Shimei: Fear for Reputation
We are all quite capable destroying our reputations without the help of others. Yet, we often get unsolicited help. As David was fleeing Jerusalem with his band of loyal followers, Shimei followed, literally within a stones throw from them. He flung not only dust and stones at them, but quite a bit of verbal abuse in the form of slander. Shimei accused David of being responsible for the death of King Saul and Saul’s family. According to Shimei, God was punishing David by making him experience from Absolom what Saul had experienced from the hand of David (2 Samuel 16:5-8). It was a false accusation, but it was out there. In that current political climate, many would willingly believe it. To face death is one thing. To face dying in disgrace and infamy is quite another. David, like us, experienced the fear of what others might think of him.
How do we respond to attacks on our reputation? The Bible actually has quite a lot to say about suffering reproach and persecution, but we will focus on the underlying perspective that the believer must have regarding reputation. David expressed that perspective through a word that he used to describe God. He called him, “my glory” (Psalm 3:3). David understood that his reputation was wrapped up in God’s.
When our desire is to live for the glory of God, then whatever praise we receive gets deflected to God. That is only right because “we are his workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10). In the same way, scorn and reproach are also deflected to God. When the glorified Jesus confronted Saul the persecutor of the church, his question was, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Later, after that same Saul was converted, he wrote the following about our identity with Christ: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Jesus told his disciples, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
David knew that he did not deserve to be king. God had graciously chosen him to be king. In addition, God graciously promised to give him a lasting dynasty (2 Samuel 7:16). God had a glorious plan for David that would ultimately lead to the coming King of kings. David’s present circumstance might have been inglorious, but wrapped around that circumstance was the unfailing plan of God to glorify his Son. Ultimately, all that mattered to David was that God was glorified.
When we share that same perspective, we can take comfort in our Father’s gracious and glorious plan for us as those who have been united to Christ. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon you…. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 4:14; 5:10).
So how was David able to sleep when threatened by such fearful enemies and circumstances? How could he say, “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6)? He tells us that he had faith in an overarching reality, and in view of that reality he cried out in prayer to God:
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah (Psalm 3:3-4)
After God had protected and sustained him through the night, David could prayerfully resume the day’s battle:
Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked. (Psalm 3:7)
David trusted in who God is, and he voiced that trust in times of desperation with desperate prayer. That was what allowed David to “lay down and sleep.” His enemies had said, “There is no salvation for him in God.” (Psalm 3:2) But David knew the truth, so often repeated in the Bible, “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8; cf. Psalm 68:19-20; Jonah 2:9; Revelation 7:10; 19:1). That marvelous truth overcomes fear and give rests to God’s children.
For more on the topic of fear see Fear and Favor.