As believers in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, how do we deal with and manage life’s trials and challenges in ways that glorify God? The Bible says that God’s people should not be afraid. How do we sidestep fear? The Bible teaches that God’s people should not be dismayed. How do we persevere against opposition and uncertainty? The Bible explains that God’s people should rejoice in difficulties and infirmities. How do we muster up the attitude of gladness in circumstances that are more likely to inspire depression? The truth is, many Christians have the understanding that fear should not be part of life, that God will never leave or forsake His people, and that it is possible to rejoice during times of affliction. Yet many of us struggle to apply this understanding in a way that is purposeful and fruitful. Many of us know what our faith should produce, but have a hard time seeing the effects of that faith when it counts the most. The scriptures teach that there is one simple thing that the mind of all of God’s children should be centered on that makes this all click. There is one thought that God’s people should have that makes fear subside, bring strength and perseverance in weakness and uncertainty, and joy in the midst of trials.
We are to focus on the essence of God’s eternally unconditional promises. We are to remember the things that God assured His people, and know these promises with mature understanding. For example, how can a child of God fear death if He promised life? One who fears death as a child of God is not one that understands the essence of God’s promises since Jesus said that His people will never die. In order to eliminate the fear of death, there is no thought or circumstance that has to be “conquered.” Instead, one must simply understand what Jesus meant when He made His promise, understand the patterns of His works to fulfill His promises, and know the faithfulness of God to perform His promise to completion. The key to strength in weakness, perseverance in uncertainty, and joy in trials is remembering the promises of God with mature understanding.
The testimony of David shows how critical this understanding is. In 2 Samuel 15:13-29 the Bible testifies that David packed up his household and fled Jerusalem to live in hiding in the wilderness out of fear of his son Absalom. Since David was not diligent to follow the commands of the Law concerning his son that committed murder, David left the opportunity open for Absalom to be deceitful amongst the children of Israel to manipulate and divide them. Absalom had a wicked heart as exemplified through his rage against his stepbrother when he murdered him. Absalom’s wicked heart was revealed in the Bible when it testified that Absalom was jealous of his father David and the authority he had as king. Absalom wanted to rule over the people and be lord over them. He deceived the people when they sought the wisdom of King David, and started a conspiracy against his own father. Had David followed the commands of the Law and brought God’s judgment against Absalom, none of these things would have happened. But because David compromised, Absalom had Israel divided so that the Bible explains that many of the people of Israel sided with Absalom rather than David.
As word got back to David about the growing influence and power of Absalom, David responded in fear. He told his servants that they were going to pack up and move away to avoid any kind of conflict or confrontation. David knew that Absalom wanted the throne of Israel, but David did not want to fight his own son over the rule of the people. To avoid further bloodshed within his family, David packed up his entire household and all of his servants (with the exception of ten women that remained in his home to tend to it), and moved out of Jerusalem and went towards the wilderness. It is important to recognize that David’s response to his family feud was improper and rebellious against the promises and will of God. While the situation seems sad and tragic, David’s response to the whole thing reflected that he had lost sight of God’s purposes and forgot the plans that God communicated concerning his promises.
The testimony of David shows that God’s purpose for him was clear. David was to be the king of Israel. Additionally, God wanted David to rule Israel from Jerusalem. This had nothing to do with the performance or qualifications of David, but instead was a reflection of the prophetic picture God was trying to produce concerning His promise of the Messiah. God wanted David to be an example of the Messiah king of Israel since the Messiah king of Israel would also be referred to as “the Son of David.” These truths, plans, and purposes of God were communicated and confirmed throughout David’s life. These things were not a secret to David. While he struggled to understand why God showed such favor, and struggled to quantify God’s grace in his life, he was well aware of God’s ordination. Also, David was told that his son would be a child of God, and as a child of God would build a temple for the presence of God to dwell in. Though God did not name which son He would select as the heir to David’s rule, He did say that He would go before him, be with him, bless him, increase him, and use him to build a house in Jerusalem to dwell in so that God could dwell with His people.
When David made efforts to flee his household and dwell in the wilderness, he reflected that he had lost sight of all of these promises God had made. When comparing the difficulties that David faced on account of Absalom to the promises that God made, it is impossible to conclude that Absalom would have been successful in his conspiracy. How could Absalom overthrow David if God ordained David as king of Israel? Why would God rescind His promises to David on account of failure if God made His promises to David on the foundation of grace to begin with? If David never did anything to be named as a beneficiary of God’s promises at the beginning, what could David do to remove himself as an heir to God’s promises? To think that God would retract His grace on account of human folly is to question the faithfulness of God and the omniscience of God. God knew David would continually fail as a man before He swore to David the things that He did. Why would David’s “performance” have anything to do with God’s ability and willingness to do what He said He would through David?
Consider the promise God made about the temple. God promised that David would die in an old age and be buried with his fathers. After his death, God would raise up one of his sons to build the dwelling place for God in Israel, and His dwelling place was named to be in Jerusalem. How could Absalom succeed in his conspiracy when considering these promises? Would God have selected Absalom to build His dwelling place – a murderous liar centered on selfish ambition, displaying the characteristics of Satan as a dividing instrument in Israel? Does Absalom match the appearance of the types of people God uses as His instruments of righteousness? The patterns of God’s work shows that the Lord uses people that are weak, unqualified, meek, and humble to participate in the benefits of His work. The patters of God’s work show that the Lord doesn’t use righteous men (for there is not one), but instead faithful men. The patterns of God’s work show that He uses people who, though they fail, desire to please God and trust in Him ultimately. The patterns of God’s work do not show that God exalts those who live for self and use His name to gratify and satisfy selfish ambitions contrary to His promises. God does not use those who resemble the character of the devil. Therefore, how could Absalom be the son of David that would assume the throne of David to build the dwelling place for God according to the promise God made?
When taking a step back to examine the circumstances, some things just don’t add up. Though Absalom was growing in influence and power in Israel, there just wasn’t any way that he was going to take the authority that God ordained for David. Knowing the righteousness of God, there just wasn’t any way that Absalom was going to get away with his deception and rebellion. The problem was that David forgot about the plans, purposes, and promises of God. David forgot about his identity in the Lord and the calling that God had for his life. David forgot about God’s promises of the temple and didn’t consider the patterns of God’s work in the past to be assured that a different son would inherit the throne, not Absalom. While David fled to the wilderness in fear, he abandoned the post that God had ordained for him and the people that God entrusted to him. David was to shepherd over the people of Israel as king, but forgot about the identity and temperament of the Good Shepherd that had been working in David all along.
David even made efforts to move the Ark of God at first. Though David eventually sent the Ark back to Jerusalem with the priest who was supposed to report the effects of Absalom’s schemes, the Bible refers to the Ark in a unique way in this portion of scripture to show that David’s mind was settled on the wrong subject. The Bible referred to the Ark as, “the ark of the covenant of God.” Traditionally, the Ark is referred to as “the ark of the covenant” or “the ark of God.” Here the Bible emphasized “the covenant of God” because it was the covenant of God that slipped David’s mind. Had David remembered the covenant of God, he would have been able to calmly and patiently examine his circumstances, compare them to God’s promises, consider the patterns of God’s work to fulfill His promises, and come to the conclusion that he had nothing to fear. Absalom would not succeed. The authority of David would not be stripped away. David would have been willing to stay put, wait for God’s instruction, endure the difficulty of a rebellious child, but respond with wisdom that would have united Israel as it had in the past, not divided them.
