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THREE FOUND UNFAITHFUL IN SOME THINGS,
ONE FOUND FAITHFUL IN ALL THINGS
II Samuel 2-20
There is the celestial scope of history, there is the beauty of the paintings that depict it in advance, called prophecy, there is the grand sweep of perspective given through Israel; but there is far more in the Bible that demands attention. One such element is the moral, the twang and the rebound, the jeer and the sneer, the temptation and the discipline, the development of Christian character, of what is more than a form of godliness, but genuine delight in the only authentic God of power and truth, to whom mercy and pity are inseparably attached; for the gods are mere grass for poisoned cattle, before they die of swollen stomachs for their folly.
There is thus a great deal to find in the biblically provided coverage of some of the more intimate dealings, progressive excursions in the life among mankind, and few surpass for drama and impact, those to be found in I and II Samuel. We come to that heroic, that merciful, that lover of goodness, King David, to find some of the divine training schedule, seen in retrospect.
DAVID and ABSOLAM
This is a sad site for listing David, a man after God's own heart. Alas, we all like sheep have gone astray, every one to his own way, but for some, there is healing by faith through His stripes, because on Him is laid the iniquity of ALL who are so healed, who have received His redemption. Henceforth, new creations, they are not subject to the sovereignty of sin; but alas, now here, now there, each one may slip, and in this may lie much evil.
Such was the case with David. While living a life of sympathy, brotherliness, kindness, courage, fearless dependence on the Lord as he fought often in danger, always with vigour, for Israel, and led it, almost a model leader, yet once, when he became well established, that old disease, complacency amid success, seemed to taint him. Seeing a woman who drew him, he desired her, and sending a message to the military commander to send her husband to the forward line and then withdraw, he became guilty of something separated by only a fine line from murder.
The prophet Nathan was sent to confront him, and despite forgiveness, he gained a discipline to confront him for much of his life. It was trouble in his own family. He caused trouble to another callously; he could now find its meaning of trouble in his own family.
It came. A son of one wife became infatuated with a daughter of another, and pretending to be sick, asked for her to be sent to nurse him. Using this to violate her, he then lost interest in her, and a brother of hers, Absolam, seeking vengeance, arranged a feast in which he instructed servants to kill him when merry. David learned of this and Absolam fled. You see how sin within sin, or laid upon sin, like rock strata becoming mingled in heat, can readily surge into understandable and even violent actions. Peace departs. Will is on the throne.
David, at last induced to have back his erring son, did not see him; but that same Absolam, using his father's love for him, a handsome and winning fellow, set out by deceit to raise an army to replace his father, showing the danger of an affection so great that it is willing to stretch things past truth. The father, David, not wanting the death of his son, and perhaps trouble to Jerusalem, withdrew, one Shimei adding to his travail by cursing him as a bloody man, a charge David in his singular remorse for the sin committed long ago, did not deny.
Many of the people, including commander Joab, went with him. However, Absolam was tricked by one of David's men, pretending to be for his rebellion, into delaying pursuit of his father, saying he would be fully roused, but in fact the delay gave him time to regroup. David had this mole in the enemy camp!
When they did at length go, Absolam was caught, ironically, by his so beautiful head of luxuriant hair, in a tree, and Joab, contrary to instructions from loving father, David, summarily killed him. David was heart-broken, wishing that he had died instead of Absolam. In this, he presented an image of the love of God, who DID sent His everlasting word as a man who DID die for us. Absolam, alas, was ready for no one to die for him, but in rebellion was looking closely after number one.
So David lost two sons in this way and had a daughter violated as well, while having to withdraw for a time from his capital. Indeed, he nearly lost the kingdom, while mourning for the death of rebel, Absolam, a thing not well received by a people who had risked their lives to restore him as king!
That is the name of the king's commander who slew Absolam. While this killing was at least understandable, for Abner had been a major State enemy (not No. 1, for that is the devil), he also killed two other persons, freely by his hand. Understandable ? yes, but right ? no. This surely is a lesson: DO NOT do what is understandable, giving rein to this vengeance, that vendetta, that recrimination, this loss of temper, that hateful attitude to someone. Seek good and to overcome evil with good; and even if you must confront evil, keep the law of God in the process, and let not love evacuate from your motivation!
