A Royal Shambles

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Intervening on behalf of David’s kingdom, Joab conspired with a wise woman to resolve the conflict between the king and his son Absalom. When David acquiesced, Absalom returned to Jerusalem unpunished, unforgiven, and unashamed—and the saga of alienation and disruption within David’s family and kingdom continued. Reminding us that sin always ends in tears, Alistair Begg directs our gaze forward to the cross, where, with open arms, King Jesus graciously welcomes believers out of the chaos and shambles of rebellious lives.

Scripture: 2 Samuel 14


The following message by Alistair begg is made available by truth for life. For more information, visit us online. At truth for life dot org. two. Samuel 14: verse one. Now joe had the son of zero. Ia knew that the king’s heart went out to absalon and job sent to Toccoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her, pretend to be a mourner and put on mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning for many days for the dead. Go to the king and speak thus to him. So job put the words in her mouth when the woman of Toccoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and paid homage and said, Save me o king. And the king said to her, what is your trouble? She answered. Alas! I am a widow, my husband is dead. And your servant had two sons. And they quarreled with one another in the field. There was no one to separate them and the one struck the other and killed him. And now the whole clan has risen up against your servant and they say give up the man who struck his brother that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed. And so they would destroy the air also. Thus they would quench my coal that is left and leave to my husband’s neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth. Then the king said to the woman, go to your house and I will give orders concerning you and the woman, of course, said to the king on me, be the guilt. My Lord. The king and on my father’s house. Let the king and his throne be guiltless. The king said, If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me and he shall never touch you again. Then she said, please let the king invoke the Lord, your God. That the Avenger of blood kill no more and my son not be destroyed, he said, As the Lord lives not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground. Then the woman said, Please let your servants speak a word to my Lord. The king, he said speak and the woman said, why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? Foreign giving this decision. That king convicts himself. Inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 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. Now, I have come to say this to my Lord, the king because the people have made me afraid and your servant thought, I will speak to the king. It may be that the king will perform the request of his servant for the king will here and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son Together from the heritage of God and your servant thought the word of my Lord. The king will set me at rest for my Lord. The king is like the Angel of God to discern good and evil. The Lord, your God be with you. Then the king answered. The woman. Do not hide from me anything I ask you. And the woman said, Let my Lord, the king speak, the king said, Is the hand of Job with you. In all this, the woman answered and said. As surely as you live, my Lord, the king one kind of turned to the right or to the left from anything that my lord, the king has said. It was your servant job who commanded me? It was he who put all these words in the mouth of your servant in order to change the course of things. Your servant job did this. But my Lord has wisdom, like the wisdom of the Angel of God to know all things that are on the air. Then the king said to joe, I behold now I grant this, Go bring back the young man Absalom And Job fell on his face to the ground and paid homage and blessed the king and Job said. Today, Your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, My Lord. The King in that the king has granted the request of his servants. So job arose and went to Gesher and brought Absalom to Jerusalem and the king said, Let him dwell apart in his own house. He is not to come into my presence. So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence. Now in Israel, all Israel, there was no one so much to be prayed for his handsome appearance as absolutely from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. There was no blemish in here. And when he cut the hair of his head, for at the end of every year he used to cut it. When it was heavy on him, he cut it. He weighed the hair of his head 200 shekels by the king’s wait. They were born to absolute three sons and one daughter, whose name was Tamar. She was a beautiful woman. So absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem without coming into the King’s presence. Then Absalom sent for Job to send him to the king. But Job would not come to him, and he sent a second time. But Job would not come. Then he said to his servants. See Jobs field is next to mine, and he is Barley. There go and set it on fire. So Absalom servants set the field on fire. Then Job arose and went to Absalom at his house and said to him, Why have your servants set my field on fire, absolute answer, Joanne. Behold, I send word to you, Come here that I may send you to the king to ask, Why have I come from Gesher. It would be better for me to be there still. Now. Therefore, let me go into the presence of the king and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death. Then job went to the king and told him and he summoned Absalon. