David over Absalom. Have you ever thought much about these two men? Although I knew the story of Absalom, I’d never really given him much thought. He complained, he killed his half-brother, he tried to usurp the kingdom from his dad. Overall, not a great character reference.
But in the brief glimpses the Bible offers into Absalom’s life, one of his choices shines a brilliant light highlighting a fundamental difference between him and his father David.
It’s a fervent warning to Christians about how we treat each other. And the Church. And those outside of it. This one action that easily sneaks into our thoughts reveals our heart’s true motivations. Be wary: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9).
David Is, and Is Not, King
Think not that humility is weakness; it shall supply the marrow of strength to thy bones. Stoop and conquer; bow thyself and become invincible. ~Charles Spurgeon, English Particular Baptist preacher
Allow me to quickly summarize the pertinent points of 1 Samuel 16 through 31 as it pertains to this discussion. If these events are unfamiliar to you, it’s an engaging story, so read it for yourself.
Before the Israelites sang of David’s conquests, before he and Prince Jonathan became best friends, and before he toppled the giant, David was anointed king over Israel by the prophet Samuel. Note that this happened while he was still a shepherd boy, unknown by most and barely acknowledged by his own family. But he doesn’t ascend to the throne because Israel still has a living king, previously anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 8).
David is not inactive while he awaits the throne.
Over the years, while David finds success and popularity, King Saul loses his mind and becomes unstable. With David’s life at stake, he runs for it, collecting a rag-tag band of warriors along the way. Saul tries to hunt him down, and more than once David has an easy opportunity to kill Saul. Yet David refrains.
His attitude is best summed up in his own words. The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord (1 Samuel 24:6).
Even when Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David does not proceed immediately to take the rule from Saul’s family or assume command over Saul’s army. He watches patiently, waiting for God to give him the throne.
Absalom Is Not King, Mostly
Moving into 2 Samuel, we get a look at David as both king and father.
Absalom was David’s third son. Even a casual reading of 2 Samuel infers that David wasn’t the best father, but Absalom had a propensity for taking things into his own hands when he didn’t like what he saw. To the point that he plotted to take the throne away from his dad.
The full conspiracy, Absalom’s brief reign, and the sad ending are provided in 2 Samuel 15 through 19, but it starts with an ever-so-subtle undermining of King David’s authority.
A glimpse into Absalom’s heart.
Absalom . . . would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would . . . say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice” 2 Samuel 15:2-4).
If only I were appointed judge . . .
In case you don’t know how this story ends, Absalom declares himself king and marches on Jerusalem. David and his family flee, and Absalom accepts the abandoned throne. Absalom then chases after David to kill him, but his hair gets tangled in a tree and he’s killed by David’s men.
David over Absalom
So what’s the point. Clearly, this is a son gone wild and a father who won’t draw a boundary, right? Well, yes. But why? Look at the heart of each man when it came to living under authority. See it?
Let’s just be brutally honest. Many of us carry hurts and scars heaped upon us by other Christians. The ugly truth.
Sometimes those Christians are struggling to figure out this Christian life themselves, and we need to forgive and offer grace. Sometimes they’ve been deceived or are caught in a web of lies they don’t understand, and we need to forgive and offer grace.
Every once in a while, those who hurt us are absolutely intent to strike out at what they see is wrong within us. Whether it’s justified or not, whether it’s done in love or not . . . our challenge is to not react wrongly. Yes, it hurts, particularly if the other person is almost all or completely all of the problem.
But someone else’s poor choices never justify our own. When we stand before God, we will answer for our thoughts and actions. Our choices.
The Church is the bride of Christ.
And the bottom line is that the Church is the bride of Christ. All of the Church. Even the Christians who hurt you. Even the Christian who is clearly messing it up.
I’m not advocating abuse here, and I am fully aware that all kinds of spiritual, emotional, and verbal abuse have infiltrated our churches. I’m also not saying that every pastor and leader and head volunteer presently working in the church today pleases God with all of their words and actions. We are all human, and even the one who most strives to get it all right will sometimes get it very wrong.
What I am advocating is that we take the time to remember who we are and to consider what God wants from us. As soon as you entertain thoughts like, “If I were in charge,” or “That’s not how I would do that,” you echo the words of Absalom and are on precarious ground.
The only humility that is really ours is not that which we try to show before God in prayer, but that which we carry with us, and carry out, in our ordinary conduct; the insignficances of daily life are the importances and the tests of eternity, because they prove what really is the spirit that possesses us. ~Andrew Murray, South African pastor and writer
Is what I’m asking, putting the attitude of David over that of Absalom, easy? No. The desires to be right and to be heard are embedded deeply within us. We rationalize our poor attitudes with barely a thought that we might be wrong.
But tread lightly. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
Although I’ve shared a lot about my life in various books and projects, this was the most humbling. Within its pages, I shared quite a lot of my un-Christian thoughts as I worked through the life God decided was best for me.
Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
•Is God really good?
•Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
•How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
•Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.