While David was making efforts to move, the Bible explains that six hundred refugees desired to follow David in the wilderness. Much like when David was fleeing from Saul, God was showing David that he was ordained to lead men to the Lord. Though David made efforts to flee the seat that God called David to minister from, God brought a man to assure David of God’s faithfulness. David assumed that the growing influence of Absalom was such that all of Israel was siding with Absalom and David’s rule was over. The Bible states that a man from Gath swore allegiance to David even though David told this man to go home, not seeing why he as a foreign refugee should get himself involved in David’s family issues. As David explained this, he actually referred to Absalom as the king, conceding the calling that God placed upon his own life to a wicked man. The man from Gath responded to David by swearing his allegiance, stating that he was committed to following David, referring to David as king, and that he would follow David into life or death.
This man’s proclamation should have struck David to understand that while the circumstances might have been difficult and confusing, not all was lost. Clearly there were men and women still faithful to David. Clearly there were men and women who recognized the work God was doing in David’s life. Clearly God was still working in David’s life, and since He was, David would have been wise to reset his mind’s focus back on the promises that prefaced his ministry. Yet since he did remember God, His promises, His faithfulness, and the patterns of His work to fulfill His promises, David complicated his life more than he had to, compiling difficulty while forfeiting blessings and joy. David’s life didn’t need to be this hard – neither does ours...
Just because a person says that they are doing something for the Lord, in service to Him, or under the umbrella of ministry, does not mean that the person has good intentions. The scriptures are candid to reveal and warn that people throughout history have sought to leverage the name of the Lord to do some selfish and wicked things. Many non-believers and Bible skeptics cite Christian church history as proof that Christianity is bunk and man made for selfish gain. It is hard to argue with some of the history of the church. Indeed it is true that many men and women abused the scriptures and the name of God in order to perform horrible evils against other people to satisfy their own selfish ambitions. Many non-believers and Bible skeptics cite the influx of charlatans and popular preachers that have exploited people for monetary gain, leveraging the Bible and the name of God to do so as a way to put down the church and Christianity. Once again, it is impossible to argue that these things aren’t true. Yet the Bible itself exposes the wicked hearts of men and women that improperly leverage the name of God to pursue selfish gain by wicked means. The Bible itself warns Christians that as time progresses towards the fulfillment of God’s promises, the world will see an influx of false teachers, preachers, and prophets that improperly use the scriptures and leverage the name of God/Jesus in blasphemous ways, playing on the ignorance or weak faith of people to gratify evil intentions. Therefore, while people continue to state that their intentions are pure and in service to the Lord, history shows that there are liars all over seeking to do great harm, giving great cause for the true people of God to be aware and vigilant while also being incredibly dependent on the Lord to properly discern truth.
When the people of God cannot discern truth to know the evil intentions of liars, bad things happen, and life gets harder than it has to be. When people get relaxed in their faith, and lazy in their pursuit of the Lord, it is easy people to get distanced from the Lord so that the light He sheds on the deceitfulness of wicked people gets dimmer, and truth becomes less clear. This reality is clearly seen in the testimony of King David as he dealt with his son Absalom. The scriptures explain that David did not heed the commands of God concerning his son and the evil deeds that he committed when Absalom killed his stepbrother. The Bible explains that while David was angry with Absalom and shunned him to a certain degree, he not only ignored the disciplinary measures that God commanded in the Law for those types of situations, but also let Absalom dwell in Jerusalem amongst the children of Israel. David grew relaxed in his pursuit of the Lord and His righteousness so that he began to compromise here and there. In this compromise, he wasn’t able to properly deal with wickedness that was festering amongst the people. Instead, David’s reluctance to do as God said gave wickedness an opportunity to cause division and threats against his own life and God’s purposes.
In 2 Samuel 15:7-12 the Bible explains that after many years had passed, Absalom approached his father David asking to leave Jerusalem in order to go to Hebron just a few miles south. Absalom explained that he wanted to go to Hebron in order to fulfill a vow that he took while he was dwelling in Geshur. Absalom told his father that he made an oath to the Lord, telling the Lord that if He were willing to let Absalom go back to Jerusalem, he would serve the Lord. Recall that Absalom was forced to flee Jerusalem and David’s household because he killed his stepbrother. According to the Law of God, Absalom should have been punished by death, but David was unwilling to discipline his son according to the Law. Absalom was permitted to reenter Jerusalem because Joab had convinced David that it would be better for the family if Absalom was back in the household of David. Joab meant well by explaining it would have been too harsh to strip Absalom of his inheritance by making him dwell amongst the people of Syria for the rest of his life. Thus, Absalom was able to leave Geshur in Syria and go back to Jerusalem. Absalom told his father that this was the work of the Lord and so he owed the Lord service that he desired to do in Hebron.
The scriptures candidly reveal that Absalom’s proposal and story about serving the Lord was a lie. First, the testimony of 2 Samuel 14:32 explains that when Absalom spoke with Joab after leaving Geshur to dwell in Jerusalem, Absalom stated that he would have preferred to stay in Geshur. Absalom had no desire to leave Geshur. Absalom had no desire to be with his father in Jerusalem. Thus, Absalom didn’t make any oath to the Lord to inquire about going back to Jerusalem. As the testimony of Absalom continues, the Bible explains that Absalom looked at his father David with jealousy. Absalom wanted to rule in David’s place. Absalom would deceive the people by telling them that David was unavailable for counsel and instead take the people unto himself. Absalom would sit at the gate of his father’s household and murmur to himself about how he would be a better king and desired to lord over the people. When putting these truths together, it is clear to see that Absalom sought to go to Hebron to plot evil intentions. He did not desire to go to Hebron to serve the Lord. Absalom was a murderer and a liar. He simply sought to distance himself from his father in order that his conspiracy would not be found out.
David, not following the commands of the Lord to deal with Absalom properly the first time, could not see the deception of his son. Since David wasn’t willing to faithfully obey God, he didn’t have God’s wisdom to discern the deception. Thus, he gave permission to Absalom to do as he pleased, and essentially facilitated his own misery. Absalom left to Hebron and began to recruit people from his father’s household unto himself according to his evil intentions to steal the throne of Israel. Absalom sent spies throughout Israel and had them prepare to receive him as king at the right time. Absalom recruited two hundred men from Jerusalem – David’s own men – in addition to the men that he hired as charioteers and horsemen, to serve his wicked needs. Absalom lied to these men as well so that the Bible explains that they did not originally know of Absalom’s conspiracy to overthrow his father. Later Absalom recruited a man named Ahithophel, which was David’s counselor. The scriptures explain that Absalom recruited this man while he was offering sacrifices, showing that Absalom leveraged spirituality and worship unto God again as a means to perform evil.
The Bible teaches that Absalom’s conspiracy grew strong. The people that Absalom recruited grew in number so that he was creating a formidable army and group to rebel against his father and the armies of Israel. It is important to understand that David unknowingly gave Absalom permission to do this. All of this was happening in Hebron, just a few miles south of his own household. David could not sense or discern these things because the light and wisdom of God had grown dim in David’s life. Since David was getting in the habit of compromising issues of God’s righteousness in order to make his life more convenient in his eyes, the discernment that God provides regarding these types of threats and dangers was impossible for David to possess. If David had dealt with Absalom according to the Law when he discovered that Absalom had killed Amnon, there would not have been a conspiracy and rebellion in Israel. The people of God would not have been divided. The family of David would not have spiraled deeper into brokenness. The joy of the Lord in David’s life would not have been so elusive. Therefore, the Bible shows that when we compromise God’s Word and commands in order to try and make life simpler and more convenient according to our own standards, we can see that life actually gets FAR more complicated and difficult! Compromise creates distance from the Lord, and distance from the Lord creates a significant handicap in the lives of God’s people so that we become susceptible to very dangerous threats in our personal lives, in our families, and in our communities. How can we embrace the joy of the Lord this way?
