8David got up and went to the town gate and sat down. When the people heard that he was sitting there, they came to see him.
Israel and Judah Want
After Israel's soldiers had all returned home, 9-10everyone in Israel started arguing. They were saying to each other, “King David rescued us from the Philistines and from our other enemies. But then we chose Absalom to be our new leader, and David had to leave the country to get away. Absalom died in battle, so why hasn't something been done to bring David back?”
11When David found out what they were saying, he sent a message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. It said:
Say to the leaders of Judah, “Why are you the last tribe to think about bringing King David back home? 12He is your brother, your own relative! Why haven't you done anything to bring him back?”
13And tell Amasa, “You're my nephew, and with God as a witness, I swear I'll make you commander of my army instead of Joab.”
14Soon the tribe of Judah again became followers of David, and they sent him this message: “Come back, and bring your soldiers with you.”
David Starts Back
15David started back and had gone as far as the Jordan River when he met the people of Judah. They had gathered at Gilgal and had come to help him cross the river.
16 Shimei the son of Gera was there with them. He had hurried from Bahurim to meet David. Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin, and 171,000 others from Benjamin had come with him.
Ziba, the chief servant of Saul's family, also came to the Jordan River. He and his 15 sons and 20 servants waded across to meet David. 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.
Have you ever seen someone try to put spilled milk back into a glass? It’s a messy and largely unproductive task.
Something like that happens after a political disruption, especially when there’s a rebellion where blood is spilt. Even if the ruling party “wins,” things don’t just go back to the way they were. The new order will inevitably be different from what was status quo before.
David’s military “victory” over Absalom didn’t settle the question of his leadership, although it did change the arena of discord. The people who had chosen to follow Absalom had to make up their minds whether to continue the conflict or return their allegiance to the king who had ruled for some 30 years.
Would David be able to return to the capital city of Jerusalem? Would he be honoured as king, or reviled as a fallen hero? David could influence the outcome by being assertive and judicious. However, the test of any leader is always the willingness of followers to grant the authority required to lead effectively.
To demonstrate their renewed loyalty, a large delegation of people from the tribes most closely related to David came to meet the returning king. It was an important step in his homecoming. Without such a welcome, he could not wield power.
While few of us contend with armed rebellions, small betrayals are part of most people’s lives and ruptured relationships are common to us all. While it is often not possible to completely restore a relationship, it is important to acknowledge the problem and do whatever we can to make amends.
It takes a spirit of humility to welcome an alienated person back into our lives. We may need to swallow pride and acknowledge wrongdoing. We may need to offer forgiveness. We may need to receive it.
O God, I ask you to help me when I come into conflict with others. Help me to give proper respect and authority to those who lead me, and to be a gentle and wise presence to those I lead. Give me a reconciling heart and grace for every encounter.
Doug Koop is a writer currently serving as a Spiritual Health Practitioner at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. From 1987 to 2012 he worked as an editor with ChristianWeek newspaper, covering Christian faith and life in Canada. He and his wife, Margaret, are the parents of two adult sons and two daughters-in-law. http://www.christianweek.org http://www.promisekeepers.ca/seven/ http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20121112#pg1