Now there happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite. And he blew the trumpet and said, “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 20.1-2.
When Samuel had anointed David king at the age of 30, it had been “in the midst of his brothers” (1 Samuel 16.13) — that is to say, among his own kinsmen from the tribe of Judah. And there was initially strong opposition from the other tribes. For the first two years of David’s reign from Hebron, deep in Judah territory, there was civil war between Judah and the other tribes who had set up Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, in Mahanaim in the north. Once that rebellion had been dealt with, organised opposition to David was brought to and end and he was acknowledged as king over all Israel; in token of which he made Jerusalem his capital on the border between Judah in the south and the other tribes of Israel in the north. There were, however, those who, like Sheba in this morning’s reading, who suspected that David secretly had Judah’s interests uppermost in his heart and who therefore urged secession.
Clearly, Sheba had no love or respect for David at all. I note that he does not say “King David” but just “David”, and I note his disparaging and contemptuous use of the term “the son of Jesse.” But what really catches my eye this morning is his rallying cry that will in fact be taken up later by other rebels (see 1 Kings 12.16) — “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.” This terminology is revealing for it shows how the Jews believed that what was true of the one they belonged to was also true of them. If you belonged to David, you had a portion “in him.” What was David’s was somehow yours. If David was victorious, yours was the victory too. If David had a splendid palace, it was your palace too. How appalling then to literally disinherit yourself by “withdrawing” from your king — taking yourself “out” of him.
By way of contrast, as this “withdrawal” came about, the men of Judah “followed their king steadfastly.” The Hebrew verb here translated as “to follow steadfastly” is dabaq, and it really means “to cling to, stick to, stay close to, join oneself to.” How wonderful that, as some were ceasing to be part of David, those who were “in him” were asserting and confessing and consolidating their place in him by every means at their disposal. They went all the way with him, “from the Jordan to Jerusalem,” never letting him out of their sight, never letting him leave their side.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. I am seeing here a picture of what it means to be “in Christ.” I am seeing that I, by the grace of God, “have a portion in Jesus” and “an inheritance in the son of Mary.” What is true of Jesus is indeed true of me. I share his victory over sin and death. I share in “the riches of his glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1.18). All that “sharing” and “inheriting” is, as I say, by grace. I know that I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. But my calling is to be like those who chose to remain “in” David in this morning’s reading — to assert, confess and consolidate my place in Christ by clinging to him, staying close to him or, to use Jesus’ own terminology, “abiding in the vine” (John 15). My calling, like theirs, is to follow him from the Jordan to Jerusalem — to be part of him in his baptism and his crucifixion and his resurrection. To recognise that because I am “in Christ” all that is his is mine. I have a portion and an inheritance in him.