Absalom: Part 4

2 Samuel 19‑23  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Listen from:
The fool hath said in his heart, Are God!”
Here was the end of another apostate, a more fearful one even than Saul. The paper on “Saul,” to which this is in some sort kindred, has shown us that the evil king of Israel was a type of the wicked one in the latter day, who is to do according to his will, to magnify himself above God, and hold nothing in honor or desire but himself and his own way. Absalom in his day, as I have already observed, is type of the same wicked one. They are different samples of the same last great enemy of God and his people, who is to fill up the measure of human iniquity, and then call down the penal fire of God on all the corruptions of the earth. But there are features of all this self-will and wickedness in Absalom, that exceed even what we saw in Saul. Thus, Saul had been produced by the desire of the revolted heart of the nation. He was the man after the nation's heart. But Absalom generated his own evil pre-eminence. It was not the nation's but his own desire that brings him forth. And there is more of the violation of all the laws of nature in Absalom than in Saul. Absalom is the profane as well as the wicked prince (Ezek. 21:2525And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, (Ezekiel 21:25)). With him it is not simply unbridled wickedness, but that profane wickedness that could trample on all the claims even of nature. Heady, high-minded, disobedient to parents, unthankful, without natural affection, the very characteristics of the perilous times in the last days, are more awfully developed in Absalom, than perhaps in any other even of the same rank of persons in Scripture.
It is not merely, a corrupted, but an usurped, kingdom we see in the hand of Absalom; and this is another advance in iniquity upon the times of Saul. And still further I may observe, that Absalom seems entirely to disclaim the Lord all through the day of his usurpation. There is not one thought of God in the kingdom then. Ahithophel's counsel but no counsel from the Lord, the strength of his thousands but no strength in the Lord, appears then. And as there is not one thought of God to stir his conscience, neither is there one thought or softening movement of heart because of his father's sorrow. Even the counsel to smite David alone pleased Absalom well (xvii). Even Saul could weep at times, and confess righteousness in David; but Absalom's soul has nothing like a gracious visitation even for a single moment. He never, if I may so say, even thinks of saying, “I have sinned,” as Saul does. For what does Absalom care for sin? “Tush, God does not see,” this is the language of his uncircumcised heart and lips from beginning to end.
Nor is there one Jonathan to relieve the entire darkness of the scene, as there had been in the court and camp of Saul. There was not one single point of relief with Absalom and all that was confederate with him It is all the unmixed darkness of an evil and apostate hour. And the Lord can in no wise own him. He gives him no commission all through the days of his usurpation. He could not. He had entrusted Saul with the slaughter of the Amalekites, but Absalom is in no wise known to Him. He is his own, and none but his own; from beginning to end.
Such was Absalom, —one of the darkest pictures of human nature that we are given to look at in the word of God; and such is now his end. He hangs in the tree,—another Lot's wife to be had in constant remembrance. He had taken and reared up for himself a pillar in the king's dale, and called it after his own name, because he had no son to keep his memorial alive in the earth. But the Lord was now giving him another and a far different memorial—a memorial in shame and not in glory. His body was cast into a pit in the wood, and a great heap of stones was laid on him. All his glory was thus tarnished. He was hung by the hair of his head, which had been his boast in the flesh; and, instead of a pillar to his own name, he is made a pillar to us—a witness of the shame and ruin of apostacy.— “The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”
This overthrow of Absalom was like the loss of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, or as the fall of Saul on Mount Gilboa, or as by and by, the ruin of that man who having planted the tabernacle of his palaces in the glorious holy mountain shall then come to his end, and none shall help him.
But here let us mark it, that Moses and the congregation of Israel may sing “the Lord has triumphed gloriously;” and Deborah and Barak in their turn may likewise sing, “so let all thine enemies perish, O Lord;” for songs belong to a merry heart, to those who have the testimony of their conscience with them. But there could be no music in David's heart now. That heart was no sanctuary of praise now. How could David at this time enter the gates, and praise the Lord? Those gates open only to the righteous nation that keep the truth. God had appointed salvation for walls and bulwarks, and praise for gates; but David must be silent there, because he had sinned against the Lord. O dear brethren, that we may be faithful to our own joys; that we may so carry ourselves before the Lord our God, as to be able to run along with the saints in their prosperity, and with the chosen in their gladness, and know no check in our spirit, as poor David now knows in this feast-day of the Lord.
