The Bad News Bearers (2 Samuel 18v19-19v8)


Experts say there is a decline in the American work ethic.  It’s showing up more-and-more in younger workers.

According to one survey, with over 50,000 respondents, “young people are a self-admitted group of huge slackers.”1

Workers in their 20’s are nearly 5 times more likely than workers in their 50’s to describe their efforts as “only the minimum.”  Older workers, on the other hand, are 40% more likely to work “really hard.”

I would hope that if these surveys were taken among believers in Jesus Christ that 100% of the respondents in every age group would say they are not just likely to work “really hard” but are actually doing so because they are doing it for the Lord.  We read in Colossians 3:23-24,

Colossians 3:23  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
Colossians 3:24  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
The “whatever you do” in that passage includes marriage, family, and church as well as your work.

Since we ought to be working really hard, “as to the Lord,” and since we are going to stand before the Lord and “receive the reward,” it might be a good idea to take a look at our work ethic on a regular basis.

Our passage in Second Samuel describes how King David received and then reacted to the news that his traitorous son, Absalom, had been killed.  As we see it unfold we will be able to assess the performance of the messengers as messengers and analyze David’s reaction in terms of his responsibilities as king.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Should Assess Your Performance In Whatever Tasks God Has Entrusted To You, and #2 You Should Analyze Your Submission In Whatever Callings God Has Entrusted To You.

#1    You Should Assess Your Performance
In Whatever Tasks God Has Entrusted To You

We’re obviously in the middle of a longer story.  Absalom had attacked David’s forces and lost.  While retreating on his mule through the thick forrest he had gotten caught in a tree.  David’s general, Joab, thrust Absalom through with spears, had his ten attendants hack away at him, then they buried Absalom under a pile of stones.

It ended the hostilities.  How to tell King David that the battle was over but his son was dead was the next order of business.

2 Samuel 18:19  Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run now and take the news to the king, how the Lord has avenged him of his enemies.”
2 Samuel 18:20  And Joab said to him, “You shall not take the news this day, for you shall take the news another day. But today you shall take no news, because the king’s son is dead.”

Why not send Ahimaaz?  “Because the king’s son is dead” was the message, Joab probably had two things in mind:

This is the kind of news that could get you killed if a king was in the wrong frame of mind.  You know that old saying, “don’t kill the messenger”?  A lot of times they did kill him!
Maybe Joab knew that Ahimaaz would be unable to deliver the message in its entirety.  In fact, when Ahimaaz does have the opportunity to tell David, he withholds the truth about Absalom.

One of the first things to assess about our serving the Lord at home, or at work, or at church, or in the world, is that it is up to Him to assign us our various tasks.  We set ourselves up for failure when we insist on doing something God is not calling us to while leaving things He has called us to undone.

2 Samuel 18:21  Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” So the Cushite bowed himself to Joab and ran.

In the Cushite we see several qualities.

We see humility in the very fact he was not named.  It reminds us to be task-oriented and not worry about recognition.
He was immediately available.  As a messenger he understood he might be called upon at any moment.  So with us we should have a sense God wants to use us right where we are and should be ready.
He was submissive in that he asked no questions and “bowed himself to Joab.”
Perhaps most of all, he was willing to lay down his life in the performance of the task.  As we said, this was the kind of news that could get you killed.

You and I have news – the good news, the Gospel – to deliver.  It can literally get us killed.  More likely here in the United States it just ‘kills’ opportunities for popularity and advancement.

Still, we are to humble ourselves, be available to the Lord, and bow to His leading.
2 Samuel 18:22  And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.” So Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?”

“No news ready” seems to mean that he had nothing to add to what the Cushite would say.  There’s no use duplicating effort.

This is actually a very important realization.  There is far too much duplication of effort by Christians, especially in the church.

K.P. Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia, says that while Christians are busy mumbling to themselves about things we already know, most of the world has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He means we have a tendency to become ingrown.  We keep establishing ministries among ourselves, duplicating what we are already doing, when we could and should be establishing work out in the world we’ve been sent to reach for Christ.

When I was first asked to come to Hanford to pastor Calvary Hanford it took some real convincing that there was not a similar church the folks could attend.  There’s no use doing something that is already being done.

2 Samuel 18:23  “But whatever happens,” he said, “let me run.” So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.

Ahimaaz insisted.  Zeal to serve the Lord is to be commended, but it must be tempered by obedience.  Just because I want to do something is no indication I ought to.

Joab let him go.  We can’t be sure why.  Maybe he thought the Cushite had an adequate head start and by the time Ahimaaz arrived there would be nothing to tell.

I’ll tell you one thing.  It’s hard to say “No” sometimes, especially to a persistent person.  Still it’s better to say “No” if you are convinced that “No” is the answer.

Aren’t you always amazed when you see clips from American Idol of people who think they have talent but are awful?  Then they are genuinely hurt when told they have no talent.  Somewhere along the way family and friends have said “Yes” to them when they should have said “No.”

Ahimaaz outran the Cushite because he knew a short-cut.  Was that good?  Was that to be commended?  In light of the fact that Ahimaaz will fail to properly deliver the message, taking the short-cut was not a good idea.

The obvious application for us in whatsoever we do for the Lord, wherever we do it, is to not take short-cuts!  This could apply to our personal, devotional lives.  There are no short-cuts to deepening our walk with God.  We must spend the time alone with Him.  Getting ahead, pushing our way forward, is not a substitute for personal discipline.

The no short-cut principle also applies to our activities for the Lord.  Do things right, thoughtfully, and finish what you start.  You know, anyone can start off strong.  It’s finishing that counts.

2 Samuel 18:24  Now David was sitting between the two gates. And the watchman went up to the roof over the gate, to the wall, lifted his eyes and looked, and there was a man, running alone.
2 Samuel 18:25  Then the watchman cried out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” And he came rapidly and drew near.
2 Samuel 18:26  Then the watchman saw another man running, and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, “There is another man, running alone!” And the king said, “He also brings news.”

A lone runner was a good sign.  For one thing it meant that the army was not retreating.

A second runner would indicate that there was additional news.  In other words, something had significantly changed since the first runner was dispatched, something important.  It was really a little confusing to see two messengers.

I think sometimes it can be better to support the first messenger rather than send another with the same news.  We see this sometimes on the mission field.  Look for someone to support who is already doing the work, already delivering the Gospel message, rather than establish something new.  If there is a real need, and a genuine leading, then go for it.  But you don’t need to be in the same place doing the same thing.

2 Samuel 18:27  So the watchman said, “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And the king said, “He is a good man, and comes with good news.”
2 Samuel 18:28  So Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “All is well!” Then he bowed down with his face to the earth before the king, and said, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king!”
2 Samuel 18:29  The king said, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.”
2 Samuel 18:30  And the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still.

Maybe Joab initially said “No” to Ahimaaz because he knew David would interpret it as a sign that Absalom was alive and well.  He didn’t want to give David a false hope then deliver the news.

When Ahimaaz was finally called upon to deliver the message, he blew it!  He couldn’t bring himself to tell the king that Absalom was dead.

2 Samuel 18:31  Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the Lord has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.”
2 Samuel 18:32  And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!”

Nice job!  I can’t imagine a more concise, a more accurate, a more compassionate way to have delivered the message.

Do you regularly assess your performance in the tasks God has given you?  You should; I should.  We should have a strong work ethic at home, in the church, at work, and out in the world.

In fact, it’s good for us that everyone else’s work ethic is declining because it gives us greater opportunity to show the difference Jesus Christ makes in a person’s life.

#2    You Should Analyze Your Submission
In Whatever Callings God Has Entrusted To You

Next we have the aftermath of the news upon David.  His son was dead.  Regardless that Absalom had murdered his half-brother, Amnon; that he had rebelled against David and declared himself king; that in the ensuing conflict 20,000 Israelites had been needlessly killed.  David loved him as a father and reacted to the news he had lost his son.

2 Samuel 18:33  Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”

What father would not rather die in place of his child?  Part of us cannot fault David for his reaction.  We still love our children when they are disobedient, when they rebel against our leading.  When they cause trouble we hang in there with them.  We can certainly understand David’s heart as a father.

Ah, but David was more than a father.  He was the king.  He had a responsibility beyond being a father to his children, and that was to be a shepherd to God’s people.  He did not have the luxury of ignoring his responsibilities as king to indulge his grief as a father.

Does that sound harsh?  Maybe, but it’s true.  We expect our leaders, people in positions of authority, to act responsibly and appropriately.  We expect them to put aside their own feelings, their own grief or anger, and comfort us.  I remember after 9/11 looking forward to what our president would say to give comfort and hope to our nation.  It was his job, his responsibility.

2 Samuel 19:1  And Joab was told, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.”
2 Samuel 19:2  So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.”
2 Samuel 19:3  And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
2 Samuel 19:4  But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David’s reaction was turning victory into defeat.  His subjects felt “ashamed” rather than encouraged.

Joab took it upon himself to confront David.

2 Samuel 19:5  Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, “Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines,
2 Samuel 19:6  in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well.
2 Samuel 19:7  Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now.”

As David’s general the people were looking to Joab to act and he did.  I guess if you are going to tell someone to live up to their responsibilities then you need to be doing it yourself.

Have you heard the phrase, ‘Cowboy up’?  Cowboy up wasn’t much known outside of rodeo circles until 2003 when it became the rallying cry for the Boston Red Sox thanks to the players Kevin Millar and Mike Timlin – both Texans.  Millar and Timlin injected this bit of rodeo slang into Red Sox lore to fire up the team and its fans.  As one t-shirt of the time put it, “Are You Gonna Cowboy Up or Just Lay There and Bleed?”

‘Man up’ is another expression that’s used to exhort you to step-up and do what you are supposed to be doing.

Joab told David to cowboy up, to man up.  He told him to act like the king regardless his personal feelings of grief or loss.

As I indicated, we expect our leaders to man up.  What we need to do is apply that same thinking to ourselves.

God gives tasks but He also has callings for our lives.  Being a husband or a wife is a calling.  So id being a parent or a child.  So is being an employee or an employer.  There are callings to ministry within the church.  I think you get the idea.

So if I am called to be a husband and father I need to man up and act like it no matter what I might be feeling otherwise.  I need to understand that with the calling comes responsibility.

More than that, with the calling comes the ability through the indwelling Holy Spirit to humble myself and serve the Lord in my calling.

We all, at some time or another, need a talking to like the one Joab gave to David.  We let our feelings get in the way.  It doesn’t matter which feelings.  It could be grief, but it’s more likely anger or discouragement or disappointment.  We may feel ‘trapped’ or inhibited.  No matter the feelings we cannot allow ourselves to surrender to them – no matter how natural it may feel.

We are, after all, supernatural, being prepped for eternity.  We need to, and are empowered to, act the way God describes us in the Bible in every one of our callings.

It’s a matter of submission to God.  He knows what’s going on in our homes or at work or in the church or out in the world at large.  We need to look to Him, in submission to His will, and act like the men and women of God that we are.

David reacted to Joab’s exhortation:

2 Samuel 19:8  Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, “There is the king, sitting in the gate.” So all the people came before the king. For everyone of Israel had fled to his tent.

Just like that things were put right.  It may not happen as quickly for you as it did for David, but you nevertheless are being encouraged to walk in the Spirit in your various callings.  Live up to your responsibilities, depending always upon God’s empowering.

In First Corinthians 16:13 you read,

1 Corinthians 16:13 (NASB)  Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

“Act like men,” or as we like to call our Men’s Ministry, Act Like a Man, a Christian man.  Or a woman… or a child… or an employee… or an employer.  You get the idea.

Man up and you will find that the message of the Gospel you are sent to deliver will be better received, better understood, by those you’ve been sent to affect for good and for God.

Just Hang Loser (2 Samuel 17v24-18v18)


I can almost hear ring announcer Michael Buffer saying, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

King David and his forces and followers had crossed the Jordan River, buying them a little time to get battle-readied.  David’s traitorous son, Absalom, had mustered Israel’s remaining troops and was making his way to engage his father in a winner-take-all showdown.

Their conflict provides us an opportunity to think about our own spiritual battles as we follow our king, Jesus Christ.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Your King Deserves That You Be Battle Readied, and #2 Your King Decrees That You Be Battle Tested.

#1    Your King Deserves That You Be Battle-Readied

Every now and then it’s good to remind ourselves of what the apostle Paul said in Second Corinthians 10:6 and 11.  With regard to the history of the people in the Old Testament, he said, “… these things became our examples… all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition…”

While these Old Testament stories are true and historical, they are also given to us as examples, as types, as illustrations, of our own spiritual lives.

Looking at these opening verses from the perspective of a type, we see that the forces and followers of the king readied for battle.  Thus we are being encouraged through their example to ready and be readied for our spiritual battles.

2 Samuel 17:24  Then David went to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed over the Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.
2 Samuel 17:25  And Absalom made Amasa captain of the army instead of Joab. This Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Jithra, an Israelite, who had gone in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.
2 Samuel 17:26  So Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.

Of note in this description of Absalom’s men is the statement that “Amasa was the son of a man… who had gone in to Abigail…”  That means he was an illegitimate child.

It reminds us that this entire battle was, in a sense, illegitimate.  Absalom was not the rightful king.  His followers were deceived.  Just so, the devil is not the rightful king but nevertheless is called “the god of this world” and “the prince of the power of the air.”  He’s waging a war against the followers of Jesus, taking nonbelievers captive to do his will and oppose us.

2 Samuel 17:27  Now it happened, when David had come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the people of Ammon, Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim,
2 Samuel 17:28  brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds,
2 Samuel 17:29  honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat. For they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”

Mahanaim was a fortified city so it made sense to go there.  The word means double-camp.  The site was first named by the patriarch Jacob.  Right before he named it he was met by the angels of God, prompting him to say, “this is God’s camp,” using the word mahanaim.

You could describe a gathering of believers on the earth as mahanaim – as God’s camp, a double-camp consisting of God’s people and the presence of God.  The inference is that to be battle-readied we must gather at mahanaim, gather with others, and experience the presence of our King.

The various people listed in these verses are those David had shown kindness and mercy towards.  They have an opportunity to respond to David’s kindness and mercy by giving him of their provisions so that his troops will be strengthened and readied for the fight.

Has God shown you kindness and mercy?  Yes, incredibly so, if you are saved and on your way to Heaven!  You are to respond by giving to God from out of your resources to strengthen His troops.

Giving, and by that I mean financially, is one of they key disciplines of the Christian life.  Yet giving is not really practiced by most believers and it is down across the board even more than usual in recent years.

Look at it this way.  We get riled-up, do we not, when our military men and women are not provided with the very best equipment for carrying out their tasks?  We need to have an even greater sense of supplying the work of the Lord.

2 Samuel 18:1  And David numbered the people who were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.
2 Samuel 18:2  Then David sent out one third of the people under the hand of Joab, one third under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the people, “I also will surely go out with you myself.”

David alone had the authority to assign his troops and set them in their proper organization.  We see in this what we sometimes call “the headship of Jesus Christ.”  He is the head and we are His body.  He gifts us and organizes us as He sees fit.  When we are submitted to one another, when we recognize His authority in the delegated authority He has placed over us, we are able to do great things in His stead.

