How do you respond when someone accuses you falsely? I must confess that my first reaction is to rise to my defense, jump right back at the person, and go for the jugular with my comeback. For me, responding in this way is as natural and instinctive as breathing. It’s how I’m wired.
Unfortunately, it has taken me fifty years and counting to learn that my way of responding isn’t always God’s way. Take, for example, the odd story that is found in 2 Samuel 16:5-13. Israel’s King David has been temporarily forced to advocate his throne and flee Jerusalem because of a coup by his treacherous, scheming son, Absalom. As a result of that coup, David, his royal staff, and hundreds of his most devoted followers have crossed over the Brook Kidron, just east of Jerusalem, made their way through the Jordan Valley, and ascended over the Mount of Olives. (By the way, David wrote Psalm 3 during this time of forced exile.)
As David and his group draw near to Bahurim, a man named Shimei meets them, throws rocks at them, and curses David prolifically. Shimei, you see, is a descendant of Saul, Israel’s first king, the king whom David had replaced on the throne decades earlier. God had ended not only Saul’s reign but also his life because of Saul’s arrogant, rebellious, sinful ways. Evidently, though, Shimei prefers a revisionist version of his family’s history.
The way Shimei sees things, David had been the cause of all Saul’s troubles and the sole reason why Saul’s kingly line had ended. In keeping with that wrong mindset, he taunts David by calling him a bloodthirsty man and a rouge/scoundrel/worthless man/man of Belial, depending upon which translation you prefer. He also tells him that God has delivered the kingdom into Absalom’s hands as a way of bringing all the blood of the house of Saul down onto David’s head. These accusations were especially untrue in light of the fact that David had gone out of his way to spare Saul’s life on at least two occasions when he could have easily killed him and claimed the kingship (1 Samuel 24:1-22; 1 Samuel 26:1-25).
As you might expect, it doesn’t take David’s loyal followers long to grow tired on Shimei’s antics. In particular, Abisha (David’s nephew and one of his bodyguards), says to David, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head.” But David declines the offer, and he does so for a strange reason.
David’s assessment is that God Himself has ordered Shimei to come out and curse him, and God might very well use the unjust cursing as justification for repaying David with good. David’s reaction reminds us of Jesus, of whom 1 Peter 2:23 says, “…when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…” So, David and his group just keep walking, and even as they make their way out of sight, Shimei runs along the hillside after them, continuing to curse them, throw rocks at them, kick up dust, and act like someone crazed.
And did God repay David with good for him quietly enduring Shimei’s false accusation? Yes, He did, as David’s exile was very brief, and he soon reclaimed his rightful place on Israel’s throne. This quick return to power was not without cost — as Absalom lost his life in the process — but it did show that God was pleased with the way David handled the Shimei incident. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us. I’ve never come across any Bible character who had the mind of God any more than David did. I think this is what God meant when He described him as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David thought like God thinks, and when he was at his best, he acted as God would in any given situation.
I want to close out this post now by offering an extended quote from A.B. Simpson, the great Canadian preacher, theologian, and denominational founder. This quote is found in the October 6 devotion of the classic devotional book, Streams In the Desert. Simpson does a better job than me at conveying the spiritual lesson that I’m trying to convey with all this. On the subject of the Christian remaining silent when he or she is falsely accused, Simpson says:
What grace it requires when we are misunderstood yet handle it correctly, or when we are judged unkindly yet receive it with holy sweetness. Nothing tests our character as a Christian more than having something evil said about us. This kind of grinding test is what exposes whether we are solid gold or simply gold-plated metal. If we could only see the blessings that lie hidden in our trials, we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse….It may be that the Lord will…repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today (2 Sam. 16:11-12).
Some Christians are easily turned away from the greatness of their life’s calling by pursuing instead their own grievances and enemies. They ultimately turn their lives into one petty whirlwind of warfare. It reminds me to trying to deal with a hornet’s nest. You may be able to disperse the hornets, but you will probably be terribly stung and receive nothing for your pain, for even their honey has no value.”