After King David sinned with Bathsheba, he hit rock bottom. God forgave the guilt of his sin, but, as promised, God sent a cascade of painful consequences. David’s son Absalom seized power and forced David to flee Jerusalem for his life (2 Sam. 15:13, 16:22).
While David and his men dejectedly trudged down the road out of town, toward the empty wilderness,
There came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. Shimei said when he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! The Lord has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed” (16:5–8).
Shimei was doing little more than kick David when he was down. Shimei was of the family of Saul, whom David had replaced. No doubt, he had lost prestige and wealth and friends due to the transfer of the throne, and now saw an opportunity to hurl insults at David.
One of David’s men offered to deal harshly with Shimei:
Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head” (16:9).
But David, a man after God’s own heart, did not retaliate. David knew that his flight from Jerusalem was punishment for his own crimes, and he avoided making it worse by lashing out in anger. David said,
What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, “Curse David,” then who shall say, “Why have you done so?” …Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.
So David and his men kept trudging; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with them cursing and casting dust and stones at them (16:10–13).
Be Patient with a Shimei
David, like Jesus, “while being reviled did not revile in return; while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). This is a difficult but virtuous mindset. It is always within a person’s power to refuse to get angry, to refuse to lash out. David would not stoop to the level of Shimei.
Learn from a Shimei
David had to admit that Shimei could be right! When someone pulls me aside to issue correction or challenge my behavior, the first impulse that arises in my chest is to justify myself, to defend myself against the accusations, even to go on the offensive and lash out at the other person.
King David did none of those things. He did not reflexively strike back and silence this loudmouth, even though he was being publicly humiliated. David considered the possibility that these brash statements were exactly what he needed to hear! David enjoyed very little moral authority at that point anyway. God Himself may have sent Shimei to correct him.
God help me to never close my ears. God may use a man I do not like, and with whom I do not agree, and to whom I have little reason to pay attention, to rebuke my sins and get me back on the right course.
Expect an Occasional Shimei
Those who endeavor to lead the church must be ready to suffer the blows of a Shimei. No matter where one goes or what one does in the church, whether one’s good intentions succeed or fail, men like Shimei will snipe from the roadside, hurling abuses and kicking up dirt. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…” (2 Tim. 2:24–25). Shimei later apologized (19:18-20).
Most of the time, the grumblings of these Shimeis are stupid, petty, shallow, and deserve to be ignored. The Lord’s servant must be choosy and confident. He must learn to accept the good criticism. And when the advice is nothing more than mean-spirited yapping, he must shrug it off without irritation and without holding a grudge. He must develop thick skin and broad shoulders (Prov. 19:11). —John Guzzetta