By Steve Wallace
Most have had to deal with the problem of bitterness at some time in their lives. You may have encountered it in another person or perhaps you were tempted to become bit-ter towards someone else. Bitterness generally does not exist by itself for long. Rather it leads to other sins. It is corruptive in nature. The problems that it causes in churches and relations between brethren in general are many.
David faced a bitter person at least once in his life. When he was fleeing Jerusalem in the face of Absalom’s rebel-lion, a man named Shimei came out to curse him. The example of Shimei’s bitterness helps us see both how one might be tempted to become bitter and the fruits of such bitterness.
2 Samuel 16:5-13
And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. …And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along of the hill’s side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.
1. Based on false premises. According to Shimei, David’s suffering came upon him because “the Lord hath returned upon him all the blood of the house of Saul” (v. 8). The idea behind blood returning upon someone is that of one’s bearing guilt and suffering consequences of murdering someone (cf. Matt. 27:25; Acts 5:28). Whether Shimei was implying that David had something to do with the death of Saul or someone of Saul’s house, the Bible shows that his charges were false (1 Sam. 24:1-22; 26:1-25; 2 Sam. 4:1-12; 9:1-13). Shimei’s bitterness against David was groundless! But is this not the case with bitter brethren to-day? They imagine insults or slights. In the event that bitterness is based on an actual occurrence, it often is the result of a deed that a brother either did out of concern for the bitter one’s soul or a wrong of which he has repented and for which he has asked forgiveness (James 5:19-20; Matt. 18:21-35). Even when it is based on something that actually happened, bitterness is always wrong. There is no good reason to be bitter (Eph. 4:31-32).
2. Nurtured for years! A study of the book of 2 Samuel shows that Saul had been dead for at least twenty years at this point in the history of Israel! What a terrible comment this is on the heart of one of God’s people! Instead of filling himself with worthy thoughts he has utterly polluted him-self with sinful ones! (Phil. 4:8) Bitterness is to be “put away,” not nurtured (Eph. 4:31).
3. Rejoiced at another’s misfortune.David and all the people with him were weeping as they fled from Absalom’s forces (2 Sam. 15:30). The perverseness of bitterness is so clear at this point: The Bible shows the Christian’s responsibilities to brethren who suffer (Rom. 12:13-15; 2 Tim. 1:16-18). Bitter people like Shimei have neither room in their heart for nor the inclination towards doing good to the objects of their bitterness, which brings us to our last point.
4. Sets a terrible example. The picture of Shimei publicly cursing David and throwing stones at him shows the shameless conduct that can result in those who harbor bitterness. The results of years of private seething ferments and, finally, when a convenient excuse is found, boils over in a torrent of abusive language or perhaps even physical harm. Thus it can come to pass that not only the bitter per-son and his enemy are affected, but rather “many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15).
Shimei would later ask forgiveness of his sin against David (2 Sam. 19:16-23). If you have been guilty of harboring bitterness, pray to God that he will forgive you this sin (Acts 8:22). From this brief look at this sin I believe that we can all see that it is of the devil and needs to be treated as such.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 5 p. 13-14
March 6, 1997