When people ignore or depart from the righteousness of God according to His Word and commands, it is important to recognize that more than disobedience is taking place. When people ignore or depart from God’s righteousness, people forfeit the ability to know right from wrong according to God’s perfect standards. This leaves people in a great position of risk. Those who ignore or depart from God’s righteousness will ultimately be left vulnerable to harm from that which is evil and unjust since the righteousness of God is what causes us to know the difference between right and wrong, being able to discern the difference clearly. When we are able to discern the difference between right and wrong, we can align our decisions and circumstances with what is right, and try to avoid being around that which is wrong. The Bible shows that when people ignore or deny God’s righteousness, including His commands, they fall into traps of difficulty and drama that could have been avoided if they would have just done what God’s Word commanded to begin with.
This truth is made evident through the testimony of 2 Samuel 14:25-15:6. This portion of scripture explains the events that took place when Absalom was permitted to dwell in Jerusalem again. Though Absalom should have been punished according to the Law for his deceitful evil against his stepbrother after he killed Amnon, Joab saw how David emotionally responded to his family distress and thought that taking matters into his own hands to restore the relationship between Absalom and David would be a good thing. It was noble for Joab to desire a healthy relationship between his master and his master’s son. However, Joab didn’t consider the commands of the Law when developing an opinion of what was “good.” Joab came up with his own idea of “good,” and David compromised to accept Joab’s opinion of “good.” Ignoring the Law, David allowed Absalom to dwell back in Jerusalem, though he would not let Absalom into his household.
The scriptures testify that Absalom was a good-looking guy. He had three sons and one daughter named after his sister Tamar. The scriptures explain that each of his kids were good-looking kids like their father. Absalom had long flowing hair, which was a respectable thing in the culture at that time. Absalom’s hair was so full that each year he would get his hair trimmed because of the weight, and would cut off about ten pounds of hair! These details of Absalom are provided in scripture to explain his attitude, temperament, and character. Absalom was a man that was used to being accepted and praised for his outward appearance. Absalom had a good-looking family and was a son of the king. He was used to getting attention and being recognized amongst the people. Though he was a murderer of his own brother and should have been punished by death according to the righteous standards of God as commanded in the Law, Absalom continued to live in Jerusalem in this manner.
The Bible teaches that Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem and had not seen his father David’s face. While David was willing to compromise and let Absalom live amongst the people, David did not want to see Absalom on account of his previous actions against Amnon. Absalom did not like this treatment. The scriptures explain that Absalom responded in a manner similar to a pouting child or a spoiled brat. Absalom tried to inquire of Joab to get clarity as to why his father was ignoring him. The scriptures do not specifically state why, but Joab would not immediately respond to Absalom’s requests. Absalom did not like being ignored this way, so having a field next to one of Joab’s fields, he commanded his servants to light Joab’s field on fire to get his attention. This was effective to get Joab’s attention so that Joab went to Absalom asking why he had set his barley field on fire. Absalom then began to complain about how David was treating him. Though Absalom had received much mercy being allowed to live, and even more being allowed to dwell with the children of Israel, he complained that it would have been better to dwell in Geshur since he wasn’t able to see the king like the other people. Absalom demanded permission to see David, or else have his crime stated against him and then be executed. Joab complied with Absalom and gave him his way by arranging for Absalom and David to meet face-to-face.
Though the meeting with David and Absalom was an emotional reunion, it did not result in restoration. The scriptures testify that Absalom bowed before the feet of his father David when they saw each other, and that David kissed Absalom to receive him. The outward appearance of this relationship seemed to be good, but there was a reason that God’s Law commanded evil people to be treated harshly. Since David did not heed God’s commands, he left himself open to the wicked and deceitful motives of his son. After Absalom and David met up, the Bible explains that Absalom sought to build himself up to look like his father in terms of authority and position. He bought chariots for himself, and hired horsemen. He took fifty men and paid them to go before him as if he were some sort of military leader, or as if he were the king of Israel.
Additionally, the Bible testifies that Absalom would get up early in the morning to sit at the gate of David and cut the people off from inquiring of David. It was customary for the people to seek the wisdom of the king when dealing with disputes or requiring the wisdom of God, trusting that God would speak through David since God had done great things through David. Absalom would sit at the gate of the king, motivated by jealousy, and when the people went to seek the king, he would tell the people the king was not available, and try to advise the people himself. Absalom sought to take the people from the king and rule over them himself. The Bible also declares that Absalom would sit and outwardly proclaim his desire to be king and judge instead of his father. Absalom wanted the people to go to him and seek him as the authority figure. The Bible candidly states that Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”
This is a problem. The children of Israel were being divided from a man that was the son of the king. David’s own son was seeking to exercise deception to steal the people and assume his own throne. Since God had appointed David as king, Absalom was rebelling against God’s authority and appointment, and seeking to overrule God’s own authority. This conduct and attitude is very similar to the conduct of Satan as describe in Isaiah Chapter 14 and Ezekiel Chapter 28. This is exactly why God made the commands that He made in the Law. God revealed His righteousness according to the Law in order to protect His people from evil that cannot be seen according to outward appearance. From the outward appearance, Absalom looked great, but his heart was aligned with the devil! Had David and Joab sought the righteousness of God concerning Absalom, he would have been judged and the kingdom would not have been divided at that time. Absalom would not have deceived the people. The discipline that God commanded would have been difficult, but it would have protected God’s people from greater and more lasting harm. The scriptures show that when God’s people ignore, depart from, or take lightly God’s righteousness according to His Word, we are left as open targets of deception, division, and dissension.
The Bible teaches that the easy way is not always the right way. The things that seem good to human reasoning, may in fact be improper concerning the righteousness of God. If the wisdom of men and women contradicts the righteousness of God according to the Word, it doesn’t matter how good things may appear. Those who deny and despise the righteousness of God according to the Word will inevitably create destructive circumstances over time. God’s righteousness is not easy to digest many times. Many times the things that God says are right seem to be too difficult to bear or seem to be wrong. This is why God requires faith, even when He used the Law as the means to govern His people. When God declared His righteousness through the Law, He required His people to trust that His standards and commands were ultimately good and profitable. Though it might have seemed wrong to kill an unblemished lamb, the people were required to trust that such an act was right and good in God’s perspective. Though it might have seemed wrong to cast out people from Israel for certain offenses, the people were required to trust that God’s commands were right and good, saving the people from greater harm and damage. It’s hard living with this kind of perspective and faith, but the scriptures show that when we fail to trust God’s righteousness, we ultimately produce results that are much harder to bear.
This truth is illustrated in the testimony of David and Absalom in 2 Samuel 14:1-24. This portion of scripture shows what happens when people define their own standard of “good” and “right” that is contrary to God’s previously declared standards. In 2 Samuel 14:1-24 the Bible explains that Joab saw David’s temperament regarding Absalom. When Absalom exacted his vengeance against his stepbrother Amnon, he departed to the land of Geshur and remained there for three years. While David was comforted that justice was exacted against the evil of Amnon, he was not comforted that one of his sons murdered another of his sons in vengeance, and that his murderous son was hiding in a foreign land. David was grieved about his family circumstances and Joab noticed. Therefore, Joab made efforts to bring reconciliation between David and Absalom, taking matters into his own hands to do what he felt was right.
The desire of Joab was noble. It is not a bad thing to desire reconciliation between father and son. It is not a bad thing to seek a unified family that is whole instead of divided. It is a good thing to desire peace amongst family members. It is a good thing to desire peace in the heart of a friend. However, it is more important to consider the righteousness of God according to His Word to ensure that our desires do not turn a noble desire into a sinful one that denies the authority of God. Joab made efforts to restore David’s family in hopes that David’s countenance would be restored and encourage. The scriptures testify that Joab found a woman from Tekoa and gave her a story to tell to David. Joab’s plan was to do as God did through the prophet Nathan when he called out David’s sin with Bathsheba. When Nathan rebuked David, he opened up his dialogue by telling a story about fictitious people whose circumstances paralleled David’s. In that approach, David was not quick to conceal his sin or defend himself since he figured the circumstances to be about others and not himself. Having his guard down, he was effectively convicted when the truth of the matter was brought up. The difference between Nathan’s approach and Joab’s was that Nathan was a prophet of God following the commands of God. Thus, his efforts were successful to accomplish God’s will. Joab was a man that sought to fulfill his own standards of God. The Bible does not say that Joab was filled with the Spirit of God or received a command of God to do as he was. Thus, his efforts produced a different result. This is what happens when people try to mimic the work of God absent the commands, presence, and ability of God.
