For the Love of God, Volume 1/September 18
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 14; 2 Corinthians 7; Ezekiel 21; Psalm 68
WHAT A TWISTED THING SIN IS. Its motives and machinations are convoluted and perverse.
At one level the account of 2 Samuel 14 is pretty straightforward. At another, it is full of thought-provoking ironies.
David adopts the worst of all possible courses. At first he cannot simply forgive Absalom, for that would in effect be admitting that he, David himself, should have taken decisive action against Amnon. On the other hand, David cannot bring himself to ban Absalom decisively, so he secretly mourns him. After Joab’s ruse with the “wise woman” (14:2), he resolves to bring Absalom back. Even here, however, he is indecisive. If he is going to allow Absalom back in the country and the capital, why does he exclude him from seeing David—and thus intrinsically from family gatherings and the like? By the end of the chapter there is a reconciliation. But at what cost? The issues have not been resolved, merely swept under the table. On the other hand, if David is determined to forgive his son, why does he leave him in limbo for a few years? How much does this treatment by his own father foment the rebellion described in the next chapter?
There is no small irony in the fact that the man who convinces David, via this “wise woman,” to bring Absalom back, is the very man whom David should have disciplined years before (see September 9 meditation). If David had disciplined Joab, where would he have been at this point? Probably not manipulating the king’s counselors and petitioners.
On the face of it, Absalom is willing to go to some extraordinary lengths to get an audience with Joab and eventually be restored to the good graces of the king. Burning down a man’s standing grain is a pretty big step (14:29-32). Yet despite all of his sincere passion to be readmitted to the king’s court and presence, it will not be long before Absalom attempts to usurp the throne (chap. 15). That is the supreme irony. After so much effort, Absalom is finally admitted to David’s presence: “he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom” (14:33). He had gained what he wanted. So what kind of power-hungry resentment is it that mounts the vicious insurrection of the next chapter?
People who have been following the story right along will not only perceive all the proximate causes of the rebellion, the understandable connections among all the personal failures that brought about the terrible conclusion. They will also recall that God himself had predicted, as a matter of judicial punishment on David over the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, that he would bring calamity on him from someone in his household.