It’s true we are all equals.  But it does not follow that there is no organization or that a Christian need not be connected to a local body.  Those whose contact with a church is light, or who set themselves up to be independent of authority, are ignoring the headship of Jesus.  There are lessons to be learned, growth to be had, in submitting to the Lord’s delegated authority.

Look at it this way.  Suppose our military men and women had the attitude that they didn’t really need to submit to authority but could develop their own groups and fight whoever and whenever they wanted.  It wouldn’t work!

David said, “I also will surely go out with you Myself.”  We are reminded of the Lord Jesus promising that He would never leave us or forsake us.  We are reminded that the Holy Spirit indwells us and can empower us.

When pursuing types and illustrations in Old Testament texts, it’s important to realize that since these are genuine histories, not every detail will match up perfectly.  David is a type of Jesus Christ, but obviously not every detail of David’s life can be seen as representative of the Lord.

In verses three and four we want to be careful to not misrepresent the Lord when the followers of David demanded he remain at Mahanaim and he submitted to them.

2 Samuel 18:3  But the people answered, “You shall not go out! For if we flee away, they will not care about us; nor if half of us die, will they care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us now. For you are now more help to us in the city.”
2 Samuel 18:4  Then the king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands.

David’s people say of him, “you are worth ten thousand of us.”  Do we not sing of Jesus that “He’s the fairest of ten thousand”?  Indeed, He is!

Obviously we should never say to Jesus, “Hang back!  We’ve got this.”  Sadly, we sometimes do act as though we don’t need His help!

David would be physically absent from the battle, waiting for his people in the city.  Jesus is physically absent, having ascended into Heaven, and is building our homes in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.

Jesus is “more help to us in the city.”  He told His disciples that it was good He go away so that He could send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be in us and to come upon us for our walk on the earth as we await His return from Heaven to take us home.

These verses paint a picture of Christians, and of the church on earth, being battle-readied.  Listen to the Spirit; He’s talking to you, applying these things in your particular situation.  Be encouraged; be exhorted.

#2    Your King Decrees That You Be Battle-Tested

David commanded his troops to deal mercifully with Absalom.

2 Samuel 18:5  Now the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.

Sure, he is David’s son, but his rebellion and the destruction he caused, including the death of 20,000 in this battle alone, defy David’s call for mercy.

We’ve seen before and we will see again that Absalom is a type of Satan.  How much more shocked are we to know that the Lord has defeated Satan at the Cross but allows him to go on roaming about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour?

I mean, seriously, the first time you read the opening chapters of Job, aren’t you mind-blown that Satan still has access to the throne of God?  That God gives him permission to go after Job?

In the case of the devil it isn’t to show him mercy that God allows him to go on.  God uses him to test us.  We must be battle-tested as to our faith and faithfulness.  It’s been said that “a faith not worth testing is a faith not worth having.”

2 Samuel 18:6  So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel. And the battle was in the woods of Ephraim.
2 Samuel 18:7  The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David, and a great slaughter of twenty thousand took place there that day.
2 Samuel 18:8  For the battle there was scattered over the face of the whole countryside, and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

It was a mistake for Absalom to allow David to set the location of the battle.  They fought in the thick woods, in the “countryside,” rather than on open ground.  David was a master of guerilla tactics and his men were used to stealth.

You can think of yourself, and other believers, as a sort of guerilla force on the earth.  God has inserted you somewhere in order to soldier for Him by sharing His love, grace and mercy with others.

I’m intrigued by the phrase, “the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.”  Either Absalom’s troops were extremely clumsy or there was a supernatural element at work.

2 Samuel 18:9  Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on.

It’s an old-school version of that scene in The Return of the Jedi when Luke Skywalker was being chased through the woods of Endor.  The Imperial Stormtroopers kept hitting the trees.  Here the servants of Absalom were getting clobbered somehow by the trees.

Absalom’s “head” got caught in one of the trees.  We always say it was his thick and beautiful hair that got hung up.  Remember that we read in a previous chapter that he cut his hair once a year and that the clipping weighed about 6 pounds!
The text says only that it was his “head.”  The Jewish historian Josephus, in his account, says it was his hair, and that seems to make sense.

Notice the interesting way Absalom’s predicament was described: “he was… hanging between Heaven and earth.”  I alluded earlier to one of the titles of Satan, that he is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  He’s hanging around in the air between Heaven and earth.

Although Satan has access to Heaven when summoned there, he was cast out, along with a third of the other angels that followed him in his rebellion.  They have access to the earth but will not be confined to the earth until after the church is raptured.  Mean time Satan and his forces, then, are between Heaven and earth.

2 Samuel 18:10  Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!”
2 Samuel 18:11  So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.”
2 Samuel 18:12  But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’
2 Samuel 18:13  Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.”

Interesting exchange.  What can we make of it?

The first thing I would suggest is that we can’t be sure who was right.

On the one hand we could think that Joab was right because Absalom was a rebel.
On the other we could think this “certain man” was right because he was obeying the direct order of the king.

The unnamed soldier did no harm; he didn’t free Absalom or let him escape.  It’s therefore hard to fault him.  Joab had a greater authority than the soldier to make field decisions.  It’s hard to fault him.
Maybe the lesson for us is that two soldiers can look at the same situation, or we would say ‘ministry,’ differently, depending upon their roles and maturity.  As long as the Lord’s work gets done in a way that honors and glorifies Him, that’s the key.

To me the sad part of the exchange between the soldier and Joab is that Joab is immediately and unnecessarily critical while, for his part, the soldier describes Joab as someone who won’t support his troops when push comes to shove.  They had awful camaraderie even though they fought side-by-side.

Part of being battle-tested is not just getting the job done.  It is getting it done with love toward each other.  How we minister is as important as the ministry itself.  In fact, a lot of what happens is, I think, designed by the Lord to test our relationships rather than the results we’re trying to achieve.

2 Samuel 18:14  Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree.

In the KJV instead of “spears” it reads “darts.”  Whatever size these were isn’t the point.  The word “darts” reminds me of the fact that Satan is described as attacking with “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16).  It’s a small clue that we can see Absalom as a type.

Although he is loose on the earth and dangerous, in another sense the devil is in no position to harm you if you appropriate the victory of Jesus over him at the Cross.  He’s just ‘hanging around,’ defeated, waiting for things to run their course.

2 Samuel 18:15  And ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him.
2 Samuel 18:16  So Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel. For Joab held back the people.

Joab was the proverbial ‘bad dude.’  It took “ten young men” to carry his armor.  He was someone you didn’t mess around with on the field of battle.  He had the skills and the disposition to match them.

Trumpets were used to direct troop movements and make important announcements.  Apparently there was a trumpet code for ‘the battle is over ‘cause I’ve just killed Absalom.’  David’s troops, acting as one, “returned.”

It may sound obvious but when it comes to serving the Lord we need to be clear about what we’re doing.  We need to communicate with one another, know our objectives, and work together to achieve them.

2 Samuel 18:17  And they took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him. Then all Israel fled, everyone to his tent.

Why this impromptu burial?  Two things come to mind:

First, it reflected what was due Absalom under the law of Moses.  A rebellious child was to be taken out of the camp and stoned to death.  Now Absalom was already dead, but his burial under a “large heap of stones” represented the stoning he deserved.
Second, it eliminated the possibility of David making a big event out of Absalom’s burial.  As we will see, David almost snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by his over-mourning for Absalom.

On a typological level Absalom’s burial in the pit reminds me that after his rebellion comes to its head during the Great Tribulation, Satan will be bound and cast into a pit for a thousand years before being cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

2 Samuel 18:18  Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King’s Valley. For he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom’s Monument.

Absalom was what we today call ‘a legend in his own mind.’  Having no living sons to carry on after him he thought to commemorate himself by erecting a marble monument.

What is your legacy?  While the world encourages us to build monuments of stone, as it were, we are capable in the Lord of building a spiritual house.  We can instill in our children a knowledge of and a love for the Lord.  We can serve the Lord with our time, with our talent, and with our things, storing up for ourselves an inheritance in Heaven and obtaining for ourselves spiritual offspring.

It’s important to be battle-readied.  You also need to be battle-tested.  The situations you find yourself in each day, they are the arena of your spiritual battles.  It is at home, at work, in school, out in the world at large, that your readiness is put to the test.

Every encounter is one in which you can respond with love, grace, and mercy and thus turn the fiery darts of the devil against him.

Son Of Anarchy (2 Samuel 16v14-17v23)


The writer of Second Samuel went out of his way to emphasize that Hushai was King David’s “friend.”

When Hushai was first introduced in chapter fifteen he was called David’s friend.
Here in our text he is described as David’s friend, then called David’s friend twice by Absalom.

Considering he’s the only person called David’s friend, either David didn’t have too many friends or the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something!

He is reminding us that we are friends of the King.  In His final talk with His disciples Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

There is another parallel between us and Hushai.  King David had departed and for a short time his kingdom would be subject to the rule of a traitor.  Likewise, Jesus has departed and, though the rightful King, a wrongful ‘king,’ Satan, is on the loose.

Hushai was left behind with the assignment of representing David and doing whatever he could to restrain Absalom.

We’ve been left behind between the ascension of Jesus to Heaven and His Second Coming and are tasked with representing the Lord and with restraining evil.

We should not expect every detail in this episode to have a direct counterpart.  But if we keep in mind the big picture, Hushai’s courage can inspire our own boldness to serve the Lord here in enemy territory on the earth while we await His coming for us from Heaven.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You’re The Friend Who Remains To Represent The Rightful King, and #2 You’re The Friend Who Remains To Restrain The Wrongful King.

#1    You’re The Friend Who Remains
To Represent The Rightful King

Hushai had wanted to accompany David as he fled for his life from Absalom.  Instead David asked him to remain.

It may sound a bit morbid at first, but there is a part of every Christian’s heart that desires to depart and be with the Lord.  It’s not just to avoid the immense amount of suffering that occurs in your lifetime, but it’s to be with the One you love and loves you and to be with the believing loved ones who have preceded you in death.

Jesus’ disciples wanted to accompany Him but He told them they could not; not yet, anyway.  He was going by way of the Cross and resurrection to be with the Father.  He would be busy in Heaven preparing a place for us and would come back for us.

Meantime this is what He asked His Father, our Father, to do for us:
John 17:15  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one…
John 17:18  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world…
John 17:20  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;

We remain and are on assignment to represent the Lord.  Hushai is a type, then, of all of us.

We’ll have to move quickly through this story to get through all the verses, looking only at the big ideas as we go.

2 Samuel 16:14  Now the king and all the people who were with him became weary; so they refreshed themselves there.

David’s son, Absalom, was marching toward Jerusalem to take the throne.  David thought it best for his people to not fight so he fled.  In a strategic move David had asked Hushai to remain in the palace to both report and thwart the plans of Absalom.

2 Samuel 16:15  Meanwhile Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem; and Ahithophel was with him.
2 Samuel 16:16  And so it was, when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, that Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”
2 Samuel 16:17  So Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?”
2 Samuel 16:18  And Hushai said to Absalom, “No, but whom the Lord and this people and all the men of Israel choose, his I will be, and with him I will remain.
2 Samuel 16:19  “Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? As I have served in your father’s presence, so will I be in your presence.”

Let’s get something out of the way.  Hushai either lied outright or he used deception, which is the same as lying.  It begs the question, “Is it ever alright for a Christian to lie?”

Christian scholars have given different answers to that question based on the fact that certain Bible characters do sometimes lie, especially in order to save lives.  Hushai is an example; so are the Hebrew midwives who lied to Pharaoh in order to save the lives of the babies he ordered killed, or Rahab who hid the two Hebrew spies when the soldiers of Jericho were seeking them.

Norman Geisler summarizes the three main approaches to lying:

Lying is always wrong.  Therefore there are no exceptions to telling the truth.  Results are never to be used as a rationale for lying.
Lying is forgivable.  Therefore where absolute moral laws run into conflict, e.g., lying to save a life, it is our duty to do the lesser evil.  If we break God’s law we can plead for His mercy.
Lying is sometimes right because there are higher laws.

Hushai obviously thought that, in times of war, either lying was forgivable or that there was a higher law.

Which is it?  You’ll have to decide for yourself!  Let me suggest that unless or until you are in a situation in which the truth could get someone killed you don’t really know what you would do but I’d guess you’d lie.

The story doesn’t resolve this issue, nor is it meant to.  It’s not a license to lie.  Far from it.  It’s here to show us that we remain to represent the King and might find ourselves in very difficult circumstances.  Moral dilemmas will present themselves at home, at work, in school.  Most of them will not involve the loss of someone’s life.  They will, in fact, require that we not bow down to someone’s idol, that we do tell the truth, as we represent our King.

2 Samuel 16:20  Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give advice as to what we should do.”
2 Samuel 16:21  And Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong.”
2 Samuel 16:22  So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
2 Samuel 16:23  Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. So was all the advice of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.

The fact that Ahithophel’s advice was “as if one had inquired at the oracle of God” does not mean he was a prophet.  It means that his worldly wisdom was so spot-on that it could be compared with God’s knowing the future.

Worldly wisdom may seem spot-on, or it may just seem overwhelming since all the nonbelievers around you accept it while rejecting the things of the Lord.  You may feel small and weak and insignificant.  At those times remember that Jesus has chosen you to confound the wise with their worldly wisdom.  Hold fast to the precepts and principles in God’s Word.

Why does Ahithophel suggest such an awful, immoral act be performed?  Turns out that he was the grandfather of Bathsheeba.  David had sexually assaulted his granddaughter and then arranged for the murder of his grandson-in-law, Uriah.  Now Ahithophel had the opportunity to do to David what David had done to him.

Remember, we want to look at the big picture being drawn for us by these characters.  It’s no easy assignment being asked to remain and represent the departed King.  We are left in a moral cesspool, faced with moral dilemmas of varying degrees.

Nevertheless that is the assignment and we ought to approach it with humility and prayer in private expecting God to give us courage and boldness in public.

#2    You’re The Friend Who Remains
To Restrain The Wrongful King

Christians are tasked by Jesus with being “salt” and “light.”  In other words, we are to act as a preservative to a deteriorating culture, exposing its sin and offering an alternative.  In another portion of Scripture we are told that the Spirit-indwelt church on earth is a restrainer of wickedness  and will be until we are removed at the rapture (Second Thessalonians).  In yet another place, in Second Peter, we’re described as “hastening” the return of Jesus by our lives and lifestyle choices in these last days.

Hushai was able to restrain Absalom’s plans and hasten David’s return as the rightful king.  In our own small ways, as we simply obey the Lord and walk with Him as salt, as light, we, too, restrain wickedness and hasten the return of the King.

2 Samuel 17:1  Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Now let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight.
2 Samuel 17:2  I will come upon him while he is weary and weak, and make him afraid. And all the people who are with him will flee, and I will strike only the king.
2 Samuel 17:3  Then I will bring back all the people to you. When all return except the man whom you seek, all the people will be at peace.”
2 Samuel 17:4  And the saying pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel.

Remember that David and those with him had grown weary and stopped to rest, leaving themselves vulnerable.  If Absalom had followed Ahithophel’s advice David almost certainly would have been killed.