Let us see how these special killings by Commander Joab came to be. When David, after being persecuted by King Saul, earlier in life, at last became King, he viewed with favour the offer made and decided to allow what had formally been the commander of the army still loyal to Saul, one Abner, to go out to summon that part of Israel still not with David, to return to him, and so gather all Israel to his own side.
However, Joab was not so good at relenting. His athletic brother, Asahel, had once in battle been killed by this same Abner, and so Joab took advantage of the recent cessation of hostilities between David's men and Saul's, after Saul's death, to kill Abner.
In fact, Joab's brother had died after a strange pursuit, when Abner tried to warn that young man, to desist from running after him; but he would not, and was struck by a deft thrust of Abner's spear. When therefore Abner urged later that it was time this war stopped, Saul being dead, and peace was made, Joab decided to strike. Abner had already gone to bring ALL of Israel back to the kingdom; but Joab, on hearing of this, dishonestly had him recalled, and appearing to want to talk privately, simply suddenly stabbed him in the stomach. Murder and rebellion alike!
Again, when the rebellion of Absolam, later, was over, David made the commander of the rebel forces, Amasa, into commander instead of Joab (II Kings 19:13), since Joab had just unlawfully killed his beloved son, Absolam. When, however, David sent out Amasa, when peace came with victory, to deal with a rebel leader, there was delay in his return. Joab, sent to investigate, simply met Amasa, now commander, and taking him by the beard as if to kiss him, like a fox in human form, asked him if he were in health and slew him with his sword which had fallen from its sheath. With such duplicity, he killed him in an act which from his point of view, might have been for his country, but which presumed to judge contrary to the King's order, and by pretence made assault.
All these things were mixed, unpleasant, with guile and evil, just as David had ONCE shown to gain Bath-Sheba, wife of slain Uriah. How aptly the Lord disciplined him, showing the nature of his sin so that he might learn thoroughly to hate it; and David did no more of that kind!
So did David's commander, Joab, who co-operated with him in the fall of Uriah, NOT co-operate concerning Abner; alas, as so often, blood begat blood. Once it was for revenge, he acted; once more with the knowledge of his own demotion, and fear of treachery. Both times, he lacked all restraint.
But what of Joab, the king's martial commander who had co-operated with him in the fall of Uriah ? Blood begat blood. Once it was for revenge, he acted; once more with the knowledge of his own demotion, and fear of treachery. Both times, he lacked all restraint. Alas, he had transgressed into self-appointed killer twice, and though a hardy and valuable soldier, taking the law into his own hands, proved unfaithful. Later, when David's son, Solomon, became King, Joab was found seeking with others, an alternative King, with what might perhaps be called his audacious liberty, and was killed for it. He had earned death; here he got it.
Unfaithfulness had thus become a feature, though limited, even in the illustrious kingdom under David. How large a chunk of goodness can be lost, like a section of cheese, when warmed in the sun, it goes off, emits an unpleasant odour, and becomes repulsive! How valuable are our tests, what grounds for learning they provide when we fail, and how much better it is NOT to fall in the first place, and NOT to allow oneself any liberties, whether swollen with some kind of victory or success, or languid in regrets...
The thing can move nationally or personally, and who can be trusted among men ? Thus even in Afghanistan, not once, there has been concern that some, even highly placed, in Pakistan are giving only pretence of co-operation with the USA, and are in fact helping enemy forces in Afghanistan. Such double-dealing is the bane of the unfaithful, and if present, can make the lives of many fall for folly. Thus the USA should never have sought to make religious treaty, which is close to what both Bush and Obama have done, with Islam.
You do not need to make military war with what, as a Christian individual, President or not, is contrary to the uttermost degree, to the righteousness which God offer in Christ. We Christians need to seek good even for our enemies; but NOT to praise their follies. If you do, then you drag down your nation, and Obama has gone further in his 'holy book' reference to the Koran, virtually anointing with praise, what is as far from Christ as was Judas; for Muhammad misused Christ's name and reputation in the Koran, creating a dumbed down christ of his own ideas, while acting as if to gain authority from his talk of Jesus and the prophets, as if they were preliminaries to his own absolutely contrary and unfounded teaching, whereas his contradiction of them could not be greater*1. This he did, without anything comparable for himself, any ground in reason, or any test but might of arms. Is it then surprising if the USA, having here fallen like David, is also being betrayed! God is not mocked
It is often said of someone, He knows the score! meaning that he has his wits about him, and is thoroughly versed in some situation. But what IS the score ? How are you going in the match of life ? As we see, even the best has his lapse, error, fault which can come out here or there with significant results. This is no excuse, for errors are like the rainbow, of many colours. They do not have to be physical, but may lie in pride, ambition or false motivation just as easily, a formidable array, but one to be met with faith in the God of all counsel. .
