Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lessons from Absalom: II Samuel 13-18

The story of Absalom is probably one of the saddest stories in the Bible. I reccomend reading II Samuel chapters 13-18 for the full story, but I'll recap it briefly for you. Absalom, one of David's sons, rebelled against his father and tried to take over the kingdom. He was unsuccessful and was killed by David's men. Looking at his life, we can learn from many of his mistakes, but I want to take a look at his father David's perspective. I should warn you, this is something you probably don't want to hear. This is not an encouragement, but a challenge and a warning.

Sins as big as a rebellion usually don't just happen out of the blue. Absalom's sin was a culmination of several events in his life. Luckily, the Bible clearly lays out these events. In order to understand why he did what he did, let's look at his past so we can understand.

Absalom's story begins in II Samuel chapter 13. In that chapter, his step brother Amnon rapes his sister Tamar. This event is what starts his story all off. As you can see, there is no fault here on the part of Absalom. However, as a result, he kills Amnon as revenge. Then out of fear, he flees for three years to Geshur, a nearby country. This is where things get interesting. Eventually, David calls for his return in order to forgive him. However, David does not permit Absalom to see his face. In fact, the Bible says for two years he was not permitted to see his father's face. Imagine how that must have made Absalom feel. It wasn't until finally after two years that he asked Joab to talk to David and finally saw his father. Then came his rebellion.

Now of course, obviously everyone is accountable for their self. Everyone is responsible for their own salvation. However, when you go through the events leading up to Absalom's rebellion, notice how not all of it was in his control. This all started with his sister being raped. He couldn't have done anything about that. Even worse though is the treatment he got from his father David. Like I said, ultimately Absalom was responsible for his own salvation and what happened to him was no excuse, but that doesn't it make you wonder if this could have all been avoided had David recieved him the way the father of the prodigal son recieved his son (Luke 15:20-24)?

Absalom went to Hell for his rebellion. David realized this. Unfortunately, when he did realize it, it was too late. Look at his response to the knews of his son's death in II Samuel 18:33:

"And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

He knew that his son was in Hell, and he knew that he could have done something about it. It happened to David, arguably the most godly man (not counting Jesus) in the Bible. It could happen to you. David wasn't the reason his son went to Hell, but imagine the pain of knowing that he could have done something about it.

I guess a better name for this message would be "Lessons from David". Perhaps, like David, you're saved and, for the most part, living a very godly life. However, is there an Absalom in your life? Is there someone who you could be going on the wrong path and you are not helping one bit? Are you wronging an unsaved friend or family member, driving them away from Christ? Well, I think we all have something we need to do now. At least, I know there is something I need to do.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grabbing hold of God's promises: Joshua 5-12

The Israelites have finally made it out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and across the Jordan. Through much complaining, trial, blessing, judgement, and miracles, Israel had finally made it to the promised land. As you examine their conquest (read Joshua chapters 5-12 for the full story), there are several lessons to be taken.

First of all, you see that this generation had the faith in God which their fathers lacked. God had promised them the land. He promised that all of the nations dwelling their would be subdued. In Leviticus 26, he says:

"If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them... And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword." -Leviticus 26:3,7-8

Despite all the promises God made, when the spies went in to search, they were still afraid and did not have faith that the Lord would give the land to them. All they had to do was trust God, and He would give them the victory, but they were too afraid to grab ahold of the blessings God had for them, so God punished them and would not allow them in the land. Fast forward 40 years later and Israel is faced with the same decision. This time, they go out in faith and God rewards them for that faith with victory and control over the land.

If you read the chapters, you'll notice in every victory (not including their defeat at Ai), there is no recording of struggle, close victories, or heavy losses. In each battle, Israel utterly destroys their enemy with little or no report of any Israelite casualties. Once again, all they had to do was trust God to give them the victory in order to take ahold of His promise. Look at chapter 12 verse 24 and you will see that under Joshua, Israel overcame and killed 31 kings of other nations. It is unheard of for any one nation to overthrow 31. Not only that, but Israel had the disadvantage of having been wandering for years before and some of those they went up against had walled cities in which to defend themselves. Such victory would be impossible by chance. Only God could give them so many victories. He gave them the promise that He would do it, and all they had to was take ahold of His promise.

Now look at Israel's only loss- the first battle at Ai. Comparitively, it seems like Ai was one of the least intimidating of their foes, as evidenced by chapter 7 verse 3:

"And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few."

This was supposed to be one of the few "easy victories" for Israel. One would think that even without God's intervention, Israel could still win this one. However, because of Achan's sin (see Joshua 6:18-19 and 7:1), the Lord was not on their side. As a result, Israel was defeated and humiliated. This shows us that God was not just the one who gave Israel victories which they couldn't have won alone. God was their victory, and the absence of God's help was their defeat. Every single battle was dependant on God. Don't we do the same thing sometimes? Don't we trust God with the big things in our life, but we try to do what is "manageable" on our own?

The battle in chapter 10, on the other hand, would seem like one of the toughest opponents Israel had to face. Five kings had aligned against Israel out of fear that Israel would continue to win battles and destroy them one by one. Once again, when it comes to the battle, it doesn't even sound like Israel even struggled, but what is even more interesting is that in chapter 10 verse 11, it says:

"And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword."

God made sure that Israel knew that it was He who won their battles. He didn't want them to be prideful. He made sure they knew that He had given them all of these battles, all they had to do was go out in faith and obedience and grab ahold of the blessings.

The verse that sums up this section is in chapter 10 at the end of verse 14:

"And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel."

Notice, it doesn't say He fought with Israel, but for Israel. You see, when we do what the Lord says, He will come through with His promises. All we have to do is go out in faith and obedience and grab ahold of the Lord's promises, and He will give us the victory.