When the woman from Tekoa approached David, she approached him as a desperate widow woman. She told David that she had two sons that were fighting in the wilderness and one accidentally killed the other since no one was there to separate them. Upon hearing about the death of one of the sons, the woman explained that all of her family rose up against her to have the remaining son brought to justice. The family implored the widowed mother to have the remaining son killed. She stated that she was unwilling to do so because then she would have no heir to her dead husband’s name and feared being cut off from the Lord’s inheritance. She said that she was willing to assume the guilt of her son’s fault just to keep “the avenger of blood” from destroying her son and heir of her family. She asked David to protect her son and keep her family from robbing her one remaining son of his inheritance in Israel.
There are several problems with this testimony and David’s response. While the woman tried to spiritualize her circumstances, the story that Joab fabricated for this woman to speak is not in line with God’s Law. The woman pleaded with David to show compassion by stating that God does not seek to take away life, but instead devises a means for banished ones to be restored unto Him. Since her son was banished out of fear of his life, she was hoping David could exercise his authority as king to ensure the safe return of her son to receive the inheritance of his father. It is true that God does not desire to take life. It is true that God is a Restorer of those who have been banished. It is true that the story Joab made up for this woman to speak to David paralleled the circumstances of David. Joab wanted David to recognize that God’s mercy is sufficient to allow Absalom to come back into the kingdom. Joab wanted David to recognize that he wasn’t responsible for his son’s guilt in vengeance, but also that David should not banish his son from Israel, taking away his inheritance from Israel and the throne. Yet Joab didn’t consider the Law of God in his plans.
It is important to recognize that when the woman told her story, she used the phrase “avenger of blood” to describe the desires of her family to exact justice against the one son that killed the other. This is a reference to the laws and command concerning the cities of refuge. The term “avenger of blood” was a familiar term in Israel to describe those who sought vengeance against another that was killed. However, this phrase is used in Numbers 35:19-21 to describe how those who accidentally kill another should be protected from “avengers of blood.” God commanded the children of Israel to build up several cities of refuge that were intended to be safe houses for those who accidentally killed another. The death that the woman described of her son was clearly accidental and not malicious murder that was premeditated. Under the description of the Law, the circumstances of the living son would have qualified him to seek protection in the city of refuge. The Law then commanded that the person who accidentally killed another would be entitled to a fair trail in order to validate whether or not the killing was indeed accidental. If the person was proven innocent of murder, they were free to leave when the current high priest died, and would be able to return to their past lives and households without guilt. Those who might have wanted to avenge blood on behalf of the deceased would be prohibited since the Law declared the person innocent of malice.
This Law was never considered when the woman pleaded her case. When David considered the circumstances of the woman, he did not take these commands into account and give fair judgment according to God’s righteousness in the Law. David agreed to protect the woman and her son, confessing that he thought it was fair to allow the remaining son to receive his inheritance, and the mother be free from the guilt of her son. However, when the woman revealed that her story was fabricated, and David recognized that Joab put her up to the trick, David still refused to acknowledge the Law and righteousness of God. While the story of the woman involved the Law of the cities of refuge, the circumstances of Absalom and Amnon were MUCH different. The death of Amnon was not accidental. The death of Amnon was premeditated by Absalom, was committed as vengeance, and was considered murder according to the Law. While Joab desired reconciliation between David and Absalom because of how David felt, God’s Law would have commanded Absalom to be killed as a murderer. David did not consider these things. When he confronted Joab about his “good” intentions, David compromised on account of the compassion that Joab tried to express. David actually conceded in bringing Absalom back into Israel to please Joab’s desire for reconciliation. David was trying to please Joab, not God. Joab was trying to please David, not God. Thus, Absalom was not judged according to the Law for his crime, and the remainder of his life proved to be a thorn in the flesh of both Joab and David as time went on. Though the commands of God’s Law were tough, they would have prevented the misery and destruction that Absalom caused later. Hence, it is critical to trust in the righteousness of God rather than seek to please people according to our own determination and opinion of what is good.
When the Bible provides the testimony of a person, but the Lord is not mentioned much in that person’s testimony, there likely isn’t very much good that is to show for. When the Lord is ignored in life’s circumstances, the wisdom, direction, ability, and righteousness that He is willing to freely provide is unavailable. This means that those who live life without seeking the Lord will live being foolish, lost, weak, and unrighteous. The scriptures show that this is even true of God’s people. While these people might ultimately be the Lord’s children, the Bible shows that there are seasons in life where even God’s people think that they can handle life on their own. During those times, the scriptures are candid to show the folly that takes place as a result, and also the extent of consequence that comes even to God’s own people.
This truth is made clear in the testimony of David found in 2 Samuel 13:23-39. This portion of scripture deals with the aftermath of the wickedness of David’s children. The scriptures state that one of David’s sons, Amnon, had an incestuous relationship with his stepsister named Tamar. Being unable and unwilling to check and control his lust, Amnon deceived his sister to get her alone, and then raped her. After raping her, Amnon sent her away in shame while he isolated himself from everyone in his own shame. Tamar had a brother named Absalom, and when Absalom heard about what had happened, the scriptures testify that he was angry with his stepbrother, but did not immediately respond against him.
This was actually a good thing. The time that Absalom took to respond against Amnon for his evil gave David enough time to learn of what happened and lead his family as God had called him to lead the children of Israel. David was unwilling however. The Bible states that, though the Law provided exact and specific commands for how to deal with these types of circumstances, David was unwilling to address the issue. The Bible says that David was angry with Amnon, but did not respond according to God’s righteousness as stated in the Law to administrate just discipline against the evil that had taken place. Though David was a man after God’s own heart, he had a lapse in judgment by refusing to judge his own son according to the righteousness of God’s law. Since David was not willing to discipline his son, David gave opportunity for even worse things to take place.
The testimony of 2 Samuel 13:23-39 explains that Absalom was patient and opportunistic in his quest for revenge against his stepbrother Amnon. He waited two years. The scriptures state that after two years, Absalom was privileged to have access to some sheepshearers and offered to shear the sheep of his family. He invited all of his brothers, his father, and all of their servants. While the gesture seemed kind in nature, Absalom was simply seeking an opportunity to bring Amnon into his home in an unsuspicious manner so that he could kill him. Upon receiving the invitation, David actually rejected Absalom’s offer. David figured that all of his sons, their families, and their servants would be too much of a burden to Absalom. While David appreciated the gesture, he declined to go to Absalom’s house. Absalom then asked his father David to instruct the rest of his brothers, including Amnon, to go to his home. After some back-and-forth propositions, David finally relented and told his sons to go to Absalom’s home.
When Absalom learned that Amnon would be coming to his home, he commanded his servants to take Amnon aside and kill him. Though his servants originally objected to the idea, Absalom reminded the servants of their position underneath him, and eventually heeded the command their master gave. Amnon was killed. When Absalom’s other brothers heard that Amnon had been killed, they all panicked, got on their donkeys and fled from Absalom’s house, fearing that he might seek to kill them too. Absalom did not pursue his other brothers, but in the chaos, word got back to David that Absalom had actually killed all of his brothers. When David heard this rumor he didn’t make any effort to confirm the claims, but instead tore his clothes and threw himself on the floor in depression. David assumed that the worse was true, and he and his servants mourned the sons that he thought had died.
