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.

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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.

2 Samuel 14:25-33
Absalom Reconciled to David

It has become apparent to me that these past two passages and this one today could be molded into a sermon series about fatherhood. David provides the negative examples for us as pastors to preach on for a whole sermon series that could last 3 or 4 Sundays or more. Today’s passage is part of that package deal. Here, we have a continued example of spoiling a child with things but not really being present in their lives.

After my second marriage dissolved over my kids vs. your kids issues, I had a lot of time to make up for. When I was married to my second wife, there was great jealousy between her and my girls. It was to the point that I was made to feel that even having those daddy-daughter moments was frowned upon as if I was betraying my second wife and her kids somehow. It was to the point that I only felt comfortable being with my girls as long as her boys were around. That was just wrong. I should have stood up to my second wife and made it clear that loving her and her boys did not mean I could NOT love my girls too. I could actually love all of them. It was my fault. I was so scared of losing access to the feminine pleasures of my wife that I allowed myself to have very little fatherly intimate times with my girls. I hate that now. I missed out on so many hugs. So many of those cool daddy-daughter moments when your daughter(s) are young. So, when all that came to a head and blew up what was left of our marriage, I went overboard in spoiling my girls. I spoiled them rotten, particularly my youngest daughter. My oldest was off at college by then and pretty much had a life of her own. So, my youngest was the recipient of all the spoiling pretty much. I was so much more interested in making up for those 9-10 years that I was with my second wife that sometimes I really failed to be the parent to my youngest that I should have been. She certainly did not get a whole lot of discipline at home with her mom, my first wife. So, she was spoiled. And now my youngest child struggles at age 27 to make ends meet because she expects the world to be handed to her.

It is funny how our children are so different. Some kids are self-driven to be all that they can be and others are the ones that you have to worry about constantly. My youngest is the one that I worry about constantly. She fades in and out of my life as she needs things and then disappears and doesn’t talk to me for months on end. I worry about her and love her despite the fact that she seemingly only wants a relationship with me when it suits her. A parent’s wish when you boil it down to its barest essence is to have the knowledge that your child will be alright and be able to take care of themselves when I pass away. My oldest daughter and my stepdaughter, I know that they will be alright but my youngest I worry constantly. She probably thinks that life is OK living her hand to mouth existence and not trying to build a future for herself, but one day I fear that she will wake up one day and realize that she missed all the opportunities she’s had to solidify her life and build it toward independence and the ability to take on life well-equipped. I take a lot of the blame for the way she just seems to be a sideline player who just waits for the game to come to her. I never forced her to grow up. I always made exceptions for her behavior instead of being a tough dad at times on her. I regret this. You cannot rewind life and re-do what has already been done. I just pray that she will be OK when I am no longer roaming the halls of this world.

I thought of my youngest child this morning as I read through this passage about Absalom and his seemingly precocious behavior. It is cute when they are little kids but Absalom is a grown man now. The failure with Absalom’s behavior lays squarely at his father’s feet. David pretty much was an absentee father to his kids. He was not there when his kids needed correction. He wanted to be their friend more than being a parent it seems. This error in parenting is the same one that I have made with my youngest child. With each kid being different, you cannot use the same parenting style with each. David needed a firmer had with Absalom but failed to do so. The consequences of this parental failing were enormous for the kingdom of Israel and David’s throne. Let’s read the passage now and see what’s going on now with Absalom:

25 Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. 26 He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! 27 He had three sons and one daughter. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she was very beautiful.

28 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, but he never got to see the king. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab to ask him to intercede for him, but Joab refused to come. Absalom sent for him a second time, but again Joab refused to come. 30 So Absalom said to his servants, “Go and set fire to Joab’s barley field, the field next to mine.” So they set his field on fire, as Absalom had commanded.

31 Then Joab came to Absalom at his house and demanded, “Why did your servants set my field on fire?”

32 And Absalom replied, “Because I wanted you to ask the king why he brought me back from Geshur if he didn’t intend to see me. I might as well have stayed there. Let me see the king; if he finds me guilty of anything, then let him kill me.”

