Today’s Bible reading
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. — Matthew 5:43-45
When David had gone a little beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth,was waiting there for him. He had two donkeys loaded with 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 bunches of summer fruit, and a wineskin full of wine.
“What are these for?” the king asked Ziba.
Ziba replied, “The donkeys are for the king’s people to ride on, and the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”
“And where is Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson?” the king asked him.
“He stayed in Jerusalem,” Ziba replied. “He said, ‘Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul.’”
“In that case,” the king told Ziba, “I give you everything Mephibosheth owns.”
“I bow before you,” Ziba replied. “May I always be pleasing to you, my lord the king.” — II Samuel 16:1-4
Now Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him.
Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”
“You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”
“Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!” — II Samuel 19:24-30
More thoughts for meditation
This story takes place late in David’s life, when he had to flee Jerusalem during the rebellion of his son, Absalom. David and Ziba had known each other a long time and in this story Ziba played David for a fool.
Early in his life David’s enemies were people who wanted to kill him. In the middle of his life his enemies were people who were waging war against him. Later in his life, his enemies included people who flattered him and tried to curry favor with him. Enmity comes in all forms.
Even though Ziba did this, David didn’t punish him. He didn’t seem to want to prove a point to Ziba or prove that Ziba had slandered Mephibosheth. He wanted to be fair to Mephibosheth and that was it. There was no revenge, even on behalf of another. He righted the wrong, he made sure to meet Mephibosheth’s needs, and then he let it be.
In this story, David doesn’t seem to be concerned with proving points or with asserting his authority or with not being deceived. He’s just concerned with justice and then he moves on. In the New Testament David is called a man after God’s own heart. In this story, Mephibosheth calls him an angel of God, and he trusts him to do what he thinks is best. Maybe this simple act of cutting off vengeance – even vengeance on behalf of another – is one way to follow God’s heart and to be like an angel of God.
This seems very much in the vein of “he sends sunlight on the good and the evil; he sends rain on the good and the evil.” David didn’t punish Joab. He’s not punishing Ziba. He lets them live. He lets God give them sunlight and rain. Rather than be concerned with punishing the wrong-doer, David is concerned with meeting the needs of the one wronged.
Suggestions for Action:
When you see someone else wronged today, pay attention to your thoughts. Do you begin to think about correcting, judging, or punishing the wrong-doer? Or do you think about meeting the needs of the one who was wronged?
Pray: “Dear One, You ask us to love our enemies. You ask us to pray for those who wish to harm us. You give sunlight to the evil and the good. You send rain to the just and the unjust. Help me to have a heart after your heart.”