Introduction: 2 Samuel 19 tells the story of David’s reinstatement as king following Absalom’s rebellion. With one notable exception, David was careful to resolve the conflicts that arose because of the civil war. From this account, God reveals seven lessons on resolving conflicts to create a lasting peace. These lessons include: (1) submission to others, (2) humility, (3) unity, (4) forgiveness, (5) restoration, (6) generosity, and (7) reconciliation.
First, David’s general Joab rebuked David for focusing on his own sorrows instead of leading the kingdom. David then put aside his grieving and united the kingdom. From Joab’s rebuke, God reveals that conflict resolution requires submitting to others by putting their needs before your own. Second, when the tribes questioned whether to reinstate David as king, David acted with humility to restore their confidence. From David’s example, God reveals that conflict resolution requires humility before others. Third, David waited until the tribes accepted him voluntarily before returning as king. Conflict resolution rarely succeeds when it is forced upon others. Conflict resolution is most successful when it involves a shared agreement amongst the parties. Fourth, during his return, David forgave a relative of Saul who slandered and cursed him. From David’s example, God reveals that conflict resolution requires the forgiveness of wrongs. Fifth, during his return, David partially restored the lost inheritance of Jonathan’s son, whose wealth was taken by fraud. From David’s example, God reveals that conflict resolution requires restoration of victims. Sixth, David thanked a man from Gilead who used his wealth to help sustain David and his troops during their hour of need. God used this man to help David become restored as king. From this example, God reveals that conflict resolution requires generosity to those in need. Failing to help those in need can sow the seeds of future conflicts. Finally, David’s restoration created jealousy between the tribe of Judah and the northern tribes. The unresolved conflict sowed the seeds for the future division of Israel. From this area of failed leadership, God reveals that lasting conflict resolution requires resolving differences.
Despite his sorrow, David submits to Joab’s rebuke. Despite prevailing in his civil war against the forces under his son Absalom’s control, David felt only uncontrollable grief until his general Joab rebuked him: “1 Then it was told Joab, ‘Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom.’ 2 The victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it said that day, ‘The king is grieved for his son.’ 3 So the people went by stealth into the city that day, as people who are humiliated steal away when they flee in battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, ‘O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ 5 Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, 6 by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. 7 Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” (2 Sam. 19:1-7). For several reasons, David was a broken man. First, he loved his son. Second, he knew that he bore some responsibility for Absalom’s rebellion. After his adultery and murder, the prophet Nathan told David that civil strife would always exist within his household as a direct result of his sins (2 Sam. 12:10-11). Third, David also previously sentenced himself to fourfold restitution for his crime of murder (2 Sam. 12:6). He had previously lost his son with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:15-19). He then lost Amnon to Absalom’s murder (2 Sam. 13:28-29). He had now lost Absalom (2 Sam. 18:14-15). His self-imposed punishment would be complete with the future death of his son Adonijah. Finally, David also failed in his responsibilities to raise Absalom to fear and follow God’s laws (Dt. 6:7; Dt. 11:19; 31:12-13; Prov. 22:6). But David was not just a grieving and remorseful father, he was also king. His failure to thank his troops for risking their lives for him had caused his troops to become depressed. Although Joab was not a God-fearing man, God used his rebuke to restore David. As king, David had to submit his own feelings for the greater good of his people.
Joab rebuked David for failing to put the needs of his people above his grief1
Sacrifice your needs for the needs of others. To resolve conflicts, Jesus revealed that believers should also submit to one another the same way He submitted for us: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Jo. 13:14). As another example for us, Moses offered to have his name blotted out of the book of life to save the Jews from their judgment in building the golden calf (Ex. 32:32). Paul also wished that he could become cursed if doing so could save his brethren: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” (Ro. 9:3). “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well).” (Philemon 1:18-19). “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4). Do you sacrifice and submit for others to help resolve conflicts?
Give thanks to God when you are feeling loss. Believers should never lose hope when faced with death (1 Thess. 4:13). When death or tragedy strikes, believers must focus on what God has done and not what they have lost: “God is not against feelings – not at all. Many Christians lack deep and profound feeling and experience in their walk with God. At the same time, feelings were never meant to master over us. David’s problem was not in what he knew – Absalom’s tragic death and David’s own role in it. David’s problem was in what he forgot – that God was still in control, that a great victory was won, that he had many loyal supporters, and that God showed great grace and mercy to David. When someone is overcome in tragedy or sorrow, the problem is not in what they know, but in what they forget.” (David Guzik on 2 Sam. 19).2 (italics in original).