33 So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him.

In this passage, we see that Absalom is an angry young man. Remember that Absalom waited 2 years before killing Amnon. 2 Samuel 13:38 says Absalom fled and went to Geshur and was there three years. He spent 3 years hiding at his grandpa and grandma’s house. In today’s text, Verse 28 says Absalom lived 2 years in Jerusalem without seeing his father. So 7 years have passed since the rape of his sister Tamar. Absalom has carried this anger in his heart for a long time! Amnon is dead so his anger can’t be toward him. So who could Absalom be angry with? Absalom seems so out of control at this point. It seems that Joab no longer wanted to deal with him. He did what he needed to do for the kingdom to bring Absalom back into Israel. But there appears between mentions of Joab in the last passage and this one (two years have passed) something has gone wrong in the relationship between Joab and Absalom. Was Joab tired of dealing with this angry young man who seems to have impulse control issues? Maybe, he was tired of Absalom being a spoiled brat and Joab having to clean up his messes. I bet both of them were angry at David for not dealing with this situation head on. David was not being a dad to Absalom by just letting him do what he wanted and all the while not really being present in his life.

Let this passage be a warning to us as parents (whether your child is still at home or is an adult). We must be present in their lives in a real way. We must participate in their lives and be in every moment with them. They look to us for guidance and leadership. If we do not perform this duty, we are doing a disservice to our child or children. We cannot be our children’s friend. We have to be a active parent. We must discipline when discipline is needed. We must set boundaries. We must enforce consequences when boundaries are crossed. We must be the bad guy sometimes. Although it is often painful to us to be the bad guy to our kids, they will appreciate it in the long run. We also must customize our parenting to each child’s personality. Some kids are just driven and self-disciplined and you can take a more hands-off approach. Some kids though need day to day, month to month management because of just how their minds are wired. We must be the heavy more often to these kids. We must manage them more often with these kids. Every one of our kids is different and deserves the parenting style that is best-suited for turning them into responsible adults. Just that simple. Take it from one who has made so many mistakes as a parent that you could write a novel about it. Learn from my mistakes.

In a similar fashion, the Lord has a particular heavenly parenting style for each one of us. Some of us, like me, need the lessons to be pressed into us with a two-by-four up side the head. Some read God’s Word and heed it immediately and suffer less in life. But God loves both kinds of his kids and all those in between. He has to be a tough parent sometimes with each of us. Letting us live out the consequences of our sinful behavior. But He never stops loving us just as I never stop loving my youngest child. God looks at each of us with an eye toward our maturing into a solid Christ follower. That’s what He wants for each of us. Help to set the same example for each of our earthly children.

Amen and Amen.

 

2 Samuel 14:1-24
Joab Arranges for Absalom’s Return

In this passage, the question that strikes me again is, “where is David in all of this?” He is an absentee father when it comes to his kids in this horrible sequence of events that has come upon his family. To be considered such a great king over Israel, he was mysteriously absent when it came to handling his own children. He never acts when action is needed. Maybe, it’s because he was mired in his own sins and their consequences. Maybe, it was that he did not want to discipline his own kids because of his own situation. Maybe, he thought there would be hypocrisy in that. But you just can’t quit being a parent just because you are jammed up by sin yourself. Sometimes, we have to set aside our own anguish over our sins and be a parent to our kids when discipline is called for.

Maybe, this is where we have to decide to live according to God’s Word instead of our desires. We must let go of those things that set poor examples to our children. Children watch us. Every move we make is catalogued by them and just more likely will be repeated. We cannot allow cycles of sin to continue in our families. They watch us. They imitate us. They think we are the source of what is acceptable and what is not. This fact was driven home to me when I was less experienced as a dad.

