Let's imagine it. You’re the monarch of a great country you’ve been ruling for some time. You were chosen by God himself to rule; you battled hard to win control of the nation. Now you’ve left the running of the country to others. You think you can rest upon your laurels and the perceived contentment of your people. Things seem to be going along just swell when your son comes to you and asks (remember, you’re the king, and even your adult son needs to ask permission to do certain things) if he can go to a special city to him to offer a promised sacrifice. You—who are always ready and willing to encourage that kind of religious devotion—give your consent and blessing. You actually say to him: “Go in shalom (peace).” You are pleased because your son seems to be following in your footsteps of being a man after God’s own heart. Doesn’t that just make your parental heart sing!?
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But wait. Things are not as they seem to be. (They rarely are.) Maybe you should have done a little checking on what your son’s been up to; maybe you should have watched over your kingdom more closely, been more attentive to the people and their needs. Had your advisors out taking notes and reporting to you more often. Maybe you should have kept your eyes open and your ears close to the ground.
Without giving away too much of the story in Second Samuel 15:1-16, King David pronounces a blessing of peace upon his son, who doesn’t deserve it. Actually, he intends to misuse it. How could that happen? How could a son do such a thing to a king? To his father?
Before we get further into the lesson, let’s read the story as The Message tells it.
As time went on, Absalom [David’s son] took to riding in a horse-drawn chariot, with fifty men running in front of him. Early each morning he would take up his post beside the road at the city gate [where disputes were addressed and judgments rendered]. When anyone showed up with a case to bring to the king for a decision, Absalom would call him over and say, “Where do you hail from?”
And the answer would come, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.”
Then Absalom would say, “Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.” Then he’d say, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge in this country?” Anyone with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.” When someone would treat him with special honor, he’d shrug if off and treat him like an equal, making him feel important. Absalom did this to everyone who came to do business with the king and stole the hearts of everyone in Israel. (emphasis mine)
After four years of this, Absalom spoke to the king [David]. “Let me go to Hebron to pay a vow that I made to GOD. Your servant made a vow when I was living in Geshur in Aram, saying, “If GOD will bring me back to Jerusalem, I’ll serve him with my life.”
The king said, “Go with my blessing [Go in shalom].” And he got up and set off for Hebron.
Then Absalom sent undercover agents to all the tribes of Israel with the message, “When you hear the blast of the ram’s horn trumpet, that’s your signal: Shout, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’” Two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem. But they had been called together knowing nothing of the plot and made the trip innocently. While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he managed also to involved Ahithophel the Gilionite, David’s advisor, calling him away from his hometown of Giloh. The conspiracy grew powerful and Absalom’s supporters multiplied.
Someone came to David with the report, “The whole country has taken up with Absalom!”
“Up and out of here!” called David to all his servants who were with him
in Jerusalem. “We’ve got to run for our lives or none of us will escape Absalom!
Hurry, he’s about to pull the city down around our ears and slaughter all of us!”
The king’s servants said, “Whatever our master, the king, says, we’ll do; we’re with you all the way!”
Wow! I think we need to take a deep breath and think about what just happened. A clueless king, an indulgent father, and a conniving son. Maybe it sounds as though I’m being harsh on David, but if you know the backstory to Absalom’s behavior, and this event, you’ll know that at a time where Absalom really wanted—and needed—to have some justice rendered, (for his sister, David’s daughter), David dismissed Absalom and the event through his words, demeanor, lack of attention, and abdication of authority. After that, Absalom plants seeds of loathing and retribution in his own heart, and this is where it begins.
And Absalom seems to betray his father in the worst kind of way—by first obtaining David’s blessing; and then dragging David’s troops into the deception.
1. David is lax in his ruling and in being a good, conscientious—attentive—father and king.
2. And Absalom is clever. He went through a lot of planning and strategy (four years of it) to gain the people’s hearts. And he patiently waited for just the right time to act.
3. Absalom’s behavior duplicates that of a sly, scheming (dishonest) politician interested in power and control.
4. Absalom knows how to appeal to the people’s emotions, needs, and self-interests, and they succumb to his attention and charm.
5. Absalom lies to his father, David, who is blinded to his son’s deception.
6. But maybe, just maybe, David had put Absalom on a pedestal in his heart, thinking Absalom could do no wrong. He may have counted Absalom as pretty close to perfect. Unfortunately, lots of parents seem to think their kids are practically perfect in every way, and they indulge their child’s every whim and desire.
Now for the introspective questions!
1. Can you think of a time when you’ve let your guard down, when you’ve been too trusting, and whole heartedly, happily granted someone close to you the blessing of shalom when they came to you with what seemed like a reasonable request? A request that pleased your soul?
2. Can you think of a time when you haven’t been as attentive as you should have been to what was transpiring in your “kingdom”? When you ‘ve been too self-focused, or focused on the “wrong” things. When you’ve been distracted? What could you have done differently to change the situation, or to do a better job of recognizing what was going on “behind your back’?
It always amazes me when people say, after a family member or loved one betrayed them, that they didn’t know it was coming, that they were taken totally by surprise. Certainly that can happen, especially when the perpetrator is cunning, lying, and stealthy. But so often, if you look back over the events leading up to the betrayal, you—in retrospect—see the signs, and you wonder how you could have missed something like that. You could kick yourself for missing them. Or perhaps you didn’t keep your eyes open widely enough; you didn’t keep your ears to the ground. Kick, kick, kick!
David sent Absalom away in peace, and Absalom returned in retribution and betrayal. He returned as a conspirator against his own father. David trusted Absalom, and Absalom tore that trust into shreds.
And it broke David’s heart. It’s one thing when a co-worker or acquaintance, or even a friend breaks your trust, but when your kids lie to you and betray you it’s devastating.
While I’m not suggesting that parents follow their children around, not trusting anything they do and eyeballing their every move, I do think more parents need to remove their rose-colored glasses and identify their children as the fallen human beings they are. And then there are the parents who need to do a better job of being alert and attending to their children, of really paying attention to them, respecting them, and being just and merciful with them.
If parents would do more of those things, I think we’d have more reciprocated blessings of peace and fewer heartaches. And the same holds true for other family members, and friends.
If you want to read how the rest of the events transpired—the palace intrigue, the lust, the lurid flouting of power, ambition and success, the affect on the nation, and the shattered heart of a father—read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel 15-20. You won’t be bored!
Next week we’ll look at how peace can cause a person to be so thrilled that they are willing to lose all of they have to keep the peace they’ve gained.
Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter. Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer