Today we see the return of the heart of David as in years past. Even though Absalom had tried to kill David after terribly humiliating him, David was overwhelmed with sadness at the word of Absalom’s death. We see a type of Christ here in this story. We see that Absalom was loved by his father even while he was his father’s enemy. David, now wanted to forgive Absalom even in his state of rebellion. It is obvious that David was planning on restoring the relationship between himself and Absalom and did all in his power to do so.
In the same way Romans 5:8 tells us “but God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” We did not come to God in a manner that was worthy of forgiveness, we lived our lives as enemies of God. God did not reach down to mankind who was broken over their sin; He instead gave His life to save mankind when man hated and rejected Him. The effects of rejecting the Gospel is eternal death. This banishment does not please God the Father or Jesus Christ, it saddens Him. We see in Romans 3:11 that we do not even have the capacity to seek after God and in the previous verse it states that there are none righteous. Yet God has done a great deal to reach those who aren’t even able to realize that they need to be reached.
In the same way that David was seeking restoration, so is our savior. Jesus, when on the cross, suffocating from crucifixion, pushed up with his legs pressing His badly beaten back on a splintered piece of wood in order to open his lungs enough to exhale. He did this insomuch that He could take a breath and say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” God does not delight in the banishment of eternal death in hell; He instead gave His life in order that we may not have to face that end. I think of the emotional time that Jesus had when he looked over Jerusalem from an elevated position and he wept for Israel. Jesus stated that he wished that he could gather His people under his wings as a mother hen would do. David in the same way longed for restitution that now would never be able to take place.
There comes a point in the life of all of us that we will draw our last breath. At this point it is impossible to have restitution with God; yet He longs that all should not perish and come to repentance.
Today we see the sovereign hand of God at work in the life of David and Israel. David, in yesterday’s reading, had come to the conclusion that God was finished with him. He began to think that God had cursed him and his morale was quite low. But today we see that God had placed a spy in the camp of Absalom, which would allow an escape for David. David has made the same mistake that, I believe, almost every believer encounters at least once in life. David believes that God is some how surprised at his actions and has decided to curse him. What David, in his lowly emotional state (due to the effects of his own sin) was unable to realize was that God knew every thought, action and reaction that David would ever make before he anointed him king over Israel so many years ago. When David was a lowly shepherd boy who was, and I quote “ruddy” with pretty eyes (as it is translated from the Hebrew) God knew what He was doing when He anointed him as king. David was completely unable, in his life time, to make God gasp and say “boy, I didn’t see that coming!” David was not being cursed by God. God was prophesying the effects of David’s sin when He told David what was coming; not setting up a curse for David.
As David allowed the man in yesterday’s chapter to throw dirt at him and call him names, he was under the assumption that God had abandoned him and that God had called down curses on him. What was actually happening was the effect of not obeying the Word of God. David was feeling the wrath of his own sin, not the hand of God.
We as believers need to remember that although we are forgiven completely; there are going to be many times that our past, or present, choices will cause us pain. This is why we are to “work out our own salvation…” Salvation is an ongoing process, not in regards as salvation from hell, but salvation from our sin. As we grow, we learn to trust Him and His commands. When we do this the effects of our sin are lessened. When God called us as believers to salvation, He also knew everything that we would ever do or think; but He saved us regardless. Just like Adam in the garden, when God seems far away, it is because we have allowed sin in our lives to cause us to move from Him. God was still in the garden in the cool of the day looking for Adam. Adam, after his first sin, was hiding from God. Adam then blames God for his own sinful destruction when he tells God “it was that woman that YOU GAVE ME.”
When we think that it is God who is cursing us instead of realizing that it is the effect of our sin, it causes us to become unable to confess our sin to Him. I John 1:9 states “if we confess our faults He is faithful and just for forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We all too often blame God for things that we simply brought on ourselves.
As the story progresses in today’s reading we see that what God had said would come to pass, is doing just that. Absalom now sleeps with David’s concubines in front of all Israel. I would like to take some time examining something in these chapters that I have not heard others mention. There is another effect of sin in these chapters that I believe is often, if not always, not recognized.
Some people believe that it was okay, in God’s eyes, for David, Solomon and many other men to have multiple women, either as wives or concubines. But just because scripture records these actions, it does not mean that they are condoned by God. Being the husband of one wife is not something that came about after the earthly life of Jesus. This concept for the family was given by God from the very beginning. We see in Genesis that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Then God says that these become one flesh. God never intended for men to have multiple wives, nor did He create us emotionally capable for such arrangements. Today I want to look at the two different problems in the life of David and Israel in regards to the effect of this sinful act. I would like to add that when a man decides to have multiple wives, women become more like an object or property. This action is selfish and prideful.
