Archive for the ‘Book of 2 Samuel’ Category

2 Samuel 16:15-17:14
Ahithaphel & Hushai Advise Absalom

Sometimes, when we have to make a decision, we may get differing advice from people that we trust and we may even get differing advice from the same person at different times. Sometimes, no matter what you do there will be someone who offers opposite alternatives no matter what you bring forward. This is so often true not just in leadership but also just in our personal lives. How do you know what advice to follow?

As a leader or when making decisions in our personal lives, it can be difficult to determine what is the best thing to do. It can be maddening at times because every suggestion for what to do has its drawbacks as well as its positives. As a leader or just personally, you want to make decisions that provides no downside. We want to make decisions where everyone is on board and where there are no negative impacts. However, that is often impossible. In fact, it is often rare that leadership or personal decisions have no downside. Virtually every decision we make will leave someone angry or disappointed. Many times we can become paralyzed by the fear of disappointing others. Making decisions requires choices and someone is going to lose on most decisions we make. Often, we get paralyzed by the choice between advice alternatives.

Advice can be conflicting at times, too, even from the same person. What if someone gives you advice one way one day and then seemingly opposite advice a couple of hours, days, or weeks later? That can be as paralyzing as receiving conflicting advise before you take any action. Such situations can make you start second-guessing yourself and keep you from moving forward with you plans. Then, to boot, there are people who will inevitably say B anytime you say A. You know the type. They always hear what you have to say and then list every reason why want you have decided to do, won’t work. We see this in American politics right now more so than at any other time in history. We all have had experiences with our magnetic polar opposite whether it be in your personal life or your professional life. It can be paralyzing to the point that you are scared to put an idea forward for fear of your magnetic polar opposite.

It can all be mindboggling as a leader or just as a person trying to make the right choice in your personal life. What to do? When to do it? Minimizing discord over your decision. Realizing that someone is not going to be happy with any decision you make. The second-guessing by yourself and others. Advice! Whose to take? What are going to do? We all face this dilemma in life in some shape or form. It is easy to give advice but it harder to actually be the one making a decision.

That idea, that struggle is what I thought of today as I read through 2 Samuel 16:15-17:14 – how we have make decisions sometimes with conflicting sets of advice and how we resolve that in our minds. That idea is a valid struggle for us all at the very least in our personal lives but it is also something that leaders have to deal with when it comes decision-making in organizations. In our personal lives, if we cannot learn to navigate this issue, we can have a rough personal life. In our leadership lives, if we cannot learn to navigate this issue well, we will be hampered in our quest to be a good leader. Let’s read the passage, now, and see how Absalom handled the conflicting sets of advice that he received:

15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the army of Israel arrived at Jerusalem, accompanied by Ahithophel. 16 When David’s friend Hushai the Arkite arrived, he went immediately to see Absalom. “Long live the king!” he exclaimed. “Long live the king!”

17 “Is this the way you treat your friend David?” Absalom asked him. “Why aren’t you with him?”

18 “I’m here because I belong to the man who is chosen by the Lord and by all the men of Israel,” Hushai replied. 19 “And anyway, why shouldn’t I serve you? Just as I was your father’s adviser, now I will be your adviser!”

20 Then Absalom turned to Ahithophel and asked him, “What should I do next?”

21 Ahithophel told him, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to look after the palace. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted your father beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will throw their support to you.” 22 So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went in and had sex with his father’s concubines.

23 Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, just as David had done. For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.

Chapter 17
1 Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. 2 I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek.[a] Then you will be at peace with all the people.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
Hushai Counters Ahithophel’s Advice

5 But then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let’s see what he thinks about this.” 6 When Hushai arrived, Absalom told him what Ahithophel had said. Then he asked, “What is your opinion? Should we follow Ahithophel’s advice? If not, what do you suggest?”

7 “Well,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “this time Ahithophel has made a mistake. 8 You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors. Right now they are as enraged as a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs. And remember that your father is an experienced man of war. He won’t be spending the night among the troops. 9 He has probably already hidden in some pit or cave. And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops, and the word will spread that Absalom’s men are being slaughtered. 10 Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are.

11 “I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. 12 When we find David, we’ll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down.”

14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s.” For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!

In this passage, we see that Ahithophel was an advisor to Absalom. Most rulers had advisers to help make decisions about government affairs and political matters. But God made Ahithophel’s advice seem foolish, just as David had prayed in 2 Samuel 15:31. Hushai appealed to Absalom through flattery and Absalom’s vanity became his own trap. Hushai predicted great glory for Absalom if he personally led the entire army against David. When we are taking advise from others, we will often get conflicting advice and that’s the tough part – which advice do I follow?