Your enemy, Satan, is constantly planning against you.  He’s super-intelligent and his devices are as devious as they are dangerous.  It seems he has the upper hand in every situation – until you look to the Lord Who thwarts him and causes His own plans for you to prosper.

2 Samuel 17:5  Then Absalom said, “Now call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he says too.”
2 Samuel 17:6  And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom spoke to him, saying, “Ahithophel has spoken in this manner. Shall we do as he says? If not, speak up.”
2 Samuel 17:7  So Hushai said to Absalom: “The advice that Ahithophel has given is not good at this time.
2 Samuel 17:8  For,” said Hushai, “you know your father and his men, that they are mighty men, and they are enraged in their minds, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field; and your father is a man of war, and will not camp with the people.
2 Samuel 17:9  Surely by now he is hidden in some pit, or in some other place. And it will be, when some of them are overthrown at the first, that whoever hears it will say, ‘There is a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’
2 Samuel 17:10  And even he who is valiant, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt completely. For all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and those who are with him are valiant men.
2 Samuel 17:11  Therefore I advise that all Israel be fully gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, like the sand that is by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person.
2 Samuel 17:12  So we will come upon him in some place where he may be found, and we will fall on him as the dew falls on the ground. And of him and all the men who are with him there shall not be left so much as one.
2 Samuel 17:13  Moreover, if he has withdrawn into a city, then all Israel shall bring ropes to that city; and we will pull it into the river, until there is not one small stone found there.”

What Hushai suggested was a brilliant stall tactic.  I’m guessing he had little time to think about what he might say.  He let God use him, speak through him, as it were.  That’s what the Lord wants to do – use your mouth to speak for Him.

2 Samuel 17:14  So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring disaster on Absalom.

Absalom had his plans.  God overruled them to accomplish His plans.

God has a plan.  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth as a man in order to die on the Cross as our Substitute and Savior.  Against all the devil’s efforts throughout history to thwart that plan, Jesus was born, He died, then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, from whence He will return just as He promised and just as God planned.

2 Samuel 17:15  Then Hushai said to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, “Thus and so Ahithophel advised Absalom and the elders of Israel, and thus and so I have advised.
2 Samuel 17:16  Now therefore, send quickly and tell David, saying, ‘Do not spend this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily cross over, lest the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up.’ ”
2 Samuel 17:17  Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed at En Rogel, for they dared not be seen coming into the city; so a female servant would come and tell them, and they would go and tell King David.
2 Samuel 17:18  Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom. But both of them went away quickly and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, who had a well in his court; and they went down into it.
2 Samuel 17:19  Then the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground grain on it; and the thing was not known.
2 Samuel 17:20  And when Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house, they said, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” So the woman said to them, “They have gone over the water brook.” And when they had searched and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem.

I could have titled this study, “Liar, Liar.”  Hushai lied and now the woman also lied.  It was to save lives.  The Bible doesn’t commend her for it but simply reports what happened.  Whether she thought it was wrong but forgivable or right because it was a higher law, many lives were spared.

If, God forbid, the day comes that Christianity is outlawed, and they seek Christians out to imprison and kill, if in that day, you hid your children when the people were at your door to take you away – if they asked if there was anyone else in the house, what would you do?  Would you admit your children were hiding in the house, knowing to admit it would mean sure imprisonment and most likely death for them?  Or would you say there was no one else in the house, giving them a chance to get away and possibly survive?

When we ask, “Is it ever alright to lie?,” we’re not talking about most of the lying we do.  We’re not talking about lying to make ourselves look better or to save face.  But if your answer to the question is “No, never, no matter what,” then you would have killed the Hebrew babies, turned in the spies at Jericho, and revealed the location of Ahimaaz and Jonathan.  And you might one day have to turn over your children to a death squad.

2 Samuel 17:21  Now it came to pass, after they had departed, that they came up out of the well and went and told King David, and said to David, “Arise and cross over the water quickly. For thus has Ahithophel advised against you.”
2 Samuel 17:22  So David and all the people who were with him arose and crossed over the Jordan. By morning light not one of them was left who had not gone over the Jordan.

Hushai’s strategy gave David warning and he took advantage of it to put the Jordan River between him and his pursuers.

Here’s a devotional thought.  The devil is hard after you.  He will utilize the world and your flesh seeking to destroy you.

God, however, gives you warnings.  As you read His Word, as you fellowship with His people, as you talk to Him in prayer, He warns you about the subtle and not-so-subtle influences that can overcome you, overwhelm you.
What has the Lord been warning you about?  If you think yourself strong, you’ll fail and fall.  Heed the warnings and put some spiritual barriers between you and the traps being set for you.

2 Samuel 17:23  Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb.

Ahithophel undoubtedly knew that God had thwarted his counsel to the end that David would be triumphant.  Once David returned, Ahithophel’s life wouldn’t be worth spit, that he’d likely be executed for treason, so he killed himself.

Ahithophel was at the top of his game.  His advice was considered as accurate as what you’d get from God – only he didn’t need God!  He had all the world’s wisdom.  He was the epitome of the worldly man, the career man, establishing himself and building for himself.  He was revered, admired, sought out, looked up to.

Then it all came crashing down because he was outside of God’s plan.  What does it matter if you gain the whole world but, in the end, lose your soul?

Ahithophel “put his household in order.”  The things a person does or says at the end of their life reveals a lot about where their heart was at.  In the end his focus was still on the earthly.  He was motivated to be certain his wishes were carried out, that his earthly empire continued.  Then he killed himself, revealing the absolute emptiness and vanity of his entire life on earth.

Ahithophel is a dramatic example of what the devil wants to do to people.  He wants to prosper them in this world so that they will miss the next world.

We remain to (hopefully) thwart the plans of the devil to destroy people’s lives.  Our very presence on the earth, in the places we’ve been sent, is a restraining force.

Maybe things are tough for you at home, or at work, or in school.  If you are where you are supposed to be (and you probably are), consider how much worse things would be for nonbelievers around you if you were to remove yourself from those places.  There’d be no salt, no light, no restraint.

In Luke 19:11-13 Jesus told a parable.

Luke 19:11  Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.
Luke 19:12  Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.
Luke 19:13  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘[Occupy] till I come.’

We could summarize everything we have said today in the phrase, “occupy till I come.”  Commenting on this J.C. Ryle wrote,

The Lord Jesus bids you “occupy.”  By that He means that you are to be “a doer” in your Christianity, and not merely a hearer and professor.  He wants His servants not only to receive His wages, and eat His bread, and dwell in His house, and belong to His family – but also to do His work.  You are to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.”

You’re to do it “till He comes.”  You are to be continually looking for, and I would add, longing for, His return.

Quoting Ryle again, he said, “That old rebel, the devil, and all his adherents, shall be cast down.  The Lord Jesus, and all His saints, shall be exalted and raised to honor. “The kingdoms of this world” shall “become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.” ”

You and I are on assignment as the friends of Jesus.  We’re sent out to represent Him and to restrain that which is opposed to Him.

It’s not an easy assignment, but we’re never left alone in it.

No Shoes, No Shirt, Still Serving (2 Samuel 15v13-16v13)


If you’ve planned a day at the beach for body surfing and sun bathing, a storm is going to ruin your day.

But what if you’re taking a sailing class and need to complete a unit on foul weather sailing in order to pass the final exam?  In that case a storm is exactly what you need.

If you’ve been a Christian even for a short time, you know that following Jesus is no day at the beach!  Storms come.  Some storms never subside.

Do you want to be a body surfing sun bather or a foul weather sailor?  I can tell you the answer of the apostle Paul.  In Philippians 3:10 he said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Paul’s choice was to experience the Lord in the storm.  He called it “know[ing]… the fellowship of His sufferings.”  The fellowship of Jesus Christ’s sufferings releases in our lives the power of His resurrection with the result that I know Him by personal experience and not just by objective information.  Information about Him gives way to intimacy with Him.

Our section in Second Samuel presents folks who wanted to know David and were willing to enter the fellowship of his sufferings.  We will also see those who wanted to forgo his sufferings.  It gives us the opportunity to ask two questions around which I will organize my thoughts: #1 Do You Want To Know Jesus In The Fellowship Of His Sufferings?, or #2 Do You Want To Forgo The Fellowship Of Jesus’ Sufferings?

#1    Do You Want To Know Jesus In
The Fellowship Of His Sufferings?

David’s treacherous son, Absalom, had been plotting to overthrow his father and seize the throne.  He put his plan in motion and word came to David.

2 Samuel 15:13  Now a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.”

What a sad thing to hear!  David’s own people rejected him for someone who had done nothing for them and certainly did not love them.

It reminds you of Jesus Who, in His first coming, came to His own people but His own people rejected Him.  O, how He loved them, and yet they preferred a criminal be released to them, an insurrectionist named Barabbas, while shouting for Pilate to crucify the sinless Son of God.

Jesus was a man of sorrows, we’re told, acquainted with grief.  If you are going to follow Him, you, too, will have every opportunity to be rejected by men, treated with contempt, experience loss and loneliness.  The only question is whether you will grow closer to Him or forgo suffering for the relative comforts and conveniences of this world.

Several individuals in our story were faced with the opportunity to identify with David in his sufferings and thereby grow closer to him.  We are going to look at them fairly rapidly and make application to ourselves and our walk with the Lord

2 Samuel 15:14  So David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or we shall not escape from Absalom. Make haste to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly and bring disaster upon us, and strike the city with the edge of the sword.”
2 Samuel 15:15  And the king’s servants said to the king, “We are your servants, ready to do whatever my lord the king commands.”

Note David’s heart.  He would flee, become a fugitive, so that the people of Jerusalem would not be slaughtered as collateral damage in a fight with Absalom.  David would bear the reproach to spare them.

His “servants” were with him.  Now these were probably butlers and bakers.  (Maybe a few candlestick makers!).  They never signed-on for exile.  They most likely could have stayed in Jerusalem and lived under the new king.

They refused.  They would follow their king, submit to him, “do whatever [their] lord the king” commanded.  If serving Him now meant suffering, then they would do it in order to remain with him.

Here’s the lesson.  When you face difficulties in your service to Jesus, it’s to give you the opportunity to show that you are really all about being with Him.  It doesn’t really matter where you serve, or how hard it gets, because it’s the fellowship with the Lord that you care about.

2 Samuel 15:16  Then the king went out with all his household after him. But the king left ten women, concubines, to keep the house.

Why leave anyone behind to “keep” a desolate house?  It showed that David anticipated his return!  When, exactly, he’d return was uncertain.  But in his absence they were to “keep the house.”

This idea of serving an absent lord who has promised to return, does it sound familiar?  It is what we are called upon to do as we await the imminent return of Jesus to resurrect and rapture the church.
Do you think they kept the house with zeal?  Or do you think they slacked-off, given the situation that was unfolding and the fact that David was absent?

It’s the classic situation of doing everything as unto the Lord, anticipating His any-moment return.  If you slack-off, become lazy, then you’re not all that excited about seeing Him, are you?

But as you maintain your pace, even accelerate, it shows a growing intimacy.

2 Samuel 15:17  And the king went out with all the people after him, and stopped at the outskirts.
2 Samuel 15:18  Then all his servants passed before him; and all the Cherethites, all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men who had followed him from Gath, passed before the king.
2 Samuel 15:19  Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why are you also going with us? Return and remain with the king. For you are a foreigner and also an exile from your own place.
2 Samuel 15:20  In fact, you came only yesterday. Should I make you wander up and down with us today, since I go I know not where? Return, and take your brethren back. Mercy and truth be with you.”
2 Samuel 15:21  But Ittai answered the king and said, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be.”
2 Samuel 15:22  So David said to Ittai, “Go, and cross over.” Then Ittai the Gittite and all his men and all the little ones who were with him crossed over.

Another group of “servants” joins them at the outskirts.  These were David’s honor guard.  Among them was one Ittai, a Gittite.  He was a Philistine mercenary.  Seeing he had only recently arrived, David told him to stay and serve whoever was “king” in Jerusalem.

David wasn’t acknowledging that Absalom was the rightful king.  He was simply stating that since Ittai had come as a mercenary, to be paid to serve the “king,” he could still do that.  What difference would it make to a mercenary?

Ah, but we learn that Ittai did not come to serve the king of Israel.  He came to serve David.  He and his entire household would serve only David.

What happens when plans and dreams fall through?  You find out if you are a mercenary rather than a servant.  The mercenary is discouraged, depressed, maybe even angry.  The servant finds his Lord in the suffering and recommits himself to Jesus.

2 Samuel 15:23  And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people crossed over. The king himself also crossed over the Brook Kidron, and all the people crossed over toward the way of the wilderness.

One minute they had been dwelling in the palace.  The next minute, quite literally, they were wandering in the “wilderness.”

What is the “way of the wilderness” to us?  We’re talking lifetime distresses, prolonged illnesses, losses of many varieties – both personal and material.  We’re talking about those things for which you weep and weep and weep.

Jesus has walked there, too.  He Who arose from the dead and ascended from Mt. Olivet first walked in humility, suffered in Gethsemane and then cruelly so at Golgotha.  No one can comfort you like He can.  Nobody knows you like He does.

2 Samuel 15:24  There was Zadok also, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God, and Abiathar went up until all the people had finished crossing over from the city.
2 Samuel 15:25  Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place.
2 Samuel 15:26  But if He says thus: ‘I have no delight in you,’ here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him.”

The ark of the covenant, complete with the lid called the mercy seat, was the dwelling place of God among His people.  Zadok was doing what he thought was right and proper in bringing out the ark to accompany David.

Zadok was told to bring the ark back.  David reproved him.  It was gentle, but it was a reproof.

If you have zeal to serve the Lord, sooner or later you are going to experience the Lord telling you “No.”  He’s going to put an end to your well-intentioned plans.  It might even embarrass you publicly.

How will you react?  Often we simply press forward – unwilling to seem defeated in the eyes of men.  We make things work out in order to save face.  Or we might quit serving the Lord, for a time or for good.

If we will heed the Lord we will enter into a not-my-will-but-yours-be-done fellowship that can only be experienced after His gentle rebuke.

2 Samuel 15:27  The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Are you not a seer? Return to the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.
2 Samuel 15:28  See, I will wait in the plains of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.”
2 Samuel 15:29  Therefore Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem. And they remained there.

Zadok had a spiritual gift.  He was a “seer.”  He had the gift of prophecy.  It could be useful to David for Zadok to inquire of the Lord then report the Word of the Lord to him via the two sons mentioned.

Knowing how Zadok was gifted, David said, “Are you not a seer?”  In other words, “Do what God has raised you up and gifted you to do.”

God says to you and I, “Are you not a husband?  Are you not a wife?  A father or a mother?  An employee or an employer?

Or in the church He says, “Are you not…” then reminds you of the gift or gifts, the roles and offices, He has given you.

The point I’d make here is this.  In my roles, my offices, and by the gifts God has given me, am I bringing glory to Him?  Am I content to “remain there,” wherever ‘there’ is for me, and work out my salvation – no matter how dull or difficult it may be?

If I will do that I am exactly where Jesus was in His incarnation.  He fully humbled Himself, lived a dull life for some thirty years then a difficult one for the final three and one half years.  It brought glory to His Father.