When king David would not take action against Tamar’s rapist, her half brother; I believe that it was not just mere anger over the act that caused Absalom to take the drastic measures in which he took. It seems to me that there is also some underlying jealousy in this story. Was king David showing favor to children of certain wives over others? Absalom sees that the king has shown less regard to him and his sister Tamar, than he had shown to his children from another woman. In fact David allowed his son, from another woman, to rape his sister without any recompense. How can there not be strife and jealousy in a family that has multiple wives, then naturally, multiple mothers. If you remember the story line in the life of Jacob, he had similar problems. After being duped into marrying Leah, Jacob worked for seven years to gain Leah’s younger sister Rachel in marriage. This act drove these two sisters to hate one another. Leah gave Jacob ten sons while Rachel gave him two. Jacob showed great love for the youngest two boys who were from the womb of Rachel. As the story unfolds, there was great jealousy between these boys of Rachel and the ten sons of Leah and her hand maids. The older ten set out to kill Joseph due to jealousy; if it were not for one of the son’s gaining a conscience, Joseph would have been left in a pit to die. Joseph was instead sold to the Ishmaelites.
When we step outside of what God has commanded it always ends badly for us. God gave us standards to live by; not because He simply enjoys making rules. God gives us these standards in order that we may have joy in life. Now we see Absalom, in broad daylight, having sexual relations with David’s concubines. This would not be possible if David lived by the standard that God had given. Once again we see the many fingers of sin digging in like the roots of a great tree. They take hold and cannot be easily removed.
Today’s chapter begins to tell us of the effect of David’s sin. God told David that this day was coming and it was now here. David was forgiven of his sin, but the effect of that sin was still to follow him. This sin not only will affect king David, but the entire nation of Israel. In today’s reading we see that David allows his son Absalom to return to Jerusalem; I would imagine that, in David’s mind, he had done what was right. If we dissect this situation a bit further we see that he is not right in his actions or attitudes.
David did not fully forgive Absalom. The fact that David did not want to see Absalom shows that instead of forgiving him, David “tolerated” his son. In Psalm 51 we see David’s repentance for the murder of Uriah the Hittite and committing adultery with Bathsheba. David received complete forgiveness from God; but yet David was unwilling to forgive Absalom. David had committed murder in order to cover his own sin and to steal a man’s wife from him. I do not want to seem to justify Absalom’s murder of his half-brother; but the circumstances in Absalom’s case were much more justifiable than in the case for David. Absalom was retaliating for the rape of his sister. Not just a drunken mistake, but a planned and plotted scheme to molest Tamar. King David did not view it in the same light as we have just viewed it. David was unable to understand the concept of “grace for grace.”
When we receive the grace of the holy, perfect and righteous God how much more, as sinful man, should we forgive others? Jesus told the parable of the man who had a great debt in which he could not pay. When this man knelt before his creditor, the creditor forgave the debt, a debt that was more than the man could have earned in his lifetime. Jesus then goes on to say that the man who found grace went out and found a man who owed him a small debt. He had the man imprisoned after grabbing him by the throat while demanding his money. Jesus said that the master who had forgiven the large debt, when he found out, was outraged against this evil man. The master then handed the evil man over to the torturers for his original debt. Due to the evil man’s unwillingness to forgive others as he had been forgiven, his original debt had been placed back upon him. (Mt.18:21-35) We need to take great care in how we forgive others seeing that we who are in Christ, have had a debt, that could not be paid, forgiven by our master.
An illustration of half-hearted forgiveness would be in a marital relationship. When a spouse does something that puts a great strain on the relationship, then they come, with a broken heart, asking for forgiveness; that act must be forgiven and forgotten. When someone simply allows their spouse to remain under the same roof with them, it is not true forgiveness. We see in these situations that in the future when there is an argument or disagreement, the issue is brought up and thrown in the face of the one who sought forgiveness. This wrong doing of the spouse becomes something that can be pulled out at any time as a weapon. It can be used as a constant reminder of the persons failures and diminishes the self worth of the one who sought forgiveness. This is not forgiveness at all, my friend, it is an emotional prison! What if God forgave us in this manner? What kind of life would we have if God constantly reminded us of our past sins? It would be a terrible existence. We should therefore work in order to forgive as God forgives. David did not do this; now it is going to catch up with him.
Today we see a side of David that we have not really seen yet. Although David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, he did not want to see his face. David may have thought that this was done correctly, but that is far from the truth. When God forgave David for his murder and adultery, it was a complete forgiveness. David, unlike Absalom, did not kill for the honor of his sister; he instead killed to cover his sin and take another man’s wife. David was not able to forgive Absalom as God had forgiven him. The animosity this action brought forth in Absalom, would nearly cost David the kingdom, and it would indeed leave a black eye on Israel as we will see in the following chapters.
I believe that we can learn from this chapter that there is no such thing as “partial” forgiveness. I would like to use the marriage relationship as an example. If a spouse commits some act that causes a great deal of stress on the relationship, then comes and asks for forgiveness with a sorrowful heart, the spouse should forgive and forget. When the spouse that has been wronged decides that they will just remain married to the offender, but still remain angry; they have not forgiven them. Co-habitation does not equal forgiveness; just as it did not for Absalom as he returned to Jerusalem. In these circumstances the spouse that has been wronged will often use the offence to hold over the head of the other. It is like a secret weapon that can be pulled out when ever needed. In every argument or dis-agreement, the past sin will be brought up and ends up crushing the spirit of the one who has come seeking forgiveness. What if God forgave us in this same manner? What a terrible existence we would have! We always need to remember that awesome grace that was given us before we decide how we will forgive another.