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A Glory-Winning Performance

Many people follow the Academy Awards show to see which nominees did the best at playing their respective roles. The winners are much applauded for their craft and professionalism. But at the end of the evening, what they gave us was just a movie, a work of fiction.

There once lived in Israel a wise woman who also turned out to be an amazing actress in her own right. She is identified only as “the woman of Tekoa,” and we read of her award-winning performance in 2 Samuel 14. The plot in this story is downright depressing, but is a reflection of real life. King David’s son Amnon had raped his half-sister Tamar, whose brother was Absalom—another of David’s sons. This evil deed filled Absalom’s heart with murderous hatred, and after two years he finally found an opportunity to exact revenge. He killed Amnon, but then had to flee the country.

Three years later, Joab, David’s army commander, entered stage right. It was obvious to him that his king was suffering deeply over his prodigal son. So Joab employed the woman from Tekoa to play a part before the king. The script they wrote called for her to act the part of a mourner, in which one of her two sons had killed the other. The hand of the law was seeking capital justice, but she pleaded that such a sentence “would extinguish my ember that is left, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the earth.” No doubt there were many tears mixed with her emotional plea. David was so convinced by her performance that he gave multiple assurances that no harm would come to her son.

The actress then accused David of acting hypocritically, for his real son was still in danger, with no protective order from the king. David was caught in the web and gave the word that Absalom safely be brought back to Jerusalem.

What a winning performance by this woman. But as for a happy ending—not quite. There were several things amiss in the account. On the one hand, the actress obviously implied that the God she knew would never punish evil-doers, even murderers. Coinciding with this was the fact that Absalom never repented of his wicked deed. And so, while Absalom gained a measure of reinstatement (but still was banished from his father’s presence), he remained a wicked, unrepentant son and very shortly thereafter proved it again by committing rebellion against his father.

How different was the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable. He also behaved wickedly, but was received back with forgiving joy by his father after he was humbled and led to repentance. David himself had committed murder, but confessed it and was forgiven by God. Which raises the question, how can true reconciliation be obtained without repentance?

Jesus was not a Hollywood actor, but He was sent from heaven to take on the part of this world’s Redeemer and Reconciler—for real! Satan with his devious scripts would have us believe that sin is a myth, that God does not punish evil and that He will bring all sinners into His kingdom no matter what they believe and do. But that is the purest fiction. Our sins are so real and weighty that to atone for them, to reconcile us back to our Creator, cost Jesus His life and hellish agony. Yet His death and resurrection declared Him victorious over all that separates us from God; He is indeed the winner, with great glory and heavenly acclaim.

And while it is certainly true that the whole world is reconciled to God through Jesus’ blood and merit, yet the blessings of His saving performance cannot be had without repentance and faith. “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), said the Savior. “. . . On Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). The actress of Tekoa got Absalom only within the vicinity of the king. May the Reconciler’s Spirit graciously and continuously work in us true humility and repentance, and so bring and keep us in the very kingdom of God to enjoy His Fatherly presence forevermore.

David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.