Later, Jonadab approached David to clear up the situation. Jonadab was the nephew of David; the cousin of Amnon and the one that suggested to Amnon to lure Tamar away from everyone to rape her. Jonadab approached David to inform David that only Amnon was dead. Somehow Jonadab knew that Absalom was not motivated to kill all of his brothers. Though Jonadab encouraged Amnon to rape his stepsister, he also know that Absalom wanted to kill Amnon after the fact. Though Jonadab knew about the evil intentions of Absalom and the vengeance he sought, Jonadab didn’t say anything. He encouraged deception, instigated rape, and then withheld information that resulted in murder. Clearly the family dynamics that surrounded King David were just as dysfunctional as any other family.
Shortly after Jonadab informed David that only Amnon was dead, David’s other sons arrived back to the household of David. There they all mourned together for the circumstances that had taken place. One brother had killed another, and the other brothers were witness to this horrific event. Absalom was now a fugitive and could not go back home. Since he had murdered his brother, he was forced to flee, and the Bible testifies that he remained with the king of Geshur for three years. The family was broken and scared. Yet the Bible explains that David longed to see Absalom because he was comforted by the action that he took against Amnon. This means that David knew that Amnon needed to be punished for his evil. David knew that the Law called for justice and consequence. However, because David was unwilling to live according to the righteous standards of God’s Law, and embrace the difficulty of discipline, he was comforted that justice came by other means, even though his son became a lawbreaker in the process.
This is what happens when people live apart from the Lord. Though the purpose of 2 Samuel is to reveal the sovereignty of God as the Lord of Hosts, His name is not mentioned in any portion of 2 Samuel Chapter 13. This means that no one was seeking Him when these terrible things were taking place. No one sought His wisdom. No one sought His direction. Though His standards of righteousness were known according to the Law, David ignored the Law and just let things go. Hoping that things would just work themselves out over time, that time allowed for anger, hate, and sin to fester unto the point of total chaos. When the Lord is left out of life, chaos is the result. No one wanted to do what God said or seek His wisdom, and so David’s life was filled with more chaos through deception, division, and compromise. God was not glorified through this season of David’s life, and David paid a heavy price for it. This is why God’s people would be wise to seek the Lord at ALL times, lest we find chaos and destruction dominate our lives through weakness and compromise.
Disciplining children is never an easy thing to do. Yet, the Bible teaches that regardless of the difficulty, it is absolutely necessary! Proverbs 13:24 explains that those who refuse to discipline their children with the rod of correction actually hate their children. This is because they are never afforded the opportunity to genuinely learn what is right and that there is consequence for doing wrong concerning the authorities and standards that God has put in place. Proverbs 3:12 explains that God is a just Father and corrects those whom are His children that He loves. The Book of Hebrews expounds on this concept, stating that no one ever enjoys the correction or chastening when it comes, but later after the pain has passed, provides benefit. Thus, our Father in heaven endures the difficulty of seeing us in pain during times of chastening so as to keep us from greater pain later as His chastening teaches us lessons concerning His righteousness. The Bible promises that “the rod of correction” will drive children from foolishness. The Bible promises that beating a child with the “rod of correction” will not kill them, but instead actually delivers their soul from hell (Proverbs 23:13-14)! The scriptures teach that when we correct our children, it is difficult at the time, but eventually gives us rest and the child will eventually delight in their souls. Therefore, a parent’s responsibility to discipline their children is MONUMENTALLY important, and cannot be taken lightly. According to the Bible, the Biblical discipline that a parent shows to their children is effective to reveal the heart and character of God to the child so that they learn about who God is, how He works, what His motives are, and value Him as the loving Father and Savior. When parents don’t follow the Biblical prescription for disciplining children and seek to come up with their own forms of parenting, only bad things take place.
This truth is made clearly evident in the scriptures through the documentation of David’s life. The Bible testifies that David had many wives, and thus, many children from many different women. David’s family makeup was large and complex. Though he was the king and God was blessing his rule, David’s family was a mess. The scriptures testify that one of David’s sons named Amnon lusted after one of his stepsisters named Tamar. Taking the advice of his cousin, Amnon lured her into his room by pretending to be sick, and eventually raped her. After raping her and shaming her, he put her out and locked himself in a room in bitterness and shame. The Bible explains that Tamar’s older brother Absalom found out about what happened and hate stirred up in his heart concerning his stepbrother. However, the Bible says that Absalom didn’t say anything about his anger, and didn’t respond in anyway for some time. Absalom waited quietly and patiently to exact his revenge against his stepbrother.
Meanwhile, the testimony of 2 Samuel 13:21-22 explains that David found out about the evil within his family, but failed to respond. The Bible explains that David knew that his son Amnon raped his daughter Tamar and was angry, but did not respond in any sort of way towards that anger. The testimony of Amnon, Absalom, Tamar, and David does not mention the Lord once, showing that when these horrific events took place, no one sought the counsel, wisdom, or righteousness of the Lord – David included. David, as the king of Israel, was supposed to lead the people as a standard of righteousness, leveraging the Law as his model. The Law was sufficient to provide David with instruction and protocol for the evil that Amnon committed against his stepsister. In Leviticus 18:6-30 the Bible explains a series of issues that God said were abominations, and explained the proper way to deal with such things. This portion of Leviticus deals with homosexuality, bestiality, idolatry, abortion, and incest. All of these things were abominations in the eyes of God and were reflective of the manner of living that the pagans practiced that did not know God. God commanded His people to abstain from living in such a manner and told them that if they practiced such things, the land would “vomit them out.” Thus, when the children of Israel discovered someone amongst the congregation practicing any of these abominations, they were to be cut off from the people, sent out, and removed from the inheritance of God.
The commands of the Law were clear. Amnon committed incest when he raped his stepsister and according to the Law as supposed to be cut off from the children of Israel. Amnon was supposed to be sent out of the congregation, out of the land, and cut off from the inheritance of God towards Israel. David didn’t do this. The testimony of 2 Samuel 13:21-22 explains that David was angry, but didn’t follow the commands of the Law to exact God’s righteous discipline against his son. David was unresponsive. David was unable to stomach the difficulty of sending his son away from the congregation of Israel. David simply looked the other way hoping that his anger would subside and things would work themselves out. He didn’t offer comfort to his daughter. The Bible does not state that David even addressed Absalom or Amnon for that matter. David essentially looked the other way and pretended that nothing horrible was taking place and that his family life was all good.
The events that took place next were horrible and tragic! Absalom became a murderer. Amnon was ultimately killed. The other sons of David had to witness the murder of their brother. David’s family was utterly devastated and broken to a degree that history proves was ultimately irreparable. It was not that God could not restore the family, but that no one sought Him to do so. God provided instructions to address the wickedness that infiltrated David’s family through Amnon’s lust, but because David didn’t seek the Lord and His righteousness through the Law, tragedy produced more tragedy so that David’s family was ultimately broken because the people in his family were broken. It likely would have been difficult for David to send Amnon away, cutting him off from God and His people, but this is what God’s Word commanded. It was David’s refusal to follow God’s Word that made a difficult set of circumstances into a devastating set of circumstances. God’s Word is hard to follow, but the consequence of doing things according to our own wisdom (or lack thereof) is FAR more difficult. Disciplining children for the mistakes they make and issues they have against God is never easy, but God’s Word is sufficient for damage control and restoration through the revelation of God’s righteousness demonstrated by the faithful obedience to His commands.