When Meghan was about 3-4 years old and was about 26-27 years old, she was my shadow. This was a time period when she was an only child – about a year or two before her sister was born. She thought her daddy was ten feet tall and bullet proof. Lisa, my first wife and mother of my kids, simply was not an affectionate parent so not only did Meghan get her affectionate embraces and hugs and kisses from me but it was that daddy-daughter thing. I thought she was the cutest thing ever and everything she did was just sooooo cuuuuute. She thought I was the most awesome man in the world. So, wherever daddy went, there was Meghan. Whatever I did, Meghan wanted to be with me. There was then this one Saturday we were going to have my parents, Meghan’s grandparents, over for dinner. And, Lisa was major cleaning the house so she had multiple projects that she had assigned to me – outside the house. One of which was to hang one of those plant hanger thingies beside the side door to our house – the entrance pretty much everybody used. So, here I was with hammer and nails. And Meghan was right there beside me to help me as she normally did at that age when I had a project. And of course, you guessed it, while I was hammering a nail through the awkwardly positioned holes in the plant hanger, I missed and hit my thumb about as hard as you can hit it yourself. Oh man, it was painful. I still remember that moment 30 years down the road at this minute as I write this. I step down the stepstool and was holding my thumb and in those few seconds where the pain of such an accident is its most intense, I let go an expletive that rhymes with truck about three times – with little Meghan standing right there. She was worried about her daddy in pain at that moment but the words were recorded in that little mind.

That evening, we had dinner with my parents as planned and the meal was great. Conversation was real and honest and there was lots of laughter. Then it was time for dessert. At that age, Meghan wanted to prove to everyone that she could do grown-up stuff so she wanted to help her mom bring the dessert over to the table from the kitchen. She did it all very successfully. She brought everyone their dessert without any problems. Then it was time for her and her mom to bring their desserts over to the table. As Meghan was walking over to the table with her dessert, she stumbled a bit and the dessert fell out of her and the plate landed upside down on the floor with the dessert smushed to the floor underneath. At that moment she let go of an expletive that rhymes with truck three times just as I had done earlier in the day. Talk about your Southwest Airlines moments – “want to get away?” That moment taught me that our kids watch and record in their minds everything we do and say. And we must be mindful of how we present ourselves to our kids. I should have learned more that day. My kids grew up to be great adults despite all my sins and sorrows and those they mom as well. But when I think about parents who live lives in front of their kids that involve abuse of a spouse, drug or alcohol overuse or abuse, and then wonder why their kids turn out the way they did, we must be mindful. We must live according to God’s Word and be examples to our kids that are positive and glorifying to God.

Having said all that, let us read today’s passage with an eye toward “where is David in all of this?” Let us read it with an eye toward learning that we cannot walk away from our responsibilities as parents because we are having too much fun with our sins or because we feel as though we cannot discipline our kids because of our sins. Let’s read it now:

Chapter 14
1 Joab realized how much the king longed to see Absalom. 2 So he sent for a woman from Tekoa who had a reputation for great wisdom. He said to her, “Pretend you are in mourning; wear mourning clothes and don’t put on lotions.[a] Act like a woman who has been mourning for the dead for a long time. 3 Then go to the king and tell him the story I am about to tell you.” Then Joab told her what to say.

4 When the woman from Tekoa approached[b] the king, she bowed with her face to the ground in deep respect and cried out, “O king! Help me!”

5 “What’s the trouble?” the king asked.

“Alas, I am a widow!” she replied. “My husband is dead. 6 My two sons had a fight out in the field. And since no one was there to stop it, one of them was killed. 7 Now the rest of the family is demanding, ‘Let us have your son. We will execute him for murdering his brother. He doesn’t deserve to inherit his family’s property.’ They want to extinguish the only coal I have left, and my husband’s name and family will disappear from the face of the earth.”

8 “Leave it to me,” the king told her. “Go home, and I’ll see to it that no one touches him.”

9 “Oh, thank you, my lord the king,” the woman from Tekoa replied. “If you are criticized for helping me, let the blame fall on me and on my father’s house, and let the king and his throne be innocent.”

10 “If anyone objects,” the king said, “bring him to me. I can assure you he will never harm you again!”

11 Then she said, “Please swear to me by the Lord your God that you won’t let anyone take vengeance against my son. I want no more bloodshed.”

“As surely as the Lord lives,” he replied, “not a hair on your son’s head will be disturbed!”

12 “Please allow me to ask one more thing of my lord the king,” she said.

