03 July 2020 - 2 SAMUEL 15:1-15
An Unaccountable Leader Rises Up & Causes Trouble
As has been stated earlier this week, the story of Absalom is a tragedy. He was David’s son. A prince of Israel. 1 Samuel 14:25 states he was a good-looking man. He certainly had charisma like his father. He demanded people to take him seriously. And when they failed to do so, he was not afraid to punish them (2 Samuel 14:28-33.) He had ability. From this reading today, he knew how to self-publicise and win people to his side. Many people seemed willing to submit to his leadership. He had ability, he was charismatic and handsome. He had a reasonable claim to become King after David.
So what went wrong? How is this relevant for us today?
The first time he is mentioned is when he comforts his sister after she was raped. You can read this story in 2 Samuel Chapter 13:20-22.
Absalom is incensed at this crime, and possibly at King David’s failure to punish Amnon (the rapist and eldest son of David). The Bible is quiet about how this situation was resolved, likely because it never was resolved. Two years later Absalom exacts his revenge on his halfbrother the rapist. Absalom takes the whole situation into his own hands and murders Amnon. He does not seem to recognise the role of the law, or his father the king and leader. He is understandably angry, but he does not submit to the leadership structures already in place. Why does he not tell the king, his father? Why does he not demand justice for his sister and punishment for Amnon? He just quietly seethes in the juices of his own bitterness and hatred. The story hints at a distance between Absalom and David on both sides. David refuses Absalom’s invite to Baal Hazor (2 Samuel 13:25). Absalom then ends up going into exile. When he returns from exile 2-3 years later David refuses to see him (I Samuel 14:14). Absalom appears to be blind to the hidden love of his father David. David does not appear to know how to deal with his son, either as a father or as the leader of the nation. David did however recognise the danger from Absalom. He was worried about Absalom murdering all his siblings, not just Amnon. David knew he had to leave Jerusalem swiftly when he found out about Absalom’s rebellion, before he too fell victim to his murderous anger.
So what can we learn from this passage?
1. You can have ability and a just cause, but these do not give you a right to be judge, jury and executioner. Neither do you have the right to overthrow God’s anointed.
2. In both the Old & New Testaments we are told repeatedly in most situations to respect and work with the God-given authorities and government. We are to respect their authority. David himself understood this, which is why he would not harm King Saul despite Saul’s very serious and prolonged attempts to murder him.
3. In the account of the centurion who had more faith than the whole of Israel, Jesus taught us that in order to be able to have authority, we all need to be subject to authority. See Matthew 8:8-13 & Luke 7:7-9.
4. In John Chapter 10, only those who come in the sheep pen by the gate (that is Jesus) can lead His sheep. All others are thieves and robbers. We need Jesus authority. We are forbidden to take leadership over the people of God by our own authority.
1 Peter 5:6 says we are to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and He will lift us up. James 4:6 says God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble. At no stage did Absalom humble himself. He just did as he saw fit. He did not think that he was accountable to his father, the King, or to anyone else. Neither did he think that he was accountable to God. He did not realise that God sits in ultimate judgment and it is not for Absalom or any of us to try and occupy that place. God opposes the proud, and Absalom was proud. Pride makes us think we can be like God. The truth is we always need to humble ourselves before Him.
Do you obey and submit yourself to the God-given authorities? Do you have authority from God? Are you humble before God and wait for Him to lift you up? Do you trust God, and wait for His timing? Or do you, like Absalom, try and take matters into your own hands, that are best left to God? Unfortunately, Absalom’s pride and violence caused a lot of avoidable grief and pain.
In our times, we continue to see disputes in the world and sometimes also within the church where people seek to advance their own agendas, with no regard for authorities or God Himself. Much needless heartache and pain results from this kind of behaviour.
Suggested prayer: We pray to humble ourselves before You Lord. Forgive us for our pride, and any bitterness or unforgiveness against our brothers and sisters. May we put our faith in you. May we keep ourselves accountable to our leaders inside and outside the church. We pray for unity in Your church. We pray You lift us up in Your own good time. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.