Lust is a difficult concept to deal with in scripture. While there are plenty of examples in scripture of lust referring to an intense sexual desire, this is not the only application for this word. The scriptures simply use sexual lust to provide graphic and memorable teaching lessons that amplify the dangers of lusts of any kind. When we see the effects of sexual lust in the Bible, it is only to show how tragic the consequences of succumbing to this lust can be. The effects of a broken relationship that was first stimulated by sexual lust are easy to recognize, so that when we see similar effects in other parts of our lives, we can diagnose lust as the culprit and make efforts to repent. Therefore, when we see examples of lust dominating the lives of people in the Bible, we should acknowledge the reality of consequence that the Bible documents, seeing that these same tragic ends still happen in life today. Then, we would be wise to examine other areas of life where there might be unchecked desires for things that God forbids, recognizing that a relentless pursuit of those things will result in different, but equally tragic outcomes.
The testimony of 2 Samuel 13:1-20 uses an incestuous relationship to prove the dangers of lust. While many people might not be able to relate to the temptation of incest, it is important to recognize that lust the was the cause of this tragic testimony, and then see the effects that lust caused, whether it was made manifest in incest or otherwise. The scriptures explain that David’s original pursuits to take multiple women as wives were the cause of the incest that took place in his family. David had many wives and many children from those wives. David had a son named Absalom from one of his wives named Maacah. David also had a son named Amnon from another wife named Ahinoam. Absalom and Amnon were stepbrothers. Then there was a girl named Tamar. She was the sister of Absalom, and the stepsister of Amnon. She was a young and beautiful virgin girl. The scriptures state that Amnon had VERY strong affection for Tamar. The scriptures state the following concerning Amnon’s desire for Tamar:
“Amnon was so distressed over his sister Tamar that he became sick; for she was a virgin. And it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her.”
The Bible explains that Amnon lusted over Tamar. He knew that he was not permitted by the law to pursue her. He knew that his desire was wrong. In fact, his desire for her was so intense that it made him sick. He thought about her all the time so that the scriptures define his affection for her as “distress.” This does not mean that he worried about her. It means that he craved her uncontrollably. Though Amnon knew his desire was wrong, he made efforts to pursue his craving. David’s brother Shimeah had a son named Jonadab. Jonadab was Amnon’s cousin. The Bible states that Jonadab was “a crafty man,” which in context means that he was wicked, shady, and scandalous. Jonadab and Amnon were friends as well as cousins, and one day Amnon confided in Jonadab that he really wanted to take his sister Tamar to himself. Rather than try to persuade Amnon out of this evil thought, Jonadab provided Amnon with a way to scheme. Jonadab told Amnon that he should pretend to be sick, request for Tamar to help him and feed him, and when no one else is in the room, take her to himself.
The lust that Amnon had for Tamar was uncontrollable so that the suggestion of baiting Tamar to rape her seemed like a good idea. Amnon took Jonadab’s advice and went through with his suggestion. Amnon pretended to be sick. Amnon told his father David to ensure that Tamar was available to tend to him. Amnon asked Tamar to bake some cakes for him, which she did. While she was feeding him, he asked for the other attendants in the room to leave. Upon their departure, Amnon told Tamar that he wanted to sleep with her. Tamar was startled and implored Amnon to consider what he was saying. She begged him not to force her to sleep with him. She reminded Amnon that this would bring disgrace upon her, and was forbidden in all of Israel according to the Law. She also reminded Amnon that only “fools,” referring to men ignorant of God and His righteousness, were those who pursued such things. The Bible candidly proclaims that Amnon didn’t care. He didn’t heed her voice, and overpowered her, forcing her to lay with him. Amnon was overcome by his lust and raped his stepsister.
Here it is important to pay attention to the details of the Word to understand how lust will cause a sequence of effects that causes total ruin. First, the Bible states that after Amnon raped his sister that he hated her. The Bible explicitly states that he hated her more than he originally desired her. Amnon forced his sister to leave, even threatening her. The sight and presence of her made Amnon sick though it was her distance that originally made him sick. Amnon was ashamed of the tool that he used to satisfy his fleshly craving. This shows that even when a person is able to gratify their carnal and fleshly cravings, they simply don’t satisfy. In fact, the dissatisfaction was so intense for Amnon that it actually manufactured hate. This effect shows that the dissatisfaction we experience when we are disappointed to find out that the lusts of the flesh are futile, will produce hate eventually. Over time, continually pursuing the lusts of the flesh will cause hate to stir up in the heart since the pursuit of the flesh causes distance from God. Distance from God causes dissatisfaction, darkness, and despair.
Next the Bible says that Tamar begged Amnon not to put her out the way that he was. Amnon’s flesh was satisfied and so he wanted to throw his sister out like a piece of trash. After realizing that she didn’t bring him the joy and satisfaction that he thought she would, she was worthless to him and didn’t care in any capacity for his sister. She was not only raped and shamed, but also cast out as a sister. Amnon was so adamant to get her away from him that he commanded his servants to bold the door behind her so that no one could go in to see Amnon. This shows that when the disappointment of gratifying the flesh produces hate, that hate then produces a desire to isolate. Hate makes people build up walls and close themselves in. This is the opposite of the transparent meekness God desires from His people. Those who close up this way are disconnected from God’s people. Those disconnected from God’s people are disconnected from the lifelines of encouragement, leadership, and wisdom that God pours out through His people. Amnon’s sin was no greater than David’s sin with Bathsheba, but when David recognized his sin, he confessed it before Nathan the prophet and repented in humility, seeking God’s mercy. Amnon on the other hand decided he would keep to himself and hide from the shame of his sin as if time would make his actions and the consequence disappear. Lust produces distance from God. Distance from God produces hate. Hate produces darkness. Darkness produces separation and isolation. Separation and isolation will eventually produce death without repentance.
The Bible explains that Tamar went out in shame, putting ashes on her head and tearing the robe of her virginity to mourn her circumstances. When her brother Absalom found out what had happened, he didn’t immediately respond. He also didn’t seek to encourage or comfort his sister. He kept his anger and hate for his stepbrother to himself and told Tamar to just get over the situation. He offered no compassion at all. Unfortunately, God predicted this testimony. This is why God commanded against incest, and why God originally ordained for a man to be married to one woman. This is why God provides self-control and restraint as part of the fruit of His Spirit. The tragedy of this testimony didn’t start with Amnon. It started with David. Though David was a man after God’s own heart, he also compromised often to gratify the desires of his flesh. David took on 8 wives and ultimately had nineteen kids! This is not the testimony of one practicing restraint. Thus, it was David’s desires of the flesh that were taught to the next generation so that the intensity of the desire grew in his children seeing how their father responded to his own cravings. Amnon’s lust was a learned habit, and David his father was a participant in teaching that lesson. Seeing that lust of any kind, for any thing or person results in separation from God, then hate, then darkness, then separation and isolation, it is CRITICAL that we heed the command of Jesus to die to our flesh and walk according to His Spirit, exercising the self-control and restraint that He provides to set a righteous and holy example, lest those watching and learning from us amplify the tragedy of our own carnal living.
The world today is FILLED with people seeking to build a name for themselves. This is why social media is so prevalent. People embrace the opportunity to promote self for whatever reason. People like the idea of exalting their name for their accomplishments and achievements, and so document every circumstance deemed as good or favorable. People are often motivated to share family pictures to let others see how great family life is and such. So much of our entertainment is based on people that have “made it,” in hopes that people will be encouraged and inspired to pursue their own dreams and aspirations, and maybe one day, “make it” themselves. Many people are committed and have dedicated their entire lives to out-performing those around them to make more, get more, and be more. These ideas and philosophies are contrary to the Bible however. The Bible teaches that the least will be exalted to the highest positions in heaven. Those who loose their lives for Jesus’ name sake will find eternal life. The Lord taught that those who are last, will actually be first.