“Go ahead and speak,” he responded.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

15 “I have come to plead with my lord the king because people have threatened me. I said to myself, ‘Perhaps the king will listen to me 16 and rescue us from those who would cut us off from the inheritance[c] God has given us. 17 Yes, my lord the king will give us peace of mind again.’ I know that you are like an angel of God in discerning good from evil. May the Lord your God be with you.”

18 “I must know one thing,” the king replied, “and tell me the truth.”

“Yes, my lord the king,” she responded.

19 “Did Joab put you up to this?”

And the woman replied, “My lord the king, how can I deny it? Nobody can hide anything from you. Yes, Joab sent me and told me what to say. 20 He did it to place the matter before you in a different light. But you are as wise as an angel of God, and you understand everything that happens among us!”

21 So the king sent for Joab and told him, “All right, go and bring back the young man Absalom.”

22 Joab bowed with his face to the ground in deep respect and said, “At last I know that I have gained your approval, my lord the king, for you have granted me this request!”

23 Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24 But the king gave this order: “Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence.” So Absalom did not see the king.

In this passage, we must ask the question, “Why is so much attention paid to Absalom in this and the next few chapters?” His revenge against Amnon and rebellion against David were the beginnings of the decline of David’s kingdom that had been prophesied back in 2 Samuel 12:10-12. The cycle of lust and murder had begun with David’s own moral disaster in the Bathsheba/Uriah incident. By killing his half-brother Amnon, yes, he did gain some revenge for the rape of his sister, Tamar. But when you look at the murder of Amnon in light of Absalom’s upcoming rebellion against his father, King David, his murder of Amnon removed him from succession to the throne as Amnon was the firstborn son of David. Clearly, Absalom had his sights set on being Israel’s king and he did everything in his power to obtain that goal. Absalom was handsome and popular like his father but he lacked his father’s heart for God.

Specifically, in this passage, we see that Joab was the one who had initiated the retrieval activities with regard to Absalom. There is no mention of David. What is up with David? When it comes to his kids, we see none of the boldness that made him a great warrior. We see none of the wisdom that made him a great king. We see only his kids running wild. There is no discipline by David toward Absalom that we can tell from this passage. Should not have David been the one to seek consult with the king of Geshur. Absalom’s maternal grandfather and David’s father-in-law through his marriage to Maacha, one of David’s many wives. It was his son. But it is Joab that makes the arrangements. Why is David so absent when it comes to his kids? There is a lesson in that for us. We must be present in our children’s lives. We must participate in their parenting. Regardless of what’s going on in our own lives, we must continue to parent our children.

Even if we are not perfect (and none of us are), we cannot abdicate our parenting of our children to their environment of friends and the culture in which they live. We cannot give up on discipline of certain behaviors because we have committed that same sin and may be still are suffering the consequences of those sins. We must approach such things from the point of view that we do not want our kids to suffer our same fate. We must approach such things as being able to teach our children from our own sad experiences.

Let us resolve to be involved parents who strive to live according to God’s Word through the grace of Jesus Christ and point our kids toward godly lives through our obedience to His Word.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 13:23-39
Absalom’s Revenge on Amnon

In my second marriage, I inherited three boys. They were ages 9, 6, and 3, respectively, when I became their stepdad. I had the delusion that being a stepdad would be no different than being a dad. With their dad not really being a part of their lives, I figured that I would be their dad as if I was their biological dad. I figured that it would be a story book, Brady Bunch kind of thing. I figured that I would raise the boys like I had been raising my girls. I just knew that it would be a Hollywood ending to the nightmare that I had been living with my first wife. I had suffered through an affair, drug addiction, scrapes with the law, financial disaster with my first wife. My second marriage was an escape into normalcy I thought. And it seemed that way when we were dating and not sharing a home. During our time before we shared a home, I did not get to see the details. I saw bits and pieces, not the whole picture.

