Some of the stories in the Old Testament are so practical and filled with wisdom that is so applicable, even in our modern era. My thought is that if we ask God to reveal himself in the stories, we’ll see a lot more in the stories. Though we may lean toward deconstruction, I hope we end with application.
The story of Absalom and David is fascinating. I won’t go into all the details, but you can read them in 2 Samuel 13 to 18 if you’d like. Here’s the gist. Absalom is one of David’s sons. Absalom is banished after he kills his half-sister’s rapist, Amnon. Joab convinced David to welcome his disillusioned son back into Jerusalem, with a tale from a wise woman. The woman said, “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” Yes, that’s what God wants! That’s what happened to David! God restores the banished. That’s exactly what Jesus did.
Absalom doesn’t take his invitation as enough. He longs for more. Absalom is known for being an image more than a person. He deals with the external and the fleeting, and not the internal. One of the facts the Bible lists about him is the fact that his hair weighs five pounds. He’s a great politician and he charismatically wins the favor of the people, and leads a rebellion against his father. David outwits Absalom and though he wants to preserve his life, Joab kills him.
There is much more to the story, but I want to get to some of the application that I learned.
Learn to discern who is worthy of your trust. This story is filled with betrayal. Absalom seems to trust anyone who will ingratiate themselves to him. He believes the wise Ahithophel, who encourages him to have sex with all of David’s concubines to demonstrate his conquest. Of course, that is the last thing Absalom should do because it will cause a permanent fissure Absalom and his father, David. Ahithophel, since he is a traitor, wants to make sure the father and son combo never get together to turn on him (and when it is clear that Absalom’s defeat is imminent, Ahithophel kills himself).
Wait, nothing is instant. Absalom’s main problem is that he could not wait for the throne. His inheritance from his father was coming. But as he ventured out of his second act, he couldn’t wait for it. He wanted his glory so bad, he took 20,000 other men down with him. May we learn that nothing comes immediately, especially maturity. Evolution has taught us that everything is getting better and smarter, so we are shocked that we are thirty three and still running into that same problem. We can’t even accept it and proceed as if we had matured, or have a right to be considered mature, even though we gone through the process. We get irritated about having to go through a process! Things take time. Maturity takes time. Your marriage won’t be fixed overnight. You’re two-year-old won’t become rational in a day. You won’t pay off your debt in a second. Things take time. Move with them.
Learn from your failures and weakness. As King David was escaping from Jerusalem, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out and cursed him. Shimei pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were all around them. He screamed, “Get out, get out, you murderer! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
One of the guards asked to go over and cut off his head. But David said, “What does this have to do with you? He has a point. My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more this relative of Saul! Leave him alone; let him curse. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”
That’s where we hope to get after we have taken our second chances and gotten out of the first act of our lives. We learn to accept our failures and weaknesses and listen to the lessons they teach us. We receive the good and the bad and look for how God is beyond them and even in them. The doddering old man has learned to trust God
Live for love, not yourself. Finally, the two armies do battle. David’s men dominate. Afterward, Absalom is riding his donkey and meets some of David’s men. While he is trying to escape, his wonderful hair gets caught in a tree branch and he is left hanging by it as the donkey presses on. An amazing irony. No one will kill him, since David had told them to be gentle with his son. But Joab arrives and puts three spears in his heart.
Messengers compete with each other to bring the King news that his enemy has been defeated. But when David hears the news, he is not delighted. He is heartbroken. The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” May we all learn the lessons of self-giving love. David has a life that isn’t just about his own success. He can’t help loving. Vengeance will not satisfy, only love that restores, that makes way for the banished to be reunited.
If I were driven out of my comfort zone, have I gained any spiritual resources to use? Am I lost in grasping after what I can see, or do I have any deeper vision to see what is most important in the middle of what is urgent? The second and third acts of life are all about answering those questions, I think. If my past comes up to bite me. If I am not king, I lose my job. If my family falls apart. If my child dies. Who am I? Absalom did not know who he should be. But his father, in all his faults, knew who he was with God.
I based this post on a speech Rod White gave.