The king then asked, “Where is your master’s grandson?”
Ziba said to him, “He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the Israelites will restore to me my grandfather’s kingdom.’”
Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.”
I once met a man who had served under five different U.S. presidents while working for the Department of Commerce. His favorite, he told me, was Harry Truman who always made a requested decision in a timely way and was always on top of the many details necessary to carry out the office well. His least favorite, he added, was Dwight Eisenhower whom he observed was on the golf course more than he was in the oval office and who seemed to avoid the politics and details the job required.
As a history buff I’ve heard it said that military generals make poor presidents. Politics is messier than the military. People don’t have to obey your every command. You can’t just give orders, you have to persuade and cajole those who disagree with you. U.S. Grant, another general who ascended to the White House, is generally regarded as the worst U.S. president in history.
As we read the story of David, I find it fascinating that this theme of difficulty moving from military command to political power appears to be very apt, even in antiquity. David was a great military leader, but his leadership as monarch had some fatal flaws that echo the reflections of Eisenhower by my acquaintance. Absalom stole people’s hearts because he would take the time listen to their cases and grievances while David avoided the responsibility and kept people waiting. David appears to have been more interested in personal pursuits than in national problems.
Because of his leadership blind spots, David is on the run for the second time in his life. This time, he’s fleeing his own son. David’s scandals have decimated his approval rating. He has few loyal followers left. As his monarchy collapses around him, people’s true feelings come to light and we see two examples of it in today’s chapter. I find it interesting the contrast between David’s response in the the two confrontations found in today’s chapter.
Mephibosheth, the handicapped son of Saul, had personally been shown favor by David. Now that David appears to have let the throne slip through his fingers, Mephibosheth repays David’s grace with disloyalty rather than gratitude. There is a power vacuum and Mephibosheth is going to try an make a play to grab power for himself. David responds by rescinding his former kindness and give Saul’s holdings back to Saul’s servant, Ziba.
Shimei the Benjaminite lets out his frustrations with David in an annoying one man protest in which he screams his disdain for David and hurls stones at the king. Unlike Mephibosheth’s disloyalty, which was a personal dishonoring of David’s kindness, Shimei’s verbal and stone assault comes from pent up frustration with David’s leadership, scandals, and the resulting fall out. Perhaps David recognized the truth in Shimei’s criticism. David turns the other cheek and won’t even let his loyal guard force Shimei to be quiet.
Today I’m thinking and pondering the criticism and confrontations we all face. There is a difference between Mephibosheth’s selfish power grab and Shimei’s frontal assault and a difference in David’s response. Nevertheless, Jesus never made such distinctions in his command to forgive others. His parables and consistent message instructs me to forgive both hurtful verbal criticism and a very personal slap across the face.
I’m taking a little inventory this morning of those who’ve been critical and who’ve caused me injury. I’m thinking about my own life, leadership and blind spots which have given others good reason to be critical. I’m considering my responses and asking myself if I’ve truly forgiven them.
Between you and me, I’ve got some work to do.