How do we reconcile conflicting advice? Well, there is no reference here as to Absalom going to the Lord in prayer over this conflicting advice. All we see is him making the choice that was potentially going to give himself the greater glory. That seems to be the lesson of this passage. Absalom was doomed to failure because of his vanity. His vanity was his weakness. This Hushai knew. He knew that he could divert Absalom away from the best advice (the advice given him by Ahithophel). Hushai knew if he got Absalom to think about what would give him more fame and notoriety, that Absalom would be like a fish going after a baited hook. Absalom did not have the faith of his father. Absalom had life handed to him on a silver platter and he was so good looking that he pretty much always got whatever he wanted. He was prideful and self-centered. He was jealous of his father’s fame and wanted to be more famous than his father without paying the years of sacrifice and hard work that had marked David’s ascendancy to the throne. So, the advice that gave him the potential for the greatest glory was the candy in the candy store window for him. No mention here of prayer. No mention of spending time alone with the Lord.

That’s the thing that we must do when we are presented conflicting advice for our personal lives or in any role of leadership – seek the Lord. We must study Scripture and compare the spirit of what we have read on the subject in Scripture to what advice we have been given. We must then pray for the Lord to enlighten us as to what to do. Any decision we make no matter how large or how small should be bathed in Bible study and prayer. Sure, there are decisions where we must make snap judgments about the advice we have received, but if we study Scripture enough and pray enough on a regular basis that we should begin to know God’s heart. We should begin to know what is consistent with God’s character and what is not. But no decision has to be made so quickly that a quick prayer for Holy Spirit guidance cannot be offered up.

Absalom’s decision here, as we shall see in the coming chapters of 2 Samuel, will lead to his demise. He followed the wrong advice because he was a prideful man who was not in relationship with God. Absalom shows us what not to do. People will give us advice that’s all over the board. Some advice is contrasting. Some advice contradicts. Some advice serves the advice giver’s interests more than yours. Some advice given is not well thought out. How do we make sense of it all? Seek the Lord.

Proverbs 3:6 (NLT) gives us the best advice on advice…”Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Amen and Amen.

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2 Samuel 16:5-14
Shimei Curses David

This passage today so easily could be transported today’s world. This problem is not limited to ancient Israel some 3,000 years ago. It is oh so timely. Today, our nation is Shimei and David. Since the elections of Obama and Trump, I have never seen our country so polarized. And, particularly, since Trump was elected and the fact that social media has become so firmly entrenched as part of our lives, we have seen this polarization reach new heights. Lack of journalistic integrity has come to be part of the American landscape.

There was once a time in our land that journalism was a science as well as an art. The news media had standards of proof that were self-imposed. Every claim made in an article in a newspaper or an investigative piece on television had to be corroborated. When we watch the movie, All The President’s Men, or even deeper, read the book by the same name, we see how difficult it was for Woodward and Bernstein to investigate and publish articles about what became “the Watergate scandal”. Sources making claims had to be corroborated from multiple sources before anything got published. It was the standard of journalism. Verify. Verify and then verify again. It was similar to what police detectives must do in their significant capital cases. They must investigate, verify, follow leads, and get to the truth. Accusations must be verified and verified again.

Today, we have social media posts where people of certain positions vilify their opposition with facts presented that are often not corroborated or only present a portion of the information. Political spin is the name of the game today. My version of the truth is what matters. The ends justify the means is what matters. Truth is no longer an absolute. Good news articles in years past would present all points of view on a subject and allow the reader to make their own judgments. Even if the journalist was pro one way or the other, they were required to present all views on a subject as simply the understood part of journalistic standards of behavior. With social media, it is only required that you have an opinion and good photoshop skills. And it is not just those who create social media viral feeds but it is us as consumers of social media that are to blame as well. We see and believe what we see on social media far too easily. We see what supports our opinion and take it as gospel. We see what is in opposition to our opinion and call it fake news.

We were once a nation where compromise was part of the political landscape. The very foundation of our country was a compromise. Just look at how our legislative body in was constructed. There were those states that were already becoming more populous than others so there was fear by the smaller (typically Southern) states that the larger states would impose their will upon the smaller states with impunity. Thus, the equal bodies of the Senate (with two representatives from each state regardless of size) and the House of Representatives (with the size of each state’s delegation dependent upon the population of each state). It was a compromise to ensure that the smaller populated states did not get trampled upon. Throughout American history, landmark legislation was often made through compromises among competing interests of the representatives and senators. Our nation became a great power through compromise – people getting some of what they want but not all, assigning priorities for the nation as to the order of things that were to be accomplished through the competition of needs in Congress, and so on. Although people back then were as passionate about their positions as people are today, they respected results as part of the American system.

The cries of “Not My President” that we hear today are simply not of the American spirit of compromise. We have become a nation that wants to quit the game if we do not get our way. Politics has become gridlocked because we cannot any longer fathom that someone can have a different opinion from us. We would rather shut the government down to prove a point that reach an understanding with our enemies. We think our truth is the only truth. It is a product of the culture in which we live today. Because we live in a relativistic society, truth is no longer absolute. My truth is my truth and I have a right to believe it. Conservatives and liberals vilify each other as being Satan’s children because we no longer see truth as absolute. We can only see the rightness of our position and do whatever it takes to support that position. Even if supporting that position includes creating news stories based on half-truths and distorted factual evidence. Truth is relative to my own needs. My truth is my truth and your truth is your truth. Truth is a possession of individuals now rather than something that is independent of us and owned by God. Rather than pray for our enemies, we would rather see them as completely out of touch with reality – my reality.

