The Banished One Will Not Remain an Outcast
2 Samuel 13 & 14
12th Sunday after Pentecost–September 3, 2017 (am)
We are not very acquainted with the what it means to live under a monarchy. And I’m afraid that in a representative republic like the USA, we don’t even think very highly of monarchy. From the original document that defines our identity as a nation, we have stated clearly that all men are created equal—that flies in the face of monarchy just a bit! We further state that (all) are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, and that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, not by the divine right of kings.
We have lived under this philosophy of government for 241 years as a nation, and it has shaped our understanding not only of what government is, but what it ought to be. As I listen to people, and talk about the issues of our day, it is clear that self-governance—government by the consent of the governed—is interwoven almost inextricably with our concept of justice, and even morality. Why would anyone think they would have the right to rule over me, or over anyone else for that matter, without my consent, without their consent, without our permission? The very thought of something different strikes us as unjust, and immoral.
But a monarchy operates differently than this. There is a single ruler, with something like absolute power. And that ruler inherited that power as a birthright—he/she was born into his/her authority to rule, to govern. We as a people have been out from under a monarchy long enough that we quite frankly have a hard time imagining how it could possibly be considered as right, as acceptable, as good.
But because of that we’ve also lost touch with how our very identity as a people can be captured in the life and experience of one man, our king. We don’t understand how his privilege and power establish who we are even more than our own personal identity and experience do. The merchant or laborer who eeks out a meager existence for himself and his family—a modest hut and simple food—nevertheless pays a portion of his small income in taxes to his king, and the luxury of the king’s existence is a manifestation of the true wealth and values of the people he rules, including this merchant or laborer. His king embodies his value, and that of his fellow citizens. And they glory in that identity. The king’s army is representative of their strength as a people and they rest in that strength. We recoil from the statement of Louis XIV who said: L’etat, c’est moi; The state, it is I; or I am the state! And he may not have had the noblest of ideas in mind when he said it. But that statement describes monarchy with a clarity comparable the Declaration of Independence describing a republic. The identity of the people is interwoven with that of their king. And his is likewise interwoven with them, for good or for ill.
When a king is good and upright and just, that can be a sweet relationship, and a glorious experience. But when he is not, it can produce almost indescribable hardship and suffering and pain. Much of Scripture and most of human history are littered with examples of such pain. We’ve had a taste of this pain as we surveyed Israel’s life under the reign of King Saul. And we’ve tasted of the alternative—experienced the hope and felt the joy—as David finally ascended to the throne, a just king who gives (2Sa.6:18-19) rather than takes (1Sa.8:10-18). This is a king who understands that his life is bound up with the people. And the people delight to find their identity in their king!
But, as we heard last Sunday, David sinned! That was never supposed to happen! From the beginning of this history, we’ve been waiting to see the Lord give strength to the king and exalt the horn of his anointed so that the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces! (1Sa.2:10) For centuries longer we’ve been waiting for the descendants of Abraham to be a (blessing) to the nations (Gen.12:1-3). And it seemed like the stage was set for that to happen. But now that’s not going to happen! David sinned against God and against His people. He sinned flagrantly and violently. He seized and slept with the wife of one of his soldiers who was away at war, then he had the soldier killed to cover it up. He confessed when he was confronted, but the damage was done. The child he conceived died, as the Lord decreed. And though David was forgiven (12:13), a word from God was given through Nathan the prophet. David was told: The sword shall never depart from your house (12:10). And it never did.
We see the beginning of this part of the story in cc.13-14 today. And we see the sins of the king being reproduced in the lives of the people, the sins of the father handed down to the sons. We’ve read c.14, so we know how this portion of the story finishes. But let’s walk briefly through both chapters to get a sense of what began to happen in Israel, in David’s house, in the wake of the king’s sin. What we see is that the king’s own sons repeat his devastating acts, and he is powerless to stop them, or even correct them. Two broad summary headings today:
Everyone Takes Action, Except David
Amnon Takes Action – 13:1-22
Amnon, David’s oldest son (3:2-5, cf 5:13-16) was desperately drawn to Tamar, his half-sister, but the whole sister of Absalom, David’s third-born (13:1-2). And so, Jonadab, their cousin, the son of… David’s brother, a very crafty man (13:3), devised a scheme. 135 Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So, that’s just what Amnon does. And David ends up being an unknowing party to his plan.
Then Amnon repeats the sin of his father with Bathsheba, only with escalated violence, magnified selfishness, and a whole new brand of cruelty. Tamar is devastated! Absalom is enraged. And David? 1321 When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. But the text records no further action on his part. As far as we can tell, the king just let it go at that. 1322 But Absalom didn’t. He spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.
