Sunday, August 12, 2012
Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at David's sins. We see that God has forgiven him, because he has truly repented, but there also are real-world consequences to the sins. Second Samuel is a one of the best books of the Bible to see how someone can live inside of God's grace and yet still have darkness enter his kingdom. Although these are historical books, they also serve as parables for us today.
Last week we examined one consequence of David's sin against God: the child that came from his sin was to die. This was because he had created a cause for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. David's soul will not suffer eternal death, but the child will be lost to this world. This week I want to look at another part of this curse: Because David had Uriah die by the sword of the Ammonites, Nathan tells David, “the sword will never leave your house.” The Lord will raise up trouble against him from within his own house.
And this is exactly what happens. Over the next few chapters, the drama around Absalom unfolds. Absalom's half brother Amnon desecrates Absalom's sister, Tamar: she lives out the rest of her life in desolation. David doesn't punish Amnon. Absalom waits two whole years, because revenge is a dish best served cold, and he kills Amnon and then runs away. David is convinced to allow Absalom to return, and we think everything is going to be back to normal, but Absalom begins a campaign to take over Israel from his father. David has to flee. The curse if going full force at this time. Finally Absalom is killed.
Absalom is a great example of modern man. We think that he has done what Amnon compelled him to do, destroy the man who destroyed his sister, and now that that has taken place, all will be better. But there is a reason the Lord tells us through Paul, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay!” When we take this vengeance, we allow darkness into our world. We see that with tribal wars: they cannot remember who originally started the generations-long conflict. They just know that so-and-so killed my father, and now I kill so-and-so, and now so-and-so's son has vowed to destroy me. We have darkness completely engulfing Absalom's life.
Another revelation from the story of Absalom is the idea of a gateway sin. The “reasonable” act of revenge doesn't just happen and is over. When that sin is “resolved” then Absalom keeps going with new sins out of the blue that keep getting worse and worse. He started the ball rolling with the revenge.
Now we get to a crucial verse in today's reading, verse 33: The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” This is a great overwhelming display of emotion, and any parent here would feel the same way. There are parents here who have lost children, and know what that emotion is like. I know that if I lost one of my daughters, David's outcry would sound like a cricket chirp by comparison.
However, there are some lessons to be learned from David's grief here. First, this was his son, and even though Absalom acted wickedly, he was still David's son, so the parental grief is there. That's one layer. The second layer is this: Absalom never repented of his evil, up to his death. There was no passage about him even pleading for his life as he hung from the tree. He was probably choked and mostly dead already. But he never repented of his sin, and he was given the burial of a wicked man, piled over with stones.
The third layer of grief is the meaning of this. Here is someone who is not going to enter God's Kingdom. Here is a son of the one who is called a man after God's own heart. David is under grace, he is ensured a place in God's kingdom. He will never see Absalom again, in this life or the next. That is a layer of grief beyond just losing a child, but losing an unrepentant sinner, too.
So David's response of emotion may be completely reasonable, but he does say this: “Would I had died instead of you!” What would that look like? David, the greatest king of Israel replaced by a tyrant. We see that kind of thing later in the book of Kings. Should David wish that upon his kingdom? We've already seen throughout this book, from chapter 11 onward, that David is not really supportive of his people anymore. Even though he is under God's grace, he has allowed evil to permeate his kingdom to the point that he is wishing that a wicked tyrant had succeeded in taking over the kingdom instead of it being restored.
This sounds so much like our society today, how we as Christians can be under God's grace and yet, we continue to make decisions or wishes based on our emotions, which are driven by our flesh, tempted by the secular world, and spurred on by the devil. I'm not saying we shouldn't grieve for our children, but we cannot let the world, flesh, and devil use our emotions to drag us down a path away from God, whom we should always be seeking.
Now, compare the consequences of David's wish to a similar wish in the New Testament. What was the work accomplished on the cross? Jesus Christ died instead of us! He took our place, in the same way David wanted to take Absalom's place. Also, when it comes to wickedness, we can get right up there with Absalom. The difference is this: whereas David had no way of changing Absalom's heart with his own subtitutionary death, Jesus does exactly that for us. Through his death, through his substitution on the cross, and through his resurrection, he not only takes our place, he dies instead of us, but he also affects a change in our hearts.
Our sins are actually piled upon Jesus on that cross: the sins of the whole world. Through that taking of our sin, and bestowing on us his righteousness, and subsequent sins that we repent of and put on that cross still, we don't remain like Absalom. We become good stewards of God's kingdom on earth. Only though the righteousness that Christ has given us, and that David was unable to give Absalom, does Christ's death on the cross redeem us completely and sets us on the throne of David and not in the pit of Absalom.
Posted by Rev. Fredric Barrett at 6:31 AM