Responding to social media posts based on half-truth and distorted factual evidence is a losing game. We have become so relativistic in today’s world that we can no longer see another person’s point of view. Thus, social media arguments about the truth of a situation can go on ad nauseum because admitting that “hey you may have a point there” is no longer a value. Thus, descending into the fray of social media misinformation is a fruitless endeavor even though it may make your blood boil by what you see and read.

That is what I thought about this morning as I read through this passage, 2 Samuel 16:5-14. How this Shimei dude is like the world in which we live today. He was firmly convinced that what he was saying was true without even knowing the real facts nor caring what the real facts were. He simply did not like David because he was not Saul. So, in that way, he is very modern. He could fit right into our world today. Let’s read the passage now:

5 As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. 6 He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. 7 “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. 8 “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”

9 “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!”

10 “No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”

11 Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul[a] have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. 12 And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged[b] and will bless me because of these curses today.” 13 So David and his men continued down the road, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at David.

14 The king and all who were with him grew weary along the way, so they rested when they reached the Jordan River.[c]

In this passage, we see that Shimei kept up a steady tirade against David. Although his curses were unjustified because David had no part in Saul’s death, David and his followers tolerated the abuse. Maintaining composure in the face of unjustified criticism can be a trying experience and an emotional drain. However, if you can’t stop criticism, it best just to ignore it. Remember that God knows what you are enduring and He will vindicate you, if you are right.

What we need to be doing today is praying for our enemies and praying for the resurrection of absolute truth. We must pray that people will learn to admit when they are wrong. We must pray that we can admit when we are wrong. We must pray that we do not endanger the gospel message by descending into pointless arguments that cannot be won. We must pray that we discern what are the hills to die on. We must pray to have discernment as to whether it is personal pride that is offended or the gospel message that is offended before we respond to things. We must respond in ways that leave us opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others. Help us oh Lord, to pray en masse for the end of moral relativism and the return of our nation to a godly pursuit of God’s absolute truths and moral absolutes. Help us oh Lord to become a less polarized nation by dropping our dogged senses of pride. May we see truth as your ownership and that truth is independent of each of us and not something that WE own. Help us oh Lord to remember that we are here to please you and not honor ourselves and denigrate others. We are all here to give you glory and not ourselves.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 16:1-4
David and Ziba

This passage is one of those you just want to shake David and say “Yo! Dude! Wake up! Why can’t you see that this dude is lying to you to get what he wants!” But David just accepts what he has to say and promises him the moon and stars, so to speak. David does not even think of the fact that Mephibosheth was most likely the most loyal person to David ever. It was customary that when a ruler was defeated that his family would be killed as well so that there would be no lineage of that ruler left to reclaim the throne. However, we find in 2 Samuel 4 that Mephibosheth survives.

Mephibosheth had grown and had a son of his own when King David inquired of his whereabouts. King David and Jonathan had been very close friends and became as brothers. Because of their relationship and an oath David made to Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:15-16, 42), he wanted to honor it by finding and caring for Mephibosheth.One of Saul’s servants was questioned and told King David of the young man’s location. Mephibosheth was summoned to appear before the King. Though afraid, Mephibosheth came not knowing if he would be killed or what might happen to him. He was a cripple, had lost his heritage, and lived in a desolate place named Lo Debar. Translated, the name literally means “land of nothing”. Mephibosheth had been reduced to having nothing.

2 Samuel 9 describes the meeting of Mephibosheth and King David. The young man humbly bowed and David told him to not be afraid. “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul and you will always eat at my table” (2 Samuel 9:7). Mephibosheth bowed and asked why David would “notice a dead dog like me?” in verse 8. Mephibosheth was made the promise that he would be honored with restoration of profits from his grandfather’s wealth and would always eat at the King’s table. This was despite Mephibosheth’s low self-worth, physical handicap, and shame brought to him by his grandfather’s sins, defeat and resulting suicide.

David had shown him great kindness (because of no other reason than he was Jonathan’s son) to take him into the royal household after Mephibosheth’s dad and grandpa died in battle. Being a crippled person in ancient Middle Eastern culture would have meant that, without family, he would have had to resort to begging on street corners and at the entrances to public gathering places such as government buildings, etc. His existence would have been miserable. But by the grace of David wishing to honor the memory of his best friend, Jonathan, Mephibosheth was given a place of honor within David’s palace. He was taken care of and treated with the utmost respect. His life turned out to be far better than it could have been had David not taken him in. You don’t think that Mephibosheth was eternally loyal to David as a result?

So, it simply boggles the mind that David did not ask any questions in this situation. It is probably pretty certain that Mephibosheth over the demonstrated his loyalty to David over the years. But here, David was just so easy to believe what Ziba was saying about Mephibosheth.

