When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son (1 Melachim / 1 Kings 2:1).
I have to admit that in the past I have found this week's Haftarah portion disturbing. One of the things that marked King David's life is that he was not one to take revenge on his personal enemies. More than once, even though he had the power to do so, he did not strike out at them. He knew the difference between God's battles over which he had oversight, and personal matters, of which he let God take care of on his behalf.
But then on his death bed, according to our portion, David directs his son and successor, Solomon, to kill certain individuals with whom he had personal issues (see 2:6 & 9).
What's going on here? Were David's last words an indication of his being "No more Mr. Nice Guy?" Having been so noble while living, was he going to avenge himself on his enemies through his son?
After pondering this, I began to see that there is something else going on here. We need to remember that these are a king's last words of advice to his successor. While we may suspect that David is personally motivated, we are safer to assume that rather than being self motivated, he is actually concerned that his son would rule justly.
David understood that there is a big difference between personal offense and societal justice. David trusted God with his own life, and would not take personal matters into his own hands. But his leaving the situation with God was not to be a signal for future generations to ignore matters of justice.
The fact was that these people has done significant wrongs. Their crimes needed to be dealt with. David's death would not change that. Time would not reverse the wrongs of the previous generation.
There seems to be a reticence on the part of some to deal with past wrongs. Our hesitancy to bring justice to wrongs done years ago reveals our lack of understanding of how we inherit the results of the good and bad deeds of our predecessors.
But time does nothing to heal the wounds caused by past wrongs. If anything, unresolved guilt only makes matters worse. In fact, these issues, which may have been relatively small to start with, if neglected, can eventually bring disaster.
It takes courage to deal with issues of justice. That is why David urged Solomon to "be strong" (2:2). He needed to remind him of the necessity to "observe what the Lord requires" (2:3). This is what would ensure the continuation of David's dynasty.
How this all applies in our day depends upon who we are and our life situation. Issues of justice face us in a variety of ways.
One dramatic example of what can be done to resolve past wrongs is the Friends of the St. Louis Dinner that took place in Ottawa, Canada on November 5, 2000. At that time a cross section of Christians from across Canada dealt with the sin of turning away over 900 Jewish people fleeing Germany in the early days of the Holocaust. If you are not familiar with this historic event, I encourage you to read about it at http://www.watchmen.org/stlouis/report/.
It took courage and God's wisdom to face the survivors of the St. Louis ship. It takes courage and God's wisdom to enact justice when faced with past wrongs. God's heart is for justice. You and I may not be kings like David and Solomon, but we all have a part to play. There are issues of justice to deal with at every level of our lives from international and interracial affairs to our own family relationships. With God's help, whatever our situation and however great our sphere of influence, we can fulfill God's desire for justice in the world.
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