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king and the king kissed Absalon. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God Father. We come to the bible, aware of our need, our need of comprehension, interpretation application. We look from ourselves to the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Grant that we might hear your voice in and through my little voice. For jesus sake. Amen. Well, are heading for this morning I’ve decided is a royal shambles. A royal shambles. We continue to be in the midst of lust. Death, alienation, yearning bereavement, rape, murder, and toxic family relationships. In fact, many of us were breathing a sigh of relief as we got to the end of Chapter 13. I know that I was And I was keenly looking forward to getting into the relative comfort of Chapter 14 only to find that having as it were left behind these distasteful chapters, we now have this relatively straightforward account of absolute return to Jerusalem. And I was quite honestly unprepared for the sense of helplessness that one feels before the text of scripture. I don’t know if you ever find this, you read a passage and you say to yourself, my my I think I better read this again and maybe in another version of the bible that meant make a little clearer. I was encouraged when I read one of my colleagues who simply wrote 2nd Samuel 14 puzzles me. I said, well, that’s good. I’m not alone. That’s there’s safety in numbers. And so as daunting as it is, we need to get down to the task. And so what we’re going to do is try and work our way all the way to the end. If you want some kind of outline, we’re going to consider jobs, concern the woman’s conversation, the king’s compliance and finally the king kisses absalom. First of all, then the concern of job. We won’t take time to go back into previous chapters. We have already met Job. If you have only remember him for one instant, you will remember the gory occasion when he manages to encourage Abner to come into the passageway or into a hallway and then he promptly sticks a knife into his gut. And that is the end of Abdur so you wouldn’t want to mess around with Joel. We’ve seen him before. He’s a kind of get it done fellow. And here he is concerned to get it done. We will be meeting him again and for those of you who are alert, you will remember that as the son of Zechariah, he is a nephew of David himself. Now, we’re told immediately what he knew and what he knew is that the king’s heart went out to Absalon. Well, we say to ourselves, that’s fairly straightforward. But what does that actually mean? And from our study last time, you will perhaps recall that I acknowledge to you that the original text of the closing verses of chapter 13 stretches the abilities of all hebrew scholars. And there is a significant amount of debate as to just exactly what it means there as to David longing to go out after Absalom. We concluded last time, at least I concluded last time that the way to understand the end of 38 or 13, is like this and this and that is the circumstances that have been conveyed. Namely, that Absalom has made a run for it into the custody of his maternal grandfather and out of the jurisdiction of David. And that fact, and this held the king back from marching out against Absalon, but he mourned over Absalon because Amnon, he mourned over Amnon because he was dead. Now, if that is correct. And I take it that it is correct, then what Job is aware of here when it says that the king’s heart went out to Absalon is that he’s aware of his antagonism towards Absalon, not his affection for Absalon. In fact, as the story unfolds, it’s very hard to see why job would need to come up with such a convoluted plan to simply do what he knew David wanted to do, namely go and reach out to Absalom and bring him back because of his affection for him. I think the context helps us in 14, understand the end of 13. If we have that in mind, then I think we won’t go wrong. His concern then is on account of David’s antagonism, not David’s affection. And he is seeking you will find down in verse 20 what? Because of what he knows he is seeking, The lady explains this down in verse 20 to change the course of things. To change the course of things. What course of things? Well, the king and Absalom are on a collision course and a collision course between the king and his potential air may only result in all kinds of disruption at least. So, it seems to job and so jobs concern here is a concern for the kingdom itself and out of his desire to see things resolved to see resolution resolution. He intervenes. We know that David as the king has failed to execute justice, he has allowed Absalom to get away. Absalon should have been prosecuted, he killed his brother. He at the same time, the king has not only failed to show