Monday, August 28, 2023

Absalom's rebellion against King David

Right now in this season of growing politics, we see various candidates political office beginning again to vie for the affections of the people. They make promises, they give their policies, and they fight for the support of the people of the United States. Similarly, in the time of David and Absalom we see a battle for the hearts and affections of the people of Israel.

David's own beloved son Absalom, begins to plot a nefarious conspiracy against his own dad. Let's dive into how that plays out...

From 2nd Samuel 15:1-4: “In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” 4 And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

Absalom, son of king David, begins to wait out on the way to the kings court. People would be coming to meet with the King and Absalom would call them over and find ways to help them with whatever problem they were facing. So he begins to receive the care and support of the nation.

He showed a great deal of compassion and kindness to the people as well. 

It says in verses 5-6, “Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.”

The people would come and bow down before Absalom, and Absalom would take them by the hand and kiss their head and treat them kindly. I’m sure Absalom seemed like a great leader, so kind, so gentle, so caring, so compassionate, or so it seemed.

Absalom did this for four years. And the word of God says that he stole the hearts of the people. The people began to speak well of Absalom, talk about his kindness, his loving nature, his hugs, and help, and pretty soon the whole nation is saying from door to door that Absalom is a great leader, and David, not so much.

Absalom has public support. I’m sure if you took a poll of citizens of Israel, Absalom would have a high favorability rating, probably 80 or 90 percent. David would probably be down around 50 percent, or less.

Now that Absalom has public opinion on his side. So next he plans to gather his followers in Hebron. He goes to King David for permission to visit Hebron.

In verses 7-9: "At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the Lord in Hebron.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.”

It’s ironic that David said “go in peace” because Absalom’s actual purpose was to make war.

Absalom goes off to Hebron. In verses 10-12: "Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.”

If you recall, the first place where David became king was Hebron. So this would be a familiar story to the people of Israel. For the nation, they probably thought something similar was happening, as to when Saul’s house slowly declined and David’s authority grew.

They might think to themselves, maybe this is like Saul, and David, And Absalom is going to replace David! I’m sure that seemed to be a familiar story in their minds. But it wasn’t true. It wasn’t God’s will. This was the work of Absalom. Absalom is very intelligent though. He’s carefully working things together, gathering a group of leaders, gathering everyday people to his side, spreading word about this trumpet call that would signify the call for rebellion, and even gaining a wise advisor in Ahithophel.

The conspiracy gained strength. It’s gaining momentum. Momentum is very important in life, in business, and in ministry. If you have forward momentum you’re moving and gaining strength, gaining followers, gaining support and funds. If you’re sitting still, well you aren’t growing, you aren’t reaching new people. You’re kinda stuck. For Absalom his rebellion is gaining momentum.

I return again to the comparison between David and Absalom and God and Lucifer. Did Lucifer’s rebellion occur something like that? Did Lucifer quietly gather support, and begin to turn the minds of many of the angels against God and toward himself? I think we get a picture here again of Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven and how it may have played out.

So you have this sinister rebellion gathering power in Hebron. I’m sure it feels like there is a dark cloud over the nation. There are rumors of trouble. And eventually word reaches King David.

In verse 13, “A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.””

This sinister rebellion is taking hold across the nation and David can sense it. I’m sure God is giving him a sense that he will have to retreat for the time being.

Similarly in our own lives God will give us a sense of the situation. What should we do next? God will guide us if we seek his counsel. And if we have wise people around us to give us good advice.

In verses 14-15 it says, “Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”

15 The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.”

It’s interesting to me that David chose to leave immediately. You might think he would try to fortify Jerusalem, put troops on the walls, gather his forces, but David is very wise. He’s not prideful at all. I would want to stay and fight on the city walls.

But guess what? David knows that Absalom has turned the people even of Jerusalem against him. Many of his troops would not remain loyal. And citizens might plot to let Absalom’s troops in at night or something.

David’s humility guides him to leave the city. This is a very humbling move for him. Sometimes we have to make humbling moves in our lives as well.

We have to humble ourselves and say, well, we need to try something else. This didn’t work. We need to admit that it didn’t work out, and we need to change our strategy. If we’re stubborn and refuse to change, because of pride, then, we may end up harming ourselves and our cause greatly.

Then in verses 16-18, “The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. 17 So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. 18 All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.”

Can you imagine this moment in history? They pause at the edge of Jerusalem, the king himself and his leaders, having to flee the city. I wonder what time of year it was? I wonder if it was autumn, and it was a bit cold, and cloudy, and the leaves were falling from the trees. That would fit well, wouldn’t it?

King David stopped and his men marched past him line by line as he watched.

I can’t imagine how devastated I would feel at this moment. I would feel like a failure. I would feel so embarrassed, so confused, what is going on God? I’m leaving my own capital city. What a failure I am as the king.

But I’m sure David remembered the judgment God had made against him, and said, “One of your own household will rise up against you.” Maybe David starts to see the pieces fitting together, and maybe, just maybe, he accepts that this is all connected back to what happened between him, and Uriah and Bathsheba.

I don’t know if much of the army had deserted David, I get that sense though it doesn’t say that in the word. But it does say that 600 men, the Gittites (from Gath) stayed loyal to David.

David notices their leader Ittai. So he speaks to him, verses 19-20:

19 The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. 20 You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.”

David invites Ittai to go back. But in verse 21 we find his reply…

21 But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

22 David said to Ittai, “Go ahead, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him.”

It’s ironic that troops from another country are the ones that stay loyal to Ittai. Though I’m sure much of the nation is still loyal to David. But they’re being taken by surprise by Absalom’s rebellion.

That’s often what happens even in national conflicts and politics. The rebellion, the dangerous movements gain vast connections as they move quietly, then they come out into the open, and gain more ground, but eventually average everyday people become fed up with the rebellion, and they gather together across the nation, and defeat the rebellion and restore order to the nation.

But in this case, the rebellion has happened fast, and David is on the run. But many of the people are still with him in their hearts.

It says in verse 23: 23 The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.

As David’s group of loyal troops and counselors move past the homes and cities, the sound of crying and tears is heard throughout the land, it’s echoing through the valleys and the hills and the flatlands, down through the streets, people are mourning over this disaster. And as they should.

