David and Absalom

Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on June 7, 1981
      But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron . . . And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
      2 Samuel 15:10-12
      LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me.
      Psalm 3:1-3
      TODAY WE ARE LOOKING AT THE LIFE OF DAVID AGAIN. Psalm 3 is the first psalm attributed to David in the book of Psalms, though it is one of the last psalms that he wrote. The Psalms are not arranged in chronological order. It does no harm to read the Psalms in any order, because they bless us rather universally, but I do not know why someone has not rearranged the Bible in its proper order. That would have no effect on its canonicity. God did not speak and say, “Thus said the Lord: put Psalm 1 first, and put Psalm 2 second!” Someone else was responsible for that. Because of its position near the beginning of the Psalter, you might get the idea that Psalm 3 was written when David was very young. But its heading makes it clear that it was written in David’s old age. It says, “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.”
     In previous messages, we spoke of David as a young man when he fled from Saul. Saul sought to kill David when his only crime was to be singled out by God and chosen for a task. We saw that David was a quick and clever liar when he came to the priest at Nob. Then David fled to Achish king of Gath, where Goliath had come from. That was the last place in the world where David should have gone. But when people get out of step with God, they always make the next mistake and “follow afar off,” just like the apostle Peter did when he failed his Lord. David scrabbled on the doors like a madman and he let his saliva drip down on his beard. Then he fled from Achish to the cave Adullam where he was surrounded by a motley bunch of outcasts who were in distress, in debt and discontented. As a young man, David was in trouble.
      Now the years have passed. David received promises from God like no other man before him. He had won victory after victory over the enemies of the kingdom, and this psalm was written at the time when a new trouble came upon him.
      I have a simple message today and I can say it in one sentence: we are never going to stop having trouble. If you want a life full of misery, get saved. If you want all hell to break loose on you, serve God. But if you want it easy, live like the devil. I am a preacher who occasionally hires nonbelievers. Some of them, when they first start working for a preacher and a church, expect that everything will be peaceful and wonderful. Most of my staff never had as many sleepless nights in their whole life as they had after they met me! I guarantee you that trouble will never cease if you become a Christian.
      That does not mean there is no joy in following God. It does not mean that you should not become a Christian. It just means that the modern, humanistic “gospel” is a lie. It is simply not true that you can just walk 40 feet down an aisle to an altar and all of your problems will cease. That message comes right from the voice of the dragon. Your real troubles begin when you give your life to God, because you have suddenly moved out of the devil’s prison camp to the front lines, and you are at war.
      David was an old man, and he started this psalm saying, “LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.” Again, the superscription says that this psalm was written “when he fled from Absalom his son.” The historical context is found in 2 Samuel. Let’s read it, starting from 2 Samuel 14:25.
     “In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” The first lesson is that you cannot rely on appearances. David was called “a man after God’s own heart,” and at the close of 2 Samuel 14, we see him trusting his son. The chapter ends with the words, “and the king kissed Absalom.” But now watch what Absalom does. Ignore the chapter division here because it is a continuous narrative; there were no chapter and verse divisions in the original text. Notice that 2 Samuel 15 begins with a conjunction: “And it came to pass after this...” After what? After David kissed Absalom, and with no warning, I am sure that some would judge David and say that, if he were really a man after God’s own heart, he should know whom he should trust and whom he should kiss.
     “The king kissed Absalom. And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment . . .”
     There were many people in that day who felt they needed to bring their matters before the king. Let’s put this episode into the modern frame of reference, where any leader who has been ordained of God is expected to cater to every whim of the congregation. Someone says, “I must talk to the pastor right now! I’ve got problems that only he can solve, and everyone knows you ought to be able to talk to your pastor anytime you want to!”
     Absalom was observing the people who were trying to get to the king, so he conceived a plan. The Scripture says he “rose up early.” It is amazing what some people will get up early for. “Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou?” This should be a warning that when people start asking you for your personal information, you had better be careful whom you give it to! Absalom would question the man, and he would reply, “Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right . . .”
     There is a state of willfulness when you turn around and start putting distance between you and the clear call of God, and every step makes it harder for someone to turn you around and pull you back. It is rare that, like Peter, you can start following afar off, end up by the wrong fireplace and still get rescued. I want that first step checked, and that is another purpose of this message today.
