Today is a special day for Christians all around the world, it’s Palm Sunday, the day we remember when Christ the King came into Jerusalem humbly and lowly riding on a donkey. As Jesus made His triumphal entry the people lined the streets to shout “Hosanna, hosanna (meaning ‘Our God Saves’)…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” As wonderful as this moment is it’s loaded with irony because while He’s surrounded with shouts of ‘Hosanna, Hosanna’ here He would very soon be surrounded with shouts of ‘Crucify, Crucify’. Questions abounded in the hearts of many as he rode into town: ‘Was this Jesus really the King He said He was?’ ‘What will Caesar think of Him saying that He’s the King?’ And, ‘Why are the religious people so angry at Him?’

And what do you know? As we continue on in our trek through 2 Samuel this morning we come to a passage where we’ll see another king coming back into a city as well. David had just been abandoned and betrayed by many within Israel, he won the civil war against his rebel son, and was on his way back to Jerusalem and so questions abound here as well. ‘What would it be like when he returns?’ ‘What would happen to those who committed treason against him?’ ‘Would he be wrathful in justice? Or would he show kindness and grace?’ Of the many chapters that give us the record we have of David’s life, our passage today is one of the clearest and richest portions of Scripture where David as king previews what Christ the King will be like.[1] Why so? Because David returns as a king of mercy.

In 19:8b-43, our passage today, the majority of our time will be taken up with three encounters David has on his way back to the city. But before and after this large middle portion there are bookends that show us how trouble begins and remains to be thick in the kingdom even though the rightful king is returning.

Trouble Begins (v8b-15)

“Now Israel had fled every man to his own home. And all the people were arguing 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, and now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?” And King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: “Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king? You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’” And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.” So the king came back to the Jordan, and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring the king over the Jordan.”

After Absalom and his army were defeated by David they all fled to their own homes and after some time went by an argument began about David. They admitted David had delivered them from their enemies, but that he had also been driven into exile by Absalom. And Absalom just so happens to be dead at the moment, so the question is what do we do about David? We need to bring him back, right? How do we get back on right terms with him?[2] Apparently David heard about this and he fired off a message to Judah, his own tribe in the south, through the priests Zadok and Abiathar. In this message David made three appeals to them.[3] He appealed to their pride in v11, why should they be the last to bring the king back, all the rest of Israel is talking about this. He appealed to their heritage in v12, he himself was from Judah so it’s fitting they should get in on his return. Lastly he appealed to their worries in v13, putting Amasa in charge of his army over Joab. While we wonder how Joab would’ve taken this or even what David’s intent against Joab is in this action, this last appeal would’ve comforted them much because Amasa was the commander of Absalom’s army who went out against David. That David offers to put Amasa over his army was David’s message that those who followed Absalom don’t need to worry about David holding a grudge against them. How did Judah respond to this? v14 shows it, “…he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah…”

So Judah came to meet David at Gilgal to bring him back over the Jordan. That it’s Gilgal is important. Gilgal was where God renewed His covenant with His people after the first Jordan river crossing, saying in Joshua 5:9, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. And so the name of that place is called Gilgal (to roll) to this day.” Gilgal was also the place where the prophet Samuel called all Israel together to renew the kingdom in 1 Sam. 11.[4] So, do you see what David is doing? For all those who left him to follow Absalom, David shows mercy and states he is willing take away their reproach and renew their covenant with him[5] at the exact place they’ve renewed the kingdom many times before. What a parallel to see with us. When we became infatuated with some new shiny false savior (like they were with Absalom) and run off to it and give our heart to it in ways we shouldn’t God doesn’t abandon His people even though He would be just to do so. No, through the mercy of Christ He invites us to repent and return, to come home again. And by doing this, like we see here, He sways and wins our hearts over once again.

Well, Judah in the south has come up to restore David as the rightful king, what will the rest of Israel do in the North? Will they keep arguing about what to do about David? How will they react to the south coming up so quickly? This is indeed where the trouble begins, but before showing us how this unfolds, we first see…

Three Encounters (v16-39)

In these encounters we should remember what has come before. A few chapters ago as David was forced to flee the city and head off into exile he had three encounters. Back then he met a hostile Shimei, now he meets a humble Shimei. Back then he met Ziba who lied about Mephibosheth, now he hears from Mephibosheth himself. Back then he met loyal Ittai who wanted to leave the city with him, now he meets loyal Barzillai who refuses to come back to the city him.[6] The two sets of encounters correspond to one another. The former encounters give us the sense of a deep shameful exit into exile while the present encounters give us the sense of a full return as king.