Restore a fellow sinner in a spirit of gentleness. Joab sternly rebuked David for his excessive grief and for his failure to acknowledge those who had risked their lives for him (2 Sam. 19:5-6). His rebuke worked in snapping David out of his grief. But believers are not called to follow his methods. Instead, believers are called upon to reprove other believers with kindness and love. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness . . .” (Gal. 6:1). “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18). “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1; Ro. 12:20; Prov. 25:21). Thus, a believer should not condemn or browbeat a sinner with his or her sins. Gossip, slander, and condemnation are Satan’s tools against believers (Rev. 12:10). Confronting a sinner should include calm words that guide the sinner to reconciliation through Jesus.
David humbly requests that the tribes restore him as king. Although David had the military might to force the tribes to accept him as king, he approached them in humility and asked them to support his return to the throne: “8 So the king arose and sat in the gate. When they told all the people, saying, ‘Behold, the king is sitting in the gate,’ then all the people came before the king. Now Israel had fled, each to his tent. 9 All the people were quarreling throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, ‘The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, but now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. 10 However, Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now then, why are you silent about bringing the king back?’ 11 Then King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, ‘Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, ‘Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the word of all Israel has come to the king, even to his house? 12 You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 Say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? May God do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.’’ 14 Thus he turned the hearts of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, saying, ‘Return, you and all your servants.’” (2 Sam. 19:8-14). David could have executed those who turned against him. Or, he could have demanded that the rebels immediately submit to him. The leaders of the other tribes had backed the counterfeit king. They only considered taking him back when their other options no longer existed. Despite this betrayal, David humbly asked for his former enemies to accept him as king. True conflict resolution also requires humility to avoid inflamed feelings of hurt.
The people quarreled with each other about whether to support David as King of Israel3
Be humble so that God can also exalt you without pride in His timing. God had to humble David before He could exalt him as king. Part of this humility included allowing the rebellious tribes to keep their own commander Amasa to be the commander of the armies in place of Joab, even though Amasa tried to kill David (2 Sam. 19:13). God also wants you to allow Him to humble you through your suffering so that He can exalt you in heaven without any pride. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5; KJV). Are you staying humble so that He can later exalt you without pride?
Show patience for God’s timing when you seek restoration. David was patient in allowing for restoration to take place. Part of being restrained includes waiting on God’s timing: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” (Prov. 20:22). “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1). “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14; 25:3, 21). When you are seeking to resolve a conflict, do you wait on God for guidance?
Jesus also wants you to voluntarily accept Him as your King. Like David, Jesus will not force people to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. He wants people to voluntarily choose Him and serve Him out of love and devotion. “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; . . . for ‘whoever will call on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”’ (Ro. 10:9, 13; Acts 2:21). “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32; Lk. 12:8).
David returns to Israel with his former enemies united behind him. David waited until his former enemies embraced him and then returned to the throne with a united armies of Benjamin and Judah: “15 The king then returned and came as far as the Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal in order to go to meet the king, to bring the king across the Jordan. 16 Then Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, with Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they rushed to the Jordan before the king. 18 Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household, and to do what was good in his sight.” (2 Sam. 19:15-18a). David cared more about restoring unity with Israel than reasserting his control. Thus, he waited until Israel was united to return home.
Through the power of the Spirit, God ensured the restoration of David’s kingdom4
Unite others in the Body of Christ. Like David, believers are called upon to act with one accord as the Spirit leads the body. “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12). “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Cor. 12:20-21). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). You must also be motivated by love when you act with others: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). David acted both with one accord and with love. Like David, do your actions unify others for God’s glory?
Conflict resolution that is forced upon others rarely succeeds. Following most conflicts, solutions are typically imposed upon the losing party. Often, the losing party is humiliated in the process. The harsh terms imposed upon Germany following World War I are believed by many to have led to World War II. Leaders resolving conflicts should also seek solutions that bring unity to all sides. Failing to do so can lead to future conflicts.