When we set up our home together, things began to change quickly and the one issue that was core and cause to all our other issues in our marriage was the my kids vs. your kids issue. If you are contemplating a post-first marriage where there are kids still at home and those kids are from your respective previous marriages, this one issue must be dealt with before you set up house together. It is a marriage killer. I can attest to it. You must deal with how and who will discipline the children. If you cannot mesh your parenting philosophies you should not get married, plain and simple. My second wife and I did not deal with this issue or even really discuss it before we set up house together and this one issue lead to the breakdown of our marriage and led to all the other issues that ultimately blew up the marriage. The Bible tells us that we are to discipline our children and to raise them up in the ways of God. Neither of those things happened in my second marriage. I am not alone in this issue. Most second marriages are rocked by this very issue. If you have delusions of the Brady Bunch, if you are dating someone and you both have kids from previous marriages, wake up.

One of the core issues was that I was expected to be the disciplinarian of her children but I had no power. The boys had been raised pretty much by my second wife alone. My second wife seemed to want to be more the boys friend than she wanted to be a parent. Because of the way they had to grow up in an battleground of a home between their birth dad and their mom, they became spoiled. They did whatever they wanted and there were often little, if any, consequence to bad behavior. They were spoiled overly so by the kids’ maternal grandparents. They were never really disciplined as a result. My second wife would yell at them for bad behavior daily but there was never any consequence. As a result, they became destructive to property and mean to each other and others. There were no rules for them growing up. So by the time I came into the picture the cast was set.

When I tried to enforce consequences for actions, they would go behind my back to their mom and negotiate their way out of trouble. My second wife did not want to be inconvenienced by how much disciplining children often puts us out as parents. When we take away their freedoms or force them to do things as repayment for bad behavior, it often is so inconvenient to us as parents. Thus, she would succumb to their negotiations. A few tears and a lot of whining would get their punishments whittled down over a matter of hours to nothing. Any discipline that I meted out then was subject to negotiation with their mom. It got to the point that as they grew into teens and pre-teens that my discipline meant nothing to them. It was a horrible, horrible situation. My house became so unruly that I just gave up. The boys were always in trouble at school. The boys became thugs who thought they could do what they wanted when they wanted it and that if they got in trouble they could negotiate their way out of it. It makes me sick right now reliving that marriage in my mind. It was a horrible experience.

In raising my own children, they were girls so they were easier to discipline. However, it was because from the time they were babies, there was discipline enforced. Bad behavior had consequences. So, by the time my second marriage rolled around, they were 10 and 5 and well-behaved for the most part. If my first wife and I did one thing right, it was the discipline of our children. They knew boundaries and they knew discipline. So, most times, I could look at my girls in a stern way and they would stop what they were doing. Usually, too, when they were told not to do something or punished for having done something, they learned not to do that again and they wouldn’t. However, the boys, with their lack of consequences over their early years, would repeatedly do the same things that were punishable over and over and over again because there was no consequence to bad behavior.

The difference in how I raised my girls and how my second wife raised her boys was the undoing of our marriage. We split up in 2004 over my kids vs. your kids primarily among a host of other issues that were caused by it. That’s what I thought of this morning as I read about, again, how David did nothing to discipline his children, again. The rape of Tamar was not dealt with. Now the murder of Amnon was not dealt with. David is setting his self up for failure by his lack of discipline for his children. It would be the undoing of his kingdom and lead to civil war eventually. Let us read this latest episode of David ineptitude in dealing with his kids:

23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheep were being sheared at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, Absalom invited all the king’s sons to come to a feast. 24 He went to the king and said, “My sheep-shearers are now at work. Would the king and his servants please come to celebrate the occasion with me?”

25 The king replied, “No, my son. If we all came, we would be too much of a burden on you.” Absalom pressed him, but the king would not come, though he gave Absalom his blessing.

26 “Well, then,” Absalom said, “if you can’t come, how about sending my brother Amnon with us?”

“Why Amnon?” the king asked. 27 But Absalom kept on pressing the king until he finally agreed to let all his sons attend, including Amnon. So Absalom prepared a feast fit for a king.[a]

28 Absalom told his men, “Wait until Amnon gets drunk; then at my signal, kill him! Don’t be afraid. I’m the one who has given the command. Take courage and do it!” 29 So at Absalom’s signal they murdered Amnon. Then the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled.

30 As they were on the way back to Jerusalem, this report reached David: “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons; not one is left alive!” 31 The king got up, tore his robe, and threw himself on the ground. His advisers also tore their clothes in horror and sorrow.