      Absalom said, “See, thy matters are good and right. You ought to be heard!” Again let me bring it into the present day. Someone complains about the way the church is run, and there is always an “Absalom” waiting to entertain those complaints. He will say, “You are right! We really do need more prayer meetings. We really do need more worship services. There is just too much focus on teaching the word of God! Besides, the pastor is really busy. He is overburdened and he needs someone to help him.” You fool! The pastor is not “overworked” at all. The pastor is the one who was sent by God as His channel to determine what is needed.
      I am reminded of a church where certain members of the congregation actually did band together and complain that there were not enough prayer and worship services. I can tell you that not one of those people ever bothered to show up at the weekly 7 A.M. prayer meeting. Who stopped them from worshipping at that hour? They might have come once or twice at first, until they found out that all they were allowed to do was pray. After a while, they got frustrated because they had no place to show off their “spiritual” gifts! When I was in Bible school, there were always some super spiritual ones who called for prayer meetings when they should have been studying for exams. So I determined that when anyone asked me to meet them for prayer, I would say, “Sure. Let’s meet at 4 A.M.!” No one ever accepted my offer!
      I am teaching from 2 Samuel 15, but I have taken a little departure for a moment to describe the way the modern “Absaloms” work today, and they are all the same. They stand on the sidelines and watch, and then they find their place of “ministry” by trying to do what they think God’s leader is neglecting. Why don’t they ask the pastor what he would have them do, and then do it? I remember at another church there were some super spiritual ones who would complain because the toilets weren’t being cleaned. My response to them was, “Go clean them yourself! That would really be a spiritual ministry.” Don’t complain to me! God sent me to this church to teach and to lead you to heaven if I can, with God’s help and your response to His word.
     “And it came to pass after this,” once trust was obtained, that Absalom would say to the people, “See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man disputed of the king to hear thee.” In other words, “See, David is neglecting his calling. Surely he could delegate someone to get some of these things done!”
      “Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!” Absalom must have had plenty of time to talk to the people, because unlike David, he was never praying or writing any psalms.
     “And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.” The dirty rat! David kissed Absalom, but Absalom was kissing everyone else. Read the Bible and pay close attention to what happens to those who get sweet-talked into rebellion.
     “And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment.” What did Absalom do? He took the people in his hand and kissed them, because they listened to him. They paid attention to his careful criticism. Notice that Absalom never criticized the king directly. He was clever; he just did it indirectly. He said, “You have a need. What you are saying ought to be heard. The problem with this place is that David should have appointed someone to hear you.” Clever, isn’t it? Damnable, isn’t it?
      Pay attention to what happens when someone comes around who only wants to meet your needs. One of the greatest discoveries you can make in life is when you learn the difference between loving and loving to be loved. There is a world of difference. The love that God commands is based entirely upon the intrinsic worth of the object being loved. The word in the Greek is agapao. It has nothing to do with what you get out of the relationship. I have seen parental relationships where one of the parents does not love the child half as much as he or she loves to be loved by the child, but the other parent cares enough about molding the child to really love them, which includes disciplining them.
      You had better watch out for those who come around and tell you how your needs should be met. They say, “The leader is just so busy that he can’t help you. I only want to help, and I’m frustrated because he won’t let me do what I want to do for him.” The Scripture still declares that God gave some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints. It does not say anywhere in the Bible that God gave some saints, music directors, business administrators and associate pastors for the perfecting of the pastor. That is just not the way it reads. The pastor may need to be perfected, but God is a God of order, a God of His word and His will, and He is going to do things His way. If you are in a church and you feel you have differences with the pastor, then you should get on your knees and pray. Don’t try to take over the church like a traitor!
      David trusted his son Absalom and kissed him, while Absalom kissed everyone else. “And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” That is the tragedy. God through David had brought the kingdom to fruition, and David had delivered the people from the Philistines, the Perizzites and the Hittites. Now those same people let their hearts be stolen by a kissing, super-loving Absalom.
      I want us to notice how “spiritual” Absalom becomes. “And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.” It is amazing how people can appear so spiritual but when they cannot get their way, they will do everything they can in the name of God to bring down God’s work.
      I did my doctoral dissertation on the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr was not a fundamentalist. He was not even an evangelical; he was neoorthodox. But he understood the spiritual, generic meaning of Antichrist and the False Prophet and he stated it succinctly: he said that the essence of an antichrist, false-prophet motive is when you seek selfish ends while cloaking your behavior with the appearing of fulfilling God’s purposes.
