18Then they brought David's family and servants back across the river, and they did everything he wanted them to do.
Shimei Meets with David
Shimei crossed the Jordan River and bowed down in front of David. 19He said, “Your Majesty, I beg you not to punish me! Please, forget what I did when you were leaving Jerusalem. Don't even think about it. 20I know I was wrong. That's why I wanted to be the first one from the northern tribes to meet you.”
21But Abishai shouted, “You should be killed for cursing the Lord's chosen king!”
22David said, “Abishai, what will I ever do with you and your brother Joab? Is it your job to tell me who has done wrong? I've been made king of all Israel today, and no one will be put to death!” 23Then David promised Shimei that he would not be killed.
24-25 Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, also came to meet David. He had missed David so much that he had not taken a bath or trimmed his beard or washed his clothes the whole time David was gone. David asked him, “Why didn't you go with me?”
26He answered, “Your Majesty, you know I can't walk. I told my servant to saddle a donkey for me so I could go with you. But my servant left without me, and 27then he lied about me. You're as wise as an angel of God, so do what you think is right. 28After all, you could have killed my whole family and me. But instead, you let me eat at your own table. Your Majesty, what more could I ask?”
29David answered, “You've said enough! I've decided to divide the property between you and Ziba.”
30Mephibosheth replied, “He can have it all! I'm just glad you've come home safely.”
In the aftermath of the failed coup d’état, King David had to figure out which people were truly his friends and how to respond to subjects who treated him poorly. He had to discern who was lying, and who was truly loyal.
His first encounter was with a citizen who had cursed David on his earlier flight from Jerusalem. The enmity was no secret. Upon David’s return, however, the man abjectly apologized and begged for mercy. David spared his life, sending a message that the return of a king is a time for celebration, not death. He desired friends, not enemies.
But this was destined to be difficult. His next encounter challenged his judicial skills. A representative of a rival political clan came with a story at odds with testimony given to David earlier. Since David didn’t know which person to believe, he settled their differences by dividing disputed property equally between them, guaranteeing that a liar would get half.
Mercy and justice are the hallmarks of a righteous kingdom. In this case, David responded with apparent mercy to the man who cursed him, and with open-mindedness when it came to the dispute among his rivals. Perhaps justice was not truly served, but the king’s decision allowed everyone to move forward. No one received punishment.
There is a close connection between showing mercy and receiving mercy. David was aware that he needed the affection and support of his people, and savvy enough to realize that harsh treatment would not serve him well in the long term. Throughout his life David had experienced the benefits of mercy, and could summon the grace now to extend it to others.
Mercy is the soft side of justice. It acknowledges when wrong has occurred but forfeits the right to exact full restitution. Only mercy makes it possible to forgive.
O God, I depend on your mercy. Countless are the times I have been unkind; frequent the occasions I’ve acted unfairly; numerous the instances of my indiscretions. God, in your mercy, be kind to me as I suspend my judgments on others and show mercy to one and all.