Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wise as Serpents

May 17: 2 Samuel 16-18

5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The Lord has avenged on you all the blood 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. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”

9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.”
2 Samuel 16:5-12

1 Moreover, Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight. 2 I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will be at peace.” 4 And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel.

5 Then Absalom said, “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.” 6 And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says? If not, you speak.” 7 Then Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” 8 Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people. 9 Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men. 11 But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. 12 So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.” 14 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.
2 Samuel 17:1-14

Wise as Serpents

Sometimes Christians are thought of as weak and easily fooled. That really was not true of David, and it should not be true of us. I thought of this verse in Matthew when I read our Scripture reading for today.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:16, King James Version

I chose two sections from our reading today to illustrate this point; the first, involving Shimei. As David and his men were fleeing from Jerusalem, they passed by Shimei, who hurled curses at David. Abishai, the leader of David's army wanted to kill Shimei; David, however, refused.

And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to."

However, though David refused to have him killed, he never forgot this episode; he spoke of it to Solomon, when he transferred the kingdom to him. Yes, David could be harmless as a dove.

But, David was also wise as a serpent as illustrated in 2 Samuel 17 shown above. David persuaded his dear friend, Hushai to remain in Jerusalem and pretend to offer his service to Absalom. Today, we would call him a mole.

This proved to be a wise choice. Absalom sought the advice of Ahithophel to determine their best strategy to defeat David; then, knowing that Hushai had served David for years, he also sought the advice of Hushai. Hushai knew that the advice given by Ahithophel was good, but would be devastating to David, so he offered an alternate view.

Absalom and him men chose the advice of Hushai, which gave Hushai time to send two men to David telling them to continue to flee, as well as giving David time to muster a larger army. This led to the victory by David over Absalom and his army.

As Christians, we need to think about this; the Bible does tell us to be longsuffering with those who would do us harm, but that does not mean that we should not use wisdom in our dealings with them. The true Christian, like David, should be shrewd (wise as sepents), and yet slow to anger or revenge (harmless as doves).

That can be a tall order, but God is on our side, and will always give grace and help in our time of need.

God Bless You,

Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

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