Summary: In uncertain times, it remains true that giving away what we cannot possess anyway is the path to fulfillment; it must, however, be a gift that refreshes the fainting.
It seems that we do not have what we think we have. Sometimes what seems to be ours is not ours at all. Buildings as sturdy as the Pentagon and as imposing as the World Trade Center can be destroyed in a moment of awful terror. Lives promising and beautiful are snuffed out, and there is little trace left. Businesses that yesterday were doing well are today closing their doors, with their trade suddenly evaporated. Investments that were intended to support us in the future plunge in value by astonishing amounts. What we thought we had we do not have. What we supposed was ours is diminished or wiped out.
Before September 11th, I said to a few people that it felt very good to know that the day I retire I will get a nice increase in income, thanks to the investment skills of the Baptist Annuity Board. The Board’s projections showed that my wife and I would receive more by being retired than we do from my working. That was comforting to know. But that was before September 11th; since then I’ve been afraid to check our retirement accounts! Instead I have been going to the doctor to make sure I will have the strength to keep on working for Lord only knows how long! We do not have what we thought we had. What we supposed was ours is diminished or wiped out.
Three thousand years ago, what King David thought he had he did not have. What David supposed was his was being wiped out. King David was in trouble. He was on the run, for fear of his very life. He was in danger of losing his kingdom. And, worst of all, his own son was leading the rebellion. Can you imagine it? A son, lying and conniving to get the people to follow him instead of his father. Shakespeare said it well, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child.”
David was in trouble. And all the King of Israel could do was to run, to weep, and to pray. It was not a pretty sight. David, a king, who ought to have been clothed in fine garments and wearing a crown, is out on the road, barefoot and hiding beneath a raggedly cloak. All because his son, Absalom, was stirring up trouble and wanted to be king in his father’s place.
David was not sure, in those circumstances, whom he could trust. If you cannot trust your own son, then just who can you trust? If Absalom is rebellious, who else is rebellious? In fact, the Bible says, “Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel”. So David, ousted from Jerusalem, wonders who else is among the terrorists. Who else is taking sides against him? David went up to the Mount of Olives, there to pray, to weep, and to watch, and to wait.
A little beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, David met Ziba. Ziba was the servant of a young man with the tongue-twisting name, Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was another potential threat to David, because Mephibosheth was the grandson of the first king of Israel, Saul. Remember your history: David had some while before wrestled the Kingdom away from Saul. So Mephibosheth was a pretender to the throne. Mephibosheth might have designs on the Kingdom himself. So why is Ziba, Mephibosheth’s servant up here on this mountain at this time? David was suspicious. He didn’t know whether he could trust this man Ziba.
Now look what Ziba has with him! Bread and raisins, fruits and wine. Why? What is this all about? David asked Ziba what this food was for. Ziba’s answer was to the point: “The bread … is for the young men to eat, and the wine is for those to drink who faint in the wilderness.” Now that’s a welcome answer. David and his men needed nourishment and refreshment; bread and wine were good to have. And so when David found out that it was true that Mephibosheth was plotting against him, but this Ziba, once the servant of treachery was now turning into a servant of David’s, what did David do? How did he treat Ziba? He announced to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours”. “All is now yours.” I am giving you everything that belongs to your master. It’s not mine, but I am giving it to you anyway. “All is now yours.” And Ziba’s response is exactly what you might expect, “I do obeisance”. “I am yours.” “I belong you now; you are my king.”
David, even while he was losing what he had, gave away what he did not own. How about that? Let me say it again. David, even while he was losing what he had, gave away what he did not own. And it bought Ziba’s loyalty. It won Ziba’s heart.