2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 2) – We All Have Those Kobayashi Maru Moments In Life

Posted: July 26, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel
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2 Samuel 18:1-18 (Part 2 of 4)
Absalom’s Defeat & Death

How would you like to have been in this guy’s shoes? You are a soldier. You find the leader of the enemy forces hung up in a tree, dangling there, with no way to get down. He would be easy pickings. Just kill him and the civil war would be over and you would get the accolades for having killed the leader of the revolt. However, in this case, the leader of the revolt was the son of the king. What would you do? You could kill him and nobody would know the difference. You could claim whatever you wanted to claim. You could kill him. Cut him down from the tree and then throw his body somewhere where the wild animals in the wilderness could tear him apart. You could claim that the wild animals killed him. You could get away with it and nobody would be the wiser. But instead, you tell your commander that you saw the king’s son dangling from a tree. Then, the commander questions you as to why you did not kill him. However, the commander, you and all the troops heard David say not to harm Absalom, his son. This was a bad situation to be in, a no-win situation. You did the right thing by not disobeying the king’s orders but you get shamed by your commander for not doing the deed. You know, too, that Joab would have thrown you under the bus if you had killed the king’s son. Talk about your no-win scenarios.

It kind of reminds you of the Starfleet Academy captain’s test. Yes, I am a Star Trek geek. It reminds you of the The Kobayashi Maru. The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a training exercise in the fictional Star Trek universe designed to test the character of Starfleet Academy cadets in a no-win scenario. The Kobayashi Maru test was first depicted in the opening scene of the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and also appears in the 2009 film Star Trek. Screenwriter Jack B. Sowards is credited with inventing the test. The test’s name is occasionally used among Star Trek fans or those familiar with the series to describe a no-win scenario, a test of one’s character or a solution that involves redefining the problem.

The notional primary goal of the exercise is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru in a simulated battle with the Klingons. The disabled ship is located in the Klingon Neutral Zone, and any Starfleet ship entering the zone would cause an interstellar border incident. The approaching cadet crew must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew – endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction. If the cadet chooses to attempt rescue, the simulation is designed to guarantee that the cadet’s ship is destroyed with the loss of all crew members.

James T. Kirk took the test three times while at Starfleet Academy. Before his third attempt, Kirk surreptitiously reprogrammed the simulator so that it was possible to rescue the freighter. Despite having cheated, Kirk was awarded a commendation for “original thinking”. This fact is revealed in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as Kirk, Saavik and others are marooned. Saavik accuses Kirk of never having faced the no-win scenario. Kirk replies that he does not believe in it.

Each of us have to face those ethical situations where doing the right thing may get you ridiculed or we do what Kirk did and basically bend the truth to suit our needs. Have you been in a situation like that? Do the right thing and get ridiculed, fired, or lose something or take advantage of a situation by bending the truth to meet your own needs! We have all been there at some point in our lives. If not, there will come a day where you have to make that tough choice.

Let’s read this passage, 2 Samuel 18:1-18, for the second of four times, and see how this soldier deals with the no-win situation.

Chapter 18

1 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

In this passage, we see that this man had caught Joab in his hypocrisy. He knew Joab would have turned on him for killing Absalom if the king had found out about it. Joab could answer the man and simply dismissed him. Those who are about to do evil often don’t pause to consider what they are about to do. They don’t care whether or not it is right or lawful. Don’t rush into action without thinking. Consider whether what you are about to do is right or wrong.

Often as Christ followers, we are presented with situations where we have the option to “be like Jesus” in private or revert to our base sinful self and take advantage of a situation. What are you like when you are alone? Are you striving to be like Jesus? Or when no one is around, do you revert to your sin-self. When no one is looking, what are you like? How far are you taking this Christ follower thing? Do you want to be like Jesus when you are alone? What are you like when no one is looking?

As Christ followers, you and I both know that we have opportunities everyday to demonstrate if we take being a Christ follower seriously. We all have those no-win scenarios at some point where being a Christ follower will be of disadvantage to us. We must choose the way of Jesus Christ or the way of the world. Probably, we all fail in these situations more often than we win. The key is I think to recognize when you get in those situations and ask that clichéd question, “What would Jesus do?” Not to be flippant, but really ask that question with a humble heart that is submitted to Jesus Christ. What would Jesus do in this situation. The key is recognition. Our base self is a sin filled dark soul that will default to evil without even thinking about it. Thus, recognizing when we are in a no-win situation and asking the question of ourselves every time when get into questionable situations will help us to gain a Christ-like perspective. Staying in God’s Word helps us internalize the difference between right and wrong in God’s eyes. Prayer about doing the right thing helps us to hear God’s voice about specific situations.

Then, what would Jesus do? is not a difficult question to answer. Our heart becomes molded toward pleasing God and not on what will preserve my rights in a sin-filled world. Pleasing God becomes more important that our position in the world. Pleasing God is what we want to do rather than have to do. Pleasing God rather than pleasing ourselves is our new perspective.

Amen and Amen.

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