2 Samuel 15:30  So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.
2 Samuel 15:31  Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!”
2 Samuel 15:32  Now it happened when David had come to the top of the mountain, where he worshiped God – there was Hushai the Archite coming to meet him with his robe torn and dust on his head.
2 Samuel 15:33  David said to him, “If you go on with me, then you will become a burden to me.
2 Samuel 15:34  But if you return to the city, and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I was your father’s servant previously, so I will now also be your servant,’ then you may defeat the counsel of Ahithophel for me.
2 Samuel 15:35  And do you not have Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? Therefore it will be that whatever you hear from the king’s house, you shall tell to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.
2 Samuel 15:36  Indeed they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send me everything you hear.”
2 Samuel 15:37  So Hushai, David’s friend, went into the city. And Absalom came into Jerusalem.

There’s obviously a lot going on here with Hushai.  I want to concentrate on one thing.  One word, actually.  It’s the word “friend”  in verse thirty-seven.  Hushai identified with David in his sufferings; he worshipped with him; then he left being called his “friend.”

It’s a fitting end to the theme we’ve developed in this section of verses.  We’ve been talking about intimacy with the Lord.  We’ve been talking about being friends more than merely followers.

You know, there are those who get upset that we might act too familiar with the Lord.  They say we do not show Him enough awe and honor by being too casual.  Hey, Jesus is the One who called us His friends!

John 9:15  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…

I’d like to be described like Hushai; wouldn’t you?  Wouldn’t you like someone to summarize your day by saying, “So Gene, Jesus’ friend, went to WalMart, and even though the devil is out and about as an insurrectionist and rebel, Gene was able to minister to people he encountered about what it means to have a personal, intimate knowledge of God.”

To “know” Him by experience you must share in the fellowship of His sufferings.

#2    Do You Want To Forgo
The Fellowship Of Jesus’ Sufferings?

Not everyone is ready to sign-on for this kind of fellowship.  When He was on the earth “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66) when His message became difficult, when He made certain demands.

Concerning modern Christians, Stuart Briscoe wrote,

There is no shortage of people in the world today who are longing for a ‘closer walk’ or a ‘deeper commitment.’  And there is no shortage of man-made answers to these expressed needs.  However, there is one thing that is distressingly common in many of these answers, and that is the absence of any idea of cost or suffering involved.

No cross, no crown.  Still, many would rather forgo suffering.  We see a couple of examples in chapter sixteen.

2 Samuel 16:1  When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine.
2 Samuel 16:2  And the king said to Ziba, “What do you mean to do with these?” So Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink.”
2 Samuel 16:3  Then the king said, “And where is your master’s son?” And Ziba said to the king, “Indeed he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.’ ”
2 Samuel 16:4  So the king said to Ziba, “Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” And Ziba said, “I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, O king!”

Mephiboseth was the crippled son of Saul, the former king of Israel.  David had shown him mercy.  Now Ziba speaks of his defection.

This would be a wonderful encounter except for one small detail.  Ziba outright lied about Mephiboseth!  Mephiboseth will set the record straight in Second Samuel 19:26-27.

Taking a bird’s-eye view of Ziba for a moment we see someone whose goal was to get the king to reward him.  He wasn’t really interested in having fellowship with the king – especially not in suffering with him.  He gave to the king, but what he gave cost him nothing; or at least we’d say it was not sacrificial.  Let the king suffer but get something out of it for yourself was his motto.

Sadly Ziba represents far too many modern day believers.  They wish to forgo suffering, give only what costs nothing or very little, yet expect Jesus to go on blessing them – especially in the physical and material realm.

One author wrote,

Many Christians are satisfied with expenditure in which there is no “shedding of blood.” They give away what they can easily spare.  Their gifts are detached things, and the surrender of them necessitates no bleeding.  They engage in sacrifice as long as it does not involve life; when the really vital is demanded, they are not to be found.  They are prominent at all triumphant entries, and they willingly spend a little money on colorful decorations – on banners and palm branches; but when “Hurrahs” and “Hosannas” change into ominous murmurs and threats, and Calvary comes into sight, they steal away into safe seclusion.

There’s no real intimacy in that approach.  The Lord isn’t your friend, really, if you forgo His sufferings.

Then there was Shimei.

2 Samuel 16:5  Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came.
2 Samuel 16:6  And he threw 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.
2 Samuel 16:7  Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue!
2 Samuel 16:8  The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!”
2 Samuel 16:9  Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!”
2 Samuel 16:10  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ ”
2 Samuel 16:11  And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him.
2 Samuel 16:12  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.”
2 Samuel 16:13  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.

A quick word about Abishai.  He was a loyal, devoted servant and belongs in our first grouping.  He was willing to follow David in suffering but, if he could, to end at least part of his suffering prematurely by murdering its source.  David had to teach him patience in suffering – something none of us likes.

Shimei was the original proponent of your First Amendment right of free speech!  A relative of Saul’s, Shimei hated David for his ascent to the throne.  Knowing the whole story, that God had chosen David to replace Saul who had faltered badly, we might say that Shimei’s real issue was with God.

David, for a time, showed unusual kindness to Shimei.

What can we make of this?  I think we can see Shimei as a nonbeliever who thinks Christians are the enemy when really his or her problem is with God.  They see only the sufferings of mankind and either blame God for it or declare He is not the King He claims to be for allowing them.

For His part, God is longsuffering with them, not willing that any should perish, but rather that they would come to know Him and enjoy eternal life.

Nonbelievers think they prefer the rule of the previous king, but in their case it is Satan who stole the dominion over the earth from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus is the rightful King but they won’t acknowledge it.

For our part we should show them the goodness of God.  We should be Christ-like in our approach and in our response to them.

I referenced the words of the apostle Paul, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

C.A. Coates wrote the following, and it is a fitting conclusion for our study:

The knowledge of Christ in glory was the supreme desire of Paul’s heart, and this desire could never exist without producing an intense longing to reach Him in the place where He is.  Hence the heart that longs after Him instinctively turns to the path by which He reached that place in glory, and earnestly desires to reach Him in that place by the very path which He trod.  The heart asks, “How did He reach that glory?  Was it through resurrection?  And did not sufferings and death necessarily precede resurrection?” Then the heart says, “Nothing would please me so well as to reach Him in resurrection glory by the very path which took Him there.”

Hair To The Throne (2 Samuel 14v25-15v12)


In the 1996 fantasy adventure film, Dragonheart, a young prince is mortally wounded.  His mother takes him to Draco, a dragon, imploring him to save her son’s life.  To save him, the dragon gives him a piece of his own heart.

In the movies it’s beneficial to share a dragon’s heart.  But in our real spiritual lives we must guard our hearts from that great dragon, the devil.

In verse six of chapter fifteen we’ll see that David’s son, Absalom, “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”  He was a usurper, a rebel, and an insurrectionist who stole the hearts of men hoping to ascend to the throne.

Absalom can therefore be seen as a type of the devil who is a usurper, a rebel, and an insurrectionist who hopes to ascend to God’s throne.  Along the way he is out to influence men against God.

Absalom is also typical of anyone who lets the dragon steal a piece of their heart.  It is here that we will see the main point of contact and application to our own daily lives.
I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 When You’re Not Thankful To Your King You Let The Dragon Steal A Part Of Your Heart, and #2 When You’re Not Satisfied With Your King You Let The Dragon Steal A Part Of Your Heart.

#1    When You’re Not Thankful To Your King
You Let The Dragon Steal A Part Of Your Heart

Being thankful to God is an incredibly important subject in the Bible.  It is more than just being polite when we address the Lord and saying “Thanks” in our prayers.  It is a settled attitude of the mind and heart that approaches life by applying the truth that all things really are working together for the good for those who love the Lord.

In First Thessalonians 5:18 we are told to “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Commenting on this, scholar and Bible teacher D. Edmond Hiebert wrote,

“In everything…” is a duty that is not dependent upon gratifying circumstances.  The preposition in (en) points to the circumstances of their thanksgiving, “in connection with everything,” and everything makes the injunction all-inclusive… The Christian should meet adverse circumstances of life not with a spirit of stoic resignation but with a spirit of unfailing gratitude… When we realize that God works all things out for good to those who love Him and are yielded to His will, thanksgiving under all circumstances becomes a glorious possibility.

Pastor Don McClure uses the illustration of two friends who meet.  One asks the other how he’s doing to which he replies, “Pretty good under the circumstance.”  His friend then says to him, “What are you doing living under them?”  It’s a reminder that, as Christians, we are seated in heavenly places and have spiritual resources available to us to live far above our circumstances.

Looking at this another way, unthankfulness in the Bible is one of the key characteristics of the wicked.

In the first chapter of Romans those who have rejected God are described by saying of them, “nor were they thankful” (v21).
When describing the perilous last days the apostle Paul, in First Timothy 1:2, said, that men will be “unthankful.”

In both cases being unthankful is listed alongside other things we would consider heinous.

Here is what I am concluding.  Being unthankful is far more serious than we might think.  If I indulge myself in a lack of gratitude toward God, I am setting myself up for part of my heart to be stolen.  I am entering the realm of Absalom.

2 Samuel 14:25  Now in all Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.
2 Samuel 14:26  And when he cut the hair of his head – at the end of every year he cut it because it was heavy on him – when he cut it, he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels according to the king’s standard.

Absalom was People Magazine’s ‘Most Beautiful Person’ every year!  His hair was something like Fabio’s.  “Two hundred shekels according to the king’s standard” is about five pounds.  Man!  That’s like a mane.

Which is interesting since, as we’ve said, Absalom is a type of the devil who is described in the New Testament as going about as a lion seeking to devour.  Lion’s have manes.  The devil is also described in the Bible as a beautiful being, “perfect” until iniquity was found in him.

I always think of encountering the devil as a lion and being terrified, being attacked and torn to pieces.  But Absalom is a better picture of the devil going about seeking whom he may devour.  He devours with feigned kindness, with deceit, with lies.

The thing to note here isn’t his good looks but the emphasis he himself placed upon them.  This annual public ceremony of cutting and weighing his hair, for example, was pure vanity.  It called attention to himself rather than to God Who had blessed him with his good looks.  We are to point people to the Lord.  Beware of promoting yourself and of those who promote themselves.

2 Samuel 14:27  To Absalom were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar. She was a woman of beautiful appearance.

We need to be careful in ascribing motives, but it’s interesting that Absalom named his daughter after his sister whom Amnon had sexually assaulted.  It was a constant reminder to everyone that Absalom had acted to honor his sister when the king did nothing.

2 Samuel 14:28  And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, but did not see the king’s face.

Absalom should have been punished for the premeditated murder of Amnon.  The worst David did was shun him.

Was Absalom thankful that David spared his life?  Nope!  Not at all.

2 Samuel 14:29  Therefore Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. And when he sent again the second time, he would not come.

Far from being thankful, Absalom was demanding, thinking he deserved the king’s favor when, in fact, he deserved the death penalty.

2 Samuel 14:30  So he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is near mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” And Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.
2 Samuel 14:31  Then Joab arose and came to Absalom’s house, and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?”
2 Samuel 14:32  And Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent to you, saying, ‘Come here, so that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” ‘ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face; but if there is iniquity in me, let him execute me.”

When Joab quit returning Absalom’s calls, he had his servants set fire to his barley crop.  It’s an adult version of a temper-tantrum.

When I throw an adult temper-tantrum, I’m deep into being unthankful.  I can excuse it all I want, but I am accusing God of not giving me what I think I deserve.

Absalom felt that the discipline of being shunned from palace life was too harsh for his crime of murder.

Absalom knew David would not “execute” him.  He was manipulating David to get his way.  It worked.

2 Samuel 14:33  So Joab went to the king and told him. And when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom.

As king, David ought to have carried-out the penalty prescribed by God’s law for murder.  As a father he wanted to show love for his son.

By the way, dads and moms, proper biblical discipline shows love for your kids!  They are not exclusive.  Each of your sons and daughters has the potential to grow up to be an Absalom without it.

Absalom was supremely unthankful that the king had spared his life.  His heart was obsessed with its own agenda – to ascend to the throne.

All I want to do today is emphasize how important it is, in the Bible, to be thankful to God.  At some point or other you will be in adverse circumstances.  They are being allowed by God to give you the opportunity to be thankful, not for them but in them.

Maybe you’re one of the rare individuals whose circumstances seem great all the time.  You can show unthankfulness by being indifferent to God – taking it for granted that He’s blessing you and living your life mostly selfishly, without much sacrifice in serving Him.

Be thankful.  Sing in the midnight’s of your life when you feel as though you are in the stocks, in a dark, dank prison.  There’s a power in thankfulness that is wonderful and contagious.  It is Christlike.
#2    When You’re Not Satisfied With Your King
You Let The Dragon Steal A Part Of Your Heart

Absalom was not only unthankful.  He was not satisfied.  Being restored to palace life wasn’t enough for him.  He had his mind and heart set on the throne.  He set in motion a campaign to overthrow his father.

2 Samuel 15:1  After this it happened that Absalom provided himself with chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.

These were symbols of royalty.  Absalom “provided himself” with these symbols.  He made it look like he was the heir to the throne.

It is so hard for us to look past the outward appearance.  Anyone can make themselves look like they are spiritual.  If you are discerning, you can see through the outward trappings.  Too often, however, Christians are gullible and trusting and are taken advantage of.  They start following folks whom God has not raised-up, folks who have their own agenda.

There are ‘Absalom’s’ who mean well but please be cautious of anyone who sets themselves up as an authority over you.

2 Samuel 15:2  Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, “What city are you from?” And he would say, “Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.”
2 Samuel 15:3  Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.”
2 Samuel 15:4  Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.”

There is some talk by scholars that David was suffering an illness during this period of time.  Psalm 41 seems to bear this out.  If so, you see how crafty, how cunning, was Absalom in taking advantage of his father’s weakness and using it against him.

When someone talks down another believer, points out their faults, they are acting in the spirit of Absalom.  Don’t do it.  And don’t be drawn away by those who come to you talking-down others.  If the only way a person can make themselves look good is by making someone else look bad, that should be a warning to you.

Absalom always agreed with the people.  That, too, is a huge red flag.

2 Samuel 15:5  And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him.
2 Samuel 15:6  In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

Let me say this.  It’s easy to be the good guy.  To be the person who always sympathizes.  But that’s not spiritual, is it?  I always want to be the good guy; so do you.  But sometimes you must speak the truth in love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend.

2 Samuel 15:7  Now it came to pass after forty years that Absalom said to the king, “Please, let me go to Hebron and pay the vow which I made to the Lord.
2 Samuel 15:8  For your servant took a vow while I dwelt at Geshur in Syria, saying, ‘If the Lord indeed brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.’ ”
2 Samuel 15:9  And the king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron.

The mention of “forty years” is difficult.  For one thing, David’s entire reign was only forty years.  So it’s clear that the writer doesn’t mean that Absalom carried on like this that long.  Some scholars explain it as a scribal error and say it should read “four years.”  Others say it describes the period of time from when Israel first demanded a king and Saul was chosen.

