2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 1) – Keeping the Bigger Picture In Mind (When Revenge Would Be So Sweet)

Posted: July 8, 2018 in Book of 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 1 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

Walking away without a fight! Man, what a wimp! That was my initial thought when reading this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37.

In this passage, the obvious facts are that David, the fierce warrior, packed up and left town without a fight? That just seems so NOT David. What’s the deal here? David is one of the all-guts, risk-taking, God-glorifying guys of the Bible. He is usually the guy who fights against all odds when everybody else is either unwilling to fight or running in the other direction. Why does he take a pass here and seems to resign himself to defeat and running away? What gives here? Why is David so different here? What are we to learn that God wants us to learn from this story? Have you ever been in a situation where something told you not to fight when your pride told you to declare all-out war? I have been there.

When I was going through my divorce with my first wife, the mother of my children, there were many opportunities to sling back as much or more mud than what was being slung at me. My first wife’s mode of operation during the separation and divorce was to divide and conquer. It was her intent to destroy me. It was her intent to shame me and punish me. In her twisted view, if she punished me enough I would return to her like a beaten down puppy, a broken horse, or whatever is analogous for a surrendered and beaten foe. It included harassing phone calls constantly. It included showing up unannounced at work to berate me in front of the people I worked with. It included spewing negativity over my children about me and then refusing to let me see them. It included sometimes being physically violent toward me. It went as far as claiming that I molested my oldest daughter when I took her to court for contempt of our separation order. I have written about that episode many times here in my blogs.

But today, I want to focus on her physical violence toward me. I remember one episode in particular that jumps to mind. We were in the parking lot of the Bank of America branch on Wade Hampton Blvd. in Greenville, SC one Friday afternoon. Since she and the girls were going on vacation, she demanded that I meet her there and give her money to help with the cost of taking the girls on vacation to Hilton Head, SC. I do not remember the discussion as we stood in front of the bank branch and near her car in the parking lot. All I remember is that it was, as was any communication with her at this point in our divorce, a heated exchange. I don’t remember what precipitated it. But I simply remember the “it”. Somewhere in that exchange where I promise that I was trying to be as reasonable as possible with her, I must’ve said something that set her off. Right there in front of other cars with people in them, she hauls off and slaps me in the face repeatedly about 5 times. I still remember the slaps to this day.

My natural inclination was to return fire, so to speak. There was something in me that screamed out in my soul to wallop her good at least one time during her slapping episode. But God, even though I was not a believer at this point in my life, held my hands and I did not do anything. I simply walked away with her continue to hurl obscenities at me and got in my car and left. The reason I remember that to this day is that it was one of those no-win situations for a man. People might have said “hey see that girl just slapping the hell out that guy over there” at what happened, but the spin on the thing would have been totally different if I had retaliated. I would have been arrested for beating my spouse if I had. She would have had all she needed to continue keeping my kids away from me. It would not have matter that she drew blood on my face from the 5 slaps to my face in rapid succession. It would have only mattered that I struck her. The Holy Spirit was looking out for me that day, even though I was not a believer at that point. He held my hands back though everything else in my body screamed for retaliation and the prideful satisfaction that would have come from it. Sometimes, though, it is best to wait and fight another day. It is always best to allow the Holy Spirit to direct you when to stand and when to wait for another day.

As you know from what I have written in the past, my ex-wife over the next 2 years showed her true colors to the point that I ultimately gained custody of my girls. I had to wait for right time to fight the battles and the battle HAD to happen in Family Court not in the parking lot of Bank of America. In order for me to achieve what was best for my girls, I had to wait for the battle to be found in front of a judge at the end of a long series of family court appearances. The ultimate victory for me and what was best for my girls would not have been achievable if I had engaged in the physical war that day in the parking lot of the Ban of America. I know that for a fact now but that moment that my hands were held back by the Holy Spirit I felt differently. I drove away totally mad at myself for not retaliating. I drove away calling myself a wimp. But today, I can tell you that it was the best decision that I … well I mean the Holy Spirit … ever made for my life.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the first time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37. Today, I thought about David running away. At first, it made me think that he was a wimp for not standing and fighting. But, what was best for the kingdom is what David did here. It may have made him look weak to his opponent and disinterested third parties but in the end it was the best thing for Israel. Let’s read the passage now;

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, you really have to think about the events here from a kingly and a fatherly perspective. First, had David not escaped from Jerusalem, the ensuing fight might have killed him as well as many of his soldiers. Some fights that we think are necessary can be costly and destructive to our future plans and to the lives of those around us. In such cases, it may be wise to walk away from the fight today so that it can be approached in a more constructive way in the future – even if it means that we might appear to be weak to others at that moment. It takes courage to stand and fight, but it also takes courage to realize when to back down and walk away for the sake of others.

Other reasons for David’s departure are several. First, the rebellion was fairly widespread based on the reports given to David in 2 Samuel 15:10-13 so it would not have been easy to suppress the rebellion at this stage of the uprising. Second, David did not want the capital city, the crown jewel of Israel, Jerusalem to be destroyed in the process. Third, regardless of his son’s actions, David still cared for Absalom and did not want to hurt him.

A bloody battle for the control of Jerusalem would have taken months and costs thousands of lives. It would have depleted manpower and lots of weaponry. It could have costs both Absalom and David their lives and thrown the monarchy and the country into chaos. Such chaos would have made the country weak and ripe for other empires more than ready to pounce on Israel. David was thinking about the needs of the country. The best thing for Israel was to temporarily lose this battle. Allow Absalom to show his true colors and allow David to regain some support and then put and end to the rebellion.

If he stood and fought in Jerusalem beginning on this day, the country would have lost even if David had won. God led him to leave and allow this evil plot by Absalom to play itself out and allow David to regroup, plan, and win in the end. Sometimes, we may look foolish for walking away from a fight but God may influence us to do it so that we can do more than win the battle but rather win the war. Maybe, for us, we learn that we must seek God’s guidance when conflict arises. We must follow His guidance even when our gut screams out revenge. We must follow God’s guidance so that temporary satisfaction does not outweigh his overall plan for our lives.

I think this is useful for us to know not only in times of conflict but also in times of temptation. Temporary satisfaction of our gut desires can often destroy what we have been working long and hard for in service to the Lord. My previous senior pastor used to say that we “need to keep ourselves clean and close” to God. That means forgoing temptations to satisfy our prideful desires and following God closely. That means the world may call us foolish for not acting on our prideful desires but we must stele ourselves against those temptations that will derail our witness for the Lord or that will disqualify us serving Him. We must not let our in-the-moment desires derail us from the real victory that God has for us – serving Him in the way that He intends for us.

Let us listen to the Lord as David does here. Let us hold back our hand. Let us wait until God says the time is right for battle rather than jumping headlong into satisfying our prideful desires. Seek God’s wisdom of how to respond to conflict and temptation. Let us give God glory by staying clean and close to Him even if we are thought less manly for having done so. Let us stay clean and close to God so that we do not destroy what He is building in us. Let us stay clean and close so that we know His will in all situations but especially in times of conflict and temptation.

Amen and Amen.

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