So you have King David, his various court officials and department heads, and his counselors and advisors, probably a few hundred men, then the six hundred troops of Ittai’s brigade.

Not only that, the high priest and the ark of the covenant is there as well.

It says in verses 24-26:

24 Zadok was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.

25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26 But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

This is a powerful moment. King David is refusing to use the ark of the covenant as a good luck charm or as a some banner under his own personal cause. He says no, take the ark back into the city.

If I find favor in God’s eyes, and he will bring me back. And let me see it. And his dwelling place.

David sees God as above this. God is judge over this. David abandons himself to God’s judgment and evaluation.

He refuses to use the ark of the covenant as a rally cry to his cause. He refuses to use his religion to push people to support him. No, he instead recognizes God’s sovereignty. He knows God is over him.

David abandons himself to God.

Next in verses 27-29: "The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Do you understand? Go back to the city with my blessing. Take your son Ahimaaz with you, and also Abiathar’s son Jonathan. You and Abiathar return with your two sons. 28 I will wait at the fords in the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.”

So David says listen, go back to Jerusalem. But I’ll stay along the dead sea. And you come and inform me when it’s safe to return.

Next, in verses 30-31: “But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” So David prayed, “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”

This is such a dark moment for David. As he leads his men in retreat, he cries, and he covers his own head, this was a sign in ancient times of mourning. He was also barefoot. So you have this picture of poverty, no shoes, no sandals, another sign of mourning and lostness. The people followed David’s example and also covered their heads in mourning and I’m sure couldn’t help but weep, seeing their own king so grieved.

It’s interesting that David comes upon the mount of olives. That is the place where Jesus would one day come and sit, and say, "be cautious of false messiahs."

From Matthew 24:3-5:  “Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. The followers came to Him when He was alone and said, “Tell us, when will this happen? What can we look for to show us of Your coming and of the end of the world?”

Jesus said to them, “Be careful that no one leads you the wrong way. Many people will come using My name. They will say, ‘I am Christ.’ They will fool many people and will turn them to the wrong way.” 

Jesus was the true messiah, but he knew false messiahs would come.

Similarly, David was the true king, but a false king had come, Absalom.

David also asks God to disrupt Ahithophel’s advice. Ahithophel was a brilliant man. His advice was pure gold, as far as the king was concerned. So he knew it was a danger. So David prays that something will happen to disrupt that good advice to Absalom.

David gets an instant answer to his prayer, in verses 32-37:

32 When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘Your Majesty, I will be your servant; I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,’ then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Won’t the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king’s palace. 36 Their two sons, Ahimaaz son of Zadok and Jonathan son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear.”

37 So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.”

Hushai was one of David’s closest advisors and friends. He just so happens to meet Hushai at the mount of olives, and sends him back to Jerusalem to frustrate Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom. God has set this up to cause events to favor David, despite everything that has happened.

So in conclusion today, all of this was prophesied by Nathan over David, because of what David did long ago, with Bathsheba and Uriah. But, despite all that, God is still with David. David has not been left alone. All this is happening, but, somehow it’s going to be OK.

In our lives it’s hard to remember that when things are going crazy. Because our emotions are going crazy. Don’t believe everything you feel. Feelings change. But God remains the same. David abandons himself to God. He gives himself over. He takes some actions, but in the end, he gives himself to God.

That is what we must do, if we hope to survive. We must give ourselves to Christ Jesus our savior, who died for our sins on the cross. If we give ourselves over completely to Jesus and just surrender to Him, and accept His free gift, we will find that God is with us, even when things seem to be going crazy.

King David has fled the capital. Absalom is moving in with his rebellious forces to claim the city. But the story isn’t over yet. God bless you today.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

How can I be the greatest in God's Kingdom?

We’re coming into the primary season that will lead up to a presidential election in about a year, and there was a debate recently, and many interviews on television, and Trump and tucker talking on Twitter, and Biden and RFK Jr. and various others on both sides of the political debate getting ready for runs to gain the office of the white house the most powerful seat of authority on planet Earth. You have Trump being indicted by various prosecutors in the country, and you have investigations into Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, and it’s all a big battle for power and authority, and control over the country and the direction of the country.

This is how our world battles for power and influence, through television, news, social media, debates, money, influence, and events. And many are ambitious to have great authority, to be great, and to be thought of by others as wise and impressive and strong and great.

That is how the world deals with “trying to be great.” And whether it’s a presidential run, or a basketball game, or teenager girls vying for power in the hallways at high school, or people trying to gain a promotion at work, so much of our lives have to do with power games, authority, and a desire to show the world: I’m special, I’m great, look at me! Look at how great I am!

It was great for me, a breath of fresh air in fact, to escape that rat race, and find myself in an entirely different system, a system called the kingdom of God.

Once you become a Christian, you receive new birth, and you start to understand how God’s economy works, you start to wonder: How can I be one of the greatest in God’s kingdom?

That human ambition takes over. We start to wonder: Alright, I see that it’s not about money, it’s about service, it’s about love, it’s about spreading the word. Now how can I be great in this new system?

We see the greatest according to the world system, Nobel prize winners, billionaires, government leaders, celebrities and musicians, but what about God’s kingdom?

How does it work?

We naturally want to give our all for God. We want to go all in.

We want to be great. We want to sit with Jesus on his throne.

The Lord Jesus is with his disciples, on the way to Jerusalem. They are on the way to the capital city. This will be the greatest moments of Jesus ministry. He will take on the pharisees and religious leaders in the great city.

I’m sure all his disciples are excited and amazed and are wondering what will happen next.

James and John, brothers, are very sure they want to be great. So they bring a special request to their master.

Mark 10:35-36, “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

In Matthew chapter 20 we know that their mother was also involved with this request they’re about to bring before Jesus.

They request that Jesus do for them whatever they ask, but instead when we make requests of the Lord in prayer, we should often also say, “but Lord your will be done, not mine.”

The Lord responds by asking them, what do you want me to do for you?

Here is their request from verse 37:

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

James and John want to be great. They want to sit on thrones to the left and right of Jesus Christ the King in the after-life, after Christ has entered glory.

Quite an outrageous request, don’t you think? Has anyone else anywhere in the gospels asked the Lord such an outrageous question? Usually the request is to learn to pray, or to be healed, or to learn more about the kingdom of God. But James and John want power, authority, and influence. They want to be great in God’s kingdom.

