I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. —Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the one right which they first of all strike down. —Frederick Douglass
Freedom isn’t free, and staying free is costly. Holding freedom up takes work. The default setting on the freedom toggle is off. “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man, a wise one said, is eternal vigilance.”
I’ll make this short so you can get out and celebrate America’s 245th Birthday. Because we felt it acutely this year: keeping freedom—especially to speak truth in love—required practice and vigilance.
Now for those quotes.
5 Free Speech Quote
1. “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
2. “It is often a strategic mistake to silence a man, because it leaves the world under the impression that he had something to say.” ~G.K. Chesterton
3. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” ~ George Washington
4. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ~ George Orwell
5. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” ~ Frederick Douglass
Free Speech: A Liberating Strife?
I’m no political expert. But I know that what makes my muscles strong is weight-bearing exercise. I know that what makes my marriage and friendships, and my church or nation great is not 100% unanimity all the time, but in still being free to both listen, as Frederick Douglass pointed out, and to speak.
What makes for strength is not suppression but endurance, not plugging our ears but hearing what’s hard to hear, not silencing opposition, but staying engaged when we don’t agree.
To promote free speech even when we disapprove is difficult. It may even be painful. Because free speech cuts both ways.
But maybe hearing what we don’t want to hear is a severe mercy and perhaps free speech itself is a sort of liberating strife?
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine, Till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine!
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
**Three of the five quotes are from Erwin Lutzer’s 2020 book, We Will Not Be Silenced. Lutzer gave a lively interview—”I think it’s okay to use the word bloody…No, you’re getting just enthusiastic enough.”—to Eric Metaxas this week. You can access that conversation here.
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
What do you know about David? I mean, beyond slaying Goliath and sleeping with Bathsheba?
Did you know that Godsaid (Acts 13:2), “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart“?
Why was David a Man after God’s Heart?
Why did David receive such an honor? What was it about David that would have God give him such high praise?
I don’t know all the reasons why. But I think they include the way he worshiped with his whole heart (Psalm 86:12), fearlessly fought for God’s glory (1 Samuel 17:45), and persistently sought the LORD’s face (2 Samuel 21:1).
But I think there’s another reason.
David was God’s man because David took God’s discipline with meekness. Whether it came directly from the hand of a holy God or through the second cause of a sinful man, David received it as from a loving God who intended his good. He did not “regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose heart when reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:5b).
In other words, he neither blew it off nor withered into a self-pitying heap.
Which is probably why he could say, Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.
David was used to God’s hand. He was a tamed horse, easily steered, not a foolish mule or a bucking bronco. The Latin word for meekness is mansuetus. It means tame, a compound of the words that mean “used to” and “hand.”
If meekness is key to delighting God’s heart, then how can we grow more meek?
Curses And Stones
Well. It turns out meekness grows when we are provoked. Like when Shimei hurled curses and stones.
Shimei was a pain in King David’s neck. He was a distant relative of King Saul, and a bitter provocateur. Now, decades after Saul’s death, he still resents David’s kingship. Shimei is not afraid to kick a man— even a king—when he’s down.
Here’s the scene: King David is running for his life, fleeing a hostile takeover by his usurper son Absalom. He and his loyal followers are just outside the city when they hear Shimei heckling, “Get out, get out, you worthless man. The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul… you are caught in your own evil” (2 Samuel 16:8).
To which Abishai, a loyal, right hand man asks, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”
A less meek, wounded dog would have.
But David didn’t.
Leave Him Alone
He didn’t let Abishai take revenge. Even though it was well within his power to avenge Shimei, he did not. Instead, I think he realized that God might be speaking to him through this cursing critic.
Here’s David’s reply,
Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.”
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.
2 Samuel 16:11-13
He that is down fears no fall, John Bunyan wrote. The king is down, running from his rebel son while Shimei goes alongside, hurling curses and stones.
But David calls off Abishai. He doesn’t defend himself, but leaves vengeance to God.