All we can say for sure is that Absalom didn’t wait forty years to carry out his plan.  What was his plan?  To go to Hebron and announce that he was the rightful king.  Absalom had been born in Hebron and undoubtedly had support there.  It was also the place David was first acknowledged as king over Israel, so it had historic significance to all the Israelites.

Absalom pretended he was doing something spiritual, “paying a vow.”  It’s easier than you might think to convince yourself, or to be convinced, that your rebellion is really something spiritual.  Most church splits occur because a person or a group is not satisfied with some aspect of the ministry.  Rarely does it have anything to do with doctrinal error or sin.  But no one ever says, “We’re not satisfied so we are going to rebel against God’s appointed authority and do what we think is best.”  No, they always make their departure seem spiritual, as if they are going back to Hebron where the real glory is.

Absalom said, “then I will serve the Lord.”  What is fascinating is that he never really served the Lord.  He only served his own interests.  His idea of serving the Lord was being the leader but it cost him nothing.  He didn’t earn it, certainly didn’t deserve it.

2 Samuel 15:10  Then Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom reigns in Hebron!’ ”
2 Samuel 15:11  And with Absalom went two hundred men invited from Jerusalem, and they went along innocently and did not know anything.
2 Samuel 15:12  Then Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city – from Giloh – while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom continually increased in number.

Two hundred men, undoubtedly men of influence, would be pressured by circumstances to go along with Absalom’s rebellion.  It tells me that I can become an unwitting pawn in someone else’s scheme if I am not careful.  I always think I am so smart, so discerning, when, in fact, if I am not careful and prayerful I might be getting set-up as a rebel.  Remember, the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour by deceit.

Ahithophel, as we will see in subsequent weeks, was disgruntled and as a result was open to a change of administration.  Absalom played to his dissatisfaction.  When dissatisfied people get together the results can be pretty devastating.

If you and I had been around in Israel during this time it might have seemed that God was raising-up Absalom to take David’s place on the throne.  Outwardly it made sense.  David was sick, maybe dying.  Absalom was an obvious choice.  But we know (don’t we?) that this is rebellion.
The people who Absalom was counseling and kissing were not satisfied with the king.  Either he was too sick to see and hear their cases or he judged them in a manner they were not happy with.

Ahithophel was not satisfied with the king.  And, of course, the leader of all this rebellion, Absalom, was not satisfied serving the king.  Oh, he bowed down before him for a time – but only until he could make his move to take control of the kingdom.

The Rolling Stones made popular the idea that I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.  In our spiritual lives we tend to forget that our satisfaction must come from our relationship with the Lord.  I must be satisfied with Him, with His love for me and His plan for my life.  If I am, then I will address the circumstances I find myself in as coming from Him for my good and His glory.

The truth is I often get this idea of being satisfied backwards.  I am feeling unsatisfied in some circumstance – my marriage, my church, my job, etc.  I think that I must get satisfaction in order to have a better relationship with Jesus.  I put the cart before the horse, as it were.  I leave my marriage for another one; I quit my church for another one; I get the new job thinking it will satisfy me.

All the while the Lord is there asking me if I am going to be satisfied with Him, regardless that I think my circumstances could or should be better.

Dissatisfaction causes me to look at the world wrongly.  It causes me to spiritualize my carnal thoughts and actions.  I become Absalom.

Am I thankful?  It’s a command!

1 Thessalonians 5:18  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Am I satisfied?  By that I mean, is Jesus enough for me?  Or do I demand a certain set of circumstances in order to ‘feel’ satisfied?

Unthankfulness and dissatisfaction give the devil his opportunity to steal parts of my heart.  It gives him power over me that I really don’t want him to wield.

Thankfulness and satisfaction guard my heart for Jesus.  When I am practicing them as disciplines in my life, Jesus and I can go on supping together in the fellowship He created me for and saved me into.

Ban Of Brother (2 Samuel 14v1-24)


Caregivers are told to always assume a person in coma can hear you.

I’d had no real experience with comatose individuals until one day about twenty years ago when I was called to the hospital to visit a patient who was in a coma and not expected to regain consciousness.  He was the unsaved husband of a dear sister here at Calvary Hanford.

I don’t think I really believed he could hear me but I presented the gospel and told him to ask the Lord to save him before he died.  There was no response, no squeezing of the hand or blinking of the eyes.

He recovered!  (Which led me to think that I should have prayed for his healing!).  After he recovered he told me he had heard me and that he did receive the Lord!  He lived quite a few years longer but has since gone home to Heaven.

For me it became an example of the extraordinary means God can use in order to save those who are perishing.

In our text this morning there is a verse that has brought a great deal of comfort to many who have lost loved ones whom they are not really sure if they were saved.  The verse does not promise they were saved but it declares the great lengths God has gone and will go to save them.

It’s verse fourteen where you read, “for we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.”

The words portray God taking the initiative, reaching out to save all who are banished, wanting to restore them.  He has a plan, and devises means to explain that plan, not being willing that any should perish but that all would have the opportunity of eternal life.

Let’s explore the heart of God regarding His banished ones.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 God Means To Reach You Who Were Banished And Call You His Sons, and #2 God’s Means To Reach You Who Were Banished Cost Him His Son.

#1    God Means To Reach You Who Were Banished
And Call You His Sons

David’s son Absalom had planned and executed the murder of his brother, Amnon, and then had fled the country.  David loved Absalom and longed for his return.  As a father he might be excused for overlooking the murder, but not as the king.  As the king he had an obligation to execute justice.

Joab, David’s crafty commander-in- chief, decided to help David with his dilemma.

2 Samuel 14:1  So Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was concerned about Absalom.

Joab had David’s best interests in mind.  A father was missing hos son.  He also had the best interests of the nation in mind.  Absalom seemed the best candidate to succeed David on the throne.  Absalom was very popular with the people and his absence from kingdom life undoubtedly had a demoralizing effect.

In about a chapter, however, Joab is going to regret his decision.  Absalom will rebel against David, tearing the kingdom away from him.

It’s pretty clear that Joab was not being led by the Lord.  Good intentions are no substitute for prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

2 Samuel 14:2  And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman, and said to her, “Please pretend to be a mourner, and put on mourning apparel; do not anoint yourself with oil, but act like a woman who has been mourning a long time for the dead.
2 Samuel 14:3  Go to the king and speak to him in this manner.” So Joab put the words in her mouth.

Nathan the prophet had earlier come to David with a parable that exposed his sins and led him to repent of his sins of adultery and murder.  Joab is mimicking what Nathan did – only they are his words, not the Lord’s.

We should not try to duplicate the moving of God’s Spirit by the energy of our own flesh.  When we do the results are less than spiritual.

2 Samuel 14:4  And when the woman of Tekoa spoke to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and prostrated herself, and said, “Help, O king!”
2 Samuel 14:5  Then the king said to her, “What troubles you?” And she answered, “Indeed I am a widow, my husband is dead.
2 Samuel 14:6  Now your maidservant had two sons; and the two fought with each other in the field, and there was no one to part them, but the one struck the other and killed him.
2 Samuel 14:7  And now the whole family has risen up against your maidservant, and they said, ‘Deliver him who struck his brother, that we may execute him for the life of his brother whom he killed; and we will destroy the heir also.’ So they would extinguish my ember that is left, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the earth.”

You gotta give Joab props for creativity.

“Two sons fought” is reminiscent of the fact that for two years there had been bad blood between Absalom and Amnon.
“There was no one to part them” was a subtle slam on David whose inaction in dealing with Amnon’s rape of Absalom’s sister, Tamar, certainly contributed to Amnon’s murder.
Now the heir to the throne, Absalom, was in danger of being executed.

2 Samuel 14:8  Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.”

This might be David’s way of saying, “Let me think about it.”  He wasn’t ready to render a judgment.  The woman pressed upon him.

2 Samuel 14:9  And the woman of Tekoa said to the king, “My lord, O king, let the iniquity be on me and on my father’s house, and the king and his throne be guiltless.”

This is a recognition that what she was asking was outside of God’s law.  She was asking David to bend the law, to ignore it, in order to save her beloved son and heir.

2 Samuel 14:10  So the king said, “Whoever says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall not touch you anymore.”
2 Samuel 14:11  Then she said, “Please let the king remember the Lord your God, and do not permit the avenger of blood to destroy anymore, lest they destroy my son.” And he said, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”

She went for the close and got David to definitely commit.  Her son was effectively pardoned by David.

2 Samuel 14:12  Therefore the woman said, “Please, let your maidservant speak another word to my lord the king.” And he said, “Say on.”
2 Samuel 14:13  So the woman said: “Why then have you schemed such a thing against the people of God? For the king speaks this thing as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring his banished one home again.

Whoa!  This was bold!  It’s like calling David a hypocrite because he was willing to do something for her that he wasn’t doing for himself.
Again I’d say it is a little like Nathan saying to David, “You are the man,” only it sounds a lot more earthly and fleshly.  It was not leading David to repent of anything.  In fact, it was asking him to ignore God’s law and restore Absalom without dealing with the fact he was a murderer.

2 Samuel 14:14  For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.

A loved one dies.  Maybe they made a profession of faith once, a long time ago.  Maybe they never did – at least, you don’t think they did.  This verse is a great comfort.  It isn’t saying everyone gets saved in the end.  But it does show you that God not only has devised the overall “means” to save human beings, but that He works in each individual to bring them to a decision affecting their eternity.

2 Samuel 14:15  Now therefore, I have come to speak of this thing to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. And your maidservant said, ‘I will now speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his maidservant.
2 Samuel 14:16  For the king will hear and deliver his maidservant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together from the inheritance of God.’
2 Samuel 14:17  Your maidservant said, ‘The word of my lord the king will now be comforting; for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king in discerning good and evil. And may the Lord your God be with you.’ ”

Did Nathan flatter David after he’d rebuked him?  No, he told him some pretty heavy things were on the horizon.

This was a grand scheme but it ignored the real problem.  How could David both restore and punish his son?  How could he show mercy while also executing judgment?

David’s dilemma mirrors the dilemma God had with the human race.  God made man in His image and put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  He shared fellowship with them, walking with them in the afternoon of each day.  They had one simple rule: Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God explained that in the day they ate of it they would surely die.  They would immediately die spiritually, being separated from fellowship with God.  They would begin to die physically.  They would also bring death into the universe.  You see the result of their sin almost immediately as their son Cain killed his brother Abel out in the field.

Adam and Eve were banished from Eden.  It represented the fact that the human race has been banished from the presence of God.  We are sinners by nature and by choice.  We deserve the death penalty.  No matter how much God loves us, He cannot merely overlook our sin.  How can we ever be restored to fellowship with God?

God devised a plan!  Right there in the Garden of Eden He told our parents that He would send His Son to earth as a man, as the seed of the woman, and take our place to bear the penalty for our sin.  In doing so He would remain just because His law would be kept but He could also be the justifier of all those who believed in Jesus.

God has devised a means by which the banished can be restored.  We call it the gospel and we declare it to all men everywhere.  It is a universal plan in that any human being in any culture from all of human history can be restored simply by believing in Jesus Christ, in His work of dying on the Cross as Substitute.  Jesus is therefore the Savior of the whole world – especially, i.e., effectively, for those who believe.

I would add this.  God’s plan is extraordinary and He goes to great lengths to implement it.  The Bible indicates He is at work through both creation and conscience to draw men to Himself who have never heard the gospel.  He is certainly working through the preaching of the gospel as He empowers His church to “Go and make disciples of all men.”

If and when necessary He can bring the good news of salvation even to those in a coma who are said to be about to die.

Tragically, not everyone is saved in the end.  But you can be assured that God is not willing that any should perish and He who devised the means for our salvation is working to bring everyone to a point of decision before death.

#2    God’s Means To Reach You Who Were Banished
Cost Him His Son

We left the wise woman from Tekoa before David.  Let’s see his response to her.

2 Samuel 14:18  Then the king answered and said to the woman, “Please do not hide from me anything that I ask you.” And the woman said, “Please, let my lord the king speak.”
2 Samuel 14:19  So the king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” And the woman answered and said, “As you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right hand or to the left from anything that my lord the king has spoken. For your servant Joab commanded me, and he put all these words in the mouth of your maidservant.
2 Samuel 14:20  To bring about this change of affairs your servant Joab has done this thing; but my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of the angel of God, to know everything that is in the earth.”

David recognizes this as a sheme of Joab’s.  There’s no sense that this was from the Lord.  David does not react in any manner that could be regarded as ‘spiritual.’  His reactions are totally unlike the time Nathan came to him.

Still, he acts.

2 Samuel 14:23  So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 14:24  And the king said, “Let him return to his own house, but do not let him my face.” So Absalom returned to his own house, but did not see the king’s face.

David could not figure out a way to truly resolve the dilemma.  He could not figure out how to restore his banished one as a father while also satisfying justice and keeping the law.  He simply cancelled the death penalty against Absalom then feigned some discipline by not letting him sit at court.

As we’ll see, there was no change in Absalom.  He was pardoned, but he was still a rebel.

More-and-more people think God is like David – pardoning without regard to sin and His broken law.  The latest Barna polling data shows that millions of Americans believe that, in the end, God will save everyone.  Among Christians, one-quarter of born again believers said that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God (25%) and that it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons (26%).1

God is love and desires all would be saved.  But God is holy and He cannot act as David did.  He cannot ignore sin for the sake of His love.  If He did, He would not be God!

David was both a father and the king.  As father he wanted to restore his son.  As king he should not overlook justice.

God is both Father and King.  His solution to the dilemma is the only one possible.  It cost Him His own Son, on the Cross, to save His banished ones.

Every religion, every philosophy, is an attempt to deal with the dilemma of the human condition.  The solution men come up with apart from God’s revelation of the gospel always involves some half-hearted dealing with the problem of sin.

Religions suggest certain works that you can do which supposedly make you righteous and earn you salvation.  All it does is cheapen God’s holiness.  It elevates man and devalues God.
Philosophies by and large ignore God altogether and speculate that man is getting somewhere via his intellect and evolution.  Truth is, we are not evolving; we are de-volving!

No, there is only one way by which we can be made right, made whole, saved.  It’s the Cross on which the Son of God died, taking our place.

Obviously, in context, we are talking about human beings being banished but restored through the gospel by getting saved.  There’s an application for those of us who are saved – for former banished ones.  We can become prodigals, banishing ourselves, as it were, to seek after some desire or desires of the flesh.

The same Cross by which we were saved is where we can find forgiveness and restoration.  His justice satisfied, God can and will receive you back with open arms as your Father.

The king had to think of law and justice; the father cried out for his son.  That is the heart of our Father in Heaven, our King.  He solved it by coming as a man and dying in our place – in your place.

Alexander Maclaren writes,

It is you, you, whom He wants back; you whom He would fain rescue from your aversion to good and your carelessness of Him. It is you whom He seeks, according to the great saying of the Master, ‘the Father seeketh’ for worshippers in spirit and in truth.

It wasn’t easy for God to restore His banished ones.  It’s not easy to believe and be restored to Him.

But the way has been made by Jesus, by His coming as a man, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead.