The Lord Jesus points them immediately toward the great cost of it means for Jesus to be enthroned as king of the universe. In verses 38-39:

38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus tells them you don’t really understand what it means for me to be enthroned as king. You don’t understand the cost. So he asks them two questions: Can you drink my cup? Can you be baptized with my baptism?

And they answer confidently, “yes.”

They are quite sure they can follow Jesus in every way, they can go all the way with him, and they want to be great as they do it!

To desire to be great in God’s kingdom is not a bad thing, I don’t think. We should want to be so totally committed to Christ that we are considered great in His kingdom.

But to desire authority to lord it over other people, this is selfish ambition. And we want to avoid selfish ambition. It’s a very real danger. It’s a very American impulse, I’m going to show the world that I’m important. Many Christians, church members, volunteers, leaders, can get caught up in selfish ambition, wanting to show how important they are. And that is sin. Repent of that sin! It can destroy your soul.

Let’s see how Jesus responds to James and John: (verse 39-40)

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

The Lord Jesus acknowledges the limits of his own authority. He’s not just going to change a place that’s been assigned to someone else for the sake of James and John. He says it’s not for me to give you those seats.

Secondly, Jesus tells them that they will indeed drink from his cup and be baptized with his baptism. What does Jesus mean by that?

I’ve always believed that Jesus was saying, I’m going to be crucified, I’m going to give my life for you. And I think he was saying to James and John, you will also be martyred for the gospel message as well. Tradition tells us that all the disciples, aside from John, died for their proclamation of Christ.

So when Jesus tells them, you will drink from my cup, I believe he’s saying that you’ll drink from that bitter cup of death that I drank from. The concept in the scripture of “drinking from a cup” is often associated with death and suffering, even wrath. In Revelation the cup that Babylon drinks from is the cup of God’s wrath. Very interesting!

Christ’s baptism is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So I can only assume that the baptism Christ references is Pentecost, when the disciples would receive the holy spirit 40 days after the resurrection.

We all in some way drink from the cup Christ drank from. We all go through trials and tribulations in Christ, for the sake of the gospel. When we are persecuted for our faith, we join with Christ in his sufferings for the gospel.

We all in some way also are baptized with the baptism of Christ. We all can walk in the Holy Spirit, being led by the spirit and empowered by the spirit as God ministers through us to people in need.

The other disciples were not happy.

Verse 41 says, “When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.”

I’m sure James and John weren’t too popular on that day. I’m sure several of them rebuked them both saying what are you doing? You’re going to exclude us? You two want to be the greatest? How dare you?

But Jesus uses this as a teaching moment for all twelve of his disciples, and for us today:

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus said the gentile leaders lord it over their people, and their high officials exercise authority over them.

That is very true. It was true in Jesus day, the roman empire exercised total authority over Israel and taxed them brutally and held them under total control. The same was true throughout so much of history, kings and queens and dictators have exercised power and authority over countries across Europe the middle east, the far east and everywhere in between.

Today, particularly in the United States we see a new sort of authority being exercised over people, the powerful elites of our society, billionaires, corporations, celebrities, universities, experts, and bureaucrats now exercise near total authority over our country. We have this illusion of voting, and democratic republican government, yet it seems like the ones who have the real power in our society are the wealthy, the connected, and the experts. How little has changed in 2,000 years, still the gentile leaders exercise authority and lord it over the gentile nations.

Some churches, and megachurches, will tend to lord it over their people as well.

But Jesus says not so with you. That is not the way you will do things as Christians.

But Jesus says, Ok, you want to be a great among the disciples, among the church, here’s what you do, that’s a good thing to want, here’s how, here’s how the rules work in the kingdom of God system: If you want to be a great, then do this: Be a servant to everyone around you.

That’s one level. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom be a servant to all.

But there is a second level. Jesus says if you want to be first, not just great, but first, then be a slave to all.

The Greek word there for servant, is diakonos, which is the Greek word that means servant, and is also the Greek were that we take for title of deacon. It means servant.

Here is the definition:

-one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister

-the servant of a king

-a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use

-a waiter, one who serves food and drink

And we see a even lower definition for the Greek word for slave, which is:

doulos (Key)
Pronunciation: doo'-los

-a slave, bondman, man of servile condition

-metaph., one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men

-devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests

-a servant, attendant

The Lord Jesus knows this would be hard for his disciples to accept. They had expected that Jesus would take the throne in Jerusalem and become king and they would sit on thrones just beneath him and they would defeat the romans in great battles.

Instead Jesus says no, in this world, that is not your purpose, in this world, your purpose is to serve, and to be slave to all who need your help.

So Jesus says, if you have a hard time with this, look at my example, if you follow me, you’ll do what I do, and of course, we know, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples later. And the ultimate image of service and sacrifice, is that Jesus died, nailed to the cross, for our sins.

Next, in verses 46 through 52, we see an example, at the end of chapter 10, where Jesus shows his disciples what humble service looks like.

It says in verses 46-47: Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

We see a great contrast between the request of James and John, “make us the greatest” to the request of Bartimaeus which is simply, “have mercy on me!”

And we see that our job as Christians is to show mercy to people in various ways. Even when we may think they don’t deserve it.

The people with Jesus and the crowds apparently didn’t think this man was worthy of help, because they rebuked him.

In verses 48-49:

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

But Jesus stops right there and says bring him over. They might think that it’s too lowly to serve this poor beggar, but Jesus stops and brings him right there.

In verse 49-50: So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.”

He was probably wailing loudly desperate to get Jesus attention and I’m sure he was upset and had thought he missed Jesus. But they say cheer up, he’s calling you over. What a great exciting moment, to be called before Jesus!

Notice then in verse 51 Jesus asks the same question of Bartimaeus that he asked of James and John: 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Bartimaeus doesn’t want to be made the greatest, he wants to see, and Jesus answers his request. And in so doing he shows his disciples what it means to be a servant and slave to all.

Bartimaeus has faith in Christ, that Christ can heal him, so he is healed by Jesus. Immediately, he receives his sight, and he begins following Jesus. And that my friends, is how you do that. Be a servant to the lowliest people, even the homeless, even the poor, even the beggar, even the drug addicted, even the sexually confused, even the person with mental health issues, and even the people who lord it over us. Show mercy. And you’ll be great in God’s kingdom.