That then is the thing that has troubled me since yesterday morning when I first read this passage. What is it that God is trying to teach us in this passage? There is no wasted passage in the Bible. Each passage has something to teach us when we really study a passage. Sometimes, at a surface level reading, we may think of certain passages as throw-away. You know like filler in between important sequences. Like a commercial in strategically placed places in the flow of a movie on television. Strategically placed commercials in a movie give you a break between the heavy action or heavy issue parts of movie where you can catch your breath. It can even be a bathroom break. When we read the Bible at just a surface level some passages just seem like that – you know when you can say I read the Bible in 90 days or something where you speed through it but not really understand or delve into what you are reading. Not that there is anything wrong with a 90 day crash course in reading the Bible from beginning to end (often we need to do that just as a discipline development technique). At a surface level, this seems like a commercial break between the intense passages of 2 Samuel. But when you want to read deep in a passage, this passage kind of stumps you. What is that nugget that God wants us to see? What is that universal truth that God pours out in this passage to help us become more Christ-like.

So, let’s read this passage together and try to figure out what is that single truth that comes out of this passage that God wants us to learn:

Chapter 16
1 When David had gone a little beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth,[a] was waiting there for him. He had two donkeys loaded with 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 bunches of summer fruit, and a wineskin full of wine.

2 “What are these for?” the king asked Ziba.

Ziba replied, “The donkeys are for the king’s people to ride on, and the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”

3 “And where is Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson?” the king asked him.

“He stayed in Jerusalem,” Ziba replied. “He said, ‘Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul.’”

4 “In that case,” the king told Ziba, “I give you everything Mephibosheth owns.”

“I bow before you,” Ziba replied. “May I always be pleasing to you, my lord the king.”

In this passage, we have to remember who Mephibosheth was. Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of King Saul and a special friend of King David. When Mephibosheth was five years old, his father Jonathan was killed in battle. Fearing that the Philistines would seek to take the life of the young boy, a nurse fled with him to Gibeah, the royal residence, but in her haste she dropped him and both of his feet were crippled (2 Samuel 4:4). He was carried to the land of Gilead, where he found refuge in the house of Machir, son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.

Some years later, when King David had conquered all of Israel’s enemies, he remembered the family of his friend Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:1), and, wishing to display his loving loyalty to Jonathan by ministering to his family, David found out that Mephibosheth was residing in the house of Machir. So he sent royal messengers there, and brought Mephibosheth and his infant son Micah to Jerusalem, where they resided from that point on (2 Samuel 9).

Later, when David invited the Mephibosheth to be part of his court, he entrusted the family property to a steward, Ziba. In this situation, it is more than likely than Ziba was lying in hopes of receiving a reward from David. What blows our mind here is that David believed Ziba’s charge against Mephibosheth without checking into the story or even being skeptical. Once again from David, we learn a lesson in what NOT to do. We cannot be hasty to accept someone’s condemnation of another, especially when the accuser may profit from the other’s downfall. David should have been skeptical of Ziba’s comments (especially knowing the relationship he had with Jonathan’s son and checked the story for himself before he made a snap judgment.

So, I think the issue boils down to one word – discernment. Ziba is doing and saying all the right things here. He is making himself available to the king – bring him transportation, food, etc. In this passage he is making himself look awesomely before the king. However, he is doing it at the expense of others, particularly someone he works closely with and serves – Mephibosheth. We all know or have known someone like this that we have worked with whether it be in volunteer situations or in your office or factory where you work for compensation. There is always that one person that is the slick talking politician type. The one who does whatever it takes to gain the confidence of the boss, CEO, or whatever the head of the organization or department is called. They say all the right things. They are usually very quick thinkers and convert thoughts to speech quickly. They are the ones that will subtly subdue others with their words and slick speech to the point that you admire them. We all know the type. The kind of person that would throw you under the bus and have very beautiful flowery language that almost sounds spiritual as to the justifications for their actions. Discernment is called for with such types of people.

That’s where David fails here. He does utilize discernment and he ends up putting himself in a bad situation. Ultimately, he must fulfill a promise that he should have never made. He should have remembered the loyalty of Mephibosheth and how it did not square with what Ziba was saying. When we hear something about a friend, a co-worker, another volunteer, another church member, another anyone that does not square with what we know about that person, then, we have a duty not to automatically accept the negative words of another person. We must say stop right there. We must say I need to check this out with the person you are talking about. If it is true, I will believe what you are saying. However, right now, I just cannot square what you are saying with what I know about that person. Man, would that stop some gossip in this world! Man, would that stop some organizational politicking in this world!

Discernment is a gift from God. It allows us to see things as they really are rather than what others may want to paint them as being. God is a God of order and unity so we must use the discernment He gives us that bring about discord and disorder. Discernment helps us question things when they are inconsistent with what we know to be true. Discernment helps us apply God’s Word to everyday situations. Discernment helps us to pray to God to reveal the truth to us in controversial situations. Discernment helps us not to jump of the slick politician type’s bandwagon to quickly so as to allow true colors to be revealed. Discernment helps us to remember that we are not here to please people but rather to please God. Discernment helps us to keep the truths of God in the center of everything we do. Discernment helps us to divide popularity seeking from true loyalty. Discernment helps us divide truth from error.