He lets Shimei speak.
3 Reasons David Let Shimei Speak
Bible teacher David Guzik offers three reasons why David let Shimei curse. He doesn’t use the word meek, but do you hear it?
David let Shimei speak because:
1. He saw the hand of God in every circumstance (The LORD has said to him). He knew that God was more than able to shut Shimei up; David didn’t need to give the order.
2. He put the “Shimei problem” in perspective. (See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite?) David knew that his real problem was Absalom not Shimei, and he did not lose this perspective.
3. He knew that God’s hand was on the future as well as the present. (It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day) David knew that God would take care of the future.
But that doesn’t mean David didn’t grieve.
In 2 Samuel 15 we read, David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.
This is a monarchy—in order for Absalom to take the throne, David must die. David weeps for the people he loves, people he can no longer lead.
But there is another reason for David’s weeping…When Nathan confronted David with the sin of adultery and murder, he predicted that evil would rise from the house of David against him—as a direct result of David’s sin. He is not just mourning his son. He is mourning the consequences of his sin.
The man after God’s own heart experienced God’s forgiveness (Psalm 32:1). But he still mourned the consequences of his sin. David’s sin with Bathsheba brought consequences on himself, his family and his kingdom.
So he wept.
But godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. We do well to weep over our sin
So David wept.
And David Slept
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
That’s what Psalm 3 verse 5 says. David wrote that. But do you know when?
The superscript over the third Psalm reads, “A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.”
When David wrote “How many are my foes!” (Psalm 3:1), he is not just waxing poetic. There were literally thousands of people risen against him. David had massive, life-threatening, family-disintegrating, career-shattering problems.
And yet, David slept.
There was an army trying to kill him. His own son hated him to death. His family had turned against him. Yet God was a shield about him, his glory, and the lifter of his head.
So David slept.
Do you take discipline like David?
In the face of discipline, David did what maturing children of God do. It’s explained Hebrews 12:5, “My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose heart when you are corrected by him.” The meek avoid both extremes.
David didn’t take God’s discipline lightly. He didn’t “blow it off” as if his sin was no big deal. He wept.
But he also didn’t crumble into a heap. David did what the meek do when they’re disciplined: He confessed his sin and trusted God’s love. Then he slept.
He wept and then he slept.
At the moment we kiss the rod of his discipline meekness is being formed in us. We are growing into men and women after God’s heart.
But David’s is a tough act to follow.
I Hang My Head
A friend cared enough to confront me about some unkind words I spoke to her recently. I listened to her and agreed.
Guilty as charged.
But I hung my head. I was a puppy cowering beside her on the bench, my tail between my legs. My friend called me on that too.
Why are you sitting like that, with your head down?
I’m a complex case and I know it. But a big part of the answer was the obvious one.
I guess I still don’t like to be corrected.
It’s part of the “all or nothing” syndrome. Does it challenge you too?
It rears its head in relationships this way: When I realize I’ve hurt someone, I’m tempted to disengage and walk away. That’s the “nothing.” But the “all” would have me go hyper-verbal, defending my cause and explaining why her thin skin is the problem.
But that’s not what David did. All-or-nothing is not how the man after God’s own heart took discipline.
What about you?
Like great David’s Greater Son, David entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). He didn’t face off with Shimei. He accepted hard words because he trusted that God would right wrongs.
When you face discipline, even from the mouth of a sinful man, will you let the LORD be the shield about you, your glory and the lifter of your head?
What about you? Are you moving toward David’s wept-then-slept response? Do you graciously accept God’s discipline while trusting in His love?
The Lifter Of My Head
My friend Jen told me a story about her four-year old. Grace did something very naughty one morning. She made a mural on the wall with Jen’s Sharpies.
So they had a talk. Then Jen sent Grace to her room.
When lunchtime came, Grace slunk in, chin down, eyes glued to the floor.
But Jen loves Grace. That’s why she disciplined her and why she knelt beside her and stroked her tear-smeared cheeks.