So in review, let’s take a look at our applications today:

1. Make your requests to Jesus (In His Will, not yours)

2. Resist Selfish Ambition (It’s a plague even in the church)

3. Drink from the Cup of Christ (suffering, struggle for gospel)

4. Walk in the Baptism of Christ (baptism of the Holy Spirit)

5. Gentiles lord it over their people (Like our country, but don't give up hope either)

6. Be a servant of all (then you’ll be great in God’s kingdom)

7. Be a slave of all (then you’ll be first in God’s kingdom)

8. Serve those in need in practical ways (like Jesus with blind man)

Lastly, it’s important to remember that our humble service to others in this life, is temporary. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s temporary. The goal is then, that after we die, and we meet Jesus face to face, and we receive our inheritance in the New Jerusalem, that we will be rewarded for our humble service to others, with authority, glory, and influence in God’s kingdom.

As Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 19:28:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And it says in Revelation that Jesus sits on a throne in the throne room of God, surrounded by elders sitting on 24 thrones, which many have suggested is probably the 12 disciples along with the patriarchs from across the old testament.

That is your future destiny my friends, if you stay true to God, and follow His ways, and really serve others, then you’ll also be seated as a ruler in heaven, given authority over the nations, and rewarded with everlasting glory and honor. You’ll be great in heaven, if that is your goal, then you how to achieve it: Serve others here, everyday. That’s it. And you can. In Christ you can. So go do it. God bless you today!

Friday, August 25, 2023

Joab convinces King David to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone, a long time friend or family member? And then you stop talking? But as the months and years go by you long to see that person again. You think about them. You think about the good times. Yet, you can’t quite get yourself to call them up, or make things right? It’s a tough situation. It's like a wall goes up, that we can't quite get down.

I was close with my cousin Travis growing up, we would do so much together, we would play videogames, play football in grandma's backyard, fight and wrestle in mom's backyard, and go to concerts together. But we would sometimes get into angry fights, one of us would storm out, and for months, and years we would not talk. It's sad, when those walls go up. 

Similarly today we see King David in a similar situation with Absalom his son.

Absalom the dearly loved son of King David has committed murder, he killed his own brother Amnon. This was in revenge for something truly disturbing that Amnon did to Absalom’s sister Tamar.

So Absalom is now in hiding, out in the country far from King David. King David is very upset about this, day and night he wrestles with the pros and cons of what happened. He is caught between two opinions, one, he is very angry and upset with Absalom, he killed his own son Amnon. But David had a huge heart. He loved Absalom despite what he had done. He was his own son. So secondly, David longed to go to Absalom, bring him back, and make things right with him.

So there’s this man named Joab who is the closest advisor to the king. He’s been with David many years. And Joab makes a plan to try to convince David to let Absalom come back home.

It says this in 2nd Samuel 14:1-3: “Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. 2 So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, “Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don’t use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. 3 Then go to the king and speak these words to him.” And Joab put the words in her mouth.”

Joab put the words in her mouth. Which is where the saying comes from: “Don’t put words in my mouth.” So many things we say and believe in our society come from the Bible. More than most of us will ever realize.

Joab sets up a situation with a wise woman, to speak the right words to David, to convince David to bring his son back to Jerusalem.

Joab sends someone to get this wise woman from Tekoa, a town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem, and brings her back.

Joab tells her exactly what to say to get the King’s heart swayed in the right direction.

Sometimes we need to see a situation from a different perspective. It is very hard to see things we do wrong, or notice things within us that are troubling or need to be changed.

We all tend to have a blind spot toward our own bad behavior. But we’re very good at recognizing sin and problems in other people.

In this situation Joab is using this woman to help David see his own behavior from a different angle.

Nathan the prophet did the same thing, when David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. He gave a parable.

We all need friends, accountability partners, who can speak truth into our lives. Who can call us out when we’re doing wrong. We all need that. Find that in your life, and you’re going to be blessed.

So the woman comes before the King and here’s what says: (verses 4-11)

4 When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honor, and she said, “Help me, Your Majesty!”

5 The king asked her, “What is troubling you?”

She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. 7 Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.’ They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth.”

8 The king said to the woman, “Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.”

Ok, so the woman is saying that she’s a widow. And she had two sons. One got angry and killed the other. But the one whose still alive has to be punished for the crime. But she’s asking that he not be punished, so that she can still have a son, a descendent for her family name.

Do you follow so far? 

But realize this isn’t really true. Joab gave this scenario to the woman to say to David to get David to realize he should bring Absalom back home.

The king agrees to spare the son of the widow.

Then it says in verses 9-11: But the woman from Tekoa said to him, “Let my lord the king pardon me and my family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt.”

10 The king replied, “If anyone says anything to you, bring them to me, and they will not bother you again.”

11 She said, “Then let the king invoke the Lord his God to prevent the avenger of blood from adding to the destruction, so that my son will not be destroyed.”

“As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.”

The woman even gets King David to commit to the Lord his God, to invoke the name of God, to swear that he will make sure her son’s safety is cared for.

Next, in verses 12-20: Then the woman said, “Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.”

“Speak,” he replied.

13 The woman said, “Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? 14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.

15 “And now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; perhaps he will grant his servant’s request. 16 Perhaps the king will agree to deliver his servant from the hand of the man who is trying to cut off both me and my son from God’s inheritance.’

17 “And now your servant says, ‘May the word of my lord the king secure my inheritance, for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil. May the Lord your God be with you.’”

18 Then the king said to the woman, “Don’t keep from me the answer to what I am going to ask you.”

“Let my lord the king speak,” the woman said.

19 The king asked, “Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?”

The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. 20 Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.”

King David figures out what is really going on here. He realizes that Joab must’ve spoken to this woman and given her the words to say. David knows what really happened. But he seems to understand the message his friend is trying to give him. 

Do you have a friend like that? Someone who can speak raw truth to you in your life? We all need accountability partners like that. 

Then in verses 21-22: The king said to Joab, “Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.”

Joab fell with his face to the ground to pay him honor, and he blessed the king. Joab said, “Today your servant knows that he has found favor in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant’s request.”

Another king might’ve said no, and then had Joab arrested for this deception. But King David knows Joab’s heart. He knows that Joab longs for him to be happy and to united with Absalom once again.