Discernment is a gift from God that David does not seem to have anymore. The whole Bathsheba/Uriah incident seems to have so occupied his mind, heart and soul that he can’t even think straight anymore. When you take David’s life as a whole, he lasting memory is that he was a wise king and a great king but wow in this sequence of his life, his sins have him so wracked with guilt that he just does not display the normal qualities of the godly man that he is. He could have used some discernment before the whole Bathsheba/Uriah incident and maybe he would not be in the position that he is in right now – fleeing from Jerusalem and believing the worst about a dear friend.

Discernment. So that’s the thing we learn from this transitional passage between two heavy hitting sequences of David’s life. Discernment. And you know it leads us to the point that discernment comes from prayer. Discernment comes from God just as wisdom does. Thus, we must ask God to grant it to us through constant prayer. God’s Word provides this gift as well. Watching the completely flawed individuals here in the Bible teaches us about what to do and what not to do. Discernment comes from God. Let us pray for it and cultivate through constant study of God’s Word.
Amen and Amen.

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

As I stated a couple of blogs ago, this series of chapters we are in right now about David and his unruly children could easily be formed into a sermon series about being a father. David shows us in this sequence of chapters, often, what not to do as a dad. Today, we return to that theme of fatherhood. However, this time teaches us, as dads, a valuable lesson of the fact that sometimes we must simply get out of the way and let life teach our children the lessons they need to learn.

With my youngest child, she is now almost 28 years old, I have spent the last few years doing just that – allowing life to teach her the lessons she needs to learn. Often, life lessons learned on our own can teach us so much more than our dads ever could. As I have stated before here, my youngest child never really knew what life was like in a normal household. From the time she was about 2 years old, marital strife was the home that she knew. By the time she was that age, her parents’ marriage (in which God was not the center of it due to our not being Christ followers) was winding its way to its ugly end. Then, after the divorce and my remarriage, I failed her miserably as a dad during the 9 years of my second marriage. Then, while I was single those six years before I married my wonderful and final wife, Elena, I spoiled my youngest girl rotten. Anything she wanted she got. Any immature behaviors were never dealt with. I spoiled her, I admit it, to the point she did not mature as she should have. She was so spoiled that she did not get her first job until she was almost 20 years old. I would bail her out financially at every turn such that she had no incentive to really make something of herself. Her behavior was that of entitlement and expectation that things would be handed to her.

Finally, a few years ago when she was in her mid-twenties, I finally had to say enough is enough after one final act of kindness. We gave her Elena’s car and said this is it. You are on your own now. No more financial assistance. You’ve got to do this yourself. Since that time, she really has not had that much to do with me except when she emerges from her “radio silence” and acts as though she wants to restore our relationship but really she is simply looking for another handout. I have had to show her tough love these last few years. It has pained me terribly. I miss the closeness we once had where she and her crew that she hung around with as teenagers thought I was “the cool dad.” But now, she hardly speaks to me. The last time that I talked to her was probably six months ago in a text exchange by phone. The last time that I talked to verbally was by phone was almost a year ago. The last time that I saw her in person was maybe over a year ago. I hate it. I mean, it is not like I am so angry at her that I do not want to speak to her. I love her so much. But it is by her choice that she does not want to have a real relationship with me anymore. If she showed up here in Illinois at my house right now, I would wrap my arms around her and hold her and cry tears of joy.

However, she did not even come to say goodbye to me the day Elena and left the Upstate of South Carolina to move to northwest Illinois. She has effectively cut me out of her life because I cut her off financially. However, that is how being a dad is sometimes. You have to do things that are going to make your kids hate you at the moment and just let life play out in their lives. It’s not because you hate them. It’s because you love them. Some kids, like my oldest child, who want to become independent and self-sufficient and they will do it. Those kids you can give advice and they will heed it. However, some kids, you just have to let life teach them their lessons that they need to learn. With this type of child, you just sometimes have to quit protecting them and let life happen to them. They may get angry at you for taking the safety net away but you are doing them no maturity favors by keeping the safety net there. You have to take it away, let life happen to them, and just know that you love them regardless of whether they believe that fact or not. That is where I am at with my youngest.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37 – that idea that sometimes, as a parent, you just have to step out of the way and let life happen to your kids. 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, we see that David, knowingly or not, teaches us another lesson in parenting. Here, we see him just get out of the way and begin to let circumstances play themselves out for Absalom. He could have rushed forward with his army and attacked Absalom by surprise and maybe even captured him before he tried to seize the capitol city. He maybe could have saved face for himself and even Absalom. He could have approached this situation by clandestinely meeting with Absalom and pulled the father/king card in a face to face meeting. However, he chose to step aside and let circumstances begin to play out. Eventually, in the coming passages, Absalom proved that he was not ready to be king like he thought he was. Experience was to be a better teacher than any parental lecture could have been.