     “And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron,” and he planned his conspiracy. “And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem.” If you cater to the people, you will always get some fools who will follow you. “They went in their simplicity, and they knew not anything.” That is one of the biggest challenges for the pastor, to keep the simple-minded from putting themselves in the wrong place.” And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.” There is a common denominator among the traitors: they do not have enough of God in them to do something new; they have to stick around and raid and spy and rob and lie. Absalom sounded sweet at first, but now his motives start to surface.
     “And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee . . . And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.”
     Can you believe that? David was keeping 10 women who weren’t his wives! In today’s world, if a preacher were even accused of such a thing, we would be told not to listen to another word he said. I would not be surprised if some fundamentalist wanted to rip Psalm 3 out of the Bible! Some might even say that David’s behavior was bad enough to justify Absalom and the people’s rising up against him. Remember that these events occurred in the Old Testament frame of reference, under the law. God’s law had been given through Moses, and yet here is this old rascal living with 10 women who weren’t his wives. And there were likely more than that number, for the Bible only says that he left 10 to keep the house. You ask me, “Are you condoning that?” No! I just want us to understand what Paul said in Romans 4, which shows that David cannot be used as an argument for legalism. David did not keep the law. God credited David with righteousness because of his faith, even though he was a womanizer.
     “And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off. And all his servants passed on beside him . . . and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.” David not only kept concubines, he also made friends with a Philistine: Ittai the Gittite. The king said to this Philistine warrior, “Wherefore goest thou also with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.” I can imagine the gossips in Absalom’s crowd saying, “That proves David isn’t fit to be king. He won’t take the time to hear your complaints and now he is keeping company with a Philistine. We have to get to David and tell him that there is no way a Philistine could be saved!”
     The king said to Ittai, “You just arrived yesterday. Should I this day make you go up and down with us?” David said, in essence, “Why follow me? You’re liable to get killed!” But “Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.” May God send us people with that kind of dedication.
      Every line in God’s word has meaning. I want us to learn from the loyalty and selfless dedication of Ittai, a Philistine. I can make many applications to our walk, even to Christian marriage. Let me tell you that as a pastor, I do not want to hear a wife tell me how bad her husband is; I do not want to listen to a man telling me what misery it is to live with his wife. You chose your spouse, I didn’t. God’s word lays down a principle: when you give your word, live by it! Some of you need to quit complaining and just live by God’s word. I am not interested in making a judgment on which one of you is right – you are both wrong! Someone says, “Well, he offended me!” I do not care if you are 97 percent right and only 3 percent wrong; you must deal with your 3 percent and turn it into 100 percent before Go. Get on your knees in prayer and then get back to doing the Lord’s work. Quit asking God to serve you, and start serving Him! May God give us 600 Philistines who will follow and not complain, whether in death or life.
     “And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over . . . And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.” And Zadok the priest and the Levites came with him, bearing the ark of God, but David commanded Zadok to carry the ark back to the city.
      Then David conceived a plan. He told Zadok to go back to the city along with his son and another young man, who could serve as spies. David also sent back his friend, Hushai the Archite, in hopes that Hushai could thwart Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom. David may have been down, but he wasn’t out. David was a living example of the famous quote attributed to Cromwell: “Trust in God but keep your powder dry.” David did not stop looking out for the kingdom that God had given him charge over.
      David would later go to a place called Mahanaim. He did not go there by accident; he went with deliberate intent. David was a student of Scripture: he knew that his ancestor Jacob went to Mahanaim before meeting up with his brother Esau. It was near the place where Jacob wrestled all night with an angel until God changed Jacob’s nature and changed his name to Israel. It was the place where the angels of God met Jacob. The host of God’s angels encamped alongside Jacob’s host, and therefore he named it Mahanaim, which means “two camps.” Even though Jacob was a problem to God because of his self-serving nature, God would still deign to come down and meet him there. David would not neglect God. He went to Mahanaim because it was a reminder, written into the very geography of the land, of God’s promise to come to our rescue. But David still did his part to defend the kingdom.
      Ahithophel advised Absalom to attack David immediately by sending out a small band of men, but Hushai told Absalom that there was a better way. He said, “if you follow Ahithophel’s advice, it will not work. We know David’s reputation as a tough fighter. He is as fierce as a bear robbed of her cubs. He may be old, but he has been in many battles, so don’t underestimate him! If you try to attack him with a small army and you fail, then all your followers will get word of it and flee. It would be better if you called out the whole army to pursue David.” Absalom agreed to the plan, hoping for the glory of leading the battle himself.
