David has let God down with catastrophic sinning as king over Israel. His sinning has dramatically affected his ability to rule as he is no longer giving justice to the oppressed nor ruling in righteousness. His son Absalom has returned from exile without a shred of repentance and David has accepted him back. This is going to lead to another catastrophe in David’s life. What I want us to pay attention to in this text is how David handles more failures in his life. What will David do when his life is falling apart? What will David think of God? What will be David’s response?
The Conspiracy (15:1-12)
Absalom begins by looking like royalty, riding around with a chariot, horses, and fifty men running behind him. He is acting like the king that Samuel warned about in 1 Samuel 8:11. As people would come to the king to make judgments about their disputes, he would tell them that there is no one set up to hear their cases. If he were a judge in the land then he would give them justice (15:4). If people came to bow down before him, he would reach out his hand to stop them, and would greet them with a kiss. Absalom made himself a man of the people and stole the hearts of the people with these actions. After doing this for four years, Absalom tells David he is going to Hebron to worship the Lord. But Absalom has sent secret messengers through Israel proclaiming him as king in Hebron. Absalom swayed David’s closer advisor, Ahithopel, to his side and the conspiracy to usurp the throne was now in motion.
The Evacuation (15:13-37)
A messenger tells David that the hearts now belong to Absalom and David realizes he must quickly leave Jerusalem or else be killed along with those left in the city. So David evacuates with his entire house, but leaves ten concubines behind. Leaving them behind was a symbol of David’s rule in Jerusalem. David is not relinquishing the throne but moving out temporarily due to this threat. David notes that all of these people who attached to David from Philistia were also going to go with him. David attempts to send them back to stay in Jerusalem. But notice verse 21. “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” (2 Samuel 15:21 ESV) This is what it looks like to follow the king. Where our king goes, we will go, whether for life or for death. You might remember that Thomas said something similar in John 11:16 and Peter showed he would do this in the garden, pulling out his sword when the mob came to arrest Jesus.
In fact, this picture becomes clearer in verse 23. The people are wailing for the king while he crosses the brook Kidron to the Mount of Olives (15:30). This is exactly what Jesus does as recorded in John 18:1. After telling his disciples about his betrayal, they leave and cross the Kidron Valley to the garden where Jesus would pray and be arrested. One more parallel picture to Jesus in this immediate scene. To see the parallel, we must wonder why David is not fighting for Jerusalem. Why not go to battle against Absalom and defend his kingship? We see why in verses 24-30.
Zadok and the Levites also come out of the city with the ark of the covenant. They set the ark down and begin offering sacrifices to the Lord. But look at what David says in verses 25-26. David instructs the ark to be taken back into the city. David does not attempt to manipulate God through the ark but will trust in God’s will. David says, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me what seems good to him.” David places himself at the mercy of the Lord. He is unwilling to maintain his hold on his kingship. He will not fight for the throne. He is going to trust in the Lord. He is going to depend on God for vindication. If God wants me to be king, then he will bring me back and will be in God’s presence. But if the Lord does not take pleasure in me any more, then let the Lord do to me as he sees fit. What humility! What submission! What devotion to the Lord! He puts himself in the hands of God.
This is what we need in life. We need to hit bottom hard to wake up and trust in the Lord. David is watching everything slip through his fingers. He is losing everything that God has given him. But that is what it takes for us to wake up. There has to be humility when we hit the bottom. There has to be looking to God when we hit the bottom. This is what David is doing. David is not looking at trying to get God to do what he wants. He says to leave the ark in Jerusalem. David is ready to go wherever God is going to take him. He is not directing God. He is waiting for God to direct him. This is what it looks like to wait for the Lord and trust in the Lord. When Jesus traces this same path for his righteousness, not for his sins, he does the same thing as David. He entrusts himself to the Lord. He does not hold on to Jerusalem or the throne but submits to God’s will. As disciples, we must do the same. Hitting rock bottom hard teaches us to entrust our lives to God.
The knife goes further into David’s back when he learns that his close companion, his trusted advisor, Ahithophel is among the conspirators (15:31). Some of the deepest pain in life comes from the times when those you trust and those who are close to you betray you. Jesus had the same thing happen to him. One of his close companions, the apostle Judas, came with the crowd to arrest Jesus. But look at what David does again. David trusts the Lord. He turns to God in prayer (15:31). David asks for God’s hand to be involved in the future circumstances as they unfold.