justice, but he is unwilling to show mercy. As we discover in this unfolding drama. In fact, the king fails to show any decisive direction in relationship to this unfolding shambles. And so it falls to joe ab to seek to break the impasse. That’s his concern. That’s what he knew. What did he do? Well, you can see it here in the text he sent to Toccoa and he brought from there, a wise woman to co about 10 miles from Jerusalem, about five miles from Bethlehem. So he sends over there and he brings back this lady. We know nothing off her. Perhaps she was a counselor, Perhaps she was well known. Perhaps she had a drama school for all we know, but he sends for her because he has determined that he is not going to get resolution in this circumstance by working through normal political protocol. He’s not going to be able to apply if you like, the principles of a normal bureaucratic structure. In fact, what are you seeking to do is to resolve the situation by presenting it to the king in a different light. He is, if you like, a turnaround specialist in some ways, some of you in business or turn around men or turn around women and, you know, first of all you define and then you analyze the problem and then you you determine the scope and the strategy that is to be exercised. That’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s using a strange methodology and in indirect methodology, but a methodology that is going to prove effective. Now when it says that he sent for a wise woman, some of us have been paying attention immediately go, oh wait a minute. The last wise person we had was none other than Jonah dad. Mr crafty. And that wasn’t exactly wonderful what is going to happen here. So he sends for the lady and I’m going to summarize some of this. So as not to simply repeat the text. He has her comedy sister, here’s the plan. I want you to pretend to be in mourning. I want you to dress accordingly. I want you to behave as a woman who has been mourning for quite a while for day after day, which was exactly what David had been doing over the death of Hamlin. And I want you to know madam that I have got an outline here for you. I have your script ready for you. I’m going to allow you to adopt it and to adapt it as necessary in order to achieve the objective. Alright, so the concern is he knows it’s a shambles and he is concerned at the same time to try and fix it secondly to the women’s conversation and this is the substantial part of this chapter and it’s long and I read it a lot during the week and it took me a long, long time before I felt that I even had a handle on it. You’re about to discover whether I do have a handle on it. The women’s conversation actually, we might better refer to it as the woman’s performance because this is quite this is quite a performance. She plays the part with finesse. She plays the part with bravery. And of course you will recognize that what is happening here is akin to what we already saw back in chapter 12 when Nathan, the Prophet comes to David and he doesn’t come to him straight out and say what you did was wrong. He tells him a parable in order to bring him to the point where the parable brings about a sense of conviction on the part of David and then he plays the ace. And he says, you’re actually that man. Now, what’s going on here is very similar. She is going to seek the king’s help with a problem that isn’t real in the hope that it will help him with a problem that is real. Now, we’ve got a slight advantage over David as the readers of the story, because we know that job has set her up. We know that her story is bogus. We know that she’s pretending We know that when she comes and makes her appeal as she does. She’s very skillful. She fell on her face to the ground. There’s quite a bit of falling on the face to the ground in the space of these 33 verses and her appeal is straightforward. I need your help, save me o King. I need your help. Now, what she actually knows is that the king needs her help. Anyway, it’s a good start. It’s very disarming. Incidentally, if you’re ever involved in a difficult discussion or a business dealing or something else that you’re not really looking forward to, especially if you have to do something that’s a little hard then it’s not a bad beginning just to say, I wonder if we might meet. I need your help. Oh, he says, yes, of course. I’ll be glad now how she was able to come directly to the king, presumably is because of job himself. He could make it happen. So now she has the king’s ear and she speaks, I’m a widow, my husband is dead. My two sons got into a fight. They were out in the field. It might make you think of CAin and Abel out in the field. The one boy struck him and killed him. The family, our whole family, the clan has ganged up against me. They want me to hand over the son who did it so that they can put him to death as recompense. But if they do that, they will snuff out. The only spark of my life that’s the cold there. You will see in the text, they will snuff out. The only spark of my life, I’ll be left with no husband and with no air and with no name. So in other words, this is this is very, very skillful, isn’t it? Because this is a this is a problem of lineage. This is a problem of transition. The very transition that is before