In the previous chapter we left David mourning for his son who had been killed in battle. The fact that his son Absalom determined to kill him seems to have no impact on David’s emotional response to his death. Fortunately, Joab understood the impact this would have on attempts to reunify the nation. Joab is probably one of the few people who could correct David and get away with it. He scolds David and David responds by encouraging the troops with his presence. However, Joab does not really get away with his correction. David appoints the general of Absalom’s army to be the commander of all the reunified army. This is a direct affront to Joab that will not end well.
David’s appointment of Amasa was a brilliant political move. With that appointment those loyal to Absalom recommitted themselves to David and called for his return. With David back in power we get to watch how several different people respond. The first that David encounters is Shimei. As David was leaving Jerusalem Shimei cursed him and threw stones at him. Shimei comes to David and confesses his sin. Abishai, Joab’s brother and one of David’s military commanders, wants to kill Shimei, but David grants him his life.
Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, also comes to meet David. He uses his lameness as an excuse for why he did not flee with David. He also blames his servant Ziba for not assisting him. It seems that Ziba and Mephibosheth are constantly competing for David’s favor and the property associated with that favor. David spends no time attempting to resolve the dispute between the two. He makes a quick decision and divides the property between them.
The final person to come to accompany David on his journey back to Jerusalem is Barzillai. He presents a striking contrast to the others who come groveling for some favor from David. Barzillai is wealthy and generous man who has provided for David and his entourage during this difficult time of conflict. David offers to bless him and provide for him, and Barzillai accepts David’s offer, but indirectly. He names one of his servants to return with David and receive the blessing that David had offered to him. So Kimham, Barzillai’s servant, returns to Jerusalem with David.
Finally, David must deal with a squabble between the men of Judah and the men of Israel. They argue about who should have the greater claim on the king. This squabble between Judah and Israel will not be resolved for centuries.
What about us?
This chapter describes several interactions between David and people attempting to gain his favor and possibly a position within his administration. David’s resources are limited, as are the positions of influence within his administration. Scarcity creates competition. In some cases the competition gets quite ugly. It is easy for us to look at these situations and chuckle at the obvious attempts to improve their status. Unfortunately, the combination of limited resources and our selfishness fuel continual competition in all aspects of our lives. Office politics are real and interactions like those David’s people have with him happen every day.
I think we can learn much from Barzillai. His unselfish and generous service to David result in an offer of great reward. When we serve out of love with our desire focused on what is best for the object of our love our service may or may not be recognized. That will depend on the character of the person being served. However, since our goal was their benefit and not our reward their response does not matter.
God by contrast is infinite and has infinite resources. His outpouring of blessing on one person in no way reduces the amount of blessing available to anyone else. There is no reason for any form of competition in God’s kingdom. Instead, God promises that if we take what He provides and use it to bless others then He will give us more blessing to use. When we live and love out of the love God has poured out on us, we have no need for competition.