If you live long enough, someone is going to shame you. It may be the enraged leftist spitting on your car. It may be the cool shame of some leader that determines you’re not in the inner ring. You can even get this kind of thing from the self-righteous who see your shortcomings and publicly thank God that they are not like you. Now, when this shame comes your way, it could have a connection to something you have actually done wrong. Or, it may only be connected to an imaginary wrong, a wrong perceived by the stone-thrower. Different principles will need to be taken into account in each case. But there is an abiding principle, a key strategy, for living well when people throw stones at you. That strategy is revealed in 2 Samuel 16.
The Text – A Summary
Absalom was on his way into Jerusalem while David and his men fled. As David reached the hilltop, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, approached with two donkeys saddled with bread, raisings, fruits, and a bottle of wine (v. 1). A nice gift, but it was all part of a deception to find favor with the king and cutoff Mephibosheth from that favor (v. 4). A family member of Saul’s house named Shimei came upon David and began to curse him. David was surrounded by his servants on the right and the left. And Shimei went to throwing stones at them all while cursing David (v. 6). The great soldier Abishai could not stand this dishonor. And he was not wrong about the injustice he saw. Abishai said to king David, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head” (v. 9). But David’s response is full of wisdom, humility, and faith. He replied, “So let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so” (v. 10)? David added, “It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day” (v. 12).
Abishai Had a Point
In a very real sense, Abishai was right. Shimei should not have been throwing stones. Yes, David had sinned greatly with Bathsheba. But Shimei’s shaming of the Lord’s anointed was an abomination. Recall David’s unwillingness to raise his own hand against the Lord’s anointed Saul, even when Saul unjustly sought his own life.
When someone is throwing stones at you, he is doing something foolish. He is doing something wrong. You should mark that. The injustice of the stone throwing is part of what will prompt you to pull an Abishai and go take the stone-throwers head off. Moreover, those who pull an Abishai feel quite justified in doing so given the grave injustice of the stone-throwing. And you will not avoid the Abishai error (or help anyone else avoid it) by pretending that the stone-throwing is OK.
A God in Heaven
The key truth that kept David on the right path in his difficult trek out of Jerusalem is a simple one: there is a God in heaven. The strategy for faithfulness when people thrown stones at you is twofold: First, live like there is a God in heaven who sent them. Second, live like this God can pour blessings on your head for suffering injustice.
Yes, this is no easy task. Your flesh doesn’t like either one of the folds of this strategy. Regarding the first fold, we don’t want to believe that God really sent the stone-thrower. The stone-thrower must be operating independently of God. So we think. But that sentiment is false and leads to a host of troubles not the least of which is deifying the one who does you an injustice. Rather, we must learn to say with Job, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil” (Job 2:10)? If you fail to grasp that God sent Shimei and his stones to you, then you end up giving Shimei far too much power. Whether you go cut his head off or try to move on with your life ignoring him, you’ll still be stuck licking your Shimei wounds and worshiping at your little Shimei altar.
The second fold of this strategy is a reminder that God sees our affliction and blesses us accordingly. David didn’t just say, “Let him throw stones, I deserve it.” He considered that God may return good for Shimei’s cursing. Genuine faith in God like this keeps a man out of the flesh. It keeps a man from idolatry. We live in a world where God raises up and puts down, makes poor and makes rich, gives life and kills. This God is our Father and Redeemer through his Son, Jesus Christ. And faith in him is the only way to be faithful when the Shimei’s of the world come your way. When they do, keep 1 Peter 3:9 plastered on your eyeballs, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”