Shimei (v16-23)

“And Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the men of Judah to meet King David. And with him were a thousand men from Benjamin. And Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan before the king, and they crossed the ford to bring over the king’s household and to do his pleasure. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan, and said to the king, “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart. For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.” Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?” But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.”

The last time we saw Shimei in chapter 16 we saw him cursing David and throwing stones on David and flinging dust on David and all his host as they were fleeing Jerusalem. Shimei back then concluded that he knew what the Lord was doing, He was punishing David for all the blood of the house of Saul he had spilled. This was all close to home for Shimei because he was a member of Saul’s household. Oh, but how the tables have turned. His belief about what the Lord was going to do was more based on his own desires than truth. Because now as God has given David the victory and is bringing him back as the rightful king, none other than Shimei is first to come and apologize to David. He brings 1,000 men with him as well as Ziba with his sons and servants. And as his violent cursing was very public before, his repentance is just as public. Shimei seems to know his only hope now was to beg for mercy, so he does. And in so doing mentions his desire to be the first one of all his family to come submit to David.

Now, I don’t know of anyone who thinks his remorse is genuine, most chalk it up to Shimei just trying to save his own skin here and make a show of it by bringing such a host with him. It is clear that Abishai believed Shimei was just acting out of political pragmatism and not a heartfelt sorrow for his sins. And because of this he made it known that he still wanted to lop of his head! But just as before, David doesn’t allow the hot headed and heavy handed sons of Zeruiah to act on their hasty impulses. How does David react? Thankfully for Shimei, David knew what it was like to see his sins for what they were, to feel a sorrow, a grief, and a hatred for his sins, to beg for mercy deeply, to confess honestly, and to receive pardon gratefully. And so David, being one who had received such great mercy from God, was merciful to Shimei. David knows God will sort out Shimei’s heart in time, whether he is true or phony. That’s not his concern. His concern is to be a king who gives out what he has taken in, mercy. So in this encounter, see it in v23, David does just that.

Mephibosheth (v24-30)

“And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety. And when he came to Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?” He answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me, for your servant said to him, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go with the king.’ For your servant is lame. He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you. For all my father’s house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?” And the king said to him, “Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.” And Mephibosheth said to the king, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.”

Back in chapter 16 we saw Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, come out to give aid to David when he needed it. In that moment Ziba told David that Mephibosheth stayed behind to try and become king himself, and when he heard this David gave all that belonged to Mephibosheth to Ziba. We were suspicious back then of such a claim and surprised to see such an outcome, but now we’re intrigued to see what will happen that both Ziba and Mephibosheth have come back to David and are present in this scene. Well, on seeing him David asks the honest question of why Mephibosheth had not joined him in exile. Mephibosheth answered with three reasons. First, he had planned on coming out to David but he was tricked by Ziba, which forced him to remain in the city. Second, even though it would’ve put him in danger with Absalom to publicly be seen like it, he joined the exiled David ‘in spirit’ by intentionally neglecting feet, beard, and clothes, becoming disheveled or mournful in appearance.[7] And Third, he tells David he trusts him and will submit to whatever he decides, because he still remembers and is thankful for the moment David first showed him such mercy. After hearing all of this David makes his decision in v29. He doesn’t want to speak of this dispute anymore, perhaps because he still can’t quite see who’s being truthful, so he splits all that belongs to Ziba and Mephibosheth between them.[8] And when they two men heard it we only read of Mephibosheth making a humble response gratitude in v30.

Barzillai (v31-40a)

“Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim, and he went on with the king to the Jordan, to escort him over the Jordan. Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. And the king said to Barzillai, “Come over with me, and I will provide for you with me in Jerusalem.” But Barzillai said to the king, “How many years have I still to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am this day eighty years old. Can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Your servant will go a little way over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king repay me with such a reward? Please let your servant return, that I may die in my own city near the grave of my father and my mother. But here is your servant Chimham. Let him go over with my lord the king, and do for him whatever seems good to you.” And the king answered, “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you, and all that you desire of me I will do for you.” Then all the people went over the Jordan, and the king went over. And the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own home. The king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him.”

