Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blessings and Cursings

About 3,000 years ago, seems like yesterday, when King David was running from his ambitious and bloodthirsty son, he ran into a blessing and a curse in one day. Perhaps observing how he reacted to both can help us understand the way we should respond to the good and the bad we receive from others. After all, David was a man after God’s own heart, wasn’t he?

The blessing came this way as recorded in 2 Sam. 16. Ziba, the servant of David’s best friend’s son, came out of nowhere with a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with 200 loaves of bread, a hundred hunks of dried raisins, a hundred clusters of dried figs and a lot of wine. David wanted to know why Ziba had brought all the donkeys and groceries and he replied, “The donkeys are for your household to ride on (David had a sizeable household, as you know) and the bread and fruit are for your men to eat, and the wine is for refreshment in the desert.”

David accepts the gifts and gives Ziba blessings in return. How many donkeys do you suppose were in that string? I’m guessing at least 20. And they were trained enough to be competent pack animals and apparently they were broke to ride. This was the ancient equivalent of giving someone a fleet of Cadillacs--well, maybe a fleet of Chevys--with a bunch of gift certificates. But on the tail end of all this good fortune, a curse comes:

Old loudmouthed Shimei from Saul’s clan comes out badmouthing David and pelting him and his officials with rocks. Instead of offering gifts as Ziba did, Shimei says to David repeatedly, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!”

David’s men want to cut Shimei’s head off for the affront, but David says, “Leave him alone and let him curse. The Lord may pay me back good for the cursing I am receiving.” Instead of reciprocating evil for evil, David takes comfort in the fact that the Lord judges justly and may well repay the evil David is receiving with good. That should be our attitude when cursings come our way.

Similarly, when someone blesses us as Ziba did David, we should respond with generosity. Even in the Old Testament the attitude is not always an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but mercy and forgiveness are often demonstrated. David himself received God’s forgiveness for major sins when he finally realized what he had done. It took Nathan the prophet to make him stop judging others and look at himself: Thou art the man! As we examine ourselves as David did in Psalm 51, repentance, mercy and forgiveness will motivate us, not revenge.

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