Often, we must do the same as parents as David has begun doing here. Sometimes, we must let our children learn the facts of life, so to speak, the hard way. And in many ways, this is often how God deals with us as his children. Because He has set boundaries for us (for our own good not because He wants to keep us from doing things), He lets sin and its consequences play out in our lives so that we can learn the price of sin. Many of us are hardheaded because we love our sins and blame God for holding us back from what we want to do. Many of us blame God when we get in a jam and He has not miraculously pulled us out of the consequences of our sins. We get angry at Him for not bailing us out. We get angry at Him but yet it is our sin, our decisions to sin and rebel against Him, that ensnarls us. It is often NOT that God is punishing us but rather it is that sin always has negative consequences. Our sins often cause our pain. Our sins often cause the jams we get into in life. Our sins create these tangled webs of events and decisions in life that bring us to our knees. It is often only through letting our sins play themselves out in our lives that we are ready to kneel before God in all humility and say “Lord I have truly messed up my life and I need your help!” Even when we do that, God will not erase the long-lasting effects of our sins. He will let them play themselves out so that we learn from them and turn from them. It is when we have that a-ha moment that it is ourselves that is the enemy and not God that we are ready to stand before God and beg Him to provide us with the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Some of us are smart and heed God’s Word and accept Christ as our Savior as a young person and follow Him wholeheartedly all of our lives. Some of us are smart in this way and use God’s Word as the standard for their lives from a young age. I admire these folks. They have troubles too but man the impact that such people can have for the kingdom when they follow Jesus from an early age is far beyond what I will ever achieve. Some of God’s children are like me, fools! We lived life hard. Running from God and His Word for most of our lives. Life and the consequences of sin must be our teachers. We learn the hard way from real life examples in our lives of the hard road that sin brings us. For people like me that have to learn the hard way, the road to the cross is long, hard, and filled with cuts, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones. For God’s kids like me, we come to Him only after we have been down the road and find ourselves at the bottom of the valley and have hit rock bottom. I was age 39 when I finally came to my senses and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Man, if I could go back and do it all over again, it would have saved me so much heartache and pain, but that’s the past. My mess is part of my message. I learned the hard way to the cross. But just as I would run to the street to greet my youngest daughter and give her a great big welcome home hug if I saw her right now, God is waiting for you and me with a great big hug and tears of joy…if you will just come home!

Amen and Amen.

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

Over the weekend, my senior pastor (and my boss) lost his father to death. Although his dad’s death has been anticipated for a while now, it does not take away the shock of the finality of death. I can feel for Pastor Tim and his family. My wife can too. My mom passed away in November 2010 and Elena’s dad passed in March of this year. In each of these cases, death came almost as a relief. Each was ready to go meet Jesus and was just waiting around and suffering til the time came in God’s providence.

My mom passed away in November 2010 at the fairly young age of 70. Although the last six months of my mom’s life was like watching some other person occupy my mother’s body. Her mind had degenerated into dementia and she was not the mother that I had once known. She had become paranoid and delusional because of the dementia. She was in excruciating pain from her back (where she had surgery on various parts of her spine 4 times in the final 6 years of her life). Crippling arthritis made even the smallest move of her body difficult. It was difficult to watch my mother suffer both in mind and in body. It ripped holes in my heart watching her suffer particularly those last 6 months of her life. We had been anticipating her death those last six months. However, it was that last 6 days where she was at death’s door. We were ready for it. The Sunday before she died on Thursday we waited at the hospital ICU for her to pass on, but she fought it. She was a feisty woman all her life so she wasn’t going to die without a fight. Finally, the day came. Not long after I got to work on that Thursday, I believe it was, my dad gave me a call and told me that I needed to get to the nursing home as quick as I could. The hospice nurse had told him that the end was within hours.

I was able to get to the nursing home in the little town of Starr, SC (the town where my dad was pastoring a small United Methodist church on a part-time basis at that time) pretty quickly. It was the middle of the morning and the drive down from the Greenville area was pretty smooth as rush hour was over. When I got there mom was breathing heavily in labored breaths and was totally incoherent. Her body was simply functioning. Her mind had already checked out. It was just her soul still making things happen in her body. She did not respond to any stimuli. As the remainder of the morning progressed, the breathing was not as labored but the breaths were beginning to be further and further apart. I finally was able to muster the energy to hug my mom and whisper in her ear that it was OK to let go and go be with Jesus and to see her mom and dad and brother. And within the half hour after that, she just…just stopped breathing. And that was it. No grand cataclysmic event. She was there one second and then she was gone. It was a peaceful passing. She just stopped breathing and it was finished.

I am getting a little choked up as I write this because even though it has been almost 8 years now since my mother’s passing, I can get choked up by thinking about her if I let myself think on it long enough. I miss my mom. I really do. I miss dreading having to answer the phone because I knew I would be stuck on the phone for 30-45 minutes. I miss her being all up in my business. I miss her unique Carolyn Bowling way of loving me. Since she has been gone, I have come to realize that mom was the glue that held us together (my dad, my brother and me). Family get-togethers do not seem quite as special now. My mom made our family time seem special. I miss that. I miss her.