So Joab bows down and blesses the king.

In verses 23-27: Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24 But the king said, “He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.” So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king.

25 In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. 26 Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.

27 Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.”

So Absalom is brought home. But King David also says that Absalom must not go into the kings court and see the king face to face.

We get mention of Absalom's beauty, and how he had a great deal of hair on his head. 200 hundred shekels, 5 lbs. of hair on his head. During this time 3 sons and a daughter are born to Absalom. So he starts having a family as well.

But Absalom wants to see his father.

In verses 28-30:  Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. 30 Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.

Here we begin to see Absalom’s erratic behavior. First he stabbed his own brother, and now since Joab won’t come see him, he sets his field on fire. Clearly Absalom has some serious issues. He reacts with anger and it causes him to do terrible things.

Lastly, in verses 31-33: Then Joab did go to Absalom’s house, and he said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?”

32 Absalom said to Joab, “Look, I sent word to you and said, ‘Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!”’ Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.”

33 So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom.”

Absalom is finally able to get in to see the king. He bows down before him. He wants to see this thing resolved.

He bows down. King David kisses him. And all is well. For now.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Money isn't Everything: A Wealthy Young Guy meets Jesus face to face

"In 1928 a group of the world's most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. The following were present: The president of the largest utility company, The greatest wheat speculator, The president of the New York Stock Exchange, A member of the President's Cabinet, The greatest "bear" in Wall Street, The president of the Bank of International Settlements, The head of the world's greatest monopoly. Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the U.S. Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples. Twenty-five years later, this is what had happened to these men:

The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab, lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life and died broke.

The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died abroad, insolvent.

The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, served a term in Sing Sing Prison.

The member of the President's Cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.

The greatest "bear" in Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide.

The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide.

The head of the world's greatest monopoly, Ivar Drueger, committed suicide.

All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live."
-Source Unknown.

Money isn’t everything. In fact here are some of the things the wealthiest people in history have said about their wealth…

“I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness” -John W. Rockefeller

"I have had no real gratification or enjoyment of any sort more than my neighbor on the next block who is worth only half a million.” –W.H. Vanderbilt

“Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.”– Benjamin Franklin

“I was happier when doing a mechanic's job” -Henry Ford

“Millionaires seldom smile” -Andrew Carnegie
-Source Unknown.

Here today we examine one of the most famous events in the entire Bible, the historical encounter between a wealthy young man and Jesus Christ the savior of the universe.

It says this in verse 17, “17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The young man falls on his knees before Jesus. He is overcome by his presence, he is amazed, and excited to meet Jesus, this God-man who is changing everything. And he asks him a very, very, very important question: How do I get eternal life?

He calls Jesus the good teacher. And asks him, what do I gotta do to get saved?

Here’s how Jesus responds:

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

Jesus cites 5 of the ten commandments here. Do not murder is #6, do not commit adultery is #7, do not steal is #8, do not bear false witness is #9, you shall not defraud is not one of the ten commandments, and honor your father and mother is #5.

So this is kind of odd. Jesus cites 6 through 9. Then adds one that isn’t on the list, skips #10 and goes back and mentions #5. Additionally, he doesn’t mention 1 through 4 at all. And he adds one, do not defraud.

Jesus is setting up the young man, because Jesus knows all things. He already knows what is going on in the young man’s heart.

#10 is do not covet. Do not lust after things you can’t have. Don’t greatly desire what someone else has. Don’t desire whats out there in general. And my guess is, perhaps in his mind, the rich young man had switched that with “do not defraud” he loved his money, he coveted it, but, maybe he justified it in his mind by saying “don’t defraud someone is good enough.”

That’s just a guess, I don’t know for certain.

It’s also interesting that Jesus rebukes him for calling him good. Surely if anyone in the universe deserves to be called good it’s Jesus right? But I again, I’m speculating, maybe the rich young man thought to himself that if I just try hard enough, I can be as good as Jesus. And perhaps Jesus is correcting him to say no one can “try to be good” and be good enough. Only God is good and only God can make us good. No one can obtain it by their own actions or by trying harder.

Here's how the young man responds: (verse 20)

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

The young man says perfect I’ve done all that. I’m sure Jesus knew that those commandments the young man had kept perfectly since he was young. But he only listed half of them, five out of ten.

Next in verse 21: Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Now, does this mean that every person who wants to become a Christian has to give away every penny they own, sell all their properties, stocks and bonds, their vehicles, everything they own, in order to follow Jesus? No.

In fact, Jesus doesn’t tell anyone else that. In another incident in Luke’s gospel, chapter 19 verse 10, it says “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” And Jesus responding by saying salvation has come to this house! Zaccheus the tax collector only gave away half but the rich young man had to give it all away?

No, not necessarily. What Jesus was saying to the rich young ruler was, your money is more important to you than God. Your money is more important to you than me.

Yet Jesus loved him at the same time.

Now, does Jesus say well, you can just kinda keep me and my gospel off to the side in your life, you can keep money on the throne of your heart, you can worship money, and you can still follow me? Does Jesus say that? No. Because it’s simply not possible. Jesus must be first. He won’t take second place to anything.

The rich young ruler goes from excited and engaged, to angry and disappointed, maybe ashamed.

In verse 22, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

His face fell! He went away sad, disappointed, angry, upset, because he had a lot of money. The Greek word there signifies sadness, or gloominess, it pictures clouds coming over the sky.

The rich young man had money and didn’t want to give it up. Or maybe, the money had him. Just like many of those millionaires and billionaires, they don’t really have the money, the money has them. And they feel no joy in trying to protect it and horde it and keep it to themselves.

For this man, God was not first, he was not obeying the commandments, to keep God first, to not covet, to have no idols, he was not in line with God’s will. Money was first. Yet, Jesus loved him. But the young man leaves. He can’t give up what has him.

Then Jesus spoke. In verse 23: Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

It says the disciples were amazed. Stunned. Shocked. So Jesus continues… verses 24-25

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

I’m sure for many in the crowd this felt like a door slamming shut in their faces. I’m sure they felt afraid and disturbed by this saying.

How can a camel go through the eye of a needle? It certainly never could. Too much baggage. Too many things. It’s hard therefore for the wealthy to go in. Indeed, it is impossible.