32 But just then Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimea, arrived and said, “No, don’t believe that all the king’s sons have been killed! It was only Amnon! Absalom has been plotting this ever since Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 No, my lord the king, your sons aren’t all dead! It was only Amnon.” 34 Meanwhile Absalom escaped.

Then the watchman on the Jerusalem wall saw a great crowd coming down the hill on the road from the west. He ran to tell the king, “I see a crowd of people coming from the Horonaim road along the side of the hill.”[b]

35 “Look!” Jonadab told the king. “There they are now! The king’s sons are coming, just as I said.”

36 They soon arrived, weeping and sobbing, and the king and all his servants wept bitterly with them. 37 And David mourned many days for his son Amnon.

Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. 38 He stayed there in Geshur for three years. 39 And King David,[c] now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom.[d]

Here in this passage, we see that David’s weakness was his personal life – his own lustful desires and his inability to deal properly or discipline his own children. Without his father or anyone else to keep him in check, Absalom probably did pretty much what he wanted when he wanted. Undoubtedly, his good looks added to his self-centeredness (see 2 Samuel 14:25). David only made half-hearted efforts to correct his children. His did not punish Amnon for his sin against Tamar, nor did he deal decisively and swiftly with Absalom’s murder. Such indecisiveness became David’s undoing. When we do not deal with the wrongdoing of our children, they can grow up thinking that they can do whatever they want whenever they want. When we deal directly with their misbehavior and sins, we will likely deal with greater pain later than if we had dealt with it immediately. Children need boundaries and discipline. We must use their wrong actions as opportunities to teach them about consequences and the difference between right and wrong.

To all those who are about to marry for a second time where there are kids on both sides, let my second marriage be a warning to you to deal with the my kids vs. your kids issues before you get married. If you cannot agree, walk away now! It will be the undoing of your marriage if you do not.

To all those who are about to marry for the first time or any subsequent time, you are not to be your child’s friend. You are to be their parent. If you try to be their friend, you will destroy any chance they have to be a productive citizen in this world. The world does not care if you have reasons for your bad behavior, you simply pay the price for it. They can’t negotiate their way out of things in this world and to raise them as if they can does them a disservice. You must discipline your children and enforce that discipline even if means they say they hate you at the moment. You are not here to win a popularity contest with them. You are here to be their parent.

Amen and Amen.

2 Samuel 13:1-22
The Rape of Tamar

It’s all too common: More than 31 percent of women in the United States have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a recent article at CNN.com, A new survey of college students, one of the largest ever focusing on sexual assault and sexual misconduct, has reignited the debate over just how big a problem sexual assault on campus really is. Among female college students, 23% said they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact — ranging from kissing to touching to rape, carried out by force or threat of force, or while they were incapacitated because of alcohol and drugs, according to the new survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU). Nearly 11% said the unwanted contact included penetration or oral sex.

These alarming statistics bring us to one of those passages in the Bible that we often do not want to deal with as Christians – 2 Samuel 13:1-22. Non-believers will point to this passage and say that the Bible condones violence against women. And how do we respond to that? The Old Testament is full of incidences of immoral and reprehensible behavior that we must learn from. The Old Testament is humanity often at its worst and pointing us to the need we have of Jesus Christ.

In this passage, we see the ugly side of men. Not just in ancient history but also in modern society as the previously noted statistics prove. This passage is ugly, nasty, raw and hard to deal with. It is incest. It is lust. It is rape. And it is worst of all cover-up. There is no social justice for Tamar. She is raped by her half-brother. And she is told to keep it quiet and there would be family justice at some point. The men in this sad tale are reprehensible. Jonadab, the male cousin of Amnon, who gives the advice to Amnon on how get Tamar alone with him. Amnon, the epitome of spoiled brat (similar to college boys who rape girls at college and get away with it) creates this whole mess with his unrestrained sexual desires and being a prince with no checks and balances. Absalom, telling Tamar not to worry about it and that he will handle it. David, the king, who does absolutely nothing! David the ultimate authority this side of heaven for the people of Israel does nothing about the rape of his daughter. This passage thus is one of those that rarely gets preached on, rarely gets written about, but in the light of the statistics on unwanted sexual contact for women in this country. It is one whose time has come. We must preach on it. We must teach on it. We must examine ourselves as Christ followers because we as Christ followers in His church are not immune to this issue that can have deafening effect on our witness to the world around us.

