Week Commencing 2nd September 2018
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on 2 Samuel 14ff, “How the mighty have fallen”
We will have to try and cover a lot of ground this week! We will look at the chapters before and after Ch 15, and endeavour to get a handle both on the outline of the account, and its significance for us.
We realise that we are seeing the outworking of God’s promise to David following his adultery and conspiracy to murder in 12:10 “the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own”.
So in Ch 13, you will recall, Amnon rapes his half-sister and because in response, his half-brother Absalom kills him, Absalom flees Jerusalem in fear of his life and spends three years in exile.
DAY 1: Read 2 Samuel 14
Absalom has had enough of living exile and wants to return home. Joab comes to the rescue. He lines up a woman to put a concocted story before David, in the hope that David may relent and allow Absalom home. Perhaps they had heard the immediate impact that Nathan’s story had had on David when Nathan confronted him about his adultery and murder! The plot worked! Absalom is allowed back to Jerusalem with the condition that he and his son never see one another. Another two years go by. Absalom pleads Joab’s help once more but Joab won’t take his calls! Absalom sets Joab’s fields on fire in the hope of getting his attention. It worked! Joab agrees to intervene on Absalom’s behalf, and David agrees to summon Absalom. The king kissed Absalom, but don’t be fooled: this is not reconciliation but the beginning of Absalom’s plot to bring his father King David down and to take his place on the throne. Once Absalom is back (v24), he dominates the narrative. We read of his appearance (vv25-27), his antics (vv28-32a), his daring (v32b). He takes over the narrative, just as he will take over the kingdom!
How do we make sense of this?
Is there wisdom here? Yes and no. Wisdom perhaps in Joab’s planning, the woman’s story, in David’s realisation that Joab was behind all this. But sadly we see that David no longer acts; he is acted upon. He reacts, rather than rules. He does not reign but consents. He appears decisive (v24) but caves in (v33). This chapter should haunt the church not to mention the individual, believing or unbelieving. It is possible to have all the signs of wisdom: plans, strategies, accomplishments; and yet be utterly devoid of it.
DAY 2: Read 2 Samuel 15:1-12
Absalom is seizing what did not belong to him: the Kingdom. He has finesse and flair and knows how to work the crowd. In today’s passage we see Absalom’s rebellion and in Day 3, David’s exile.
Do you see what he was up to? Up early with a fanfare and procession, he would speak to those coming to court to have their cases heard. He was so sympathetic to every plaintiff. He was FOR them – on their side! And then he would bemoan the length of time the cases were taking and wish that he was appointed a judge in the land – just so he could help these poor people out! Absalom didn’t have to make hard or unpopular judgements – only suggest that he would lead a government who cares! Note also that he didn’t insist on people bowing down to him as the King’s son, rather, he would kiss them (v5). Sounds like our leaders today! They loosen their ties, unbutton their collars, roll up their sleeves, don an Akubra to show they belong to the people. The result for Absalom? v6 – he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. This doesn’t so much mean he won their affections, but that he duped their minds! He even duped the King with a bit of religious piety – asking for release to go to Hebron to worship.
However, this was a clever ruse. Having carried on with his charm for four years, he’s in a position from Hebron and has the numbers to claim the throne. The conspiracy gained strength and Absalom’s following kept on increasing. Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you David had been told (2 Sam 12:11). David’s sin had been forgiven, but self-interest and wanting that which is not rightfully yours, was now a feature of David’s family life and he would live with the consequences.
DAY 3: Read 2 Samuel 15:13-37
Although Absalom and his rebellion constitute the threatened disaster out of David’s own household, Absalom’s actions are clearly wrong. They are a despicable act of rebellion against God’s kingdom. In contrast to David, who did not take the opportunity to kill Saul, Absalom has no qualms in acting against David. So at one and the same time, God is using this, but Absalom must answer for his wickedness. Remind you of anything? Jesus – killed by the plan of God for his salvation purposes, but those responsible are still held accountable (see Acts 2:23).
One of David’s many concerns as he had to flee the city, was that Ahithophel (v31) had joined the rebellion. David asks that his (usually) wise counsel might become foolish. This guy was sharp; he had no peer; savvy and success oozed from his advice (see 16:23). Hushai is the answer to that prayer. Although he wants to join David, David sends him back to the city as something of a plant! David already has two people in the city (vv35-36), and Hushai was more valuable for espionage than for companionship. God hears and answers prayer! He did not zap Ahithophel with a stroke or have someone poison his wine! God’s answer is unguessable – as God’s answer often is! How good it is to be able to look back and see surprising answers to our prayer!
Of course, this is still a dark day in Israel. Yes, David is suffering the consequences of his sins, but he is nevertheless, the rightful King. But he is the rejected rightful King and plods up the Mount of Olives weeping. One day, this scene will be repeated. The Descendant of David, the rightful king according to 7:12-16, will be seen on the Mount of Olives (Luke 9:37) and he will be weeping (Luke 19:41-44) not so much over his rejection as over the doom of those who have rejected him.
DAY 4: Read 2 Samuel 18
Absalom was caught up in an unexpected disaster. He and his mule go under a large tree and his head is somehow caught up into a low hanging fork. His mule keeps going and he is left dangling there by his hair. (You may recall reading on Day 1, in 2 Samuel 14: 25-26 about Absalom’s hair. Had you wondered about that at the time? Absalom’s fate can be explained by this little detail – his hair was so strong that it was able to hold his weight). With this burial – the style of which was reserved for cursed men – this is the end of Absalom, the darling of the media, the rising prince who could work the crowds with such finesse and flair and who with disdain and arrogance, let his sexual appetite control his actions before all Israel (16:20-22). This is the end of the one who would destroy God’s chosen king. This is the plunge of the wicked from the pinnacle to the pit! Yet we also see something larger here. His death as a man under the curse is typical of what will be the lot of all who at any time set themselves against God’s kingdom, his chosen King, and/or his people.
What do we make of David’s grief for Absalom? Joab is quick to point out – if you glance at the opening verse of ch 19 – that this is entirely inappropriate and an insult to the men who had put their lives on the line to snare him. It sounded – from the cries of David’s grief – that Absalom was the centre of the universe and that his men ought not to have killed him. David’s deeply felt and loudly expressed grief suggests that he loves those who hate him and hates those who love him! Joab’s words are harsh, but he must wake David up to his own folly. He may win the battle and still lose the kingdom.
We are left asking – how will God’s purposes now be played out? How will God keep his promises? What is to become of David? Who will be the next King? There is no doubt that God will be faithful to his people.
And in our own hearts and lives, we need to ask – how will we express our faithfulness to him? God will remain true to us. Will we remain true to him?
Reference: Commentary on 2 Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis.
(Some parts of these notes use Davis’ text word for word or are a summary of his text.)