Next the disciples ask the question every person on planet Earth, or at least every American right now is wondering, in verse 26:

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

The disciples, the people, are all looking beyond money, they are looking to the basic issue of salvation: How can anyone be saved if it’s so difficult even for the wealthy?

But Jesus gives a hopeful answer. He says in verse 27: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Salvation, eternal life, deliverance from hell, from punishment for our sins, can only be gained through faith in Jesus Christ. It can’t be gained by trying harder. It can’t be gained by working harder. It can’t be gained by being a good person. It can’t be gained by doing good things in your life. It can’t be gained by measuring your good deeds against your bad deeds.

You have to set all that aside, and receive Jesus Christ as your savior. You have to make Him number one in your life. The King of your heart. Head over your life. In charge. Then we can humbly receive salvation by faith.

But it won’t do to keep God second place. It won’t do to let anything rule over you but Him. That’s the point Jesus makes to the rich young ruler. Your wealth controls you. Get rid of it, and come follow me. And many go away sadly. They aren’t willing to do that.

I’ve seen many go away sadly when I shared the gospel with them. Something inside tells them that it’s true, but at least at that point in their life, they aren’t willing to receive it. They have other priorities. Other things they want. So they refuse it.

So one group of people will leave Jesus sad because they don’t want to give up what they’re focused on in life.

A second group I think is the true disciple. And true disciple, you, me, many others, get very nervous and think, well, did I give up everything and follow Jesus for nothing? Jesus seems to be saying that it’s just impossible, or very hard. So the true disciple gets nervous. And Peter next asks a question and Jesus now addresses the true disciples in the room.

In verses 28-31:

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This is a very, very, very positive message that Jesus gives for people who have given up everything, and made Him first in their life. It’s super, super encouraging. And it’s needed I think, we all were hanging over the cliff of hell when Jesus said how hard it was for rich people to enter paradise. But now he reminds us that we’re in the green pasture talked about in Psalm 23.

He says no one, not one person, who has left behind a great deal, family, friends, property, and all that, for the gospel, will fail to receive a hundred times as much now, in this present time, not after death, but in this life.

And I’ll tell you that’s true. I left my home town to go after Jesus and the gospel, and I’ve found so much, so many people I consider family, in town here, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, all of it, through my church family, and people in town here who I consider friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ.

But Jesus also adds in there “along with persecutions.” Meaning there will also be difficulties, persecutions, people who are against us, financial problems, and so on.

And of course, most importantly, in the age to come, eternal life, paradise. I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.

But, Jesus adds, many who seem to be first in this life, will be last in the kingdom to come, and many who appear to be poppers, poor, miserable, will be first in the kingdom to come. Good reminder as well, of how God’s kingdom system works.

Lastly, in verses 32-34 it says this:

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

The disciples are just shocked and amazed by what God has shared with them. The crowds are afraid. And Jesus now tells his disciples for the third time, the plan going forward.

The plan is Jesus Christ is going to Jerusalem to speak the truth in the capital city. Then, he would be captured, turned over to the romans, executed, he would die, then, three days later, he would suddenly be raised from the dead, and would be alive again. And that this mysterious event would secure salvation, the salvation that appeared to be impossible. God, would make it possible through providing a way through the brutal death of Jesus. Jesus would die for our sins, to pay our way to paradise.

So in conclusion today, it may seem impossible, a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle. But, with God, he can make a way where there seems to be no way. Jesus leads the way. And we follow. Perhaps you feel afraid, like the crowds. Perhaps you feel concerned. You should. You really should, if you don’t know Christ as your savior, you should be concerned. Because you’re in danger. But, there is a way. You can be saved, through the sacrifice of Jesus. We can’t be good enough. We can’t cover our own sins. But, if we give our lives to Christ, he will forgive us, and if we follow him, he’ll lead us home to paradise.

Will you follow Jesus through that path? It’s a tough one. It leads like psalm 23 says, through the valley of the shadow of death. It goes through the gate of physical death itself. But, Jesus promises to carry us through to the otherside if we really rely on him, not ourselves, not our money, but on Him, then we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, like the psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. -Psalm 23

Monday, August 14, 2023

Absalom sets a trap for Amnon: What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

King David allowed two sins into his life when he committed sexuality immorality by taking Bathsheba to be his wife. Then he committed murder when he ordered Uriah the husband of Bathsheba to be left to die in battle.

In my family, certain sins have persisted over the generations. My grandpa smoked most of his life, quit later in life, my dad quit after smoking, and I smoked, and later quit as well.

There are certain sins that can persist in the family line once they come about. King David had committed sexual sin, and then we saw his eldest son Amnon do the same when he violated his sister Tamar.

Now we’re going to see another incident in which sins that David committed crop up among his children.

Sin has consequences. And not always just for you. What about the people around us? What about our children? Will they notice our example and follow it? The example we set can be destructive.

The opposite is also true. If we set an example of righteousness, then it may yet continue through our family line into the future.

During the Korean war my grandpa didn’t go with the other guys to the strip clubs or bars, he would stay in the trenches. He was a married man. He later would share the gospel with my mom and me and we would get saved. He was establishing in his family a lineage of faith.

Many things are connected in ways we don't fully realize. So many things are connected in our lives with the past. Almost everything in fact in our society, not just our individual lives, is linked with hundreds and thousands of years of history and historical precedents. God works that way. His system works that way. The sin of Adam and Eve has affected every single person on planet Earth ever since.

My decisions of my ancestors affect my life today. The decisions of my grandfather and dad affect my life. My dad worked at the salvation army, now I work for the salvation army as well. Many things are connected in ways we don’t fully realize.

God sees the big picture. So we can trust Him. Our part is to trust and obey. We can be victims of history. Or we can change the story, by striking out in faith. 

But let’s dive into 2nd Samuel 13, second half of the chapter, starting at verse 23-24:

23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”

Absalom apparently had many sheep, and it was customary to celebrate, have a feast, a celebration, at the time of the shearing of the sheep. It’s similar to how in the USA we celebrate thanksgiving after harvest time in November.

Absalom invites King David and his family to attend the celebration.

Next in verses 25-27:

25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.

26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”

The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.

So we start to see what Absalom is up to. Absalom has hated Amnon since Amnon violated his sister Tamar. He wants to make sure Amnon is at the feast.

