Disobedience, Tears, and Death

“Disobedience, Tears, and Death”
August 09, 2015

By John Partridge

Scripture: 2 Samuel 18:5-15, 31-33                         Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2                   John 6:35, 41-51

Close your eyes.

Do you remember when you were a young person and you did stupid stuff that got your parents to yell at you? Now remember when you did something worse, not everyone has that moment but many of us have, when you did something so bad or so unexpected, that your parents didn’t… couldn’t yell, or even speak. Remember how your heart broke when you noticed that this thing you had done or said, made them sit, with nothing to say to you… and weep. Some parents have hidden that moment simply by saying things like, “Go to your room,” or “I’m so angry I don’t even want to see you right now.” But you heard them talking from your room and later you noticed (although they wouldn’t admit it) that they had unusually red eyes like they had been crying.

Maybe you were a good kid and that didn’t happen to you, but maybe your children did it to you as a parent. Or maybe it happened to a friend, or someone from church, but I want you to hold on to that idea, that moment when the words or the actions of another individual, a person you love, are so disastrous, so hurtful, that you, yourself are brought to tears from the pain that you feel on their behalf.

Open your eyes but hold on to that feeling in your memory.

It is moments like these that we will be reading about, and talking about this morning. Once again rejoining the story of King David, now as his son Absalom has dethroned him, run him out of Jerusalem, taken everything that he had, slept with his wives, and now is literally at war with David, we begin in 2 Samuel 18:5-15, 31-33.

5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.

9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”

11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”

12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”

14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

—-

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David has been attacked by his own son. Absalom has taken David’s throne, been crowned as king, and driven David into the countryside. But as David’s loyal friends, soldiers, and others rally to his side and he begins to fight back, David, even though he is now at war with his own child, still loves Absalom and orders that he should not be harmed, and in fact, that he should be treated gently.

But as David’s commanding general finds Absalom, he disobeys David’s explicit orders and kills the young man on the spot as he hangs, helplessly, from a low-hanging branch, by his hair.

And when David hears the news that his son is dead, David weeps.

David had every reason to be happy. His throne, his power, his wealth and everything else had been returned to him. The rebellion had been crushed. But David, despite the betrayal, despite the disobedience, despite the pain, still loved his son. And David went to a quiet place and wept.

The next passage of scripture doesn’t sound like it is related to the story of David that we just read, at least at first. But with a little thought and reflection, everything starts to fall into place. (John 6:35, 41-51)

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Jesus said, “I am the living bread.” And then, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” From this, and all of the gospel stories, we know that Jesus is the bread, which was given by God, so that the whole world could be rescued and given life. The gift of eternal life, the gift of Jesus, was given as a gift of forgiveness, a gift of wholeness.

The gift of Jesus was a gift of sacrifice.

And it was given because God witnessed our betrayal and disobedience. We have all done the very things that God knew would destroy us. We have done the things that God commanded us not to do. We knew that God was the king of the universe, but we chose to overthrow him. We wanted to sit on the throne. We wanted to make the rules. We wanted to do whatever we wanted.

And our betrayal and disobedience caused God so much pain that he wept.

But even in the face of our betrayal and disobedience, even in the face of his pain and sorrow, God never stopped loving us. In fact, just as David ordered his men to be gentle with Absalom, God still wanted to rescue us from our own mess. God knew that the penalty for our sin and betrayal was death.

But instead of making us pay, God chose instead to sacrifice his own son in our place.

Jesus came to earth to rescue us from the problems and pain that we created for ourselves. Jesus came to become the bread of life and said, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

That is an enormous responsibility.

We owe God a great debt.

But what can we do? How can we even begin to repay what God has done for us? What can we do to show God that we are grateful?

And in Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2, Paul answers us by saying…

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Paul says that we are all members of one body, which to me is another way of saying that we all belong to the same family, but, more than that, it is, just what Paul said, that we are part of the same body. Some of us are hands, others feet, and so on, but anything that harms one of us, harms all of us. And so, Paul’s instructions are to speak the truth and to make sure that we don’t do foolish things when we are angry. We all know that when we get mad enough, something inside of us wants to react, to lash out at the thing that hurt or angered us, but in Paul’s mind, that action gives our enemy a grip on us. Instead of lashing out, we need to be thoughtful and loving like David. We need to offer second chances. We need to put aside all sorts of wrongdoing, like stealing. We need to use our speech to lift people up and not to tear them down. Our speech should bring glory to God instead of making dirty jokes, talking about Desperate Housewives, and other unwholesome talk. Unwholesome talk encourages sin. Paul says that all these things “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”

These are the things that make God weep.

Instead, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Instead of living lives of betrayal and rebellion, let us live lives that are dedicated to helping one another, loving one another, forgiving one another, encouraging one another, and offering our lives, and everything that we do, as an offering, a sacrifice, to God.

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