people in those days from their enemies, so the Lord Jesus has delivered us from our enemies. He delivered us from sin, because he paid for our sins — all that we have done wrong — with his life, when he died on the cross in our place. And so, having paid for our sins on the cross, he delivers us from sin’s condemnation, so that all who trust in him will never be condemned, no matter what we have done wrong, because Christ the King has paid for our sins. And by his resurrection from the dead, he has conquered death for us; and he promises us everlasting life, so that though we die, and our bodies are laid in the grave, we know that when he comes again, we will be raised to live with him in body and in soul forever and forever. And so, we do not need to fear the grave, because we know that though we die, yet we shall live because of Christ who has conquered death. And after he was raised, he ascended to heaven to sit enthroned at God’s right hand. And so, Christ our King now rules over all, so that we don’t need to be afraid of any power or person, because Christ our King rules over all and he has promised to work all things together for our good. And he’s able to do it, because he rules over all. David delivered his people from the hand of their enemies and Christ our King delivers us and all who believe in him from sin and death and from all evil.
And so, just as the Israelites decided to take David as their king, so you must take Christ as your King, trusting in him and in him alone for forgiveness and for everlasting life and for protection from all evil. Instead of hesitating, as the people of Judah seemed to do, you must not hesitate, but must trust in Christ immediately.
And whoever turns to Christ will discover that he is gentle and gracious and merciful. Just as David was prepared to pardon Shimei, so Christ the Saviour is prepared to pardon you, if you come to him as Shimei did and come to him, humbly, confessing your guilt and asking for mercy. If Shimei remained stubborn, if he continued to curse David and to throw stones at him, David may well have acted differently. But since Shimei came humbly, confessing his guilt, and asking for mercy, David was merciful to him. And so, Christ is merciful to all who come to him with humility and faith. Think of the people he met in the gospels. He sent away the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law who came to accuse him and to complain about him. But when anyone else came to him, confessing their need, and asking for his help, he welcomed them and he helped them. And since he is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, then you can know that he will welcome and help you, whenever you come to him.
And just as David was willing to bring Barzillai back to Jerusalem to live with him, so the Lord Jesus promises to bring his people to the new Jerusalem above, to the heavenly city, where all of Christ’s people will live with him forever and forever in glory. Barzillai would not go, because he was old and would not be able to enjoy it. But for those who trust in Christ, there will be nothing to keep us from enjoying eternal life in the presence of our Saviour, because we’ll be given new and perfect bodies, and there will be no more death or disease or sorrow or sadness, but only fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in the presence of our Saviour. This is the great hope that our King gives to us and to all who trust in him.
And so, what a Saviour and what a king! By his death and resurrection and ascension to glory, he delivers us from sin and death and from all evil. He is gracious and merciful, forgiving our sins, when we come to him, humbly, confessing our need and asking for his help. And he promises us eternal life in his everlasting kingdom. This is why you should trust in him and keep trusting in him throughout your life here on earth. And this is why you should make it your aim to live your life for him, because he is such a good king and he is worthy of your love and devotion.
But before we finish, think again about David’s decision about Mephibosheth. The commentators debate whether he made the right decision when he decreed that the property should be shared between Mephibosheth and Ziba. You see, David did not know whether Mephibosheth was telling the truth. He did not know whether Mephibosheth really loved him. And so, it was hard for David to know what to do.
And perhaps Mephibosheth really did love David; and he really wanted to follow David into exile, but because he was lame, he couldn’t do what he wanted to do. And perhaps you’re a bit like him. You love the Lord Jesus. You want to do more for him, but for whatever reason, you can’t. Maybe you have a physical weakness like Mephibosheth had. Or maybe you don’t have the same gifts and abilities as other people. Maybe you’ve got family responsibilities which prevent you from doing what other people do for the Saviour. And who knows? Maybe from time to time people have misjudged you and they’ve suggested that you don’t love the Lord, because if you loved the Lord you would do more for him. And it’s made you weep, because you do love the Lord.
But here’s the thing. David did not know everything about Mephibosheth, but the Lord Jesus knows everything about you. He knows your sins and shortcomings, of course; and he’s paid for them with his life and will not hold them against you. And he knows that you love him. Do you remember the end of John’s gospel? The Lord was talking to Simon Peter, who had messed up and who had denied knowing the Lord in a moment of weakness. And the Lord asked him: ‘Do you love me?’ And Peter replied:
Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.
He knows all things. He knows that you love him.
And one day, he’ll come again and he’ll gather together all those who loved and trusted him and he’ll bring them into his presence, where all wrongs will be put right; and he’ll give you not a half share, but your full share of the glory to come. And so, you don’t need to be anxious, because Christ our King never gets anything wrong and everything he does and decides for you will be right.