us now in the story of the kings and particularly in relationship to David. So that’s the first part of our talk. He responds in a positive way. He says, why don’t you go home? I’ll take care of this, go home and I’ll take care of this. But that won’t do you receive your seed? And the woman of Tekoa said to the king, she comes back again. She says, well, wait a minute. I want you to know that I will take responsibility if you are criticized for helping me. An interesting thing to say. It seems like she actually has to she can’t let the conversation stop. She she’s got she’s got to keep it going because she’s not at the point anywhere close to the point. So now the king says in verse 10, if anyone says anything to you, if anyone objects, just bring the man to me and he will never touch you again. Now, I’ve imagined that the king did this as something of a favor to job. Uh, there’s a lady, I’d like you to see the lady comes in. Hello. What’s he on about says, well, I got a thing with her son and so on. He says, okay, go home, I’ll take care of it. She said, no, no, wait a minute. I want I want you to know something. And so he thinks that’s finished there. But no, There we go verse 11 then she said, please let the king invoke the Lord. Your God. That the Avenger of blood kill no more. And my son not be destroyed. Now what she’s saying there is intervene so that the cycle of vengeance that my family want to institute will be broken for the sake of my son. He then says with an oath, a familiar oath as the Lord lives. A sworn decision by which he commits himself to the woman’s cause not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground. But of course we know she didn’t have a son. She was working the material to get David to see himself in the picture. So just when he thinks his case closed. Verse 12, the woman said, please let your servants speak a word to my Lord, the king. Or if I might just mention something else. And he said speak, how do you think? How did that come out like speak? What do you say? Go ahead. Yeah. Alright, fine, fine, go ahead. Speak. And then she joins the dots. Now she comes at him and the woman said, why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? Why have you acted in this way and convicted yourself by not bringing home? You’re banished one. What What is happening is simply this? That David gives his ruling on her acted case only to discover that he has passed judgment on his own case, a case which affects not only him and not only Absalom, but the family, the people of God. That’s the significance of it. Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? In other words, she says, what you’re doing here in relationship to your son Absalom has got ramifications far bigger than simply whether the two of you are getting along. This has to do with the whole history of the people of God. It’s a dramatic moment, far more than father and son relationship. It has the potential unresolved for civil war. And then she goes on in verse 14 and she says, we must all die were like water spilled on the ground. I take it that what she’s saying there is, you know what Amnon is dead and he isn’t coming back. But God will not take away life. Well, of course, God does take away life. We know that the lord kills and the Lord brings back to life. That’s for Samuel to six. But what she’s saying is God in this case is a life giver. He’s a restorer. Or if you like, she’s saying to him, King, death is irreversible. But God’s dealings are far from irreversible. Or even if you like God’s responses to things are far from irreversible. Well, of course, that ought to have wrong, even just a tiny bell in the back of his mind in relationship to chapter 12 and verse 13 when he repents and Nathan says to him, the Lord has put away your sins. Isn’t it amazing how we can know the forgiveness of God and refuse forgiveness to others? How it can be set free and seek to hold others at arm’s length from us. That’s exactly what’s going on here now, interestingly, And this is where it gets hard. I think in verse 15 she goes back into drama mode. She has stepped out of it to make her point. But she hasn’t said in doing that. She hasn’t said, Oh, by the way, all that stuff about me having being a widow and my sons. No, I just made all that stuff up. She hasn’t said that. She doesn’t say that. No. She comes right back into it in verse 15. Now, I’ve come to say this to my Lord, the king because the people have made me afraid. That’s the people that are coming against her. And I thought I’ll speak to the king because it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. I came to plead with you for my son. Our lives have been threatened. So I said to myself, perhaps the king will listen to me and rescue us from those who seek to destroy our heritage. I was convinced that the king will give us peace because he is like the messenger of God. He’s like the Angel of God. The 1 to Discern Good & Evil. Was he listening? He said, I am coming to you for resolution. Because you are like the Angel of God, you’re like the messenger of God. You’re the one that knows the difference between good and bad. You know the difference between sleeping with your own wife and sleeping with somebody else’s wife. You know it all. You’re the