Day 139: Recycled Revenge, and the Better Way of Jesus (2 Samuel 19-21)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 
Matthew 5:43-45

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I didn’t much like David, even though he is called the “man after God’s own heart” (see Day 111: Not Really Loving David Today, and Why I’m Not Supposed To). Today’s reading gives me more reasons not to like David. The whole thing seems to be all about revenge, and it leaves me feeling a little gross.

David replaces Joab because he’s mad about getting called out (19:13). Later, Joab stabs Amasa because he’s bitter about losing his job (20:9-10).

In 19:10-23, David seems to be magnanimous in extending forgiveness to Shimei, but if you fast forward to his deathbed conversation with Solomon in 1 Kings 2, you see that literally David’s last words were airing his grievances over Shimei cursing him decades before (1 Kings 2:8-9). For an outstanding scholarly article on this, check out “King David’s Troubling Deathbed Instructions” at

Finally, in 2 Samuel 21:5-6, David seems to think that God will bring a famine in the land  to an end if the Gibeonites are allowed to execute seven sons of Saul. Tara Leigh astutely notes that this was not an explicit command from God.  This may have been David acting on his own. God responding to the plea for the land (v. 14) seems to be connected more to the bones of Saul and Jonathan being interred than it does to the deaths of the seven sons.

So God, what do you have to teach me in these dark passages?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus showed us a better way. Rather than revenge, Jesus preached reconciliation. Instead of brooding over past slights, whether real or perceived, Jesus invited us to turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled to your brother.  Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be called children of your father who is in Heaven (Matthew 5:45).

So it seems we have a choice. We can follow David, or we can follow the Son of David. One perpetuates a cycle. The other breaks a cycle.

The band Coldplay has this lyric in their song “Death and all His Friends,” one of the songs on Viva la Vida:

No, I don’t wanna battle from beginning to end;
I don’t want a cycle of recycled revenge;
I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.

The cycle of recycled revenge is the surest way to follow Death and all his friends. The way of Jesus, the way of loving your enemies, is the way of life and peace.

God, you remind me today that constantly mulling over old grievances, seeking to settle scores, and looking to get even is to follow death and all his friends. Help me not to keep cycling recycled revenge. Today, let me be a person of peace who breaks the cycle instead of perpetuating it. Today, I want to follow Jesus, and not David.

Day 138: A Tottering Fence (Psalm 62)

62 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will all of you attack a man
    to batter him,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?

Psalm 62:1-3

Through the Bible reading plan: Psalm 26, 40, 58, 61, 62, 64

Yesterday, we read about how, when David fled Jerusalem at the start of Absalom’s coup, a random Benjamite named Shimei threw stones at him and cursed him. 2 Samuel 16:6-7 reads,

“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. And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!”

In today’s reading, Psalm 62 seems to be about this part of David’s life. If it is, I have to chuckle a little at the double meaning of verse 2: David writes that “God alone is my rock… I shall not be greatly shaken.” In other words, these little rocks Shimei threw at David weren’t going to shake him, because when God is your one and only rock, the rocks thrown by others don’t faze you.

Except when they do. No matter how solid your faith in God your rock might be, the little petty criticisms from others inevitably get to you. Maybe that’s why David goes on to write,

“How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” Psalm 62:3 ESV

There is a lot of variation among English translations of this verse, because it isn’t clear who David is saying is like a “leaning wall or a tottering fence.”  Was it David himself or his enemies? King James took it to mean David’s enemies: “How long will you attack a man? You shall be slain, all of you, Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.”

The NIV, though, makes it sound as though David is describing himself: “How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down– this leaning wall, this tottering fence?”

Other translations acknowledge that the Hebrew is ambiguous, so they make it a generic third person:  “How long will you assail a man, That you may murder him, all of you, Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?” (ESV, NASB, CSB all go this route).

Knowing what we know about where David is at this point, I think David is describing himself. David is dealing with all the consequences of that sin. He’s battered and broken down like an old wall or rickety fence. He’s being attacked from all sides: his son, Absalom, his most trusted advisor Ahithophel, even random passers-by like Shimei.

But what I love about the Psalm in context is that there’s a bigger reality that trumps how David feels. He might feel like a leaning wall and tottering fence. His enemies might even believe that themselves— “Let’s attack when he is at his most vulnerable.”

But David also expresses the truth:

  • God alone is my rock and my salvation (v2, v6)
  • He is my hope (v5).
  • He is My fortress,
  • My salvation,
  • My glory;
  • My mighty rock.
  • My refuge (vs 5-7).

Beloved, when we feel most defenseless, know that the Lord has never been more secure. Hide behind your own flimsy fence, and you are vulnerable. Take shelter in God as your fortress, and you will never be shaken.

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