But the thing that always keep coming back to is that I know my mom was a believer in Jesus Christ. I know that she is now in heaven. I know that she has been spending almost 8 years, by how we reckon time on this side of eternity, praising her Savior all the day long. She is fully healthy now in heaven. She is no longer ravaged by dementia. She is no longer in severe back pain. She is experiencing joy immeasurable.

That’s the believer’s promise. That is what we have in store for us in heaven when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and have spent the rest of our lives making Him our Lord. No matter how tough things get. No matter how deep the valley. No matter the physical pain. No matter the troubling circumstances that we must go through in our lives, we will emerge on the other side on top of the mountain in heaven in victory for eternity. Eternity in heaven experiencing perfect joy and praising the Savior. That is how we as believers emerge from the valleys of this life is in the hope that we will one day be in heaven. Things may seem dark now on this side of heaven. You may be going through a valley that never seems to end but heaven is our reward.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37. 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, we see that the Kidron Valley is mentioned for the first time in the Scriptures. The Kidron Valley runs below the southeast wall of Jerusalem, separating the city from The Mount of Olives to the east. It then turns southeast from Jerusalem and follows a winding course to the Dead Sea. The Kidron Valley is nearly always dry but does have a waterflow during rainy season. Here, we see the first reference to the valley when David and his people crossed through the valley over toward the wilderness. This strategic move would give them a way of escape if the forces of the rebel army of Absalom decided to attack the city. The people and the king wept bitterly during the move because it had such a depressing significance – they were abandoning the city without a fight.

Later Shimei was forbidden by Solomon to cross the valley on the penalty of death if Shimei did so (1 Kings 2:36-38). Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentions the wicked queen Athaliah was put to death in the Kidron Valley (see “Antiquities” 9.7.3). Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his crucifixion (John 18:1). Because of David’s sad crossing and Jesus’ sad crossing, the valley has come to symbolize suffering. We may have our own “Kidron Valley” to pass through; stay true to God, and he will stray true to you throughout your sufferings.

Each of us has hope in Jesus Christ. Once we accept Christ as our Savior and begin to grow in making Him the Lord of our lives, we have our eyes opened to one immutable reality. No matter how deep the valley or how severe the trouble, we have hope in a God that promises us deliverance. It may not always be on this side of eternity. Someone once said that “what’s the worst that could happen? I die and go to heaven? I can live with that!” Our ultimate prize is heaven as believers. That gives us comfort even in the toughest times. That gives us comfort when a loved one who was also a believer dies. We may miss them terribly but we know where they are. They have emerged from this valley called life into their victory on the mountaintop on the other side. Jesus gave us this hope through His resurrection. Death could not hold him. He arose from the dead to prove to us that He was our Messiah, Savior and Lord. He arose from the dead to show us that we have hope in everything that the Bible tells us. Jesus had His Kidron Valley moment but He emerged victorious in the resurrection.

So whatever you are going through including the loss of a loved one, take heart. Celebrate that there is a reward for being faithful to God even in the valleys of life. We have all eternity to celebrate with our Savior in heaven.

Amen and Amen.

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.

2 Samuel 15:1-12
Absalom’s Rebellion

In every stop along the way that God places us in ministry there are things that He wants us to learn. In the three churches that I have been involved with since my salvation and then the steady road to full-time ministry, there have been lessons to learn.

At Livermore Alive Community Church in Livermore, CA, the lesson was that we must be obedient to God’s Word in every aspect of our lives. We must make God more than a box that we pull out and play with on Sundays. Being a Christ follower is a full-time thing not just on Sundays. We must integrate God’s Word as the measure for everything that we do. We must have a real relationship with Jesus Christ and let Him be the prism through which we view our actions. We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe when it comes to God’s Word. We must accept it all and be obedient to it because otherwise we are not being obedient at all. It’s all or nothing.

At LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC, the lesson was about leadership. Making that step from participant to leader requires great commitment. It requires getting off the couch and doing whatever it takes to spread the gospel. Leadership requires sacrifice. Leadership requires understanding your assignment and breaking it down into achievable parts. Leadership requires that people understand that you are for them and you are not asking them to do anything that you would not do yourself. Leadership requires loving the people under your care. Leadership requires loving what you do and doing all the background work that no one sees. Leadership requires you to be passionate about what you do. Leadership requires the ability to submit to those who are leading you as well. Leadership requires you to be passionate about the mission of the church. You take ownership of the church and not just sit around and say they. They should have done this or done that. It requires you to truly care about getting people to understand the “why” of what you are doing. Man, the things that I learned about being an ever-maturing Christian and Christian leader at LifeSong was immeasurable.