The Shame (16:1-14)
The cascade of problems have not stopped for David. In chapter 16 the servant of Mephibosheth, Ziba, comes to David. Remember that Mephibosheth was brought into the house of David and ate at David’s table. David promised to care for Mephibosheth, keeping his covenant with Jonathan, even though Mephibosheth had nothing to offer David. David was showing grace to Mephibosheth. Ziba comes with resources for David to feed David and his men. David asks where Mephibosheth is. Ziba tells David that Mephibosheth is staying in Jerusalem thinking that this will be the opportunity to restore him to the throne. How insulting! What a slap in the face this must have felt like to David! Think about all that David had done for Mephibosheth and this is the loyalty that he receives in return! David then gives everything that belonged to Mephibosheth to Ziba because of his lack of Mephibosheth’s faithfulness and loyalty. Since the servant shows loyalty to David, David now blesses him with all that had been given to Mephibosheth.
But the insults have not stopped yet. As David and his men travel into the wilderness, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family named Shimei comes out and starts cursing David. He shouts to David, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!” As he shouts these curses at David, he is throwing rocks at David and his men (16:5-7). But look at what he tells David in verse 8. The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in Saul’s household. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer! One of David’s fighting men, Abishai, asks David why they should be listening to this dead dog. Let me go over and cut off his head. Makes sense, right? How dare you curse the king? How dare you throw stones at the Lord’s anointed? Further, please note that what Shimei is saying is not true. David has not wiped out Saul’s household. David has not been a man of blood to the house of Israel. David has been reserved and has not seized the kingdom for himself. David brought justice to Saul and Jonathan when they were killed by the Philistines. Shimei is just wrong, making up lies, as he curses David.
But notice what David does in verses 11-12. First, David holds his peace and allows the slander to happen. He does not go over and kill this man. He allows the slander and mocking to happen. Not only this, David says that he deserves this. The Lord has told him to do this. David knows his sins and realizes that he must accept the consequences for his sins. He accepts the consequences of his sins. Notice in verse 12 that David’s hope is that his righteous restraint will be seen by the Lord and the Lord will repay him good for the evil that is being done against him now. David says he will do good in the face of this evil with the hope that God will do good to him later for maintain his righteousness. David does not retaliate but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. This also foreshadows what Jesus will do toward those who mock and slander him (cf. 1 Peter 2:23). The rest of the way Shimei follows them, throwing rocks and dirt at them as they go. What a picture of humility and faith again!
David shows us an important picture, teaching us what to do when we let God down. What I want us to focus on is that David accepted the consequences of his sin. He accepted what was coming to him and still entrusted his life to the Lord. David is losing everything and he is understanding that this is what must happen to him. David knows that he must deal with his sins and the outcome of those sins.
Friends, we cannot avoid the consequences of our sins nor should we blame God when we suffer for our sins. This is the way God has set up life. We will pay consequences for our sins. This is one of the reasons why God tells us what sins are so that we will not have to suffer. This is just like parents giving rules to their children so that the children do not have to experiencing trouble. We cannot blame God and we cannot blame others for the pain we must endure for our sinning. We may even suffer for things are not deserved. What Shimei is saying and doing is not right and not fair. Should Shimei be throwing rocks at David? Should Shimei be lying about David’s life? No, but David accepts this as the consequences for his sins. True repentance accepts the consequences of our sins, even if we think they are unfair in our minds.
Consider all that Jesus endured for us as the consequences of our sins, not his own sins. We can stand firm through suffering and endure the pains of life, just or unjust, because we can see what Jesus has done for us. He suffered for us. He endured more than we endure. Our suffering is for our learning, so that we will hit bottom and truly trust in the Lord rather than ourselves. When you let God down, learn from the failure. See that the failure came from trusting in ourselves and not God. Let the pain of our sins be the reminder that we want to keep away from sins. Sinning does not provide the joy that it promises, only pain. Finally, see our suffering for our sins as from God’s hand. Do not resist what God has put in place in your life. It is there for spiritual growth and learning. Accept your new circumstances and trust God to take your through this dark valley.