Then Jen did what God does. She lifted up her child’s head.
And Grace did what meek ones do. She melted in her mama’s hug.
Let us pray that we may kiss the rod and bless the hand that holds it.
Let us pray unto God that we may see His hand in every affliction and say, as David does, “Oh, Lord, Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me!”
Mama said they’ll be days like this. (They’ll be days like this my mama said.)
Mama knew about beaten-down days. About days when bad news comes and high hopes go. When relationships feel so strained it hurts to say Hi or to try to relate at all and we look down and wait for the other show to drop.
Days like this when no wind fills the sails and infection’s weight makes us just almost ache.
Days Like This
A 7:00 am text set me down a sad way. Even though her reason for cancelling had nothing to do with me, Still, I took it personally and started second guessing. You know how these, why-so-downcast-O-my-soul days can be.
Thirty minutes later, the email. Not any email.- the “Hey! When can we talk?” email. The sort that make your heart sink to where the other shoe dropped and you want to meet immediately to get the dread deed done.
Then my husband caught me by surprise and took me to task for a mistake I’d made a week back. His correction was right on and true blue. And stung a little still.
By 9:00 the day had officially become one of those days. One of those days that turns into a downcast, hot-mess of a day.
Pickin’ Mercy Off The Trees
But we don’t take days like this sitting down. Children of the Father of mercy don’t write off a whole day as a bad day before the noon bell rings. Or anytime, for that matter. We don’t throw in the towel and give in to the sulks because this is the day that the Lord has made.
And because God gives his kids mercy to match the hard in these days. In fact, his mercies never come to an end. And if they never end, it means they’re there every single moment. They’re there in the morning and the whole day through. Ripe for the picking.
But we might have to fight to see them. There might be sweet mercy fruit hanging on the trees, but it’s not ours till we go pick it. Looking for mercy in days like this takes some spiritual pluck. Pluck like what weeping Jeremiah showed when, in the throes of disaster, he wrote,
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I surely wasn’t singing that tune this morning. It was all I could do get showered and dressed and to the group where I needed to be.
Mercy to Match
Four hours after that “can we talk” email summons, the hard talk was had. It was a firing of sorts- bad news. But I swallowed hard and forced a smile and started back to the car. And just as the first tears were welling, a few cars before mine, I looked up and there was Deb,
Deb’s my friend Jen’s mom. She’s s a sweetheart. Still, when Deb smiled and asked, “How are you today?” the words didn’t come at first, because I knew words would release tears. But Deb cared and words came-thankfully, more than tears. Then, Abigail, how can I pray? and Deb hugged me and we were on our way.
Mercy waiting in the parking lot.
Then to the post office where no line- more mercy- greeted me. So when our town’s friendly-face-of-the-USPS- Ted- asked how I was, I looked up and gave a real answer. God’s still good, I said, but it’s been one of those days. To which Ted spoke some of the kindest, most encouraging words a guy selling stamps could ever say.
The more I looked, the more big and little mercies I found that afternoon. The more my focus changed from woe is me self-pity to great is his mercy. They really were all around and it was, as so much of the Christian life is, mainly a matter of focus. Of fighting to behold God’s glory and so be transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18). Of choosing to think on what is true and noble and good (Philippians 4:8).
It got easier to see them, and have hope. But I had to do defy my downcast soul to do it. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 42: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are so in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
We must not be content in days like these to listen to the lie that says, Go ahead. Sympathize with yourself. Its okay to sulk this one away.
Talk Back to Yourself & Take Back the Day
We must, says Lloyd-Jones, take ourselves in hand.
We must talk to ourselves, instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us! Have you not realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? You must say to your soul, preach to yourself, questions yourself “Why are you so downcast?”
Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: I will hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Spiritual Depression, p. 20)
Mama said there’ll be days like this, and God said He’d send fresh, ripe mercies on these days.
But we might not see his mercies until we defy ourselves to lift our eyes and look.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.