As with the previous two encounters, we’ve met Barzillai before. Back in chapter 17 he had seen to all the needs of David and his men when they were on the run. Now he comes back to greet David once more to join him in crossing back over the Jordan. David is happy with this and invites the octogenarian and big donor Barzillai to return to the city with him. But Barzillai humbly turns the offer down, saying he’s too old to enjoy such festivities now and that he doesn’t want to be an extra burden to David. In his place he requests David take a man named Chimham, who most think is his son, which David happily agrees to, and off they go their separate ways. You might think David’s kindness to Barzillai’s son isn’t a big deal but 400 years later Jeremiah 41 makes a reference to the house of Chimham by Bethlehem.[9] In other words, this shows us that David’s kind and kingly mercy to Barzillai’s son was known and enjoyed by many generations.

Now, I said earlier that David’s former encounters give us the sense of a deep shameful exit into exile while these present encounters give us the sense of a full return as king. See then the grand and glorious return of the king, who shows himself to be great in mercy! I can’t help but pause here and say I think the Holy Spirit is wanting us to see a mercy greater than David’s here. Christ the King stands out, even back here, the King over all kings, who shows a greater mercy to repentant sinners who have faith in Him. But the chapter isn’t over, we now return to see what unfolds with the trouble that began in v8-15, and in this we see more of Christ.

Trouble Remains (v40b-43)

“All the people of Judah, and also half the people of Israel, brought the king on his way. Then all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, “Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?” All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is our close relative. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?” And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?” …let’s pause here for now…

Before in v15 we saw Judah come up to meet David to bring him back as king. Now as this plotline picks up in v40 we see all of Judah and only half of the rest of Israel there. What ensues is a heated debate between the Israelites from the south (Judah) and the Israelites in the north (called Israel). The party from the north begins in v41 accusing the south of stealing David away from them. In v42 the south responds by saying they’ve received no special treatment from the king, even though he is one of their own relatives. This escalates things and in v43 the north responds saying they’re ten tribes strong, Judah is only one, and that they were the first to speak of bringing the king home, so why do they despise them? The chapter then ends with the rest of v43, “But the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.” So Absalom’s dead, his rebellion is over, but even though the rightful king is returning to his rightful throne, his troubles remain.[10]

Conclusion:

So come back with me as we end to the great occasion of Palm Sunday once again. The truest and most rightful King of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, is coming into town. Thousands lined the streets to praise His name and rejoice in this moment. Yet, of all the trouble He experienced in His life the deepest ‘trouble’ and suffering was ahead of Him. Sounds an awful lot like David in our passage today. But Jesus is, praise God, different. Different specifically in three ways.

First, while David’s trouble was largely due to David’s own sin…the trouble Jesus experienced wasn’t trouble due to His own sins, He had none. He was then, is now, and will forever be that which no other man has been, is, or ever will be, perfect.

Second, while David wouldn’t have ever chosen to be in his troubles (indeed none of us do)…the trouble Jesus experienced was trouble He willingly chose to enter into. Why? To save sinners from ultimate and eternal trouble. Or we say it like this: to suffer under God’s wrathful fury in the place of and as the substitute for all those who would ever believe in Him.

Third, while David’s troubles caused his kingdom to be extremely unstable…Jesus’ kingdom is everlastingly stable because He has conquered over all trouble, and therefore all those who have faith in Jesus can have peace in the midst of any trouble this life brings.

So in this time of global upheaval when bad news or trouble seems to come to us afresh everyday those who have faith in Jesus Christ can confidently boast with the Psalmist in Psalm 112:7, “He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.”


[1] Richard D. Phillips, 2 Samuel (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2018), 337.

[2] Phillips, 338.

[3] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 240.

[4] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 460.

[5] Phillips, 2 Samuel, 340.

[6] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 2, The Prophets (New York, New York: Norton, 2019), 392.

[7] Davis, 2 Samuel, 244.

[8] Bill T. Arnold, 1-2 Samuel, NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003) 601.

[9] Phillips, 2 Samuel, 345.

[10] Arnold, 1-2 Samuel, 601.

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