In a recent article in Church Leaders, the online magazine, J.D. Greear, the recently elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention speaks out on the issue. Pastor Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, NC, a widely renowned author and leadership expert and one of the more popular and respected megachurch pastors around. His election to the SBC presidency signals a changing of the guard toward a younger generation of pastoral leadership in the SBC. He was elected amidst a firestorm within the convention concerning the president of one of the flagship seminaries of the SBC, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson has been removed from his job as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary amid an evangelical #MeToo moment: a massive backlash from women upset over comments he made in the past that are newly perceived as sexist and demeaning. In the article, Greear begins addressing the issue of how the church, not just the SBC, has handled sexual abuse in the past when he says:

I have begun to hear more and more from many of my sisters in Christ (and some brothers) who have been championing this cause for much longer than a few weeks. Hearing their stories and sensing their passion, I am realizing that we need to be more humble and sober than this. Our awakening to the issue of abuse, even if just to new nuances of the issue, means that we were previously asleep. And as we struggled to learn how to care for the vulnerable well, people were suffering. The church’s clumsiness has often meant that the suffering of others was longer in duration and deeper in impact than it should have been.
Is it better to wake up late than never at all? Absolutely. But I believe we are only beginning to see how profound this “lateness” is, and how damaging its consequences.

So to my sisters:
• who talked to a pastor and received counsel not to report abuse to the authorities
who were advised to return home without your safety being a first priority
• who were raped or otherwise assaulted, and upon confiding in your church leaders, were doubted or cross-examined more than cared for
• who have had to endure objectification or crude humor in sermons and, therefore, had such speech validated in your Christian community
• who were made to think men’s purity was more a byproduct of your modesty than the responsibility of your brother’s in Christ maturity
• who wondered why these issues were not addressed in a more direct way before recent weeks

I believe you deserve to hear your brothers in Christ, particularly those of us called into pastoral ministry, say:

“We are sorry and we should have heard you before now. We know our deafness has added to your suffering. For many that suffering was direct, as it put you in unsafe or abusive contexts. For others, that suffering was indirect, as we allowed a toxic culture to grow up in our churches, one in which you were not as safe and valued as your should have been. You deserved better.”

It is late. But it needs to be said.

Return with me, if you will, to Tamar’s story. Tamar, the young royal princess, wears a distinctive robe, “a sign of favor and special affection.” She lives in a world where her powerful father and brothers hold sway over her, but have responsibility to protect her. Tamar has abundant privilege, yet little power. Tamar is obedient, trusting, and kind. When her father instructs her to help her ailing half-brother, Amnon, she goes and cooks for him. When Amnon bids her to bring food to his room, dutifully she goes, unaware that he has schemed and lied in order to get her alone, because he is obsessed with desire for her (2 Samuel 13:7-11). So, let us now take time to read the ugliness of this passage. It is not for the faint of heart. It is a raw passage but a timely one. Let us read it now together:

Chapter 13
1 Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half brother, fell desperately in love with her. 2 Amnon became so obsessed with Tamar that he became ill. She was a virgin, and Amnon thought he could never have her.

3 But Amnon had a very crafty friend—his cousin Jonadab. He was the son of David’s brother Shimea.[a] 4 One day Jonadab said to Amnon, “What’s the trouble? Why should the son of a king look so dejected morning after morning?”

So Amnon told him, “I am in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

5 “Well,” Jonadab said, “I’ll tell you what to do. Go back to bed and pretend you are ill. When your father comes to see you, ask him to let Tamar come and prepare some food for you. Tell him you’ll feel better if she prepares it as you watch and feeds you with her own hands.”

6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. And when the king came to see him, Amnon asked him, “Please let my sister Tamar come and cook my favorite dish[b] as I watch. Then I can eat it from her own hands.” 7 So David agreed and sent Tamar to Amnon’s house to prepare some food for him.