King David is suspicious at first, but being that all his sons will be there, he assumes then Amnon would be safe. Safety in numbers, right?

Next he carries out his plan, in verses 28-29: Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.

King David had once ordered his men to get rid of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. Now, Absalom follows in his father’s footsteps,and orders his men to kill Amnon.

At the height of the celebration, Amnon is struck down in front of Absalom’s brothers. They all flee the area.

In verses 30-31: While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” 31 The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.

The King is so horrified by this report that he rips his fine clothing and lays flat on the ground in the middle of the throne room.

David thinks all his sons are dead. But it’s not actually true. As it says in verses 32-33: But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”

But the only thing here is that Jonadab shouldn’t actually know that. He may have been planning this whole thing with Absalom, as he is one of Absalom’s advisers. So he tells the King something he shouldn’t necessarily know. That only Amnon is dead.

In verse 34: “Meanwhile, Absalom had fled.”

Absalom runs for his life after he commits the sin of murder. He is now on the run, an outsider, and he knows it. So he runs and leaves the region for a time. 

Have you ever been "on the run" in your life? It's a scary feeling, fleeing everything you know. I've been there a few times. I've been out in the wilderness, running from my problems. But the thing is, running has never worked. The solution always was to return and face my problems. But I couldn't face them alone. I had to have God living in me, and then I could overcome and defeat those problems through the power of faith. 

Next we see the arrival of David’s sons to the throneroom… in verses 34-36:

Now the man standing watch looked up and saw many people on the road west of him, coming down the side of the hill. The watchman went and told the king, “I see men in the direction of Horonaim, on the side of the hill.”

35 Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; it has happened just as your servant said.”

36 As he finished speaking, the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.”

This brutal murder is so destructive for the family. Have you and your family ever experienced a devastating loss? It shakes the entire family to the core. Sometimes it will draw the family closer together. Other times it will divide the family, and they will go their separate ways.

I’m sure many of us have seen both eventualities. When my five year old cousin Elizabeth drown, it caused the family to pull together and care for one another. We strengthened our bonds. 

But when my grandpa and later my grandma died, it caused the family to separate. It was like the glue of the family had been removed. And we began to split and separate. It's a sad thing to see a family divided. But often as time passes, and people die, that is what happens. 

In verse 37 we see Absalom flee to a foreign nation. It says, “37 Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.”

David mourns the loss of Amnon his eldest son, but also mourns for Absalom who has fled the nation. Even though Absalom killed Amnon, David loves Absalom dearly.

Sometimes our love for our own children can be a stumbling block. We let them get away with too much. Or we treat our children with special deference. We give them special privileges. We let them get away with "murder" as the saying goes. Perhaps that idiom could be drawn back to David and Amnon? I don't know. 

I've seen that where children are given special rights, in a business, or at a church, and it causes everyone around the situation to notice the bias and special privileges given to the children of the leader or CEO. It causes many to become bitter and resentment. And it causes the children to become prideful and arrogant. 

A word of wisdom: Treat your children with balanced scales. They will learn humility and your friends and coworkers will learn that it is wise to not show favoritism. They will respect you for it. 

In verses 38-39: After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. 39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.

King David finished mourning for Amnon. Absalom stays in Geshur for 3 years. King David I’m sure is torn by emotions in this situation. He must be greatly upset that Amnon is dead. He must be angry with Absalom because Absalom killed Amnon. He must also know that Absalom was angry about Tamar. He must regret not disciplining Amnon. Part of him I’m sure was terribly upset with Absalom, yet his love for Absalom was strong and he longed to go to him. But he couldn’t of course.

Absalom was guilty of murder. He could not go to him. Yet he loved Absalom his own son. So he longed to go to him. 

I’ve always felt there was something more going on, something deep, between King David and Absalom. I think this situation represents how God felt when Lucifer rebelled against him in heaven.

Lucifer was the most beautiful angel. He was popular everyone loved him. But pride was found in Lucifer. Lucifer wanted to be god. Lucifer wanted his father's throne. Much like Absalom wanted the throne for himself from David. Absalom was said to be the most beautiful man in Israel. And David loved him dearly. 

God loved Lucifer dearly. And I’m sure when Lucifer rebelled, God longed to go to him and try to bring him back. But he couldn’t. Lucifer had made his choice, to become a rebel. And so God had to stop him. Even to this day, the story continues, Lucifer became Satan and is "the adversary" against all humans, seeking to harm us and lead us away from God. But we’ll see more about Absalom’s rebellion in the future.

For today, we can learn from this incident how sin can spread to our children and become a snare to us through them. We can see how hatred can turn into murder if we don’t forgive our enemies. We can see how not disciplining sin can lead to sin spreading. David tolerated Amnon’s sin, and it led to destruction in the family. We can see how family can be difficult, and healing can also occur through difficulties.

We most of all see that our choices have larger consequences than we realize. If I today and the rest of my days live a faithful life to God, I may impact my children, their children and their children’s children toward Christ. I may be a Christian today in part or in full because my ancestors down through ages sought after God and worshipped God, and set forth a lineage of faith.

You can change the entire course of your family in a new direction by giving your life to Christ. Or you can cause sin to spread like wildfire through your family and hundreds of others by rejecting God and choosing sin. What will you choose? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Let that be your heart cry today:

"Lord help me to set a lineage of faith. I choose to serve the Lord, me and my family. In Jesus name, Amen."

Jesus addresses the topic of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Have you heard the dreaded stat that 50% of marriages today end in divorce? Yeah, that isn’t actually true. It was a myth. It came from a projection that if the divorce rate continued to raise by 2% each year, that it could reach that level. But it never actually did.

It’s probably closer to 30 to 35%, maybe lower. It’s a hard thing to measure. In fact divorce has been on the decline, thanks to younger generations which are either staying married or not getting married at all. In fact, in 2019, the divorce rate reached the lowest it had been in 50 years, with only 7.6 per 1000 marriages in 2019 ending in divorce.

I had also often heard from well meaning pastors that the divorce rate of 50% of the world was the same within the walls of the church. That was according to a now debunked 2001 Barna study. The study didn’t take into account church attendance or spiritual activities, just what people said they believed. But if you factor in church attendance and other factors that should someone who is really an active Christian, the rate drops massively. From what I can tell only about 12-16%.