David forgives Shimei. During his return trip, David forgave Saul’s relative Shimei for his false slander and for curses against David: “And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan. 19 So he said to the king, ‘Let not my lord consider me guilty, nor remember what your servant did wrong on the day when my lord the king came out from Jerusalem, so that the king would take it to heart. 20 For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore behold, I have come today, the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.’ 21 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah said, ‘Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?’ 22 David then said, ‘What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be an adversary to me? Should any man be put to death in Israel today? For do I not know that I am king over Israel today?’ 23 The king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ Thus the king swore to him.” (2 Sam. 19:18b – 23). As he fled from Absalom, Saul’s relative Shimei slandered David, cursed him and threw rocks at him based upon his misguided belief that David had killed off the members of Saul’s family (2 Sam. 16:5-8). Although David was guilty of murdering Uriah (2 Sam. 11:5-27), he was not guilty of “the bloodshed of the house of Saul” for which Shimei charged him (2 Sam. 16:8). The Philistines killed Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua (1 Sam. 31:2; 1 Chron. 10:2). After being wounded in battle, Saul tried to take his own life in desperation (1 Sam. 31:3-5; 1 Chron. 10:3-5). Saul’s last surviving son Ish-bosheth later died when his commanders killed him (2 Sam. 4:5-7). David was not only innocent of Shimei’s charges, he had repeatedly sought to protect Saul and his descendants. David even stopped his men from killing Saul when they had the chance to do so (e.g., 1 Sam. 26:9). David also condemned the man who confessed to killing Saul after Saul was wounded in battle (2 Sam. 1:16). David further killed the men who killed Saul’s last son, Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 4:11). Upon David’s return, Shimei confessed his sins and repented before David (2 Sam. 19:19). David forgave Shimei and spared him from death.
God forgave David because David forgave his enemies5
To appreciate God’s forgiveness, know the penalties that Jesus took on the cross. Shimei’s curses against David violated God’s law: “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” (Ex. 22:28). When you curse God’s appointed leaders, you are in effect cursing God because He appointed them: “Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD.”’ (Ex. 16:8(b)). The penalty for this was a painful death by stoning (Lev. 24:15-16). David had every right under the law given to Moses to kill Shimei for his curses. Instead, David showed him mercy. Jesus has freed you from the eternal penalties for your sins. Do you give thanks for the penalty that Jesus took for you?
Confess your sins to those whom you have wronged. Like Shimei, God wants you to confess your sins to others: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (Jam. 5:16(a)). The confession of sin is a central tenet of the Christian faith. John baptized believers only as they confessed their sins: “and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” (Matt. 3:6, 11). If you confess your sins, God will forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). Is there anyone that you need to confess your sins to?
Forgiveness should be granted liberally and often. David repeatedly forgave Saul for his betrayals. David’s years in the wilderness prepared him as king to have a forgiving heart. Like David, Jesus commands that you should grant forgiveness liberally and often: “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (Matt. 18:21-22). When you forgive the unforgivable, you too will be forgiven. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:26). Thus, if you are looking for God’s forgiveness, forgive those who hurt you.
Love your enemies, even those who hurt you. Like David did for Shimei, God commands His people to love others, just as He loved them: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:18). Because the people ignored this commandment, Jesus made it a central teaching. Moreover, He expanded it to include a person’s enemies and strangers: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jo. 13:34; 15:17; Matt. 22:39; 19:19). Every New Testament writer repeated this central commandment: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” (Ro. 13:8, 10). “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (Gal. 5:14; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22; Eph. 5:2; 1 Jo. 3:11, 23; 4:7, 21). Like David, will you love your enemies?
Show self-restraint when you feel wronged. David restrained his anger when he was falsely slandered and cursed. Like David, Jesus calls upon believers to show restraint when they are provoked or insulted. “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9; Ro. 12:14, 17). When others hurt you, do you restrain your urge to strike back?
Vengeance belongs to God alone. When someone hurts you, you must also leave vengeance to God: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19).
Conflict resolution without forgiveness rarely succeeds. Many conflicts are resolved with the losing party feeling ashamed or humiliated for their actions. This often fuels the seeds for future conflicts after the losing party grows to resent the winning party. A lasting conflict resolution rarely succeeds without true forgiveness between the parties.
David restores Mephibosheth. Upon returning home, David partially restored the inheritance that Jonathan’s son Mephiboseth lost due to his servant Ziba’s apparent fraud: “24 Then Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace. 25 It was when he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, ‘Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?’ 26 So he answered, ‘O my lord, the king, my servant deceived me; for your servant said, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself that I may ride on it and go with the king,’ because your servant is lame. 27 Moreover, he has slandered your servant to my lord the king; but my lord the king is like the angel of God, therefore do what is good in your sight. 28 For all my father’s household was nothing but dead men before my lord the king; yet you set your servant among those who ate at your own table. What right do I have yet that I should complain anymore to the king?’ 29 So the king said to him, ‘Why do you still speak of your affairs? I have decided, ‘You and Ziba shall divide the land.’’ 30 Mephibosheth said to the king, ‘Let him even take it all, since my lord the king has come safely to his own house.’” (2 Sam. 19:24-30). After fleeing Jerusalem, David came across a servant of Saul’s last grandson, who used gifts and deceit to trick David into giving him Saul’s family inheritance (2 Sam 16:1-4). At the time, Ziba’s actions seemed noble and heroic to David. After returning, David learned that Ziba deceived him for his own material gain and violated an oath of service that he made for Mephibosheth.
