AN EXPOSITION ON 2 SAMUEL 15:1-6
“And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. 3 And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. 4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! 5 And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. 6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
When I was a young person, I remember thinking about what type of speaker I enjoyed the most. I appreciated those who had a sense of humor the most. It was not even that they used jokes to illustrate a point, but funny things seemed to happen to them, such as Pastor Bob Keyes. Brother Bob was a dynamic preacher who liked to kick up his leg when preaching—until the day that his shoe flew off and into the congregation.
The second type of person I liked to hear, were those who told personal stories. It seemed to me that the human element was always impressive. I heard the testimony of people who were former gangsters, like Clyde Box, or former alcoholics like the man who ran the Gospel Rescue Mission in Dallas, Texas. This man once had a quarter of a million dollars in the bank, until he started drinking socially. What started as an innocent beverage, took possession of him, and his resources, until he found himself literally in the gutters of Dallas. Then the Lord got hold of his life, and he was transformed.
In addition to humor, and human-interest stories, I also liked to listen to illustrations of Bible characters. The worse a person, was the more I liked the story. I found I could identify with them. In 2 Samuel 15 we meet a young man named Absaloam.
Absalom was the son of King David, and therefore a very privileged character, for Absalom grew up in the lap of luxury. His young royal wish was a simple command. You may think that such a life is a dream come true, but in reality, it can be a curse. People who have everything they want in material things, discover there is more to life than the toys of time. While materialism is to be enjoyed, there is a spiritual part to living that needs to be cultivated reflected in art, music, and religion.
If we want more evidence that money and material possessions are not everything, we can observe the people who have all that the mind can imagine. Those who have their every wish fulfilled, find that their hearts are consumed with the immediate. They have never had to wait, and hope, and dream for anything, and so they demand, and get everything.
Had Absaloam not been the king’s son, maybe he would not have been impatient for the king’s throne. But he was, and so a plan was spawned in the darkness of his heart how he could take the throne from his father. The plan emerged in different phases.
In the initial phase, Absalom was to appear to be more important than he was. Absalom prepared for chariots and horses, and 50 men to run before him whenever he appeared. Chariots and horses and 50 men running about will create quite a spectacle. Such an entourage will produce its own excitement and presence. People will naturally stop and stare and wonder what it all means. Sometimes, the only thing that is meant, is that a person has more time and money than they have meaning and substance in life.
As Absalom wanted to appear more important than he was, so he gave the impression that he cared for individuals more than he really did. It is possible to use people for personal power by pretending to care for them.
Using his natural charm, and extreme good looks, Absalom was able to convey the impression that he had the best interest of others in heart, when, in reality, all that he did was self-serving. But it was hard for the people of Israel to understand this because Absalom was doing all the right things. He worked hard. He rose up early in the morning. He appeared patient. He stood by the way of the gate.He let others know that he wanted to help, for he called out in a pleasant view,
“Good morning! What city do you come from?”
Absalom always sided with whomever he was speaking to at the moment. He was the grand chameleon, changing along with the climate of conversation. “See,” he said to each person no matter what their position, “thy matters are good and right!”
Absalom was willing to agree with any person, at any time, on every issue, in order to promote his own position. He wanted to be on the winning side. He wanted to draw people to himself, whatever the cost. He needed their support.
Though Absalom worked hard, appeared patient, let others know he wanted to help, and was willing to be open to all sides, Absalom was smart enough to convey the fact that he was restricted in what he could do to help.
“There is no man appointed of the king to hear this,”
he told individuals with problems.
“What you need is an advocate. Oh! That I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me,
and I would do him justice!”
With this simple statement, in a very subtle way, Absalom created unrest, as he sowed the seeds of discontent in the hearts of others. What Absalom did not say, but what he implied, was vicious, for the king’s son conveyed three falsehoods.
First, Absalom implied that the laws of Israel were unfair, which means his own father was unfair. Justice was not being done. “No one in authority really cared for the people,” said Absalom, “for no man has been appointed as a representative of the people to the king.” Therefore, even the king did not care. However, if Absalom were in control, things would be different. It is always the nature of the heart to think that self can do a better job than those in authority. Therefore, the objective is how to remove others from their position so that self can take over. The way to do this is simple.
Gather a following.
Create anger and hostility in others.
Spread a false impression.
Suggest that self can do a much better job, because then justice would be done.
The subtlety of Absalom and his secret treachery has to be admired, in the sense that it was successful. He stole the hearts of the Israelites.
In contrast to Absalom is another Son of King David, for David had many descendants.
If Absalom was greedy, this Son was gracious.
If Absalom was full of pride, this Son was humble. He was meek and mild.
If Absalom was handsome, and easy to look upon, this other Son of David was plain and common. There was no beauty in His physical form that people would be attracted to.
If Absalom was treacherous, this Son was transparent.
If Absalom walked in the darkness of sin, this Son walked in the light of righteousness.
If Absalom had a secret agenda, this Son openly told what He would do.
If Absalom wanted only to use people to advance a personal agenda, this Son wanted to seek and to save people from their sins.
If Absalom was so ruthless that he would remove his father from his rightful place of leadership, this other Son could say, “I only do the will of my Father.”
Of these two sons of David, we will be like one or the other. As life is lived, we will discover that we will act like Absaloam, or we will be more like David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some psychologist say that the character of a person is fixed by the time a person is five. I do not know about that, but I do know that at specific times, and at specific moments, the true self will be revealed. What was done in secret will come to light.
Will we seek to overthrow authority as Absalom, or be like Christ, who said that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it?
Will we secretly covet what others have, or will you be like the Lord who did not have a place to put His head?
Will we smile and pretend to be a friend, or will we harbor hatred, and hostility, in the heart?
Will we change our position from one moment to the next, or will we be found a faithful friend, who can say as Jesus does, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”
In the end, both sons of David died a violent death. The death of Absalom came one day when he physically moved against his father, but his military coup did not go well, and Absalom had to flee. Riding to safety, he was suddenly pulled off of his horse when his long hair became entangled with a low branch hanging from a tree. In a moment of time, Absalom was helplessly suspended between heaven and earth. Joab, the commander of David’s army saw Absalom dangling from the tree branch, and thrashing about helpless. Joab made a command military decision to kill this treacherous son of the king, and thrust three darts through his heart (2 Sam. 18:14). Absalom died the death of the wicked.
Like Absalom, the Greater Son of David also hung from a tree. And a soldier thrust a spear into His chest cavity as well. But there was a great difference between the two deaths, for Jesus did not deserve to die. Jesus Christ died as a righteous substitute for the unrighteous. I am praying that we will learn to value the death of Christ, while becoming afraid of being like Absalom.
The Absalom’s of this world are not happy people. All they can do is to make others unhappy as they spread misery, and heartache, in acts of cruelty.
The Absalom’s of this world may be successful, for the moment, in weaving their cobwebs of conspiracies, but look at their end. It is the way of physical and eternal death.
It is far better, that we be like Christ, who went about doing good. So remember the two sons of David.
Never forget a young man named Absalom.