absalom

1 Kings 1, Galatians 5, Ezekiel 32, Psalm 80

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 1, Galatians 5, Ezekiel 32, Psalm 80. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 1.

Someone once said that there are two ways to become wise. You can (1) learn from your mistakes or (2) learn from someone else’s mistakes. The second of these two is, obviously, far better. It keeps you from experiencing the pain and consequences of making mistakes and it also allows you to progress faster because you don’t have to try again after your mistaken approach fails. 

Too bad Adonijah did not choose the second path to wisdom. He saw his older brother Absalom attempt to appoint himself as king (2 Sam 15:10). Although Adonijah waited until his father was older and weaker, he still made the same decision that failed Absalom (5a). Adonijah even copied Absalom’s attempt to exalt himself by riding around in chariots with 50 forerunners to announce his coming (2 Sam 15:1 cf 1 Ki 1:5). It appears that Adonijah was the oldest living child of David’s at this point in his life. With David being old and possibly in bad health (v. 1), and based on cultural customs in their times, it was reasonable to expect that Adonijah would succeed David as king. The oldest son alive at the time of a man’s death was usually the heir that received the most inheritance, including the kingship. Although it may be been customary for the oldest living son to be chosen as king, it was David’s prerogative as king to appoint his successor. So why did Adonijah make the same mistake as Absalom and try to appoint himself king before David had died? 

One answer to this question is that David had already chosen Solomon. We see this in verse 13 here in 1 Kings 1; indeed, that verse says that David had sworn to Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed him as king. Although the text does not say so, it is probable that David had made his plans to choose Solomon well-known in his family and circle of advisors. This is suggested by the fact that Adonijah “invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon” (vv. 9-10). Why did Adonijah invite all his brothers except for Solomon? Why did he invite all the royal officials except for a select few (cf. vv. 8-10)? The most likely answer is that he knew that David had chosen Solomon, not him, so he would try to take the kingdom by subversion and deal with Solomon later (see v. 21). Adonijah’s actions, then, are quite similar to Absalom’s. But Absalom failed and Adonijah could have learned from that failure. God’s word tells us more than once not to exalt ourselves. Consider:

  • Proverbs 25:6-7: Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.”
     
  • Luke 14:7-11: When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Don’t assume that a promotion at work will be yours or that a slick plan can give you something you want or even what you feel entitled to get. Instead, learn to act in humility instead of putting yourself in a position to be humiliated.

David, unfortunately, did not follow the first way to wisdom by learning from his own mistakes. Verse 6 suggests that Adonijah’s chariot and 50 men entourage was something he had done more than once before he declared himself king. But, just as David did not deal with Amnon when he raped Tamar (2 Sam 13:21) or Absalom when he killed Amnon (2 Sam 13:39), he did not speak to Adonijah when he saw him exalting himself. We all make mistakes. We all make foolish decisions that are costly. We all sin sometimes. A wise person will learn from his own errors and take different actions in the future to avoid making that error again.

There is a third way to wisdom and it is the best way of the three. Learn from your own mistakes, yes. Learn from other people’s mistakes, absolutely. But better than both is to learn from God’s revelation. When we sin, we are testing the truthfulness of God’s word. We may presume that our case is an exceptional one, worthy of an exception to God’s word. Or, we may presume that we can get away with something that someone else did not get away with. Or we might presume that God will forgive us and that his forgiveness will limit the damage of the consequences for our sin. All of these are foolish. When we take God at his word and live obediently to him, we can avoid the problems that sin brings.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Samuel 18, 2 Corinthians 11, Ezekiel 25, Psalm 73

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Samuel 18, 2 Corinthians 11, Ezekiel 25, Psalm 73. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read 2 Samuel 18.

Of all the battles David fought in his life, none created as much anxiety for him as this one must have. His anxiety had nothing to do with fear of losing; God had made an eternal covenant with David, so David could be confident that God would be with him. David also had an impressive army with him (v. 1) led by Joab, his experienced, successful field general (v. 2). Although David expressed his willingness to enter the battle personally (v. 2f), his soldiers convinced him to stay in the fortified city of Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24 compare to 2 Samuel 2:8) while they fought on his behalf (18:3-6).

As expected, God gave David’s troops this victory (vv. 7-8). Absalom certainly believed he was a capable judge (remember 15:1-4); apparently he also believed he was a mighty warrior. There is no mention of him fighting in Israel’s army; though Jonathan fought in Saul’s army, David’s kingdom and army were more highly developed than Saul’s. It seems unlikely to me, therefore that Absalom had ever fought in any battle prior to this battle here in 2 Samuel 18. Though the Bible does not accuse Absalom of arrogance, it certainly seems to paint a picture of an arrogant man. He had hired men to go before his chariots and horsemen to announce his arrival (15:1). Unlike most men who have receding hairlines or some type of balding problem, Absalom had a thick head of hair that he allowed to grow long (14:26), maybe to stand out in a crowd and draw attention to himself. Our passage today told us that Absalom built a monument to himself so that he would not be forgotten, since he had no son (v. 18). Despite his great self-confidence, Absalom’s army was no match for his father’s and his thick hair was instrumental in bringing him to a humiliating defeat (vv. 9-17). 

Unlike his father, David, who was chosen and anointed king by God and who waited until Saul was dead and Israel was ready for him to become king, Absalom anointed himself king and tried to take David’s kingdom from him by force, despite what God had promised to David. Absalom’s life and death illustrate the truth Jesus taught in Luke 14:11: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” May the Lord protect us from the high risk foolishness of arrogance. I think that we are especially susceptible to arrogance when we are young. I know that I, as a younger man, thought I saw things more clearly at times than the leaders I followed. I remember thinking that I could do better and agitating for more authority. Now that I am older and have struggled with the realities of the adult world and spiritual /church leadership, I have a much lower view of my own abilities. If you are young, take a lesson from Absalom; there is great virtue in following your leaders as your leaders do their best to follow and obey the Lord. Don’t let arrogance put you into a self-destructive place.

One final thought: I do not believe in allegorical interpretation of the Bible and I think it often produces theology that is untrue and even reckless. But since we are made in God’s image, aspects of human life recorded in scripture can sometimes help us relate personally to God’s own heart. So I can’t help but see God’s heart in David’s deep anguish at the loss of Absalom (v. 33). Like Absalom, humanity—we—have rebelled against God’s authority and rulership. Like Absalom, we think too much of ourselves and act as if we know better than the King. Like Absalom marching against David’s army, we try to overthrow the Almighty Warrior with logic, science, and other gifts of God that we try to employ perversely as weapons against him. Yet, like David, God still cares for us in our rebellion. He wants to be the king that he rightfully is, but he wants to show us mercy when we try to overthrow him. Our rebellion stirs the heart of God in anger but also in pain, yet he longs to be reconciled to us because he loves us. Unlike David, however, God was able to redeem us, reconcile us, and change our rebellious hearts through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.