      Notice in these verses that David’s reputation as a fighter caused his enemies to fear. If you try to make peace with the devil, he will gobble you up. My Bible says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” and “Fight the good fight of faith.”
     Hushai then informed Zadok the priest of what had transpired. The Bible says that Zadok sent “a wench” to relay the message to his son and the other young man, and they in turn went to warn David to flee from the oncoming army. A young boy saw David’s spies fleeing and told Absalom. Then Absalom’s servants set out to pursue and capture them, but they hid in a well, and a woman covered it with corn to conceal them. All of that means you do not have to follow “Queensberry rules” when you are fighting the devil. Some people would rather be self-righteous than win victories for God. The spies escaped and warned David, and he escaped from Absalom’s army.
      Then Barzillai the Gileadite went to give aid to David. Barzillai was wealthy and dwelt in a remote mountain stronghold. He knew who God’s servant was, and it looked like David was in trouble. Barzillai was over 80 years old when he came down from the mountains and brought victuals to strengthen David and his people in the wilderness.
      David then divided his men into three separate companies. Ittai the Philistine was put in charge of one of David’s bands. Abishai was put in charge of another one of the bands. He was one of David’s mighty men who are memorialized in the Scripture. Joab was the commander of the third company. David had fought battles on behalf of God’s people; he had driven the Philistines back and had united the kingdom until they had rest from all their enemies round about. But now he had to fight an enemy who had risen up against him from within the kingdom.
     “The king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also,” because David would never ask the people to take a risk that he was not willing to take. “But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth: for it we flee away, they will not care for us,” literally, the enemies have not set their heart on us. In other words, the enemies are not interested in bringing us down, “neither if half of us die, will they care for us: but now thou are worth ten thousand of us.” That does not mean that David was intrinsically worth more than all the people. They said that he was worth more than them because of the position that God had put him in. The attack is always against God’s leader, and the position is separate from the person. Happy are those who have a good leader in God’s appointed position, though all the Absaloms would seek to destroy the position. Finally, in David’s old age, he had a people who understood that principle.
      The people said to David, “Thou art worth ten thousand of us: therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.” They would not allow David to go into battle with them. In this case, all David could do was pray and write a psalm. So while they fought, he wrote Psalm 3: “LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah,” or “Think of that.”
     We are reading the words from a giant of faith who, in his old age, finally learned to quickly get his eyes off of the circumstance and on to God. Notice how short this psalm is, and how quickly David turns to God. When he was a young man and he got into trouble, he had to write three psalms in which he moaned and groaned before he finally got around to praising God. Now he figures it out in a hurry, and it only takes him two verses before he sings out, “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me.”
     David said, in essence, “Lord, look how many there are against me, and listen to what they are saying! They say, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Think of that,” but their opinion does not matter! “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me.” This is a truth I have come to learn. God is shielding us, and the only thing that can happen to God’s church is what He allows. And the things that God allows are a part of the unfolding of His plan to prepare us for the dark days ahead.
     “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.” Think of that, too. “I laid me down and slept; I awakened; for the LORD sustained me.” Last night I was told something that a few years ago would have kept me awake all night, but I slept soundly, so I know I am growing in God. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about,” and I do not want you to be afraid of them either. “Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou has smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” Think of that, too!
      Sometimes I preach to faithful people to reassure them that the circumstances will not bring us down. We are winning victories! Just keep on doing what the Lord tells all of us to do. Let’s say it together once again: “We made it through this coming year!”
     From: “The Pulpit, Volume 10” (Dr. Gene Scott)
      Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott

January, 2018

Here we are, going into 2018! I hope that everyone made it thru the holidays alright. We know that this is a difficult time of the year for most of you. The memories, loss of family, it all comes floating in and depression is prevalent. But believe me, it can be the same out here in the “free world.” To a lot of people, the expectation of the holidays is always the happiest and most exciting time, more so than the holiday itself.
      We want to thank everyone who sent birthday and Christmas cards, plus all the encouraging letters throughout the past year. And we want to especially mention and thank the ones who tithed and made offerings from their small prison salaries. This is precious to God and of much value in His sight (see Mark 12:43-44). We feel blessed to have this work and to see the Spiritual growth and the love you all have shown us.
      R & M

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