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“That We Might have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)

Second Samuel, Chapters Fourteen through Nineteen

A Son Of David

“Thus says the Lord: “‘behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house. . . . ‘” (2 Sam. 12:11).

Sin has consequences. In today’s lessons we will see how the prophecy spoken in the passage above was fulfilled through King David’s own son, Absalom. We will also see how God in His mercy sustained His servant David through this trouble. May we learn from this account to put our trust in the Lord at all times.

Absalom was the third son born to David. His mother was Maacah, the daughter of Tilmai, king of Geshur. Absalom had fled Israel for three years because he had murdered David’s firstborn son Amnon to avenge Amnon’s rape of Tamar, Absalom’s sister. But David longed to have his son come home. David’s right-hand man, Joab, arranged for this reunion to take palce. Absalom returned to Jerusalem, but it was two years before his father would see him.

Absalom was an extremely handsome man. “From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him” (2 Sam. 14:25). In stark contrast to his outward beauty, Absalom’s heart was ugly. Even as he outwardly bowed himself before his father the king, he was inwardly plotting his overthrow. How often do we not judge people according to outward appearance?

Absalom’s plot involved hypocrisy and flattery towards the people of Israel. He would greet people at Jerusalem’s gates and pretend to empathize with their concerns. “It is too bad that your King David is so inaccessible. If I were your king I would listen to your complaints and treat you fairly.” In this way he slandered his father and stole the hearts of the people. How often do we not do the same thing? Don’t we look a little better if we can make someone else look a little worse? When tempted to do the same, may we rather say with Martin Luther regarding our neighbor: ” . . . but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”

When Absalom was convinced that he had enough support, he asked permission of David to go to Hebron to make sacrifice to the Lord (a lie). While there he planned his attack on Jerusalem. Imagine the pain David felt when he learned that his people had turned against him, and that Absalom was leading the opposition. Hadn’t David seen any warning signs?

Perhaps, as many parents do, David wanted to believe his son had changed and had overlooked any questionable behavior. David determined that the wisest move would be to flee Jerusalem. He wrote of his anguish in Psalm 3: “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.'”

God Protects His Own

But David knew there was help in his God. This was not the first time David had found himself fleeing for his life. God had protected David from Saul who had wanted him killed. David was a seasoned follower of the Lord who had experienced the depths of sin and the heights of forgiveness. God in His mercy sustained David through this difficult time by providing him encouragement and allies, some of whom were unexpected.

One unexpected ally was Ittai and six hundred of his followers from Gath. Gath was the hometown of Goliath, yet these Philistines had come to love and respect David and now were willing to die for him. Perhaps during troubled times in your life God has provided comfort or words of encouragment to you from the most unexpected sources.

God had also used Hushai, a faithful advisor of David, in providing Absalom with poor advice. His advice allowed David time to escape and plan a counterattack. Along the escape route God provided supporters who brought food. David’s army would need nourishment for the upcoming battle. They “brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey and curds, sheep and cheese” (2 Sam. 17:28-29). God does not overlook the earthly needs of His followers.

Meanwhile Absalom had entered Jerusalem and desecrated the king’s palace by openly violating the concubines of David. This was also in fulfillment of the prophecy Nathan had given to David after his adultery. “I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun” (2 Sam. 12:11).

Now David organized his forces and intended to lead them into battle, but he was persuaded by his generals to remain clear of the battlefield. He submitted to their advice but commanded that they be kind to Absalom. The ensuing battle resulted in a convincing victory for David’s forces, with 20,000 men dying that day. In attempting to escape, Absalom was caught in a tree as his mule rode out from under him. Joab took matters into his own hands and pierced his heart with three darts and had his servants finish the job.

When David heard of his son’s death, he mourned greatly–so much so that Joab warned David that he would lose his support if he did not show appreciation for his army’s victory. Why did David mourn so? Naturally, because his son had died, but it was much more than that. David realized that Absalom’s time of grace was over. He knew that it was unlikely that Absalom had repented of his sins, and that he had likely died in unbelief so that the eternal pangs of hell awaited him.

So would it be with us had it not been for the work of David’s other Son, Jesus Christ. Because of what this Son of David did we have the sure hope of heaven. As God sustained David in his trials, so He will sustain us. Our God allows us, His children, to experience both good times and bad in this life for our eternal welfare. May He strengthen us as we march on towards salvation and join with David in singing: “Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people” (Ps. 3:7-8).

–Prof. Joseph Lau