A Shear Death Experience (2 Samuel 13v20-39)


On 29 November 1979, Air New Zealand flight 901 crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica killing all 257 people that took the sight-seeing flight.
In 1983 Korean Air Lines Flight 007 wandered into Russian airspace and was shot down by a Russian MiG fighter over the Sea of Japan.  The airliner was en route to Seoul from New York City via Anchorage, Alaska.  All 269 lives were lost.

The two air disasters have in common that in both cases the flight co-ordinates were off by two degrees or less.

Even a small error in a course setting can lead to disaster.

You see where I’m going with this.  You and I are on a journey, a spiritual journey.  We are on the earth but headed for Heaven.  We are on a path, sometimes described as ‘the narrow road,’ and must stay on course.  Errors in our course setting can lead to problems.

In Colossians 3:2 we read, “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  It is up to us where we “set” our mind while on the journey home.  We can and should set it on Heaven, but we can, if we choose, set it on the earth.

Our text in Second Samuel illustrates how mind-set determines destination.  Amnon had sexually assaulted his half-sister, Tamar.  Her brother, Absalom, set his mind on murdering Amnon.  Two years later he arrived at the destination he had set.

Setting our minds and our mind-set is what we want to discuss.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Are Free To Set Your Mind, and #2 You Are A Slave To Your Mind-Set.

#1    You Are Free To Set Your Mind

We’re told that after Amnon raped Tamar, Absalom “hated” him.  I think it’s a mistake, however, to believe that what Amnon did to his sister was his primary motive for killing his brother.

As the story unfolds Absalom will eventually rebel against David and seize the throne for a time.  We see that Absalom had his mind set on the throne and that ‘setting’ was what directed him in his actions.  I think it directed him in how he dealt with the rape of his sister.

Amnon was David’s firstborn and heir apparent.  A second son, Daniel (also known as Chiliab) is never really mentioned in these contentions.  He may have died young.  Absalom was David’s third son and apparently second in line after Amnon to succeed his father.

From the natural, earthly point of view, Absalom would only become king after David if something happened to Amnon.  When Amnon violated his sister, Absalom had the opportunity he needed to make something happen to Amnon.

2 Samuel 13:20  And Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this thing to heart.” So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.

This verse is as full of intrigue as it is sadness.  Let’s first think about Absalom’s advice to his lovely sister.  It might seem he was the protective older brother, but that’s just a facade.  A protective older brother would have taken some immediate action.

The spirit of God’s law specified what ought to have taken place.  In the case of the rape of an innocent girl the perpetrator was to take her as his wife.  It sounds strange and abusive to our way of thinking but in the tribal culture of Israel it preserved the girl’s honor and provided for her.

Tamar herself had suggested to Amnon, before the assault, that he ask her hand in marriage.  Even after being violated she understood that the right thing to do under the law was to remain with Amnon.

Amnon refused but he could have been forced to marry Tamar.  Absalom ignored the godly alternative.  He didn’t go to his dad on Tamar’s behalf.  Instead he suggested she keep quiet and live in shame the rest of her life.  “Don’t think about it,” is what he told her.

It doesn’t sound like a caring big brother to me.  It sounds like someone who wants to eliminate his competition and now has an excuse to do so.

Absalom plotted to kill Amnon.  We know that this was his intent from the beginning because of what Jonadab says in verse thirty-two, “for by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.”

Absalom had “determined” to kill Amnon “from the day” he raped Tamar.  We might think his killing Amnon was justified.  After all, any decent movie or TV show in which someone gets assaulted ends with the perpetrator being violently killed and with us cheering because he had it coming.

He patiently waited for two years until he could carry out the murder, eliminate the heir standing in his way, and have some hope of masking it under the guise of honoring his sister.

2 Samuel 13:21  But when King David heard of all these things, he was very angry.

There is a lot of speculation as to why David remained passive in the midst of these family and kingdom tragedies.  Of course he ought to have been more proactive.  Let him be a witness to parents and leaders that inaction can make things much worse.

2 Samuel 13:22  And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.

Absalom genuinely “hated” Amnon for what he had done.  Who wouldn’t?  But his indifference in handling the situation belies the fact that there was more going on in his mind than concern for his sister.

Absalom “set his mind… on things on the earth.”  It’s clear looking back over his entire story that he desired to be king.  He set his heart on it and it determined a course of action that lacked compassion for his sister, murdered his brother, and overthrew his father.

Anytime I set my mind “on things on the earth” I am determining that I want to be ‘king,’ ruling my own life, rather than submitting to the plans and purposes of God for my life.

When we set our minds on things on the earth, it’s usually more subtle and less obvious than Absalom.  But it’s no less destructive in the long run.

What is my mind really set upon?  Well, to a certain extent what I’ve set my mind to is revealed in what or who I am really living for.  It is revealed by what or who I am thinking about most of the time.

If that doesn’t help you to discover your mind-set, then just ask the Lord to show you, in His love, what it is or who it is that you’ve set your mind on.  If it’s something or someone other than Him, change the setting, dial-in ‘Jesus,’ and get back on course towards Heaven.

#2    You Are A Slave To Your Mind-Set

What Absalom determined to do, he did.  It isn’t something he should be commended for.  He became a slave to his mind-set.  His desire to be king instead of Amnon saw the opportunity and waited to take advantage of it.

2 Samuel 13:23  And it came to pass, after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal Hazor, which is near Ephraim; so Absalom invited all the king’s sons.
2 Samuel 13:24  Then Absalom came to the king and said, “Kindly note, your servant has sheepshearers; please, let the king and his servants go with your servant.”
2 Samuel 13:25  But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go now, lest we be a burden to you.” Then he urged him, but he would not go; and he blessed him.
2 Samuel 13:26  Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?”
2 Samuel 13:27  But Absalom urged him; so he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.

It wouldn’t be easy to kill the king’s son and heir to the throne and get away with it.  But it could be done.  As Michael Corleone once said, “If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.”

He made his move by inviting David and “all the king’s sons” to the annual sheepshearing.  I’m guessing that Absalom knew his dad, for some reason, would not be able to attend.  But inviting him put David off a little.  Even though it seems by David’s response he had some concerns about Amnon’s safety, he was put off his guard by Absalom.

Plus, it had been two years since Tamar was raped.  Certainly Absalom would have acted by now if he was going to.  Wouldn’t he have?

2 Samuel 13:28  Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, “Watch now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon!’ then kill him. Do not be afraid. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and valiant.”
I can hear The Godfather theme playing in the background!  It’s always when you least expect it that the hit occurs.

There was nothing “courageous and valiant” about killing a weaponless drunken man as he feasted.  Absalom portrayed their actions as if they were in a battle.  In his mind, they were – a battle for the throne of Israel.

2 Samuel 13:29  So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each one got on his mule and fled.

Mules can run!  Did you know that there was an American Mule Racing Association (AMRA) formed to promote the racing of mules at recognized distances?

I only mention that because, growing up watching Gunsmoke, when I think of riding a mule I get an image of Festus, Marshall Dillon’s loyal deputy, and his mule, Ruth.  Not exactly the image of a prince on his steed!

2 Samuel 13:30  And it came to pass, while they were on the way, that news came to David, saying, “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left!”

It’s not unusual to receive erroneous reports about an incident.  People tend to assume things and then report them as factual.  Or things get exaggerated in their retelling.

In this case I would not rule out a disinformation strategy in which Absalom wanted David initially to think all his sons had been killed so that when he heard it was only Amnon he would be strangely comforted.  Then David would think, “After all, something ought to have been done to Amnon for his crime of assaulting Tamar and refusing to make it right.”  He could hardly blame Absalom for taking action.

2 Samuel 13:31  So the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the ground, and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn.

They must have had big wardrobe budgets in those days!  There was a lot of clothes tearing in response to tragedy.

2 Samuel 13:32  Then Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, answered and said, “Let not my lord suppose they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for only Amnon is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.
2 Samuel 13:33  Now therefore, let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead. For only Amnon is dead.”

Jonadab had good news but he was bad news.  He’s the crafty “friend” of Amnon’s who had suggested how Amnon might seduce Tamar in the first place.  Now he was hanging around David.  Of course, as a relative it was hard to ignore him.  But by now it ought to be obvious he was trouble.

He seemed to know more about this than he should.  He knew that Absalom had determined to kill Amnon for the past two years.  And he knew details of the plot because he could say with confidence that only Amnon was dead.  I can’t help but wonder if he had a bigger role in this than we’re told.

2 Samuel 13:34  Then Absalom fled. And the young man who was keeping watch lifted his eyes and looked, and there, many people were coming from the road on the hillside behind him.
2 Samuel 13:35  And Jonadab said to the king, “Look, the king’s sons are coming; as your servant said, so it is.”
2 Samuel 13:36  So it was, as soon as he had finished speaking, that the king’s sons indeed came, and they lifted up their voice and wept. Also the king and all his servants wept very bitterly.

Jonadab never missed an opportunity to promote himself.  Again I suggest he knew a little too much and seemed to be trying to get David on board with the thought that Amnon’s death wasn’t so bad after all.

What a dark day this was in David’s family.  I wonder if David felt a sense of deja vu?  Some years earlier he had tried to get Uriah merry with wine to cover his adultery with Bathsheba.  When that failed David ordered his servants to have Uriah killed in battle.

2 Samuel 13:37  But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.

Absalom’s mom was a Geshurite.  He fled to his grandpa’s to be kept safe from any retribution.  He didn’t flee to a city of refuge in Israel because what he had done was premeditated murder and there was no refuge for him.

Killing Amnon was a bold move.  But I think Absalom had some idea that his father would not come after him.  He seemed to know, or at least was willing to gamble, that he could bide his time and return.

After all, David had done nothing to Amnon after the incident with Tamar.  It looked as though he was still the heir to the throne.  Absalom would only rule if Amnon was eliminated.

“David mourned for his son every day.”  I wonder if this was some regular act of mourning, or just the feeling in his heart?

2 Samuel 13:38  So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years.

“Three years” isn’t really that long to be in exile when you consider the stakes.  Everything was on schedule for Absalom to at least attempt to return.  Then he’d have the option of waiting for dad to die, since he was now next in succession to be king.  Or he might just overthrow his dad – which, in fact, he will do.

2 Samuel 13:39  And King David longed to go to Absalom. For he had been comforted concerning Amnon, because he was dead.

At some point David’s mourning for Amnon came to an end.  He began to long for Absalom.  I mean, why not?  David could easily blame himself for his inaction towards Amnon leading Absalom to take action.  He’d lost Amnon; why lose Absalom?

He didn’t seem to understand, or maybe didn’t want to understand, that Absalom’s mind was set on the throne and that he, David, was another obstacle to be overcome.

Absalom was a slave to his mind-set.  His theme song was, I Just Can’t Wait to be King.  It caused him to leave his sister in a devastated condition for the rest of her life.  It led him to plot a murder and then a coup.  He was willing to live in exile, as a fugitive, in order to attain what he’s set his mind upon.

It’s important we determine what or who our mind is set upon because it will be our master.

If our mind-set is earthly, we will set out to accomplish our earthly goals and we will do so using earthly, carnal methods.  We’ll convince ourselves that the end justifies the means, but they do not because God is more interested in my heart than in my achievements.
When our mind is set on Heaven, on seeing Jesus and being with Him where He is, we will be free to be His slaves and accomplish His will for our lives.  It may not bring us earthly success or position but it will fill our lives with joy.

There’s an Absalom within each of us.  A determination to rule over the kingdom of our lives.  If we set our course by it even a little, we’ll be way off in our destination.

Set your mind on Heaven.  Setting our sights on the realities of Heaven means striving to put Heaven’s priorities into daily practice.  Letting Heaven fill our thoughts means concentrating on the eternal rather than the temporal.

Let me suggest an example.  Let’s say you’re planning a big vacation.  You go to work, you go through your daily routines at home, but you’re all the while getting ready for the trip.  Especially as the days tick by.  Your mind is set on vacation.  You strive to get your work caught-up, to get your house ready and in order, so you can go where you really want to be.

Heaven is much more than a vacation destination!  But I think you get the idea.  You can set your mind by Heaven and let it determine your course as you journey homeward.

Realize, too, that you could be there today!  The rapture is imminent… Or your own departure may be at hand.

Get your work done for the glory of God.  Set your house in order for the glory of God.  You are Heaven-bound.  Set your mind on things above.

Don’t Feed The Hand That Bites You (2 Samuel 13v1-19)


Adophus Frederick is known by Swedish children as “the king who ate himself to death.”  On February 12, 1771 after partaking of a banquet consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne he moved on to his favorite dessert, Semla, a traditional bun or pastry made from semolina wheat flour served in a bowl of hot milk.  One or two portions would have been sufficient but he had fourteen servings.  He died shortly thereafter of digestion problems.

You may never gorge yourself to the point of death on food.  But there is something at work in you that has a voracious appetite that can never be truly satisfied.  The Bible calls it “the flesh” and, if you’re a Christian, you know that you are at war with it.

A key strategy in dealing with this enemy within each of us is found in Romans 13:14.

Romans 13:14  …put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Our text in Second Samuel is going to provide us with a pretty graphic illustration of what happens when we do “make… provision for the flesh.”  David’s son Amnon makes provision for his flesh to fulfill his lust for his step-sister, Tamar.  The result is a sexual assault that will ultimately lead to Amnon being murdered by Tamar’s brother, Absalom.

It’s graphic for a good reason.  We need to be reminded about the dangers of  making provision for the flesh.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Your Flesh Will Consume Ever Provision You Make To Fulfill It’s Lusts, and #2 Your Flesh Won’t Be Content With Any Provision You Make To Fulfill Its Lusts.

#1    Your Flesh Will Consume
Every Provision You Make To Fulfill Its Lusts

The Bible speaks frequently of “the flesh,” but it also uses the term “the old man.”  For example, Romans 6:6 you read, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”  The phrase “body of sin” is synonymous with “the flesh.”  Still you see there is an “old man” and “the flesh.”  There’s a distinction.

The “old man” has to do with our natural birth.  It is what we are at birth.  Since we are descended from Adam we inherit what he passed on.  Adam passes on to us a dead spirit and a sin nature.  My natural state and standing as a human being is what is meant by “the old man.”

The “old man” was crucified on the Cross with Jesus!  So why do I still struggle against sinful impulses?  That’s where “the flesh”  comes in.  One commentator offers this definition: “Scripture uses the term ‘the flesh’ in a morally evil sense to describe man’s unredeemed humanness, i.e., that remnant of the old man which will remain with each believer until each receives his or her glorified body.”

The flesh is something left behind after I receive a new nature when I am born-again.  It resides in my as yet unredeemed physical body.  It is that tendency, that inclination, those impulses, left over from my old man that impel me to use my physical body in sinful ways.

Because my “old man was crucified with [Jesus]… and is dead, the body of sin might be done away.”  “Might” doesn’t mean maybe.  It means the flesh has been “done away with.”

So why do we struggle with it?  “Done away with” is the key phrase.  It means to render inoperative.  It is a word used to describe making something ineffective by removing its power of control.

Since my old man is dead, it need not respond to any impulses or inclinations from the flesh.  When I realize the spiritual fact that my old man was crucified with Jesus, it removes the power of control from the flesh.  It is this knowledge that short-circuits my impulses and inclinations to yield to those things entrenched in my physical body.

