“Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
The emotions and politics of this chapter are complex. It is filled with grace and also tension. David is rebuilding his kingship after Absalom had done much damage to it in his rebellion. We’d like to think this was a nice, neat little endeavor since that’s how so many of our stories today are written, but it was not. Whereas so many of our stories stop with the victory, this gives us a glimpse of what comes after the victory has been won.
The tension starts out of the gate. When his men have risked their lives in defiance of the rest of the nation who had gone over to Absalom, in order to defeat his forces, David brings shame to their valor by loudly and publicly grieving his son’s death. It is ironic that Joab is the one to tell him to get over himself and act like a king when he was the one who caused David to hit such a low in the first place by murdering Absalom against the king’s strict orders.
Whether he was right to grieve or not, David’s behavior leaves everyone feeling badly when they should have been proud and praised for their heroism. This kind of demoralizing blow ran the risk of alienating all his allies and leaving him alone and abandoned. He finally came out to express his gratitude and be the king rather than a grieving father and things got back on track. The people needed to receive his gratitude for the work they had done, but seeing him as human rather than merely as king endeared him to them in important ways.
From here, David began to sort through the challenges of reestablishing himself as king over a people who had rebelled against his rule. What he did would define much of not only the rest of his reign, but also how kings after him would handle their enemies.
What David offers is a lesson in graciousness. Again and again he forgives those who had resisted or opposed him. He deals far more gently with them than they deserve. More than anything else, it is this graciousness that helps bring his kingdom back together.
In our own situations, this gratitude and graciousness are two things that will always makes things better. When we live with thanksgiving in our heart toward the people around us and when we offer them what they don’t deserve, we will be recognized as the kind of person worth having near, the kind of person worth trusting. Let’s give it a shot.