This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
MORE MURDERS IN SYRIA
2 Samuel 19:1-23
New English Translation (NET)
19 (19:2) Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning over Absalom.” 2 So the victory of that day was turned to mourning as far as all the people were concerned. For the people heard on that day, “The king is grieved over his son.” 3 That day the people stole away to go to the city the way people who are embarrassed steal away in fleeing from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried out loudly, “My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!”
5 So Joab visited the king at his home. He said, “Today you have embarrassed all your servants who have saved your life this day, as well as the lives of your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your concubines. 6 You seem to love your enemies and hate your friends! For you have as much as declared today that leaders and servants don’t matter to you. I realize now that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, it would be all right with you. 7 So get up now and go out and give some encouragement to your servants. For I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out there, not a single man will stay here with you tonight! This disaster will be worse for you than any disaster that has overtaken you from your youth right to the present time!”
8 So the king got up and sat at the city gate. When all the people were informed that the king was sitting at the city gate, they all came before him.
David Goes Back to Jerusalem
But the Israelite soldiers had all fled to their own homes. 9 All the people throughout all the tribes of Israel were arguing among themselves saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies. He rescued us from the hand of the Philistines, but now he has fled from the land because of Absalom. 10 But Absalom, whom we anointed as our king, has died in battle. So now why do you hesitate to bring the king back?”
11 Then King David sent a message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests saying, “Tell the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you delay any further in bringing the king back to his palace, when everything Israel is saying has come to the king’s attention. 12 You are my brothers—my very own flesh and blood! Why should you delay any further in bringing the king back?’ 13 Say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my flesh and blood? God will punish me severely, if from this time on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joab!’”
14 He won over the hearts of all the men of Judah as though they were one man. Then they sent word to the king saying, “Return, you and all your servants as well.” 15 So the king returned and came to the Jordan River.
Now the people of Judah had come to Gilgal to meet the king and to help him cross the Jordan. 16 Shimei son of Gera the Benjaminite from Bahurim came down quickly with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 There were a thousand men from Benjamin with him, along with Ziba the servant of Saul’s household, and with him his fifteen sons and twenty servants. They hurriedly crossed the Jordan within sight of the king. 18 They crossed at the ford in order to help the king’s household cross and to do whatever he thought appropriate.
Now after he had crossed the Jordan, Shimei son of Gera threw himself down before the king. 19 He said to the king, “Don’t think badly of me, my lord, and don’t recall the sin of your servant on the day when you, my lord the king, left Jerusalem! Please don’t call it to mind! 20 For I, your servant, know that I sinned, and I have come today as the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.”
21 Abishai son of Zeruiah replied, “For this should not Shimei be put to death? After all, he cursed the Lord’s anointed!” 22 But David said, “What do we have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? You are like my enemy today! Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t you realize that today I am king over Israel?” 23 The king said to Shimei, “You won’t die.” The king vowed an oath concerning this.
David’s grief over the death of his treacherous son Absalom reveals his humanity, but the incident with Joab reveals his qualities as a leader. Joab has been David’s enforcer; he has done things that David abhors; indeed, David may suspect that Joab has been instrumental in the killing of Absalom; but David receives his brutal rebuke and acts on it, because he knows it is right: he owes his victory to troops who have been loyal and deserve his congratulations. The force that has swept away his son is the same force that has preserved his throne. He is not king because he’s a nice man who loves his family. In carrying out this difficult duty, David recovers his skill at combining cunning and generosity. He encourages the tribes of Judah by mentioning the support he’s getting from the tribes of Israel; and at the same time pushes the Judaeans to re-instate him as a way of pressing the Israelites into action. He suggests to the prominent Judaean, Amasa, that he’s in for special promotion. And finally he shows generous mercy to the man who has treated him like scum when he was powerless. When David follows his calling to be the shepherd king of his people, he doesn’t put a foot wrong. Great political leadership persuades people to hand over to it their right to use force so that they can flourish by the arts of peace. It’s what Egypt and Syria need today.