One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, May 30, 2013: II Samuel 15:23-16:23
13 And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust. 14 Now the king and all the people who were with him became weary; so they refreshed themselves there. II Samuel 16:13-14 (NKJV)
How do you handle criticism? Jesus spoke wonderful words which are very HARD to live out: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). When someone is beating on your head, it's awfully hard to bless them. When someone is tearing you apart with their words, all our suvival instincts kick in and we want to fight back -- to lash out -- to defend ourselves.
At a very low moment in David's life, along came a guy named Shimei. This is a classic example of "insult added to injury." David's son Absalom had mounted a rebellion and driven his father out of Jerusalem. It was a dark day as David trudged across the land in rejection and defeat at the hand of his own son.
As David passed through the land of Benjamin, a old nemesis reared its head. Shimei was of the tribe of King Saul and evidently held old grudges about the way David succeeded his family member to the throne. As David walked along, Shimei ran along parallel cursing David, throwing rocks, and kicking up dust.
David's nephew, Abishai, reacted as many of us would. "Then, Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, 'Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!'" (II Sam. 16:9) David displayed incredible humility and maturity to LET THE OFFENSE GO. He walked on. Scripture paints a beautiful picture when it says that even though the seemingly endless defeat and criticism cause everyone to grow weary, yet at this very place they found refreshment (II Sam. 16:14).
It is enlightening to look closer at what is happening in this criticism situation. Shimei's basic accusation of David is that he was a killer -- he was bloodthirsty. "Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!" (II Sam. 16:7-8)
The automatic reaction would have been to do just that: kill Shimei! Abishai wanted to do it. If David had taken the bait, he would NOT have overcome his critic, he would have proven him CORRECT! That's the way criticism and cursing works. It pushes you to do exactly that which is being criticized. When someone criticizes me for being too angry, it makes me even more angry. When someone criticizes me for being unfriendly, it makes me dislike people even more. But it doesn't have to be that way!
David learned the secret of benefiting from his critics. Cristicism does not always tear us down. It can also be a tool in God's hand to make us better. I think this is what must have happened when it says that God's people grew weary, but "they refreshed themselves in that place" (II Sam. 16:14).
It was Ben Franklin who once said, "Critics are our friends." It may not seem friendly at the time, but it can be the very thing that propels us to growth in key areas of life. John Maxwell, in his book Leadership Gold, gives us four steps we all need to take in order to make our critics into friends.
1. Know yourself. Criticism can at times distort or mistinterpret your motives. It can label you. The best answer to that is to securely know who you really are.
2. Change yourself. There is a seed of truth is nearly all criticism. You must know how to wade through the WAY the criticism was given and hear the part that is from God.
3. Accept yourself. When criticism is accurate, guilt and self-loathing can set in. The best way to start fresh is to accept your own faults so you can then devise a way to change them.
4. Forget yourself. Learn to not take yourself so seriously. Remember that the REACTION to a problem sometimes becomes bigger than the problem. Keep short accounts and don't let anything stick in your skin.
Within a short while, David's fortunes had turned. As he traveled back to Jerusalem, he met Shimei again. This time, Shimei was humbly asking for forgiveness. David "won" in this interpersonal battle. It issue really is not winning against your critics. But it is benefiting. The very person who is cursing you today, can be the person who asks your forgiveness tomorrow. When we bless those who curse us, we release the power of God to heal and restore.