Stages of Growth: “Retreat to Win” (Part 2) – 2 Samuel 16

There are times when evil looks like it will triumph over good. Ashamed and beaten, the valiant David fled into the wilderness. Unsure of how God would repay his sinful neglect, David was deeply unsure of what God was doing. Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Absalom partied his way to the palace. Where was God? How could David recover? .

Key Principle: There are always many voices that rise during a crisis. The key is to seek God, whether the experts believe His Word or not!

There are two sections to the narrative:

  • The Story of David’s Encounters (16:1-14)
  • The story of Absalom’s Arrival (16:15-23)

Within the story there are six people that reveal the kinds of people we should expect to encounter during a crisis:

1.  Ziba the Servant (16:1-4): Acting as an opportunist, he put supplies together to help David through his difficult time, but had the desire to receive a long term benefit out of aiding David (16:4b).

  • He came out to meet him and had things that David needed (16:1).
  • He had a plan for their use (16:2).
  • He was quick to give up information not flattering to his master (16:3). People that easily share negative information with you, share it about you.
  • He didn’t hesitate to signal that he wanted favor for his work (16:4). People that offer help with strings are people you need to be careful about.

2.  Mephibosheth the Prince (16:3): Though treated very well by David (2 Sam. 9) because of a long standing covenant with Jonathan his father (1 Sam. 20), Mephibosheth still may have desired to receive the throne. We cannot tell if he really felt the way Ziba said he did, but we do know that he stayed behind. That was a strange way to behave if he didn’t want to look disloyal.

3.   Shimei the Heckler (16:5-9,13): Shimei was deeply hurt because David gave over some of the house of Saul to be killed for Saul’s wrongdoing to the Gibeonites (recalled in 2 Samuel 21, though it happened before these events..). Shimei wanted to see David die a painful death. He was bitter and angry.

  • He sought the conflict and came looking for a fight (16:5).
  • He was so hurt he jeopardized his life by attacking many at once (16:6).
  • He wanted David to know why he was so angry (16:7).
  • He automatically assumed the misfortune of David was as a result of things that made HIM hurt. It never occurred to Shimei that his situation may not have been in any way connected (16:8,13).

An older couple were on a trip across country and they stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. As they got up to leave, the woman forgot and left her glasses on the table. They were several miles down the road before she realized she didn’t have them and to make matters worse, her husband had to travel quite a distance down the road before they could find a place to turn around. The old man fussed and complained all the way back to the restaurant. He berated for her foolishness and stupidity. How could she be so thoughtless! When they finally arrived, as the old woman got out of the car to retrieve her glasses the old man said, “Well, as long as you’re going back in there, you may as well get my hat, too.”

After a preacher had given a sermon on spiritual gifts, a woman from the congregation came up to him and said, “That was a great sermon… but I believe I only have one talent.” The preacher smiled and asked, “What’s your talent? The man replied, “I have the gift of criticism.” To which the preacher wisely, “The Bible says that the guy who had only one talent went out and buried it. Maybe that’s what you ought to do with yours.”

Catherine Marshall (considered by many to be one of the more godly women of the last century) noticed this trait in herself. So she decided to go on a “fast” from being critical. She noted: “For the first half of the day, I simply felt a void, almost as if I had been wiped out as a person. This was especially true at lunch…I listened to the others and kept silent… In our talkative family no one seemed to notice. Bemused, I noticed that my comments were not missed. The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations.” In short, stripped of being able to make any negative comments… she found she had nothing to say!

4.   Abishai the Reactionary (16:9-12,14): Shocked that David allowed such insubordinate behavior, Abishai was ready to start shedding blood (16:9). David understood the irony of battling this fight (16:10-11) while fleeing from Absalom. Remember: Some friends will get you into the wrong fight. They want to help, but focus isn’t their strong suit. They can get you caught up, worked up and worn out, but it won’t fix the problem!

5.   Hushai the Secret Friend (16:16-19): The Lord was using real friends to defend David though he couldn’t see what was happening at the time. When David had no control, he set in motion help and trusted the Lord and his friends to do what they must do in his defense.

6.   Ahithophel the Expert (16:20-23): He looked on top of the world. The new king turned to HIM for a plan. Yet, as a turncoat to David, he offered cruel and wicked advice. He may have seemed like the expert, and may have even been wise by the standard of the day (16:23), but God was working behind the scenes to confound his career (17:14b).

How did David keep himself together when pulled in so many directions? (16:11-14)

1)       David RESISTED the temptation to get caught up in the wrong fight, but conserved his strength for the coming battle (16:11).

2)       David REMEMBERED his own sin (16:12) and didn’t presume that none of this was his fault. The key to a humble, uncritical spirit is to remember that we’ve sinned.

A man told of the time his Aunt Varie had a woman friend over. The two women had spent a good deal of the afternoon trying to impress each other with how religious they were. Finally, the other woman left, and my Aunt Varie smugly turned to Uncle Will and remarked, “You know, Mrs. Sills is a good Christian, but I just believe I live closer to the Lord.” Uncle Will thought a moment, and then replied, “Ain’t either of you crowding Jesus any.”

In I John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

3)       David REACHED UPWARD TO God’s faithfulness (16:12b).

Psalm 3 was written by David while he was fleeing Absalom.
A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.” (Psalm 3:1-4)

One article I read said this:

The taxes I pay ….because it means I’m employed.
The clothes that fit a little too snug ….because it means I have enough to eat.
My shadow who watches me work ….because it means I am out in the sunshine.
A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing ….because it means I have a home.
The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot ….because it means I am capable of walking.
My huge heating bill ….because it means I am warm.
All the complaining I hear about our government ….because it means we have freedom of speech.
The lady behind me in church who sings off key ….because it means that I can hear.
The piles of laundry and ironing ….because it means my loved ones are nearby.
The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours ….because it means that I’m alive.
Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day ….because it means I have been productive.

If we focus on God’s faithfulness then you and I can inoculate ourselves against the ungratefulness that is often the source of a critical spirit.

4)       David REQUESTED God’s blessing be restored (Psalm 3:5-8) continues:

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

When condemned, we may need to utter: Romans 8:1 “There is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus”.  When we recognize and REMEMBER this truth, we are protected from the spiritual illness of a negative and critical heart.

There’s a story about a crazy old woman who was known to be crazy because she would walk down the streets talking to herself. One of her best known pastimes was talk to Jesus… and Jesus would talk back. One day a new preacher came to town and thought that perhaps he might be able to cure her of this odd activity. So one day, he spied her on the street and went over to talk to her:
“I hear that you often talk to Jesus?” he remarked.
“Oh yes,” she replied. “Jesus and I often have long talks together.”
“Would you do me favor?” he inquired. “The next time you talk to Jesus, could you ask him what the last sin I confessed to Him was?”
She agreed, and the next day as he was walking down the sidewalk, he saw here again and went to her.
“Did you ask Jesus the question?” he asked.
“Oh yes,” she exclaimed. “Jesus and I talked about it for a long time.”
“Oh.” he said thoughtfully. “Well, what did He say my last confessed sin was?”
“He said He didn’t remember.”