No: David has no music at this time Absalom had fallen, and the blood of Uriah was crying from the ground afresh in David's ears. It was not meet that he should make merry and be glad. He could not eat of the sacrifices, for such and such things had befallen him (Lev. 10:1919And Aaron said unto Moses, Behold, this day have they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord; and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin offering to day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord? (Leviticus 10:19)). Victory was defeat, and life was death to David. His path is still the perfect path of the penitent; and thus he now goes to his chamber rather than to his throne; and as he goes, he weeps, and says, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Better is it to have our path ordered by the Spirit within, though it may be a path of heaviness, than allow it to be determined by mere circumstances around. Thus was it now with David. The Spirit of God was leading him along, and he shall find life and peace at the end, though his sin had made the way dark and dreary for the present. But his sorrow must be all his own. The people had earned a victory, and were entitled to their rewards, and the king's sorrow must not be allowed to tarnish their joy. Joab therefore recalls David to his people, and his people's claims upon him, and David is awakened and goes forth to take his place in the scene again. He arises and sits in the gate; all the people come before him, and the tide of their desires return to him, and all his enemies are put to shame (xix.)
Thus was the restoration in happy progress; but there arises even after this, a little delay and difficulty in setting all in order, for the mischief had been great. Hence the matter of Sheba, the son of Bichri, another Benjamite (xx.)
But the Lord returns to him in full reconciliation. He is again inquired of by him; and in a day of public calamity, David learns that no sin of his was then in remembrance, but the sin of Saul and his bloody house. And this was for the healing of David's wounded spirit. The goodness of God had led him to repentance; and no sting was to be left behind, no remembrance of all that had now passed was to remain; save where our sin, beloved, is ever to be remembered, in the increased care and diligence and watchfulness of our own spirit (xxi.)
This was very gracious. But even more than this is preparing to witness to David what God was; for in the same grace and tender-kindness, the good Lord, in due season, prepares a song for David, wherein the Spirit leads him to forget all but the divine mercies. “David spake the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul.” It is Saul that is here called to mind and not Absalom. Nothing is remembered but the injuries of an evil and unoffended enemy, and all the tale of sin and shame that followed is forgotten. David sings like a “virgin soul.” The Spirit recalls nothing that could have checked the song, and the flow of his heart in the joy of it; for when the Lord forgives He forgets also. At the end of the wilderness (though the Lord had disciplined and rebuked Israel by the way), it was only this: “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel” (xxii.)
There was something very gracious and exalted in the Lord putting this song into David's lips. But we are to see greater things than even these, for after this song which thus rehearses the goodness of God and his rich triumphant grace, we read “the last words of David.” In them the Spirit leads him to trace the moral of his whole history. His commission as King of Israel had been to rule “in the fear of God,” and thus be as “the light of the morning” to his people. But this had not been so, and therefore his house was for the present not to be established; but the Spirit leads him still onward to look above present failure to One who should thus rule and thus establish his house forever, and in whom these mercies of God to him should be sure and abiding mercies, when also the sons of the alien, the sons of Belial, the seed of all evil-doers, should be utterly consumed in the decreed place, thrust away as unprofitable thorns. To this, as to his rest, the Spirit of God leads David, and these are his “last words” (xxiii)
Thus, in these three chapters, we get the full reconciliation between God and his servant, attested by three witnesses. The matter of the Gibeonites the song—the last words of David—all tell us this. And thus we have seen the way of David, but also the end of the Lord. “The man who was raised up on high,” “the anointed of the God of Jacob,” “the sweet Psalmist of Israel,” is set up to celebrate in his own person and history the shining ways of God. Sin had reigned unto death; but grace had also reigned, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.