David restored Mephibosheth6
Ziba’s broken vow and fraud against both David and Mephibosheth. David previously made a covenant of love with Saul’s son Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:3). As part of this covenant, Jonathan agreed to support David as king, and David agreed not to kill or harm any of Jonathan’s descendants (1 Sam. 20:15-17). Long after he became king, David discovered that a poor and crippled son of Jonathan named Mephibosheth lived in hiding from him (2 Sam. 9:1-4). David’s covenant only required him to spare the lives of Jonathan’s descendants. But David did more than was required of him. He also restored all the lands that Mephibosheth lost because of his grandfather Saul’s sins. Because of his crippled condition, David gave Ziba and his 15 sons and 20 servants the responsibility for managing Mephibosheth’s restored property (2 Sam. 9:9-10). Ziba then made a vow to carry out King David’s commands (2 Sam. 9:11). David trusted Ziba. Ziba’s gifts for David’s troops only cemented David’s trust in his hour of need (2 Sam 16:1-4). Here, David learned that Ziba’s stories were lies. Ziba left Mephibosheth behind as part of an elaborate plan to win David’s trust and then trick him into giving him Mephibosheth’s inheritance (2 Sam. 19:26-27). In his haste and without verifying this story, David gave into Ziba’s deceit and gave him Mephibosheth’s inheritance (2 Sam. 16:4). For his own material gain, Ziba callously violated his oath of protection to Mephibosheth. He also caused David to violate his oaths of protection to both Jonathan and Mephibosheth. Without conducting a trial, David honored his oaths to both men by dividing the estate equally between Mephibosheth and Ziba, a half more than Ziba deserved for his fraud. Mephibosheth showed his virtue by making no demand for the full restoration of his estate. David had transformed him from a man with a death sentence to a man of honor. With David as king, he had something that money would give him.
Restore others you have harmed. As king, David should have followed God’s laws in requiring Ziba to pay both restitution and penalties for his actions. In the case of theft, God required a “guilt” offering where the sinner gave back the stolen property to restore the victim (Lev. 6:1-4). The Hebrew word for “guilt offering” is Asham. It means indemnity, reparation, or restitution. In other words, it means that the sinner must make the victim whole. Saying that you are sorry does not by itself fulfill God’s law. In the case of any type of theft, a sinner like Ziba was to restore all stolen funds plus at least a fifth of the value of the stolen property as a penalty or 120% of the total (Lev. 6:5). Where the theft deprived someone of their livelihood (symbolized by animals), the penalty was twice the value of the stolen property (Ex. 22:4). If (like Ziba) the sinner had no remorse, the penalty was four times the value of the property: “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” (2 Sam. 12:6). When you steal, you also profane God’s holy name as His representative. “[O]r lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Prov. 30:8-9). Thankfully, Jesus became the ram or (“guilt”) offering and relieved you of the obligation to perform this sacrifice “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, . . .” (Is. 53:10). When you confess your wrongs, Jesus will forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). But He did not relieve you of your obligation to restore your victims. For example, after Zaccheus accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, he promised to pay restitution four times above the amount that he had taken from others in the past: “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”’ (Lk. 19:8). This suggests that Zaccheus, like Ziba, had defrauded others in the past without any remorse (2 Sam. 12:6). Jesus did not correct Zaccheus or say that this was unnecessary. Thus, believers should follow Zaccheus’ example in restoring others. If you fail to restore those whom you hurt, what kind of a witness for Jesus are you?
God will not accept your offerings unless you first restore your victims. God commands that a person pay restitution “on the day he presents his guilt offering.” (Lev. 6:6). Jesus later clarified that you must restore your victims before you seek God’s forgiveness: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Although failing to do this will not affect your salvation, failing to do this will affect your fellowship with God. Is there anyone that you have wronged who needs to be restored?
Put your hopes in your King of Kings, not in treasures. Mephibosheth symbolizes the Church. Like Mephibosheth, Jesus found the Church poor and crippled by sin. He then transformed His believers. Like Mephibosheth, believers should put their hopes in Him and not in worldly treasures: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17). “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” (Prov. 11:28). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:19). If your wealth were stolen and you only got half of it back like Mephibosheth, would you be cursing the thief or praising Jesus as your King of Kings?