Until my physical body is redeemed at the resurrection or the rapture I will struggle with the flesh.  It remains within me.  It is unchangeably evil.  But my knowledge of the crucifixion of my old man cuts the power cord.

I therefore choose each day, and many times in each day, to either “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts,” or to “make… provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”

The subtle deceptions we use to make provision for the flesh is what is illustrated for us by Amnon.

2 Samuel 13:1  After this Absalom the son of David had a lovely sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
2 Samuel 13:2  Amnon was so distressed over his sister Tamar that he became sick; for she was a virgin. And it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her.

Amnon was David’s eldest son by his wife Ahinoam the Jezreelite.  He would have been supposed to be the heir to David’s throne.  It was a position of privilege.

We have a privileged position as Christians.  As wonderful as that is, we must be careful.  Sometimes privileged people take advantage of their position, or take it for granted.

Our privileged position by itself does not guarantee automatic victory over the flesh.  We must decide.  We have to choose.  But no matter how difficult it may seem, unless we have some overriding physiochemical problem, we can always choose to deny the flesh.

Tamar was David’s daughter by his wife Maacah the Geshurite.  She was his step-sister.

Tribal cultures are a little weird to most of us.  By “tribal” I mean a culture that demands its members marry within the group to folks who are closer relatives than we might expect.

The Book of Genesis portrays Sarah as marrying Abraham, her half-brother, without criticizing the close relationship between them.
Our text treats the marriage of a royal prince to his sister as unusual but possible rather than immoral.

Those who try to point to the Old Testament to condone things like polygamy and even incest fail to consider that the Israelites were a tribal people.  We are not.

We’re told Amnon “loved” Tamar.  We will see that this “love” was really “lust,” so why call it “love?”

I think the Holy Spirit is pointing out that we can fool ourselves into believing our lusts are just our normal human appetites.  That way we can start making provision for them without admitting it is sin.

And that is exactly what Amnon began to do.
2 Samuel 13:3  But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Now Jonadab was a very crafty man.

The words “friend” and “a very crafty man” do not go together.  You can be one or the other but not both.  It was another subtle provision for the flesh to have a crafty friend around to give you sinful suggestions.

It doesn’t give him an out!  It was Amnon’s choice to have Jonadab around to suggest plans that could make provision for his lusts.  You can’t blame it on a third party or something else when you’re the one inviting that person or thing into your sphere of influence.

2 Samuel 13:4  And he said to him, “Why are you, the king’s son, becoming thinner day after day? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

Jonadab makes the classic argument.  “You deserve it!” was his approach.  So much of our making provision for the flesh occurs when we convince ourselves we are denying ourselves, or being denied, someone or something we deserve.

2 Samuel 13:5  So Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me food, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’ ”

You’ll notice that Jonadab doesn’t finish his thought by saying, “and then you will force yourself upon her and sexually assault her.”  Or even the more subtle, “and then she will give herself to you and you will have illicit sex out of wedlock.”

A danger inherent in making any provision for the flesh, especially in our thought life, is that we don’t think we will follow through in reality.  We’re trying to satisfy the flesh by giving it just a little, indulging ourselves but short of committing sin.

Hey, it’s already sin to be thinking about committing sin!
2 Samuel 13:6  Then Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let Tamar my sister come and make a couple of cakes for me in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.”
2 Samuel 13:7  And David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Now go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.”

I’m slower to criticize David as a dad than I once was.  Amnon is an adult.  There were other folks around when Tamar went to cook for Amnon.  Maybe David should have been more aware but that’s not the point.  The fingers aren’t pointing at David, but at anyone and everyone who makes provision for the flesh.

2 Samuel 13:8  So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was lying down. Then she took flour and kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes.
2 Samuel 13:9  And she took the pan and placed them out before him, but he refused to eat. Then Amnon said, “Have everyone go out from me.” And they all went out from him.
2 Samuel 13:10  Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them to Amnon her brother in the bedroom.

Yes, this was a huge red flag, but let’s never criticize Tamar.  She is presented throughout this account as totally innocent.  If she was naive, how is that a fault?  Besides, she may have been much younger than we might imagine – just a young teen.

Please don’t be one of those people who thinks sexual assault can somehow be blamed on the person who was assaulted because “they should have known better.”  Being naive and lacking discernment doesn’t translate into being responsible for what happens.

Amnon was willing to destroy someone that was pure and innocent in order to satisfy his own lusts.  The flesh is not just immoral.  It is amoral, having no moral restraints or principles.  It’s terrifying the lengths an amoral person will go to to gratify himself or herself.

2 Samuel 13:11  Now when she had brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”
2 Samuel 13:12  But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing!
2 Samuel 13:13  And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.”

It was “disgraceful.”  It would bring “shame.”  We don’t hear words like that much anymore.  Someone said, “People should be ashamed of how shameless they are.”

It was the act of “one of the fools.”  A “fool” in the Bible isn’t a simpleton.  We’re told that “the fools has said in his heart, There is no God.”  Or it can be translated, “the fool has said in his heart “No” [to] God.”

When you make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts you are saying “No” to God Who has provided everything you need to to instead say “No” to sin.  You are acting just like a nonbeliever.

2 Samuel 13:14  However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.

He was given one last way out.  He didn’t take it.  It’s not that it was too late so much as it shows us the strength of the flesh.  It has a power of its own.  We can’t think we can indulge it and still keep it under our control.

The act of feeding his flesh was preceded by a lot of planning, a lot of making provision for it.

The subtle deceptions of thinking yourself privileged.
Fooling yourself into thinking your lusts are normal drives.
Having some sort of ‘companion’ that suggests sin to you.
Convincing yourself you deserve what is being withheld.
Not considering the final outcome because you think you have the flesh under control.

The battle is won or lost in your mind.  Start there, with your thought life, and bring every thought captive to Jesus.

As bad as this story is thus far, it only gets worse.
#2    Your Flesh Won’t Be Content
With Any Provision You Make To Fulfill Its Lusts

It is a myth to think you can ever satisfy the flesh.  It is never satisfied when you make provision for it.  Amnon’s reaction illustrates the total lack of satisfaction.

2 Samuel 13:15  Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Arise, be gone!”

You might call this the “im-moral of the story”:  The flesh never has enough flesh to satisfy the flesh.

2 Samuel 13:16  So she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her.
2 Samuel 13:17  Then he called his servant who attended him, and said, “Here! Put this woman out, away from me, and bolt the door behind her.”

The flesh is not remorseful.  It has no checks and balances.  It is altogether wicked.  It will consume until it kills and then want to continue or to start over.

2 Samuel 13:18  Now she had on a robe of many colors, for the king’s virgin daughters wore such apparel. And his servant put her out and bolted the door behind her.
2 Samuel 13:19  Then Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her robe of many colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly.

Sexual assault is awful.  Please teach your daughters to be discerning and your sons to be respectful.  Then see that they are properly chaperoned.  Another important strategy for making no provision for the flesh is to avoid any opportunity to indulge it.

Amnon was not satisfied.  In fact, he was totally dissatisfied.  You cannot satisfy the flesh.  Ever.

There was no happy ending to this story.  There never is when the flesh is provided for.
We, however, can experience a very different story!

We quoted from Romans 6:6 earlier  Romans 6:7 reads,

Romans 6:7  For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Our “old man” was crucified.  It is dead.  The word “freed” introduces another metaphor by comparing the Christian to a slave.  Death freed a slave from his master’s control.  The master could bark all kinds of orders but the slave could no longer respond.

We are set free from sin because the old man has died with Jesus on the cross.  Now a new man, a free man, lives.

In the 1960 film Spartacus, Kirk Douglas played the escaped slave who led a brief but widespread slave rebellion in ancient Rome.  At one point in the movie Spartacus says: “Death is the only freedom a slave knows.  That’s why he is not afraid of it.”

The old man has ceased to have dominion over you, just as a master ceases to have power over a slave when he is dead.

We will sin, however, if we make provision for the flesh.

So don’t!  Don’t make provision for the flesh.

The Bible never asks us to do something we cannot do.  Our point today, from the tragic tale of Amnon and Tamar, is that we are already sinning way before we act if and when we are allowing our minds to be deceived like Amnon was.

Instead we are to have the mind of Christ, bring our thoughts captive to Him, and think on those things that are “true… noble… just… pure… lovely… of good report… [that are virtuous and] praiseworthy…” (Philippians 4:8).

Back In The Battle Again (2 Samuel 12v24-31)


Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “The only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army.”

It means that we can have a dismissive, judgmental attitude towards a brother or a sister in Christ who has sinned.  Even after they repent we can wonder if their repentance was genuine and often we are hesitant to see them returned to the full benefits and blessings of their Christian life.  Many of these wounded soldiers live the rest of their lives being treated, or at least feeling, as if they are now second-class Christians.

The classic passage on how to approach and treat Christians who sin is found in the New Testament book of Galatians 6:1 where we read,

Galatians 6:1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

The word translated “restore” is one that would be used of setting a broken bone back in place or of mending a torn fishing net.  It thus depicts the person as hobbled and unable to continue in the Great Commission as a fisher of men.  You restore the bone and repair the net in order for them to return to serving the Lord.

Restoration is one of the main themes in the verses we are covering today, the last verses of Second Samuel twelve.  David had sinned but through the intervention of Nathan the prophet he had repented.  Though he would suffer severe consequences for his sins, we see that he was fully restored by God both at home and in the kingdom.

David’s restoration doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about every situation we might encounter with regards to restoring someone.  It’s not a step-by-step primer.  But it does establish a truth we sometimes forget or are hesitant to declare.  God loves to restore!

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 God Restores You And Then Reveals Himself Through It In Your Private Life, and #2 God Restores You And Then Reveals Himself Through It In Your Public Life.

#1    God Restores You And Then
Reveals Himself Through It In Your Private Life

It is not our goal today to establish the precise biblical process for restoring a sinning brother or sister.  That process can be found in Matthew 18:15-22 and is most of the time referred to as ‘Church Discipline.’  It involves confrontation of sin on an escalating scale if the person refuses to repent, going alone at first but later taking witnesses and much later, if necessary, exposing the person’s sin publicly to the gathered church.

In passing I might point out that the phrase, ‘Church Discipline,’ does not occur in the Bible.  I refer to it as ‘Church Discipline,’ too, but I’m starting to think that it might be better, more biblical, to call it ‘Church Restoration.’  It includes discipline, it starts there; but if it’s goal is restoration, why not call it that, to remind us why we’re doing it and where we’re headed?
What we are focusing on today is the heart behind the process.  It’s a vital part of the process.  It’s described in the verses just before Matthew 18:15-22, in verses 12-14, where you read,

Matthew 18:12  “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?
Matthew 18:13  And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.
Matthew 18:14  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Restoration is the attitude, the heart, the motivation we must have throughout the process.  We see it illustrated in the restoration of David.

2 Samuel 12:24  Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him,
2 Samuel 12:25  and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Really?  After committing adultery and a murder to cover it up God allowed David to marry Bathsheba?  To have a son by him?  To produce the heir to the throne of Israel?

I wonder what steps I would have recommended for David to take in the aftermath of his sins if I had been on the committee charged with his discipline and restoration?  It’s a silly comparison since we do not live in a monarchy or even really understand a tribal culture like Israel’s.  Still I’m almost sure we would have been more punitive in the aftermath of David’s sin.  While we might have recommended he marry Bathsheba, I think we would have thought him disqualified from leadership and asked him to step down.  We would at least have wanted to wait to see if there was fruit in his life after his repentance.

Again I want to emphasize that this passage isn’t giving me a process of restoration.  It isn’t establishing the norm for how to treat adulterers and murderers.

What it is doing is showing us that God is serious about restoring repentant sinners.  God is extreme when it comes to restoration and I should be, too.

Every restoration opportunity is going to be a little different.  One thing they all must have in common is the goal to see the person restored to both fellowship and service.  We want to mend the bone – see them back as a member of the body of Jesus Christ; and we want to mend the net – see them back serving the Lord.

David’s private life, his home life, was restored.  Verses twenty-four and twenty-five depict a joyous home life that was abundantly blessed by God. They named their son Solomon, which means peace.  They were at peace in their home and they enjoyed peace with God.

Nathan put God’s stamp of approval on David’s private life by naming the child Jedidiah, which means loved by the Lord.

By now all the nation knew what David had done.  All the nation was watching what David would do and, more importantly, what God would do.  David repented; God restored.

Consequences there were.  The first child born to David and Bathsheba was taken home prematurely.  There would be turmoil in David’s future which will begin in the very next chapter.

But the consequences God determines for sin are different than the punishments we might assign to repentant believers to be sure they are not getting off too easy.

God’s restoration was first revealed in David’s home, as a husband and father.  He was also the king.

#2    God Restores You And Then
Reveals Himself Through It In Your Public Life

At this point, with regards to the return to service, there is a wide variety of opinions among evangelical Christians.  Take the cases of church leaders who have sinned.  We can go to extremes.

When a leader sins, some claim, “touch not God’s anointed,” or they quote, “the gifts and callings of God are without repentance.”  Leaders can get a pass, almost, as if they should not be subject to the regular process of restoration that must begin with discipline.
Others go to the opposite extreme and claim the individual is permanently disqualified from any leadership or teaching position for the rest of their life – no matter their repentance.  One prominent pastor writes, “I am not advocating that we “shoot our wounded.” I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t rush them back to the front lines, and we should not put them in charge of other soldiers. The church should do everything possible to minister to those who have sinned and repented. But that does not include restoring the mantle of leadership to a man who has disqualified himself and forfeited the right to lead” (John MacArthur).

Every situation, every case, is going to be a little different and will present its own difficulties.  Rather than have our mind set on one extreme or another, we ought to remember that God loves to restore, that He can be extreme in doing so, and then walk through the process with the desire that God be revealed.

In David’s case it meant continuing as king of Israel and getting right back into the battle.

2 Samuel 12:26  Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the people of Ammon, and took the royal city.
2 Samuel 12:27  And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, “I have fought against Rabbah, and I have taken the city’s water supply.
2 Samuel 12:28  Now therefore, gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called after my name.”

Joab was King David’s courageous and crafty general.  He was about to take Rabbah after a successful military campaign.  Instead of getting the glory, he determined to give it to David.

It’s not part of our subject matter this morning, but I must commend Joab for not wanting to hog the glory.  The glory belonged to God, not Joab, not David.  By allowing David to get the final victory both men were functioning as God had raised them up to function.  Do your part, defer to others, and God will get the glory for what He wants to accomplish through His people.

If anyone might have balked at David’s restoration it was Joab who had been ordered by the king to put Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba, in the thick of the battle so he would die.  Instead he recognized David as a restored man and called him to the field to take his rightful place.

2 Samuel 12:29  So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah, fought against it, and took it.

Here was David on the very site of his sin being credited with a great victory.  I’m telling you, it is mind-boggling from the standpoint of extreme restoration.  If it were up to me, I’d want to embarrass David publicly at that location.  God instead gives him a great victory at the very site of his earlier sin.  A victory he did nothing to earn or deserve.

2 Samuel 12:30  Then he took their king’s crown from his head. Its weight was a talent of gold, with precious stones. And it was set on David’s head. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance.