8 When Tamar arrived at Amnon’s house, she went to the place where he was lying down so he could watch her mix some dough. Then she baked his favorite dish for him. 9 But when she set the serving tray before him, he refused to eat. “Everyone get out of here,” Amnon told his servants. So they all left.

10 Then he said to Tamar, “Now bring the food into my bedroom and feed it to me here.” So Tamar took his favorite dish to him. 11 But as she was feeding him, he grabbed her and demanded, “Come to bed with me, my darling sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she cried. “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel. 13 Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me.”

14 But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. 15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her.

16 “No, no!” Tamar cried. “Sending me away now is worse than what you’ve already done to me.”

But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her. 17 He shouted for his servant and demanded, “Throw this woman out, and lock the door behind her!”

18 So the servant put her out and locked the door behind her. She was wearing a long, beautiful robe,[c] as was the custom in those days for the king’s virgin daughters. 19 But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying.

20 Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry.[d] 22 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister.

Here in this passage, we see that love and lust are very different. After Amnon raped his half sister, his so called love for her turned to hatred. Although he claimed to be in love he was actually overcome by lust. Love is patient. Lust requires immediate satisfaction. Love is kind. Lust is harsh. Love does not demand its own way. Lust does. Love does not delight in evil. Lust does. And most of all love protects. Lust does not.

As men of faith, we must take our role as the leaders of the home and the church seriously. We must stand against anything that threatens and does not protect the women we love and the women in our church. As men of faith, we should not shrink from the difficult truth of this pervasive injustice that affects our communities. We should seek to confront the reality of the broken world in which we participate and pray for opportunities to be part of Christ’s redemptive work of healing and justice. One humble beginning may simply be greater honesty about what we are witnessing — in our communities, the news, and, sometimes, even in Christ’s own church. Confrontation with evil does not come easily. Mournfully, there was no justice in this life for Tamar. The unresolved pathos of her story transcends millennia to startle us awake. If we long for a just ending to this story, there really is not one. Sure, Absalom kills Amnon, but it is two years later and there is no justice in the murder. There was no public trial. There was no national recognition that there was a rape in the royal household. It was all covered up. Tamar was never comforted or counseled that we can see. The only thing that is said is that she “lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.” Is that justice? Is that the signal we send to women today in the church?

Maybe, that is the point of the inclusion of this ugly story! Maybe, it is supposed to be a warning sign to us (if we do not ignore this passage altogether). In this time of history in which we live, we have abundant opportunities to begin writing the just and godly narrative in our own churches and communities. The work of justice and healing begs to be embraced. This passage speaks a truth we are reluctant to hear. May our response to it, and to every Tamar we meet, be holy and just.

To us as men in the church, we always think so fondly of the fact that God through Paul instructs women to submit to their husbands. However, we often forget the remainder of the passage where we, as Christ following men, are called to love our wives (and by extension women in general) as Christ loves His church. That’s a pretty tall order. Much higher than our women submitting to our leadership. We are called to be love our wives (and by extension all women) to the point of laying down our lives sacrificially for them. We are called to love and protect. We are called to provide safe environments in which God’s most lovely and tender creatures can flourish. We are not called to dominate them. We are called to protect them from all evil as Christ does for his church. We are not called to forceable make them do whatever we please. We are called to be willing to take a bullet for them. We are called to not to demean them. We are called to exalt them. We are called to lead them with their best interest at heart. We are called to be their spiritual leaders and not lead them astray with our own ideas of sexuality and servitude. We are to lead them in such a way that they are perfectly willing to submit to our leadership because they know that we would lay down our lives to protect them and provide for them.

This passage is raw and real. This passage must be read. This passage is current and timely. This passage is a wake up call. This passage holds the mirror to not just ancient Israelite society but it is recognition that not much has changed in 3,000 years since the reign of David. God calls us men to a higher calling. Christ following men must set the example to the women in our midst in our churches and to the society in general. Women do not deserve the fate of Tamar. The change starts with us – as the men who follow Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Amen and Amen.