FIGHTING GOD’S WAYS
Lord, keep me from the caliber of self-will that leads to destruction.
Read 2 SAMUEL 18:1–18
David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”
3 But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”
4 The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.
6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”
12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”
14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.
16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.
18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28a).
Most of us may struggle with the will and ways of God at times. Perhaps we have plans that God closes off, for a time or forever. Tragedy may strike, and we are powerless to do anything about it. Injustices and suffering may make us question God’s wisdom and love. In Absalom’s story we see a young man constantly kicking against the events in his life, feeling thwarted by circumstances, and never acknowledging God’s hand in the process. As a handsome prince, potential future king and darling of his father (2 Sam. 14:25; 13:39), Absalom has life by the tail. Yet, when his sister Tamar is raped, he retaliates instead of appealing to the legal system in place (2 Sam. 13:28). When others do not cooperate, Absalom gets his way, even if it takes burning someone’s field to get their attention (2 Sam. 14:28–32) or usurping the throne with promises of restored justice (2 Sam. 15:2–6). There could have been other options, but Absalom is too impatient to consider them.
In our chapter, however, he reaches the end of the road. He may be “left hanging between heaven and earth” (9, NASB) and his fate ultimately decided by Joab and his servant (10–13), but any potential for action is an illusion. Hanging helplessly from a tree and finally thrown into a pit away from the family tomb, God’s judgment on him is a curse (David G. Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 477). At every turn, he has taken matters into his own hands, falling into deeper rebellion, and refusing to live his life within God’s will. In the light of God’s verdict, even his monument to himself (18) mocks his efforts to be remembered in honor.
Our lives may not be so dramatically about struggling to get our own way, but Absalom’s story reminds us that even our best impulses could doom us when we abandon God’s way.
If you are struggling with circumstances, pray and seek the Lord. He can enable a response that is within his will.
Lord, I humble myself before You and divest myself of all pride and arrogance.