Summary: The story of David and Shimei shows that to be after God’s heart means to allow God to speak as God chooses.
David, the shepherd boy and first musical therapist, renowned giant killer and psalm writer – and most importantly -- part of the Hebrew lineage of Jesus, had a lot of plusses. But he also had some human and disturbing qualities for a leader. David was known to lie when it was convenient, and then there was the unfortunate Bathsheba incident where he had an affair then used his army to murder her husband. His immediate lineage was the dysfunctional family circus with the son of one wife raping the daughter of another, then David’s son Absalom revolting against him and dying in battle. He was such a bad example and had been such a bloody king (at one point he only agreed to marry Saul’s daughter after her learns he gets to kill 100 Philistines to get her) that God doesn’t allow David to build the temple, but instead passes the task on to Solomon. Yet God loves David, so he softens the blow by saying, “Who are you to build me a house? You cannot build me a house. But, I will build a house for you” and promises him Christ. (2 Samuel 7)
When the Bible says David was a man after God’s own heart, I don’t think it means David was like God. I think it means David was seeking God and God’s love. David had an honest relationship with God (if no one else) and tried in many ways to make God feel honored (fighting for God, treating Jonathan’s crippled son with kindness, refusing to kill Saul because God at one time anointed him, trying to keep the Ark safe). David chased God. Even though his lust and anger often got the best of him, David was a God seeker and a God server in a powerful way. That’s why the strange text in today’s reading doesn’t really surprise me.
The story of Shimei is not often preached about – perhaps a story about throwing dirt and cursing a leader being a tolerated act isn’t what most preachers want to encourage from the pulpit. But it is an amazing story that can inspire us in so many ways. Have you ever heard it preached?
During the bloody war with Absalom as David’s army is traveling, a man named Shimei shows up. He is from Saul’s family and has not forgotten the total devastation of Saul’s clan at David’s hands or the fact he took power from Saul. He begins throwing rocks at David and cursing him and his body guards. Finally after enough cursing and stones, a guard asks David for permission to kill him. David says no. He tells the guard that maybe God has caused the man to curse David, and if David tolerates it, then maybe God will give him a blessing for taking such a nasty cursing. So they walk all the way to their destination with Shimei cursing, and throwing rocks and dirt all over them. My favorite part is verse 14 where it says “When they arrived at their destination – they were exhausted”. I bet! How much cursing and dirt would it take to turn your trip upside down?
Why would David, a King, allow some peasant to throw dirt in his face and curse him? Why would God “cause” somebody to curse someone else?
David was ready for truth
David knew Shimei had legitimate complaints. David was a bloody king, he did take Saul’s throne, and he had murdered unjustly. David’s own son was trying to kill him. David knew the only way to relate to God and the people of Israel about this disaster was to be honest. He’s tired of hiding. He’s done with excuses and spin doctors. “I sinned and the result was this bloody war that has split my family and this nation,” David is ready to say. Along comes Shimei who is willing to say it for him. Shimei tells David’s truth in his spew of curses.
Each of us has people in our life that God has put there to tell us our truth. When we are too tired, unfocused or misdirected that person comes along and “curses” us (hopefully in a more loving and less dirty fashion). Our human tendency is to push them away, argue with them, or silence them somehow. But to seek God - to be after God’s own heart means we should honor them, protect their right to speak and let them talk. The people God sends may not be your parent, sibling or best friend. They may not even have your best interests at heart (Shimei certainly wasn’t working for the “Re-elect King David Committee”) It may be a stranger or someone you needed to forgive or who needed to forgive you. But the Holy Spirit knows truth when it hears it. Don’t silence it. Learn from it.