There is an array of tests, which those walking in Christ are repeatedly delivered from failing; and these can be very deep and searching: moreover as shown earlier, OBEDIENCE to the word of God can carry you far from these complicated and sometimes sophisticated regions. Yet the man, son of Adam, who does not sin, is yet to be found. Sin does not rule the Christian's life, far from it (I John 3:9); but it is not excluded by any fiat. There is much to be learned (I John 1:7ff.), and our own weakness when we tend to be self-satisfied, is one lesson; God's power to deliver is another!.
The Lord Jesus Christ, however, HE did not sin in ambition (being God already), or in earthly desire, when tempted by Satan (for His placement on this earth, in order as man, to save with the power of God, was exceedingly lowly), not even seeking satisfaction by using powers given for salvation, for mere relief. Such was the case after 40 days of fasting, when though tempted by Satan, He yet declined to turn stones into bread for personal satisfaction in the test, those powers being otherwise bent by commission. THERE is trustworthiness. Nor did He sin in weakness, but rather meeting the point at once, He preached the Kingdom and repentance right, despite the challenge of His 40 day fast (Mark 1:15).
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel,"
Lesson one: get to the point and stay with it: do not be misled by combination of good and bad motives. Rejoice with trembling and serve God with reverence in heart, mind and spirit. Further, Christ felt a natural repugnance to accepting sin from others, as Saviour, since as God He loathed its vile ways of spoiling creation. Thus, in Luke 24, we find Him asking,
"My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me" (Matthew 26:39),
meaning the necessity to go through so prodigiously horrible an operation as experiencing separation from God's acute fellowship as known from eternity. This became necessary for a little while, as He enduring the penalty of sin until the death; : for sin separates (Isaiah 59:1-2). But He overcame this vast temptation, this abhorrence of such a duty, by adding:
"Nevertheless, NOT my will but Yours, be done."
Even when the normal powers of immortality were temporarily forsaken, in His human body, though His Spirit was received back into His Father's hands, He did not flinch, though He surely FELT the horror deeply enough!
Lesson two, therefore: Be unflinching, however deeply you feel a test, however much you may loathe a necessary part of the discipline of life; and always be ready to obey the Lord, even when this seems as far off as the Antarctic. Don't melt like the declining ice-cliffs in that area, but stand fast till your job is done (Ephesians 6:13-14). The reality was be there. Interestingly, to pursue the image, in The Advertiser, July 30, 2010, pp. 38-39, there is an account entitled, "No Denying That Warm Sensation", which reports on a finding of 300 scientists from 48 countries, using 10 indicators of climate change.
Ignoring the question of why, apparently to underline the issue of what, their declaration is made that: "A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest on record." That is provided from the annual State of the Climate report. It proceeds with the usual considerations of more energy in the system, more results, more foresight needed.
This is a scientific matter, but this latest report provides a good illustration. Face the facts: Christ did. Sin HAD to be dealt with in mercy, justice and righteousness (not selling the farm to secure the cattle, for then there is nowhere to go, and all that is right is waived, a foolish futility). It was. THEN came the solution: the resurrection, for the God of life, just as He provides death for self-marring mortality, ransoms to provide life ETERNAL for repentant mortality, whose sin is covered by faith in His Gospel of grace.
Even here, however, there was a challenge for Jesus the Christ. Facing challenge of the bodily resurrection, there is for God no difficulty about power. However. He might have had QUITE enough of the insidious hypocrisy of little people, moral midgets, self-aggrandising schemers, indeed this world with its lures and traps, its feeble-hearted princes and lying frauds. Yet He returned to complete the testimony of eternal life, and lovingly re-taught a fallen Peter the meaning of love, commissioning him to feed both lambs and sheep.
