David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Samuel 16:11-12 NIV)
There are certain characters in scripture who will not be fondly remembered. Judas Iscariot, for example, is not the most beloved individual even if his actions were supposed to happen so that the plan of salvation could be worked out. There are others who behaved in wicked ways who as a result get a bad reputation.
One character who should be right up there with the villains and malcontents is Shimei. You talk about kicking a man when he is down, Shimei would have won the award for sticking the boot in when it came to David on the run from his own son. It’s as though Shimei was waiting for years as a Saul loyalist for such a time as this to let the King on the run know just what he thought of him. His invective is as disrespectful as it gets and he has no problem turning from verbal to physical abuse with the hurling of stones as well as words.
Abishai, David’s relative and military leader, understandably gets upset. This is outrageous behaviour and the punk can get well and truly sorted out for his gross disrespect. David’s response? Surprisingly, David refuses to endorse an aggressive response. Some of that might be down to the despair he feels at his plight. He implies that Shimei had God’s approval to behave in that way. Something greater to consider in David’s response, however, is that he is actively practising leaving issues of vengeance and justice to God.
It’s easy to want to get worked up and react to scorn and abuse. It’s harder to see the bigger picture of godly character emerging even under attack and abuse. That is not to say there’s no room to react emotionally, it is to process this and work towards what God looks for from us. As it transpired for David, it would not be the last time he and Shimei would interact. Indeed up to David’s deathbed, Shimei would never be forgotten. Yet it was God who would vindicate.
That’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.