This is not to say that heaven is filled with a bunch of people that were poor in this life and hell is filled with all of the rich people. That is not how it works. There will be plenty of rich and poor in both heaven and hell. God does not look at the outward appearance of people to determine final judgment and render His final verdict. God looks at the heart. Nevertheless, one’s life pursuits can speak loudly about where one’s heart is focused. If one is focused on exalting one’s own name, and not the God who breathes life into all living things, there are problems there. Those who seek to build their own enterprise and glory in self will be humbled in judgment. Those who sacrificed personal achievement and recognition so that the Lord’s name could be exalted in their life will be exalted in heaven. The Bible teaches that this life is not about getting all that can be gotten. This life is not all about build up a name for ourselves. This life is not all about excelling past everyone around us. This life is all about glorifying, magnifying, and exalting the Name above all names in humility, meekness, and thanksgiving.
An awesome example of how this kind of life should look is pictured through the life of Joab – the commander of Israel’s army, and King David’s right hand man. In 2 Samuel 12:26-31 the Bible describes that while David was dealing with all of his personal issues with Bathsheba, the loss of their first child, and the birth of Solomon, Joab was out on the battlefield faithfully doing his job. The scriptures declare that Israel’s fighting against Ammon waged on and Joab continued to do his job with diligence. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Joab was having great success when trying to take over the Ammonite city of Rabbah. The Bible testifies that Joab made efforts to take the city by taking the city’s water supply. Joab was successful in his strategy and gained control of the city’s water and people. However, before Joab moved in to fully siege the city, he sent a message to his master King David.
The message that Joab wrote implored King David to go out to the battlefield to finish the job that he had started. Joab wanted David to receive all of the recognition and credit for the victory over Rabbah. While Joab did not have fear to do his job, he did fear the people exalting his own name in place of David’s, much like the people praised David for his victories over the Philistines instead of Saul. Joab did not want to receive any credit. Joab did not want to receive any praise. Though he did all of the front-end leg work, he was content to just do his job as a servant and a soldier. Joab didn’t seek accolades. Joab didn’t desire for the city and its conquest to be named after him. Joab didn’t seek pats on the back or popularity and approval amongst the people. Joab understood that God anointed David as king of Israel and wanted David’s name to be great so that Israel’s name would be great, and by extension, God’s name would be great. Joab understood his role in this work and humbly submitted to it.
When examining this display of humility and meekness from Joab, it is important to remember the circumstances of Joab’s position. Recall that one of the last commands that David gave to Joab was concerning the murder of Uriah the Hittite – Bathsheba’s husband. David commanded Joab to ensure Uriah’s death by sending Uriah to the front lines of war against the Ammonites without any help or support. When David gave the order, Joab followed it faithfully. Though Joab understood the circumstances of warfare and likely despised intentionally sending out one of his men to certain death for purposes that weren’t explained to him, Joab did his job and didn’t say a word. Yet, when Joab had an opportunity to receive praise for the victory against Rabbah, he denied the opportunity. Joab didn’t get in his head the thought that David was wicked, foolish, or unworthy as a king because of the orders given against Uriah. Joab never thought that he was a more superior decision-maker, military strategist, or leader. Regardless of whether his master was making decisions that were good or bad, Joab just did his job faithfully, and kept the bigger picture in perspective.
The scriptures explain that when David received Joab’s message, he heeded his words. David went to the battlefield and finished the job that Joab had started. David took the city of Rabbah and totally conquered it. David destroyed the king of the city and took his crown upon his own head. David brought out the spoils of the city so that a great abundance was added unto his reign. David also brought out the people of Rabbah and enslaved them to do heavy labor as was the custom of the time. David enjoyed all of the benefits that a king enjoys when their kingdom is expanded. The scriptures do not mention any increase or recognition that was given to Joab. While it is likely that Joab shared in the spoils as any other soldier would have, Joab was not given a crown, was not revered by his people, and was not acknowledged as a war hero. Joab was simply a faithful man committed to exalting the name of his master. Joab denied the opportunity to build up his own name in order that the name of his master would be greater. Likewise, the people of God should not seek to build up their own name, for our glory is in the glory of the name of the Lord. Thus, when we are willing to live in meekness, sacrificing opportunities for our own praise, then the Lord’s name is magnified, the Lord is pleased with our humility as servants, and in due time, He will lift us up according to His eternally self-sustaining glory that will never fade!
The Bible teaches that God is gracious. Since God is both gracious and eternally self-existing and self-sustaining, God’s grace is also eternally self-existing and self-sustaining. God’s grace is totally immeasurable. At the same time, the Bible refers to God’s identity as the Messiah as “wonderful.” In Isaiah 9:6 the Bible explains that the Messiah would be called “Wonderful,” and uses the Hebrew word “Pele” to describe Him. This Hebrew word means: difficult to comprehend. The English word for “wonderful” fundamentally means, “full of wonder.” In other words, God’s work to fulfill His promises is incomprehensible, and when examining the grace that He shows while He fulfills these promises, it is truly mind-blowing! God’s goodness is difficult to explain and in some cases, difficult to accept. This is why the Bible teaches that His ways are not like our ways, and His thoughts are not like our thoughts. His ways and thoughts are as far from us as the heavens are from the Earth, which is REALLY far!
An illustration of this truth is presented in two simple verses in 2 Samuel 12:24-25. In this portion of scripture, the Bible declares that David sought to comfort Bathsheba when their child was pronounced dead. Though their child was conceived in an adulterous relationship, and Uriah the Hittite (Bathsheba’s husband) was murdered on account of the relationship, the circumstances of the child’s death were still difficult to swallow. The severity of their sin was candidly expressed by God’s judgment, and David sought to comfort the woman that he took as a wife. David had confessed his sin unto God, and was making efforts to repent from his sin. While the damage had been done, David strived to make the best of the circumstances. The first thing he did was try to be a good husband to the woman whose life he changed by his carnal desires.
The scriptures state that soon after David sought to comfort and console Bathsheba, he slept with her again as was his right at this point in his life, having taken her as a wife. The Bible testifies that she conceived again and bore a son. Here is where the Lord’s grace becomes difficult to digest. The testimony explains that Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon. Solomon is the boy that would become the heir of David’s throne, the next king of Israel. Solomon is the man that while he too had issues with lust and women, was considered one of the wisest men in the Bible’s history, and perhaps the wealthiest man in human history! God took care of Solomon and did work through him that was totally unique to any other person in history. It would be Solomon that would serve that the fulfillment of God’s promises to David concerning the heir of the throne AND the construction of the first temple in Israel.
When examining these details, it is important to consider the fact that God had just judged David and Bathsheba for their adulterous relationship by killing their child. God was clearly angry with David, not only for the acts of wickedness that he committed, but also for misrepresenting Him in the process. A human life was taken on account of sin, and while God preserved David in his salvation and his kingship, some might consider it hard to accept that God would be willing to use David’s relationship with Bathsheba to produce any sort of good. Nevertheless, that is exactly what God did. David had several wives and many children that God could have used to fulfill His promises. The genealogy of David found in 2 Chronicles Chapter 3 shows that David had seven other wives and nine other children that God could have used to fulfill His promises concerning the Messiah. Yet God made the conscious decision to use Bathsheba to develop the lineage of the Anointed One.
Why would God do something like this? Was David’s repentance so magnificent that he became worthy of God’s favor? Of course not. Was Bathsheba innocent in her involvement with David? Of course not. The Bible doesn’t explain that David and Bathsheba did anything to warrant God’s favor, not only to have another child, but that such child would be the next king of Israel – the great King Solomon! The favor that God showed to David and Bathsheba is truly unmerited. In fact, God’s willingness to develop the line of the Messiah through the relationship of David and Bathsheba is purposeful. There is a powerful message that God provides through this determined work. This set of circumstances reveals that there is no extent of sin that can affect God’s willingness or ability to fulfill His promises. We cannot out-sin God’s grace! This does NOT mean that we should continue in sin so that grace may abound, but the reality is that the sins of God’s people abound much. The fact that God was willing to utilize the relationship of David and Bathsheba in His plans to reveal the Messiah shows that grace abounds much more!
