Day 92: 2 Samuel 16-18; David in Exile

The narrative of today’s reading tells the story of David’s exile from the city of Jerusalem, the capital and his palace.  As we heard yesterday, Absalom has betrayed king David, as was foretold by the prophet Nathan, and now David is once again on the run from his enemies.  Fortunately for David, he has some experience with this and is in a much better position right now to be able to handle being pursued.  Before, with Saul, David didn’t really have an inside man except for Jonathan, now there are many people with in the city of Jerusalem, and even in Absalom’s own counsel that have vowed to keep David informed of the movements of his enemy.  They even “serve” Absalom and give him bad counsel.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention here as well that this is also another wilderness experience for David.  We talked about this a while back when David was running from Saul, what the imagery of the wilderness often means for the people of Israel.  Well here it is again.  David is forced out of his home and back into the wilderness of life, this time not simply to strip off his old identity, but now to strip him of this new sinful persona that he has acquired.  While this isn’t a major part of what is going on here, it is an important side note to keep in mind.

There are some less than pleasant images that come up in this narrative.  Yesterday we read that David left 10 concubines behind to tend to his house.  Today we read that on the advice of some of his “counselors,” Absalom defiled them all and thus defiled himself as well.  What’s worse, he did it in the sight of all of Israel.  I don’t know if this was a legitimate way for him to consolidate power or if this was bad counsel given to him to put him in bad standing with the Lord, but I would dare say that he accomplished the latter quite a bit more than the former.

Soon after this, Absalom goes after his father David, taking advice from his father’s informant in Absalom’s ranks.  This gives David the upper edge from a human standpoint.  However, as I read this, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons between David’s exploits with Saul and his current predicament.  While we don’t necessarily read here that David has consulted with the Lord about his movements, the king doesn’t take any action against those that criticize him or even insult him, trusting that whatever comes is from the Lord.

And once again, the Lord is faithful to His servant David, the one with whom He has made a covenant.  All in all, it is likely that David was greatly outnumbered by the massing army of his son Absalom, and yet David’s men score a great victory, which is also a great tragedy for the people of Israel.

Absalom, in his short “reign” over Israel, if you want to call it that, does evil in the eyes of the Lord.  All that followed him were also under than evil.  Today we see first and foremost that God is faithful to the covenant that He has made, and we see both blessings and curses rolled out upon Israel.  David’s men act as an instrument of judgment against those who would seek to dethrone God’s chosen king and follow after one who takes power for himself and defiles others.

In all of this though, even after all the wickedness and difficulty caused by his son Absalom, David still weeps over the death of his son.  I was moved by David’s lament.  I can’t say that I would have lamented anyone, friend or foe, family or stranger, who had betrayed me and tried to kill me.  Yet David loves his son, so much so that even in this great calamity he weeps for his now dead son.  What an example of love this is.

I wonder sometimes if the writer here is trying to draw a parallel between David/Absalom and God/Israel. So often the people of Israel, the so-called “children of God” turn from their Father, the Lord, and betray Him for the gods of the nations around them.  They attempt to replace God’s rule and Law with that of their own, effectively doing in Absalom attempted to do with David.  Every time this happens, God sends judgment against them, often in the form of a great defeat against an enemy, eventually driving them back to God.  I wonder though, if God weeps for His children as they sin against Him and are judged accordingly, even in the midst of all the evil that they have done… I have to believe that a God who is, first and foremost, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness would weep for His children, even when they have turned from Him.

Day 91: 2 Samuel 14-15; David and Absalom

…and it was the worst of times…

As we read today, we hear again the words of the prophet Nathan, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.”

At the end of our reading yesterday we saw the beginning of this cycle, a ‘new reality’ for David’s household.  This whole issue begins with Amnon and Tamar, Absalom’s sister.  The situation is escalated when Absalom has Amnon killed and only gets worse as time goes on.  (An interesting side note here, when a girl named Tamar shows up in the Bible, bad things tend to happen…)

What is interesting here, I think, is how David is convinced to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.  Yesterday, Nathan told a story to David to reveal the evil that he had done and to pronounce judgment on.  Today, we hear the words of Joab the wise woman Tekoa telling a story which ultimately leads to David’s understanding that he needs to reach out to his son.

However, instead of forgiveness, Absalom receives the cold shoulder.  I guess I can respect David’s anger and desire to not see his son after he murdered another son of his. But I guess I am wondering if that may have led to what comes next for David.  From the way I read it, David is basically ignoring and not paying attention to his son Absalom.  I’m just hypothesizing at this point, but if David had, at the very least, paid some attention to what was going on with Absalom he would have seen this whole mess coming.  Yet, it all seems to take him by surprise.  Again… just throwing something out there at this point… but it kind of makes sense.

One thing that struck me in this whole story is the correlation between the Mount of Olives, over which David passes weeping as he is exiled from his own city, and the weeping that occurs from Jesus on the night that he was betrayed.  I don’t know that there is a direct correlation here, and I might just be grasping at straws, but both David and Jesus were betrayed by people close to them, and both end up at the Mount of Olives which we read is where God is worshiped.  Perhaps its just the path that David took to get away, or perhaps it was intentional, but it seems almost to similar to not be a coincidence.

I wonder, as I think about this, if I would run to the place that God is worshiped in my distress, if a friend betrayed me or I lost a loved one.  After the death of Bathsheba’s first child and David is done mourning, he gets up and cleans himself up and worships the Lord.  This is a fairly normal move for David, echoed in the writing of many of the Psalms that David writes.  In times of trouble, David seeks God.  Even after his great sin, David still seeks after God.  I’m not so sure that I’m always so quick to go to God in those difficult times…  I know that I should… I wonder if David’s words echoed, as mine should, the words of Job:

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Day 90: 2 Samuel 12-13; David and Bathsheba

It was the best of times… and then it was the worst of times…

Yesterday, we talked at length about all of the victories and the good things that the Lord blessed David with, and today we see that even David, the man after God’s own heart, is not above sinning against the Lord.  The story of David and Bathsheba is a familiar one, told and taught about in many a Sunday School classroom.  It is important because it marks a turn in David’s household.  Up until now things have been pretty peachy for David and his family.  After now though, we’ll see that David’s household will be fraught with conflict, starting with the story Amnon and Absalom.

Yet even this “I told you so” story of what results when the Law and the Covenant are not followed really pales in comparison to the unmatched grace that God shows here and the faithfulness that God shows David in spite of this horrible sin.  While not all will likely read this on Easter Sunday, the writing of this post is for Easter Sunday of this year (2013), and there are some very important Easter themes that arise from this story that I would like us to reflect on today.  Read again with me the words of Nathan the prophet as he confronts David about his sin:

“He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds,  but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”  Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house.”

David doesn’t know it, but he is pronouncing judgment upon himself… and Nathan redirects David’s anger over sin right back at him.  “YOU ARE THE MAN!!!” he declares!

Do those words resonate with you?  I don’t know about you, but when I hear about injustice and sin against others I am often outraged… but something inside of me also screams “YOU ARE THE MAN!”  And the pronouncement of judgment has been made… I deserve to die and the recompense for my sin is more than I’ll ever be able to pay.  And the reality is that God would be justified in sitting on the throne and saying “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight?”  Yet today, on Easter Sunday, we remember the truth of God’s Word… the truth of God’s Nature… the truth of God’s grace.  Nathan declares to David what is declared to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “THE LORD ALSO HAS PUT AWAY YOUR SIN; YOU SHALL NOT DIE.”

This is the good news of Easter!!  Even though we deserve death, being sinners who have utter;y scorned the Lord, we have been saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ!!

Jesus Christ lived the perfect life.  An innocent, Jesus took on all our guilt and died the death we deserve to die.  In His resurrection, Jesus defeated death, vanquishing it, overcoming it forever that we may live forever bringing glory to His Name!  Hallelujah and AMEN!!