David’s gratitude for Barzillai’s generosity. Upon returning to power, David showed gratitude and kindness for the support that he received from Barzillai: “31 Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim; and he went on to the Jordan with the king to escort him over the Jordan. 32 Now Barzillai was very old, being eighty years old; and he had sustained the king while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very great man. 33 The king said to Barzillai, ‘You cross over with me and I will sustain you in Jerusalem with me.’ 34 But Barzillai said to the king, ‘How long have I yet to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35 I am now eighty years old. Can I distinguish between good and bad? Or can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Or can I hear anymore the voice of singing men and women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? 36 Your servant would merely cross over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king compensate me with this reward? 37 Please let your servant return, that I may die in my own city near the grave of my father and my mother. However, here is your servant Chimham, let him cross over with my lord the king, and do for him what is good in your sight.’ 38 The king answered, ‘Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what is good in your sight; and whatever you require of me, I will do for you.’ 39 All the people crossed over the Jordan and the king crossed too. The king then kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his place.” (2 Sam. 19:31-39). David wanted to thank Barzillai for providing for him when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam. 17:27) by having him to live with him in Jerusalem. Barzillai turned down the offer. But he allowed David to take his apparent son Chimham. Before his death, David made sure that all of Barzillai’s sons would be cared for: “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother.” (1 Kgs. 2:7).
Be generous with God’s blessings to help others in need, like Barzillai did for David7
Invest in the Kingdom of God through those in need. Barzillai had the wealth to support David and his troops in their hour of need. Instead of hoarding his wealth, he invested in David’s kingdom by sharing with those in need. Like Barzillai, Jesus wants you to invest in His Kingdom by helping those in need: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” (Lk. 12:33). “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”’ (Matt. 19:21; Lk. 18:22). Like Barzillai, are you using your wealth to make eternal investments by helping those who are in need?
Give without being motivated by a reward. Barzillai showed that he was not motivated by the promise of a reward when he insisted that he did not need a reward: “Why should the king compensate me with this reward?” (2 Sam. 19:36). Like Barzillai, your service to those in need should not be motivated by the promise of a reward.
Give thanks to others and God when you receive help. God often uses the people around you to help you during your hours of need. Like David, you should thank others when they help you. Paul also did this: “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;” (Eph. 1:6). But David and Paul also thanked God for His invisible role in directing the help that they received: “. . . To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord, I shall pay my vows to the Lord.” (Ps. 116:1, 17-18; 56:12-13; 116:8; 107:1, 2, 22). “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20). Have you thanked the people and God who have helped you?
Generosity can also help to resolve conflicts. Many conflicts have their roots in people who have lost hope. Poverty can frequently lead to hopelessness. True conflict resolution should involve generosity to those in need to help avoid future conflicts.
The northern and southern tribes quarrel during the reconciliation process. While making peace with his former enemies, David’s allies in northern Israel felt slighted and quarreled with the elders of Judah: “40 Now the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him; and all the people of Judah and also half the people of Israel accompanied the king. 41 And behold, all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, ‘Why had our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household and all David’s men with him over the Jordan?’ 42 Then all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, ‘Because the king is a close relative to us. Why then are you angry about this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense, or has anything been taken for us?’ 43 But the men of Israel answered the men of Judah and said, ‘We have ten parts in the king, therefore we also have more claim on David than you. Why then did you treat us with contempt? Was it not our advice first to bring back our king?’ Yet the words of the men of Judah were harsher than the words of the men of Israel.” (2 Sam. 19:40-43). The northern tribes felt that the tribe of Judah (which had absorbed the tribe of Simeon) seemed to receive most of the honor during David’s return. They felt slighted because they felt that they were more loyal to David. This division would soon cause another rebellion (2 Sam. 20:1). This division would also foreshadow the division of the tribes that would lead to the division of Israel (1 Kgs. 11:31).
The failure of the tribes to fully reconcile sowed the seeds of their later separation8
Reconcile with others before you seek God. Through His death on the cross, Jesus reconciled believers with God the Father (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Before you were reconciled to Him, you were an enemy to Him: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Ro. 5:10). As part of His ministry of reconciliation, Jesus wants you to reconcile with others before you petition Him: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Is there anyone that you have hurt or offended that you need to reconcile with before seeking Jesus’ help?
True conflict resolution involves reconciliation. Jesus does not want believers to live in a cold peace. He wants enemies to reconcile. Unfortunately, many conflicts end without the reconciliation of the parties. The end of the Korean Conflict in 1953 is one example. There, the parties simply stopped fighting and formed an armistice without finding a peaceful resolution. True conflict resolution requires reconciliation or it will rarely last.