king. Oh, what a jab in the stomach. And then she says to him and the Lord, your God be with you. Well, of course The explanation for David’s victories lay in that reality that it says again in 2nd Samuel five. And the reason for David’s success was that the Lord, his God was with him. And what we’ve discovered now is that that is a shaky context. Now the king answered the woman, is it okay if I ask you something? I mean, that’s really it. And now she says, she says, yeah, you can speak. So, first of all he says to her, you can speak. And now she, it’s interesting she, the petitioner has become the preacher and now she she is the one who is granted him permission to speak. And of course he inquires is job behind this. Now the chances are that job had already addressed this with the king and even if he hadn’t already addressed it with the king. The king is savvy enough to recognize that there is something, there is someone behind this lady’s little pantomime here. And of course she explains, She answers and she says, yeah, I can’t deny it. It was joe who put me up to it. He did it out of a concern back to verse 20 now. So we are making progress. He did it out of a concern to change the course of things. But my Lord has wisdom, like the wisdom of the Angel of God to know all things on the earth, nothing like a burst of flattery just to close it out and with the drama over she exits stage left. So jobs concern is a concern for the kingdom. The woman’s conversation is this parody, this ruse the subterfuge in order that by an unorthodox methodology, David may be brought to realize the predicament that is before him. Then we come to the king’s compliance. Have Children’s chosen the word compliance. I think it is the right word. Verse 21. Then the king he sent for job obviously. And he says to him, okay, job fine, I’ll go along with this. I grant this. Go bring back the young man absalom. And here we have a second falling on the face, You have fell on his face to the ground, paid homage, blessed the king and said. Today, your servant knows that I found favor in your sight, My Lord. The king and the king has granted the request of his servant. In other words, he must have been so wonderfully encouraged that his little strategy had yielded this benefit And he acknowledges it. And so verse 23, he goes to do what the King has said. He goes to Gesher, which is of course the jurisdiction of absolute maternal grandfather as we saw. And he brought Absalon to Jerusalem. Now keep in mind three years have elapsed between the end of Chapter 13 and the beginning of Chapter 14. For three years, Absalon has lived banished. We’re then introduced to Absalom. I’m not going to delay in that this little sort of um uh if it was in contemporary terms, there would be a click on it, in your in your on your phone, you could click on it and bring up a picture of Absalon and it would give you a little bit of background on him. He’s mr handsome. There’s nobody more handsome. He’s striking in his appearance. There is a hint of saul about him. Remember Saul was the guy, big tall, everybody loved him. All the girls fancied him is a dangerous predicament, one that I’ve never known. And it is a circumstance that ought to cause concern for us. And there we have it, he’s striking in his appearance. He’s forceful in his personality. He’s got a thing about his hair, clearly, he’s got a thing about his hair and I guess it caught once a year. And so he returns, he returns, he has a daughter. Tamar will come back to Absalon. Later, he returns to Jerusalem unpunished, unforgiven. And as we’re going to discover on a shame, he returns unpunished, unforgiven and unashamed. And I say to you again that this is acquiescence on the part of the king. This is the king’s reluctant acceptance of absolute return. He does it without protest. How is this then going to end? Because actually, we’re at the point of the story where Absalom has now become the central character. Well, you say, let’s just go immediately to the end of the chapter and you have it and the king kissed Absalon. Yes, but how did we arrive at the case? Well, we’re told he lives for two years in limbo. He says, you can come back into Jerusalem, but you’re not coming anywhere near me, you wouldn’t call that much of a welcome, would you? And so he determines that he is going to have to intervene in some way and he is contacting job. But in contemporary terms, job is not returning his calls. He called tried to put in a call to joe, but I want to go see the king. He doesn’t even reply, he doesn’t want to know, he tries it once tries it twice. And so he takes a leaf from jobs playbook because remember Job decided that in order to achieve his ends, he would have to try and use an unorthodox strategy in order to achieve his objective. And so Absalom says, well I’ve got a rather unorthodox strategy. He calls his servants. And he says, you know his field is right beside ours, It’s full of barley, why don’t you just go and set fire to it And that’s exactly what they do. And so absolute servants. Verse 30 set the field on fire. Then job arose and went to Absalom at his house. It was a rather dramatic way to get your next door neighbor to pay attention. But there you have it. And he actually comes and inquires he