Absalom Takes Action – 13:23-39
So, 1323 after two full years he devised a plan. Absalom had a (sheepshearing) party, a feast (Baldwin 267), at Baal-hazor…, and (he) invited all the kings sons. 24 And Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” Well, David declined, but was persuaded by Absalom to allow Amnon, the crown prince being the eldest son, to go in his place (13:26-27). 1328 Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” 29 So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. He repeated the sin of his father with Uriah, only with an escalated violence, and with brash transparency. He had others do the work, as David did, but he made no attempt to hide or disguise his actions. Now, make no mistake, the Law pronounced a death sentence on any who do what Amnon did (Lev.20:10), but not like this!
Well, the news spread that Absalom had killed all David’s sons, but Jonadab shows up again to share the good news that 1332 … Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar (13:32). And David was supposed to be relieved to hear this news! 34 But Absalom fled (13:34, 37, 38). … 38 (He) fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. 39 And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom…, but the text records no further action on his part.
Joab Takes Action – 14:1-33
Well, we read c.14 earlier and we’ve heard Joab’s plan for welcoming Absalom back home. It was a very similar approach to the one Nathan used to confront David back in c.12. This unknown woman of Tekoa (14:2), which was not far from Jerusalem, told him a fictional story (14:4-7) designed to get him to render a verdict that was rooted in the Law and the mercy of God. Look at this rich statement she makes (14:14) contrasting David’s actions with God’s heart: 14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.
David listened to her words and, as we read, allowed Absalom to come home. But it was two more years (14:28)—and seven total since this began (cf. 13:23 [two years before the feast at Baal-hazor]; 38 [three years in Geshur]; 14:28 [two more in Jersualem])—since this ordeal began. And it involved another inflammatory(!) scene before it finished (14:30). Yet even when we read that David 1433 … summoned Absalom, and he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom, we know this situation is not finished, not reconciled.
The Action Everyone Should Take
We’ll pick up the story next week, God willing, with what happens next in this troubled relationship between David and Absalom. But for now, we want to tie it off and see what we discern from for our good from these dark chapters. We see David’s sons repeating his sin in ever more flagrant ways. We see this tearing at the wellbeing of the kingdom. And we see David doing nothing notable to stop it or correct it. It makes him angry (13:21). And he (longs) for restoration (13:39). But it seems like he no longer feels justified in doing what his heart is inclined to do, unless other circumstances or conversations confirm it as best (cf. 14:21, 31-33). But even then, he doesn’t complete the action, the restoration (14:24ff.), and virtual lawlessness ensues (cf. 14:30). It’s like he’s stopped fighting on all fronts—and we actually don’t see David fighting again after c.12 (Leithart 228).
We see the failure of the king, and we watch it spread through his family, and infect his people, and we’re pressed to ask: Is there no king who can lead them out of this mess? Is there no escape from this trap? Is there no way for fallen ones to rise up, or banished ones to be welcomed home? And then the words of the woman of Tekoa return to us. And we’re reminded of the mercy of God. 1414 We must all die, there’s no denying that; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again—magnifying our frailty, our weakness. But God will not take away life, like David’s inaction was doing with Absalom. Frail as our lives are, God Himself doesn’t treat them lightly. In fact, … he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. Those words were used to remind David of God’s heart of mercy. And they can be mightily used to do the same for us today.
These words remind us that God has made a way for us to steer out of the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes on the pages of 2 Samuel. He has provided a King for His people Who will never go the way David went. And more! He has a King Who, far from leading us down his own path of adultery and murder and banishment from His presence, can actually steer us out of those patterns of life, transfer His own righteousness and holiness and mercy to us—He can credit it to us!—and give us a new heart that’s programmed with a new operating system, that’s aimed in a new direction, that’s no longer bent on self-gratification and self-exaltation. It is satisfied in Him alone—in relationship with Him, walking in His ways! Our new hearts can only be satisfied living under the sovereign reign of this great King, David’s promised Son!
This great King is our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who paid the price of our citizenship in heaven by taking on Himself the sentence of our capital offense against God. We were made to live under His reign, but we fell into sin that produces in us just what we’ve seen in 2 Samuel 13-14 today, just what we see in this world every day. But now, in Him, because of His death, we have true hope of a better life, now and for all eternity!
We are His people! And He is our King, Who leads us in righteous and holiness all our days for His eternal glory! Our lives are wrapped up in His! We draw our very identity in Him. And the glory of His existence is the truest manifestation of our intended worth, and our proper end. We were made to be attendants of such a King. Our lives don’t come into focus until we realize that, and enter in to relationship by faith, believing that He is Who He said He is, and that He has done does what He said He whould do! His life, laid down for us, makes us not only citizens who dwell under His reign, but sons and daughters who live in His Father’s house and dine at His Father’s table. We are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom.8:17) from this time forward and forever.
No mere man can provide such hope for us. If David couldn’t do it, no mere man could do it. But Jesus can! And He did! God of very God come in the flesh to be our King—to fulfill the promise of God to Abraham, to David, and to us.