So all of that to say, it isn’t all bad news, it’s not great, but it’s not all bad news. Too many times we’re told it’s hopeless, might as well give up, but don’t always believe the press and what you hear, it may not actually be backed up by the data.

So today we’re talking about marriage and divorce, and what messiah Jesus had to say about these important topics. We’ll also see gender, and sexuality included in this discussion today. And along with that, children, as marriage, divorce, gender and sexuality is of course linked with children, the birth of children, and the raising of children. It all fits together.

In Mark chapter 10 today, we see in verses 1-2:

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

The first thing to notice is that the Pharisees question is not genuine. They aren’t coming to Jesus because they just long to know what he thinks about the issue. This is a tactic to try to trip up Jesus, so they can find a reason to accuse him of teaching falsely.

The Lord Jesus wisely responds to this question with another question. Keep that in mind when dealing with someone questioning you. Sometimes the best answer is to ask a question back to them.

Here is what Jesus says:

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

The Pharisees are most likely thinking of the book of Deuteronomy.

Jesus responds and says, “5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.

Jesus indicates that this Old Testament command was given by Moses because of the hard heartedness of the people of Israel over their past history. He gave them option of divorce as a concession to their weaknesses.

This is what it originally said in Deuteronomy:

“If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house...” -Deuteronomy 24:1

But Jesus has a new command for them. A new challenge. A new way. That divorce is not simply a note to be written, and but marriage is something greater.

And here we see Jesus defining numerous terms for us, and he makes so many things very clear to us, that many have become confused about in our society. God’s restrictions are holy and good and true. Jesus quotes all the way back to the Old Testament, the first book, Genesis, for his definition of gender, marriage, and family union.

6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Definitions of Gender and Marriage

Jesus Christ defines gender: male and female only

Jesus Christ defines marriage: between man and woman only

Jesus Christ defines the marriage union: two become one only

Jesus Christ defines divorce, they must never separate (with exceptions for special circumstances)

Now, when Jesus gathers with his disciples privately, he goes into a bit more detail. He would always do this, give a general command or parable to the public, then go alone with his disciples to explain in greater detail what he meant.

It says this, verses 10-11:

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Jesus tells them that marriage is so sacred between a man and woman, that they should never be separated in this life. They have become one person. They are united. They should remain together.

And if they don’t, say a Christian man, divorces his Christian wife, gets bored with her, and marries another woman. He has now committed adultery against the woman he divorced. Same for a woman who divorces her believing husband and marries another. She has committed adultery. The solution in that situation is that the person should be reconciled to their partner.

But, we’ll see that Jesus also gives two circumstances which would allow a couple to divorce, and then remarry another person.

Two Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage

1. Adultery/Sexual Immorality – “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” –Matthew 19:9

2. Abandonment (by an unbeliever) – “But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” -1 Corinthians 7:15

So if the divorce occurred because of infidelity, an affair, the person who was cheated on, would be free to divorce, and then get married to another person.

Secondly, we also see in 1st Cor 7:15, that if a believer is married to an unbeliever, and that unbeliever abandons them, leaves the marriage, they are also free to remarry, apparently. Though remarriage is not specifically mentioned in 1 Cor 7:15, it does say that the believer would then “not be bound” in such circumstances, which sounds a lot like they’d be free to remarry.

And some would then speculate, could “abandonment” include physical abuse, or severe mental abuse, or other forms of abuse? I think that could be the case. But one would need to examine these scriptures very carefully to make sure they are in line with God’s word.

Many face this reality of either being divorced, or having come from a divorced family. We all know how destructive it can be. The best possible result is always reconciliation. But, if it’s possible, based on these two criteria, divorce, and remarriage is possible.

If someone marries a believer and then later divorces the believer for unbiblical reasons, they should remain unmarried for the rest of their lives, or reconcile with their husband or wife.

“we fell out of love” is by the way not an acceptable reason for divorce.

Or “he wasn’t fulfilling my emotional needs” or “she wasn’t as attractive anymore” or “we argued too much” Marriage is serious stuff. We can’t just take a catch phrase and use that to justify breaking up something God has brought together.

Even if much fighting and arguing and disagreements are happening and financial problems and disagreements about how to raise the children, and even if bitterness has taken hold, and walls are going up, it’s not too late. There is still hope.

Those walls can come down, even if they’ve gone up.

A poem, from an unknown writer, was penned on just this very topic, of the walls that go up in marriages.

It says this:

"They say a wife and husband,
Bit by bit,
Can rear between themselves a mighty wall,
So thick they cannot speak with ease through it,
Nor can they see across it, it stands so tall.
Its nearness frightens them, but each alone
Is powerless to tear its bulk away; and each
Dejected wishes he had known
For such a wall, some magic thing to say.
So let us build with master art, my dear,
A bridge of love between your life and mine,
A bridge of tenderness, and very near,
A bridge of understanding, strong and fine,
Till we have formed so many lovely ties,
There never will be room for walls to rise.”
-Source Unknown.

Divorce is so very destructive, so if there is hope, look everywhere to find it. The attitude should be “divorce is not an option.” But, there are exceptions listed in the Bible. So remarriage is possible, in those specific situations listed in the word. Otherwise one should remain unmarried, or reconcile. Always be very prayerful about these things, and seek God’s will, but also follow His word. His word is truth.

This incident doesn’t seem to be directly connected with the incident with the Pharisees and Jesus talking about divorce.

But what is most directly connected to the concept of marriage as husband and wife? Children of course. The natural course of marriage leads to children. Children are born and raised under the care of the mother and father.

So it seems logical to include this incident today.

From Mark 10:13-15:13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Children are a beautiful gift from God. They are precious to Him. Don’t hinder children from coming to Jesus. Notice who brings the children though. Do the children bring themselves? No. They are brought by the people. They’re brought by the parents. They must be brought to the Lord. If we don’t, we’ll lose our children to the world system.

Next, Jesus uses the children as an example, for the kingdom of God. He says:

15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

A child trusts completely. A child loves completely. And Jesus reminds the people, you must receive the kingdom of God system like a little child, accept it joyously and completely. Trust God and receive Him, his way of doing things, and put it into practice in your life.

Then Jesus blesses the children. We can bless our children too, by preserving and building up our marriages in the Lord, always seeking Him first. Then our children and grandchildren will be blessed.