Knowing how weak that apostle had been, He knew that there was here a heart for truth and reality, and entrusting him with what He might well have declined to restore and that for very good reason, He sent him forth with blessing and love. Christ thus forgot vengeance, to judge harshly, and saw rather the open door for restoration, and though dumped by Peter for a little while, He foresaw with the love which bears all things, a role still left for Peter.
Lesson three: seek good and not evil, and hope all things. Never be bitter, seek to do better, with love and wisdom as one.
So do we contrast the unfaithfulness of men, even at this or that time, highly endowed people, and the faithfulness of the Messiah, of Jesus Christ, and so TRUST in this living God without reservation, complication or reneging, in all things. Here is wisdom, here is love, here is a site for the heart, and a rest for the spirit (Isaiah 11:10, Matthew 11:27ff.), and to leave it is like leaving home for the streets. There is indeed no place like home, when He is Lord and Saviour.
"And in that day, there will be
a root of Jesse,
who will stand as a banner to the people:
for the Gentiles will seek Him,
and His resting place will be glorious."
Consider now, how many nervous break-downs, spiritual break-ups, neurotic wranglilngs, despotic writhings, conscience and domination mixed in disruptive partnerships, vengeful vices and virtuous inclinations, riots of the unruly, conveyances of opposite to the realms of psychic tension, senses of duty and beauty with lust and longings unworthy except of pigs dressed up as men: how many of these could be, would be resolved if the resting place promised in Christ were made mandatory. Yet even then, where there could be rest, there would be no rest; for in the many, the longing for autonomy would be likely to rankle with the desire for loyalty to One who gives such boon, and resentment could arise like a tornado, when the untutored soul clamoured for self-expression, as its actual god.
Consider how many of these things would be removed, sillinesses banished from the soul, if even one tenth of the suffering scenes of psychic turmoil on this earth, buried in the bucolic, whipping like shrouds in the wind, when the aroused, were to be removed. But by what ? Why, by the free reign of truth in the love of Christ, so that now all of the heart could be governed by the imperial sovereignty, the only one without the constant peril of becoming imperious, the only one with the wisdom and wit of the Creator, not just some other creation, where pride and vainglory deaden any hope of the beauty of holiness.
It is this which is needed, and not being done, leaves this world a scene, one fitting neatly into a scenario for solicitation with solicitude, silenced by rebellion; by ignorance through indifference, revolts and ruins through irrationality, often to make it worse, posing as rationality in rationalism, by a parade of the fanciful linked to the army of the disciplined, in some sort of social goose-step moving to their just debut with destruction, with the additive, that it is eternal (II Thessalonians 1).
IF ... but there is no ULTIMATE problem, for IF any one will enter the doorway to eternity through the resurrected Messiah (John 10:9), then the work begins in peace and power, grace and goodness, through the Spirit of God, no more an outsider, nor does it end (John 10:27-28). IF any one will not, then peace would be an intruder, for its ways are not known.
It is better to be caught by the Truth, than to court imagination. Reality is better than imagery. Spiritual fruit found in co-operation with Christ, is better than mere work, wandering about in varied motivations, wrought in ignorance of the will of God, thrust before the Maker, like it or not. To become so adult that God is an equal, or recipient of scraps of the psyche, this is a nonsense without remedy except in repentance and faith that leaves as necrotic, the platitudes of philosophy, including anti-philosophy, its weak image in defeat, and fearing nothing, takes the God who made us, at His word. It takes Him at His word, based on His work (John 14:11), brilliant, various, now in creation, now in curse, now in invitation, now in remedy, now in patience stretched to the uttermost.
It is so elastic in the energies of love, but not with the truth! In the end, then, terminated where truth will no longer be met, for its ambit is not forever amid the rebellious (Isaiah 57:15-16), it finds the life of lament. Yet, even at the brink of it, where the heart weeps for wisdom, sacrifices pride, despises vanity and comes to the Lord of life, where He MAY be found, which is where He has said in the uniquely verified and validated word of God, the Bible, and in the equally unique, verified and validated Jesus Christ (cf. SMR, .LIght Dwells with the Lord's Christ, Who Answers Riddles and Where He Is, Darkness Departs, for example), then there is peace. Then, as offered to all, some for one more, it is found that HE IS OUR PEACE (Ephesians 2:14-18).
Then character work has its prince, and spiritual growth has its ground.
See *5, in Ch. 2 above.