When Solomon was born, Nathan the prophet was sent to David and Bathsheba again. This was the same man that exposed David’s sin with Bathsheba and pronounced God’s judgment upon them. His task this time was much more encouraging. God sent Nathan to inform David and Bathsheba of God’s affection for their new child. Yes – God sent a prophet to these two miserable sinners to express that He loved their child! When Nathan spoke with David and Bathsheba regarding Solomon’s birth, he explained that God had a special name for him – Jedidiah. This name is a Hebrew phrase that means, “Beloved of Jehovah.” God sent Nathan to inform David and Bathsheba that Solomon was a person that He loved. Though David and Bathsheba’s relationship was formed on the foundation of adultery, God loved the child Solomon. Though Bathsheba’s marriage to David was made possible because of the murder of her previous husband, God loved the child Solomon. Though David miserably represented the holy, righteous, and just God as an offender of the Law, being deserving of the death penalty on a number of counts, God loved the child Solomon. Though God judged the first child that was born between David and Bathsheba by killing it, God loved the child Solomon. Though David and Bathsheba did nothing to warrant God’s favor, God loved the child Solomon.
This truth shows that, not only is it impossible to out-sin God’s grace so that He rescinds His eternally unconditional promises to Israel and the world, but also that God is able to produce beautiful and awesome things out of the madness that His people cause. The marriage relationship of David and Bathsheba was built on lust, adultery, murder, deception, ungodliness, and tragedy. Yet God was able to take that product and turn it into the glory and splendor that is seen through the kingship of Solomon. There has never been such a time in Israel’s history compared to the glory and splendor during the reign of Solomon. God was able to transform the mess that David and Bathsheba made, and make it glorious. Then, when following the genealogy that Matthew provides in His gospel, God’s work becomes even more profound as it reveals that God was able to bring the beauty of the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth – from the same broken and awful relationship.
God’s power to transform and re-purpose is miraculous! That which the enemy desires for evil, God is able to use for glory. That which resembles death, God is able to turn into life. That which seems dark, God is able to make light. While David was sure to confess his sin and repent from it, God’s mercy and grace gave David the opportunity to do so, and then transformed chaos into brilliance. This is what God does. This is who God is. This is why He alone is worthy of praise. No matter the folly of His people, He is able to restore them when they humbly seek His mercy in repentance. No matter what the past looks like, God is able to transform the wicked nature of His people into a quality of righteousness that resembles His own. No matter how miserable of consequences we might have suffered on account of our foolishness, God is able to use us for new purpose, as instruments of righteousness used to reveal His own glory through the restoration and transformation He does in us. This is why God alone is worthy of worship. This is why God alone is worthy of praise. While these truths might be incomprehensible, they are truths that are historically verified nonetheless!
The judgments of God can be pretty terrifying. This is why the Bible says that it’s good to fear the Lord. He alone is holy, righteous, and just. He is the One True Living God that is almighty and sovereign above all things. Therefore, He is not only able to perfectly determine judgment, but having full control and power over ALL things, He is able to execute every word that He speaks in judgment. Since God is holy and able to equip His people in holiness, He has a high standard for His people and expects them to live according to it for His glory. When His people, knowing the holiness, righteousness, justice, and sovereign power of God, don’t live according to His standards, there is consequence. The Bible teaches that God “chastens” those that He loves in order to correct their wrongs and lead to a profitable outcome for His children. The Book of Hebrews teaches that any good loving parent “chastens” their children, and no chastening is joyful at the time, but is profitable later. This chastening can be severe and extremely painful, and when coming from the hand of God, we can rest assured that we will indeed feel the effects of God’s parental swats! God knows how to bring the heat, and will bring just enough to correct our course; but we have to understand that God is willing to go there, looking at the bigger picture of our salvation as the basis of His work.
These truths are important to understand when reading about God’s severe chastening in the scriptures. For example, in 2 Samuel 12:15-23 God stayed faithful to His proclamation of judgment against David and killed the child that was born through the adulterous relationship David had with Bathsheba. God proclaimed his judgment unto David through the prophet Nathan, and though David diligently sought God’s grace through mourning and fasting, God did not budge from the words that He previously proclaimed. The Bible plainly states that God struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore from David, so that it became ill and eventually died. The child’s death was not accidental. The child’s death was not coincidental. The child’s death was not due to unfortunate or unlucky circumstances. The child’s death was the result of God’s purposeful judgment against David.
When considering these details, one might accuse God of being too harsh. What did the child have to do with David’s sin? Why did God kill the child and not David? The scriptures are sufficient to explain this dilemma. In Isaiah 64:8 the Bible teaches that God is like a potter, and we are like clay. We as human beings are formed according to His creative power AND purpose. Later in Romans Chapter 9 the Apostle Paul quoted this verse and expounded on it to explain it’s meaning. God, as a potter, has power and authority to make any vessel He desires. This means that God has the power and authority to make some vessels for honor, and some for dishonor. God will create some people for one purpose, and some people for another type of purpose. In the instance of David, God created the child that was born ill from Bathsheba due to an adulterous relationship for a dishonorable purpose. Who has the power or authority to argue or dispute with God? After all, the death of the child in this life does not necessarily mean that the child is eternally separated from God in eternal life. Who would desire a person destined to be with the Lord to remain apart from Him? If the purpose of this child was to die in order that David could repent and live, then the “dishonorable” purpose of the child is actually seen to be quite noble and heroic from an eternal perspective!
The scriptures show that God will use any and all resources to execute His will and purpose. God proclaimed judgment according to David’s sin, and exercised His sovereignty to hit David in the place He knew would hurt, thereby leading him back to humility, integrity, and salvation. God did what needed to be done to preserve David’s salvation. Though David fasted and pleaded with God to let the child live, God did not honor David’s prayer. God had already proclaimed His judgment, and the consequences would reflect the folly of David’s own tragic decision making. The death of the child was administered by God, but was not God’s fault. The death of the child was on account of David’s sin. If David had not sinned, there would have been no child, and thus, no death. Nevertheless, everything reproduces of it’s own kind. David’s tragic decision making reproduced more tragedy through the death of his child. While God was merciful to let David live, He was just to let the consequence of David’s sin play itself out.
The Bible explains that when the child died, David’s servants were afraid to tell him. David was away while praying and fasting and when the child died, they spoke amongst themselves trying to figure out who would tell him the bad news. David saw the servants and their uneasiness and figured that the child had died. He asked, and they confirmed. At that moment, David departed back home and cleaned himself up. David lifted himself up from the ground, bathed, anointed himself, and then requested food. Upon eating and re-energizing, he went to the house of the Lord and worshiped Him. David’s servants were stunned. They couldn’t understand what David was doing. They couldn’t understand why David mourned and fasted while the child was alive, but then cleaned up and worshiped the Lord when the child died. The servants obviously had no idea about God’s judgment towards David for his sin. David’s actions however show that he had clear understanding of God’s purpose and responded well to God’s work.
David’s response to the death of his child does not reflect indifference – it reflects perspective. David knew that God’s will was done. God proclaimed His judgment and was stern in His position to execute it. David knew he deserved what he was getting, and then some. When David’s servants inquired of David as to why he was worshiping God after the death of his child, David stated the truth. There was nothing he could do. David couldn’t argue with God’s judgment. It was finished. David couldn’t change the circumstances. God’s judgment was sufficient to remind David of the truth that he forgot when he committed adultery with Bathsheba – the eternally sovereign Lord of Hosts is always on the throne, in charge of all things. David didn’t content with God’s judgment or whine over it. David accepted God’s judgment and submitted to it. Though the pain of the loss of his child likely still remained, David went back to the Lord in humility to worship Him as the One True Living God that has good eternal intentions. Thus, God’s judgment was sufficient to preserve David’s eternal integrity and facilitate repentance so that the death of the child served a great purpose concerning salvation!