must have known the answer. Why did you say, why did you send your people to set my field on fire? He says, are you kidding me? I sent word to you come here that I may send you to the king to ask why have I come from gas or it would be better for me to be still there. It would be better off living there banished than living here unwelcomed nor welcome. Would be better than a half hearted welcome. So I want an interview with the king. He’s not asking to see his father. You will notice his king King King King King. I was underlining king in my bible until I just stopped. It is it is the king, it is the kingdom, this is what it is about. This is not a sort of just a family feud. No, I want an audience an interview with the king And then in verse 33, there you have it. Then, Job went told, summoned, came bowed, and the king kissed Absalom. Actually, I don’t think we need to regard Absalom. His professed willingness to accept his fate if you were guilty. Okay, I don’t know that. We need to take it very seriously as we’re about to see. So here we end. And the king kissed Absalon. You must remember this. A kiss. It’s just a kiss. Yes, I is just a sigh. Kind of kiss. Was this This was a protocol kiss. This was a political kiss. This was a gesture. This is the reaction of the king who has been manipulated into an environment that he was unprepared for and unwilling to enter into wholeheartedly. Well, you say it’s fine though, isn’t it? It ends with a kiss. Surely the kisses fixed everything. If you think the kiss has fixed everything, it’s only because you haven’t read chapter 15 now, what we have here and I concluded this way, this royal shambles is a terrible picture of alienation and disruption, first of all, within a family and then within a kingdom or if you like within a nation, it is a picture that leaves us in. Absolutely no doubt that sin, no matter how good it feels for a season, that sin always ends in tears these chapters and this chapter make it absolutely clear how terrible our world would be if God gave us over to the consequences of sin without providing for us a righteous king without giving to us the Gospel? Who can deal with the shambles of our world? Okay, who can deal with the shambles of our nation? Who can deal with the shambles of some of our families? Who can deal with the shambles of my rebellious heart? Certainly not David, certainly not David. Then who while they want to, whom? David points? She says, you’re the one who knows everything. You’re fantastic. Well, he wasn’t. But the profits that there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of jesse and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him and he will execute justice and righteousness. And he will bring peace to the nations. Jesus, jesus was happy to tell stories that had kisses in them. Do you remember the people around him? And he says, you know, I got I got one for you. There was a man And he had two sons and the younger of them, he got banished. He banished himself. Actually, he ended up, his life was a complete mess. He recognized that he decided he would go home. He had a speech, he would say to his father, I screwed up. I sinned against heaven and in your sight, I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. I’d be happy if I could have a place this down in the garden, gladly cut the grass for you. But when he was a long way off his father saw him and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. That’s the kiss you’re looking for. Where does God come to kiss us? Where does God run out to us? Where does God stretches arms to welcome us? Out of our chaos And out of our shambles in the cross of his dearly beloved son to arms outstretched to save us from the shambles of a life lived in this interest and rebellion against the one who has made us for himself, that we might rest in his provision. Oh, I hope that this will at least be a help to some of us. And it may be that one of you, one person is here today and says, that’s it for me. I don’t know about that woman. I don’t know about job. I don’t know about much, but I do know this, that my life is a walking chaos and I have been unable to fix it. If that jesus stuff is the answer, that’s for me. Well, may it be so father, thank you, Thank you. That all scripture is inspired by you, the living God. It is profitable for correction for reproof, for training and righteousness. It is given to us in order that we might be made wise for salvation. So may it be that it leads us to the cross, that it leads us to christ, that we might as this woman did bow down in obeisance before the king and in humility of heart and in expression of our need, ask him to rule and reign over our lives. Certainly the answer is not in our endeavors, but only in your amazing grace in christ’s name. We pray amen. This message was brought to you from Truth for life, where the learning is for living, learn more about truth for life with Alistair begg visit us online at Truth for Life dot org.

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Alistair Begg is the Senior Pastor of Cleveland's Parkside Church (located in Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio), a position he has had since 1983. He is the...

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