Here, now, at Calvary Church in Moline, IL, the education continues. I have only been here about 4 ½ months now but one thing has become clear already. Who knows what the overarching theme of my time will have been while here whenever my work here is done (which I hope is not till I am ready to retire). However, for now, the lesson is about transitioning simply from being a leader to a discipling leader. Everything previous to Calvary was preparation for me being ready to learn the lesson for me at this place. The lesson of this place so far is that everything is about relationships. First off, as a pastor, I must have a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. If that is not honest, clean, and clear, nothing else matters. Secondly, you can only truly and effectively lead people is through deep and abiding relationships. I may not be ready to be one of “the stage pastors” just yet but what I should be investing in is people and my relationships with them. I must get to know the lay people that I work with. I must understand them at the soul level. I cannot truly lead people if I do not have relationship with them. I cannot truly ask them to go above and beyond their comfort zone if they do not understand that I truly and deeply care about them. I cannot simply see people as a means to an end. I must be able to sacrifice efficiency for relationship. Any task or project that I take on at church must be with an eye toward discipling people to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything that I do as a leader must be viewed through that prism. Every aspect of running a church is an opportunity to disciple. Being a leader means having the people that follow you or who are in your sphere of influence know that you genuinely do love them. If I learn nothing else in the coming years at Calvary, this is the foundation of all else that I will learn here. We must about the business of “loving people to life” (our church slogan). Loving people to life means that it starts with love. How can we move people along in their walk with Jesus if they do not know that we love them. Loving is an action word. It means that you have to get into their lives and be a part of it. Loving them to life means that we are guiding people to discover their true purpose in life through a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus. That’s the basis. That’s the filter. Even in the business of the business of the church, we can disciple. Even in the business of the business of the church, we can love people and make sure that they know that we deeply care about their lives. That’s the lesson. That the foundation. Relationships.

In that idea of progressively growing into the leader that God wants me to be, I have learned that leadership is meaningless without true relationships with the people that we lead. That’s what I thought about this morning as I read through today’s passage, 2 Samuel 15:1-12. The reason is that in just reading this passage you get the sense that Absalom has something other than what God is teaching me. Let’s read it now together:

Chapter 15
1 After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. 2 He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. 3 Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. 4 I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!”

5 When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them. 6 Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.

7 After four years,[a] Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and fulfill a vow I made to him. 8 For while your servant was at Geshur in Aram, I promised to sacrifice to the Lord in Hebron[b] if he would bring me back to Jerusalem.”

9 “All right,” the king told him. “Go and fulfill your vow.”

So Absalom went to Hebron. 10 But while he was there, he sent secret messengers to all the tribes of Israel to stir up a rebellion against the king. “As soon as you hear the ram’s horn,” his message read, “you are to say, ‘Absalom has been crowned king in Hebron.’” 11 He took 200 men from Jerusalem with him as guests, but they knew nothing of his intentions. 12 While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors who lived in Giloh. Soon many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum.

In this passage, we see that Absalom’s political strategy was to steal the hearts of the people with his good looks, grand entrances, apparent concern for justice, and friendly embraces. Many were fooled by Absalom and switched their allegiance from David to him. Later, as we shall see in the coming passages, Absalom proved to be an evil ruler. The lesson for us from this story is that we need to evaluate those we follow to make sure that their charisma is not a mask covering deceit and a hunger for popularity and power. We must make sure that underneath their style and charm they are able to make good decisions and handle people wisely and not just use them to achieve their own personal desires.

Absalom reminds us of some leaders in churches and secular organizations that are:
(1) so focused on accomplishing tasks that they see people as chess pieces to move around and not as real, flesh and blood. They want to get the job done and if people get their feelings hurt along the way they just need to “suck it up, buttercup!” They are focused on their own batting average rather than discipling people. They value project completion over people development. They do not see relationship as the most important thing. They do not see that people will follow those that truly care about them as people. The job’s the thing to them. Burned bridges and dead bodies are strewn everywhere in the path of such a person.

(2) So focused on achieving their personal ambitions that they will do and say anything to get the prize that they are after. They use people with impunity. They are often eloquent and well spoken and say things that sound pretty but yet on the inside they are arranging sequences of events so that they stand tall at the end of the battle having achieved their desired outcome. People are just a means to an end. Relationships are only used to arrange the checkers on the board in the sequence that allows them to make the sequence of jumps that gets them crowned.

What kind of leader do you think that Jesus wants us to be? Jesus is in relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit and has been since before time began. Eternal, deep and lasting relationship is what Jesus has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Their deep, agape relationship is the basis for everything in the universe. The universe itself was created through this deep and abiding relationship of the Trinity. God was so interested in deep abiding relationship that he created man for that purpose. Even in our screwing that up in the Garden, God set forth a plan to redeem the fallen into a relationship with Him through His Son. God so loved the world that He sacrificed his Son for our sins so that we could be in real relationship with Him. He loved us that much. So, by God’s own example of loving, deep and abiding relationships and caring about relationship and pursuing relationship no matter what it cost Him, we must do no less as leaders of the church. Everything must be about loving relationships. Everything should be about loving people to life. Everything should be about getting into the mess of the lives of the people that we are loving to life. In that, we give God glory. In that, we emulate God’s plan. In that, we emulate Jesus’ own discipleship of twelve men who changed the world. It’s all about real relationship. It’s all about loving people to life.

Amen and Amen.