Depending on the culture, a “talent” could be anywhere from around 60 pounds to well over 100 pounds.  Even at the lower weight, you had to have quite the neck and shoulder muscles to wear these ancient crowns!

David conquered, he wore the enemy’s crown, he took their spoil.  It’s a scene of total and complete victory that emphasized his total and complete restoration.

2 Samuel 12:31  And he brought out the people who were in it, and put them to work with saws and iron picks and iron axes, and made them cross over to the brick works. So he did to all the cities of the people of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
There is a dispute among scholars regarding the translation of the verb “put them to work.”  Some say it really means he “put them under the saws and iron picks and iron axes.”  In other words, he slaughtered them.

Maybe.  It sounds cruel, but that’s the way things were handled in those days.  If David “put them under the saws,” it was probably the soldiers who suffered this fate and not the general population.

Either way what is interesting to our subject matter is that now that he was restored, David acted fully like the king.  He wasn’t soft on the enemies of God.  Restoration hadn’t weakened his resolve to bring glory to God.

We’ve been talking about the attitude “those who are spiritual” should have with regard to restoration.  The person restored needs to have attitude as well.  Once you are restored, you are back where God wants you to be and you ought to act accordingly.

David is a great example of that.  From the moment he repented he started acting like the husband, the father, the king he was supposed to be.  All of it revealed the grace and mercy of God, giving hope to sinners that God can and will restore.

We need to have God’s attitude, God’s heart, towards sinners and see this through all the way to restoration.  Pastor John MacArthur writes,

What do you do when someone sins?  You discipline them.  What do you do when they repent and turn from that sin?  You forgive them in the fullest sense.  Then what do you do after they are forgiven?  You restore them. You take them all the way back to the place where they were before they fell in the beginning.  And the ministry of restoration seems to me to be a vital and final link in the process of our thinking.

This restoration stuff is hard!  We can go to extremes:

On the one hand, we can restore a person, as it were, before they have repented.  We do this anytime we ignore sin in their lives, or when we minimize their sin.
The other hand in this is the heavy hand of punishment and penance.  We can require a person to jump through hoops in order to ‘prove‘ they have truly repented.  We seem unable to apply forgiveness even though it’s been asked for, and even though Jesus said we should forgive (and therefore restore) “seventy times seven times” in a day if necessary.

It’s popular among Christians to criticize the church because they don’t see much ‘Church Discipline’ going on.  By that they mean they don’t see the pastor or the elders getting up on a Sunday morning and excommunicating people.

The truth is, restoration is going on all the time, and it generally never rises to the level of an all-church exposure.  It’s handled before it gets that far.

We should apply the process of discipline as a restorative, as remedial and not a punishment, always having in mind the winning back of the sinning brother or sister to both fellowship and service.

We want to see that person back in the battle.

Taken Baby Syndrome (2 Samuel 12v16-23)


Miscarriage… Ectopic pregnancy… Stillbirth… Neonatal death… Sudden infant death syndrome… Fatal childhood diseases and accidents.

Every one of us has been impacted emotionally by one or more of these.

Without ignoring, and hopefully while being sensitive to, the emotional aspects of the death of a child, I want to talk about the spiritual implications.  Namely, I want to answer definitively and, of course, biblically, the question everyone has when a child dies, the question I’ve been asked many times over the years: “Is my baby in Heaven?”

King David’s experiences with the premature death of his child will be our background.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 While There Is Life You Appeal To God Knowing He Is Gracious, and #2 When There Is Death You Reveal God By Showing He Is Great.

#1    While There Is Life You Appeal To God
Knowing He Is Gracious

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and his subsequent cover-up that included ordering her husband’s murder and marrying her, had just been exposed by Nathan the prophet.  As he left David, Nathan declared,

2 Samuel 12:14  However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”

How do we deal with the fact that the Bible attributes the sickness and death directly to the Lord?  Isn’t that a little harsh?

It’s just like us to shift the blame.  I’m not saying that there isn’t an interesting and important theological discussion to be had, but the real focus ought to be on the fact that our sin often brings consequences upon an innocent party.  It was David who had brought this upon his son.

Behind all of our questions and complaints about human suffering is the fact that Adam and Eve brought sin into the world in their disobedience in the Garden of Eden.  From the moment they sinned, God has been working to redeem what they forfeited.  He has a masterful plan that involved God becoming man in the person of Jesus Christ in order to take our place by dying on the cross.  All those who trust in Jesus as their Savior from sin are redeemed.  They are saved.  But the world itself still waits for the final redemption and, thus, sin still exists and brings with it many terrible consequences.

The consequences of David’s sin began to play out.

2 Samuel 12:15  Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill.
2 Samuel 12:16  David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.

It’s probably best to jump ahead and read David’s own explanation for his actions.  It’s in verse twenty-two.

2 Samuel 12:22  And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’

But I thought God said He was going to kill the child?  He did, but David appealed to God’s gracious nature to show him mercy instead.

God sometimes seems to change His mind.  For example: A little later in the history of Israel King Hezekiah will fall ill.  The prophet Isaiah tells him to put his affairs in order because he is going to die.  The king will seek the Lord and we read, “And the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.”’”

On another occasion God will send a reluctant Jonah to the Assyrian capital to tell the residents of Nineveh that their destruction was imminent.  They repent and God relents.

God doesn’t so much change His mind as He acts in ways that are consistent with His nature.  Since He is gracious, merciful, and forgiving, we can always appeal to Him to consider alternative actions that are consistent with His nature.  Prayer can indeed influence God.

2 Samuel 12:17  So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them.
2 Samuel 12:18  Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!”

Sometimes God does not alter the course.  Extraordinary prayer and fasting are not magical techniques by which we get God to do what we want.  If you’ve sought the Lord for something, like someone’s life, and death was the result, it isn’t because you were insincere or failed to understand some ‘deeper’ spiritual method.  It was the will of God.  We would go so far as to say that God’s choice in the matter was the one He deemed to bring the most glory to Himself – even though often we do not see it that way at the time.

Then was all your praying and fasting for nought?  No, it prepares your heart for God’s outcome.  It aligns you with God’s will.

The child died “on the seventh day.”  Was this seven days after the announcement?  Or the seventh day of the child’s life?  Many commentators take it to mean the seventh day of his life.  If so, there is an interesting point to be made.  On the eighth day a male Hebrew infant was circumcised as the sign of God’s covenant with His people.  David’s child falling one day short of circumcision would be a reminder to the king that within God’s unconditional covenant promises to Israel were many that were conditioned upon obedience.  The enjoyment of God’s covenants with Israel depended upon obedience.  Disobedience brought discipline.

The child died and David’s servants did not know how to approach him with the news.  Let’s cut them some slack.  It’s never easy to deliver news like that.  Reactions can run the gamut.  And David hadn’t exactly been himself lately, what with ordering the murder of Uriah and all!

2 Samuel 12:19  When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.”

David could tell something had happened.  Note the clear, direct language used by both David and his servants.  They used the word “dead.”  They didn’t try to soften the blow with a euphemism for death.

I remember one time a doctor telling a woman that her husband, who had been brought to the ER by ambulance, had died.  He told her, “Your husband is in a better place.” She asked him, “Where?”, because she took his words to mean that he had been transferred to a different hospital with better equipment.

Pray and fast and weep.  “Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?”

In the case of David, Bathsheba and their son, God decided His glory would be more on display through the infant’s death.

#2    When There Is Death You Reveal God
By Showing He Is Great

David’s servants misunderstood his zeal in seeking the Lord.  They thought he’d be crushed by God’s saying, “No,” to his request, that he might even do some harm to himself or others.

Again I want to say that reactions to this kind of tragedy run the gamut.  Everyone has their own way of putting things into spiritual perspective.  We shouldn’t try to force someone into our own ideas of how they ought to react.  We shouldn’t think they are not sorrowful enough, or not spiritual enough.  It’s often best to have what is called a ‘ministry of presence.’  Just be there for them.

2 Samuel 12:20  So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate.

David had spiritual clarity.  He had been restored and was ready to serve the Lord.  He served Him first by prayer and fasting for his son, another little lamb God had entrusted him with.  Now David would turn his attention to shepherding God’s flock, the nation of Israel.

2 Samuel 12:21  Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
2 Samuel 12:22  And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’
2 Samuel 12:23  But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

The servants were perplexed.  They did not understand David’s reasoning.  He seemed joyful now that the child was dead.

He was joyful!  Or, at least, worshipful.  He knew something about his child, something wonderful.  He knew he would see him again!

I mentioned earlier that God does what brings Him the greatest glory.  The death of this child, David’s son, tragic as it was, has been a comfort to countless millions who have themselves lost children.  With hindsight we can confidently say that his death has been powerfully used by God.

David said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”  We’re saying it is a declaration that the child was immediately with the Lord at death. There are some who argue that David’s words simply meant that one day he, too, would join his child in death.  They take his statement to mean only that death is universal.  They see no hope of Heaven in his statement.

That makes no biblical sense.

First, the clear context of his statement indicates he expected to be reunited with his child.  His joyful actions, too, indicate he expected to be reunited one day, not just in death but in eternal life.
Second, if you require further proof David was joyful about a future heavenly reunion, we can discuss David’s reaction to the death of another of his sons, Absalom.  Absalom, as a full-grown man, rebelled against David and sinned terribly.  When he was killed David was grief-stricken.  He wept bitterly, even wishing he could have died instead of his son.  David had a very different, a very severe, reaction to the death of Absalom.  Why?  Because David was not at all sure of Absalom’s relationship with God!

The contrast in David’s reactions to the deaths of these two boys communicates that he absolutely believed he would be reunited with his infant son.  Verse twenty-three must be understood as a declaration that David’s son preceded him to Heaven.  (Technically, to the place Jesus would call ‘Abraham’s bosom,’ where the spirits of the Old Testament saints went to be comforted as they awaited the coming of the promised Savior).

Although this passage by itself speaks volumes, it’s not the only reason we can confidently declare that children who die go to Heaven.  Let me survey some other things that point us in the same direction.

Jesus gave an extra measure of attention to children while He was on the earth.  He claimed they had a place in His kingdom and even used them to illustrate the character of a person who would enter the kingdom.  He often took little children in His arms and blessed them.

Mark 10:13  Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Mark 10:14  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:15  Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Mark 10:16  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

Here’s another thing to consider.  There is at least one example in the Bible of an unborn child who was saved!

In the case of John the Baptist we read of his actual possession of salvation in his mother’s womb before he was born.  In Luke 1:15 the angel Gabriel predicts that John would “be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (v41 & 44). Theologian Wayne Grudem comments, “We might say that John the Baptist was ‘born again’ before he was born!”

In the case of John the Baptist we see that a child in the womb, though human and the inheritor of a sin nature, was definitely saved.  In the case of David’s seven-day old son we see that, though human and the inheritor of a sin nature, he immediately went to be with the Lord.  It’s enough biblically to conclude that children who die are saved.
But how can they be saved?  On what basis, since we are all inheritors of sin?

Salvation is made possible by Jesus dying on the Cross and rising from the dead.  Commenting upon the salvation God has provided, the apostle Paul said in First Timothy 4:10,

1 Timothy 4:10  For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

It’s an important statement because it establishes that the Cross of Jesus Christ is sufficient to save the entire human race.  Those who exercise faith and “believe” are actually saved.  Those who do not exercise faith remain dead in their trespasses and sins.

The question we are asking is, “What about all those, like infants and children, who cannot believe, who cannot exercise faith?”

Those who cannot believe are never called upon in the Bible to believe!  Only adults capable of making a decision are called upon to believe.  Infants and young children, and we would add anyone who is mentally incapable of making a decision, are never called upon to believe in order to be saved.

Faith has no merit of its own.  It adds nothing to the salvation provided by Jesus Christ.  It’s absence in those who cannot believe does not exclude them from being saved.

Is this universalism?  Am I saying that everyone is saved?  Of course not!  I’m saying that in the case of all who cannot believe God is able to apply the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross without the need for them to exercise faith.

God Himself often distinguishes between the decision-making capacity of adults and children.  We find one important example in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.  God was explaining to the Israelites that because of their prior decision to disobey God they would never enter the Promised Land.  God, however, would not hold their children accountable for that decision.

Deuteronomy 1:39  ‘Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.

There are other passages we could cite that speak of children as having no “knowledge” of good and evil and, so, not held accountable (Jonah 4:11 & Romans 9:11).  They are still sinners, inheritors of a sin nature.  But when the die God can save them by His grace based on the shed blood of Jesus without faith that they cannot possibly exercise.

Some would argue that the Bible never states a particular ‘age of accountability.’  That’s true, there is no one age at which accountability kicks-in.  But it is clear from the passage in Deuteronomy that God Himself distinguishes between adults who can be held accountable for their decisions and children who cannot.

Am I going out on a theological limb?  If so, I’ve got company!

James Strong, theologian and famous for the Strong’s Concordance,  writes,

The condition of salvation for adults is personal faith.  Infants are incapable of fulfilling this condition.  Since Christ has died for all, we have reason to believe that provision is made for their reception of Christ in some other way.

Another theologian, Dr. Robert Lightner, writes,

Faith has no merit of its own.  It adds nothing to the complete salvation provided by Christ… Since faith contributes nothing, its absence in those who cannot exercise it does not hinder the sovereign God from accomplishing in them all that He does in those who can and do believe.  All who can believe must do so to receive eternal life.  All who cannot believe receive the same eternal life provided by Christ for them at the time of death because they are able to neither receive nor to reject it.

Regarding the place of personal faith in salvation, even the Reformer, John Calvin, insisted that while Romans 10:17 (“so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”) makes hearing the beginning of faith, Paul was only describing the usual method which the Lord uses in calling people to Himself.  Calvin said, “[Paul is] “not laying down an invariable rule, for which no other method can be substituted” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, book IV, 542).

In other words, God can save apart from a person exercising personal faith, and He does in fact save in the case of those who cannot exercise faith, e.g., infants and children and the mentally disabled.

It’s a whole other subject but let me very briefly address the question of salvation for those who’ve never heard the Gospel.  Evangelicals like ourselves believe that God has given everyone a witness of Himself in both their conscience and in creation.  These are insufficient in and of themselves to save a person, but if a person responds to the witness God has given them within and without, God will see to it that those who are seeking Him will receive a greater witness so that they can either reject His offer of salvation or receive it through faith.  (See Acts 17:24-28).

Salvation is in Christ alone, in His shed blood as the Sacrifice and Substitute for every member of the human race.  Those who can discern between good and evil, who are capable of choosing, are held accountable and must exercise faith to receive God’s free gift of salvation.

God, however, distinguishes between adults and children.  He does not hold children accountable who cannot discern between good and evil.  He does not condemn them to Hell for a decision they cannot make.

Instead we see that Jesus called children to Himself and spoke of them as illustrations of those who would inherit the kingdom.  We also know that at least one unborn child was definitely saved from his mother’s womb, and another child, a seven-day old infant not yet even circumcised, was declared to be with the Lord at the time of his death.

It is therefore more than mere wishful thinking to absolutely declare, from the Bible, that children who die prematurely are in Heaven.  We will be reunited with them one day.

God is great!  “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”