2 Samuel 14 & 15: Standing On the Promises: A strategy for riding out the storms of life.
If you grew up a Southern Baptist in the 1950’s and 60’s you were familiar with the hymn, “Standing on the Promises”. It was written in 1886 by Russell Carter, inspired by his time in the military. We all knew the refrain: “Standing, standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior, standing, standing, I’m standing on the promise of God.” The second stanza speaks to my heart in today’s lesson: “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail. Standing on the promises of God. “Notice the promises of God cannot fail.
With our culture captivated by the daily deluge of political stories of investigations, intrigue, spies, lies and slander this story reminds us there is ‘ nothing new under the sun.’ For this is the everyday life of King David, his adminstration and his family. King David is now close to sixty years of age. A successor must come from his remaining 18 sons after the murder of Amnon. He is currently estranged from Absalom who ordered the murder of Amnon and fled to Geshur where his grandfather was king. The infighting, plotting and back-stabbing, were dividing the nation and creating chaos.
Joab knew King David well and recognized David wanted to reconcile with Absalom, but had not been able to give him permission to return. How could he, the king, do that and not appear to be failing to carry out the law. How could he uphold the law and not execute Absalom for his plotting the murder of Amnon? Yet, God had shown mercy to David and had not taken his life, although he was being punished by God for his sins. The consequences were severe because David’s sins were severe. But God is a God of reconciliation and restoration. He found a way to forgive you and me of all our sins and Peter told us God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance which is the first step in reconciliation and restoration. But as we have seen God will rebuke, chasten and scourge as the sin demands and He will not be mocked. When a man sows to the flesh he will to the flesh reap corruption. And when a nation sows to the winds of social whims and is conformed to this world culture it will reap a whirlwind. Do not be deceived. (I believe our country is in a season of destructive “whirlwinds” from God. Storms, floods, wildfires, blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and the dark, divided mood of our country tell us something is wrong.)
Joab follows Nathan’s script and recruits what must be a very effective actress to bring a fabricated story (notice the use of “fake news”) of the murder of one brother by another brother to King David for mercy. King David is drawn into the story as she seeks for her son’s life to be spared. King David realizes as the story unfolds, this is the work of Joab. He asks the woman ‘is the hand of Joab with you in all this?’ She admits it is, but David perhaps reflecting on the mercy and grace of God for not taking his life says Absalom may return. But he cannot see my face. And Absalom is to be under house arrest until his father agrees to meet with him. David finally after a period of time meets with Absalom. Absalom bows with his face to the ground and David then kisses Absalom. The King’s kiss is a kiss of acceptance but for Absalom it is a kiss of Judah, of betrayal.
Now the story of Absalom begins. First we are told: ‘no one was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head he had not a single blemish. And when he cut his hair at the end of the year because it was too heavy, it was reported when they weighed the cut hair it weighed two hundred shekels. (5 pounds) Absalom was a celebrity, whose every action was noted and celebrated. The fact that he killed his half-brother, Amnon seemed to enhance his reputation rather than besmirch it. He was young, handsome, a prince from a royal family. He has a winsome personality and his position as prince made him famous. Character was unimportant compared to his personality, charisma, status, wealth and good looks. He would have had his own reality show in today’s market. He wanted to be king of Israel and he would soon make his motives known. Absalom had perfected the smile, the handshake and the false empathy which said to all he met, I feel your pain and I want to take care of it for you.
Just as our political season for the presidential election for 2020 is now getting under way, we see those who would be president meeting people, shaking their hands, kissing babies, and telling people what they want to hear and how they will take care of their problems, we see it was the same way 3, 000 years ago.
The campaign of Absalom begins as we read in the opening verses of chapter 15. Absalom trusted in chariots and horses to sustain his image. He surrounds himself with the trappings of power and wealth. He has an entourage which accompany him everywhere he goes. He stations himself at the gates of city hall and meets with each person coming who has a lawsuit or grievance for which they are seeking a settlement. Absalom plays the role of the concerned person who wants to help his fellow citizens. They are so impressed with his looks, charisma and celebrity status they go home to tell all their friends and neighbors what a wonderful person Absalom is and how he should be their next king. Some will say he ‘stole ‘the throne from his father, but verse 6 tells us what he stole in order to take the throne. “In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” We see this type of behavior not only in the political realm, but in the business world, society, civic clubs, and churches. People who use people to get what they want. We are to love God and love people and use things. People love self and use people and love things and in the process leave God out completely. We often recognize the hypocrisy of these types of people, but many are taken in by their celebrity status. Jesus made of Himself no reputation.
I would also take note, this will be the same type of personality and charisma which the Anti-Christ will exhibit. His intelligence, his personality and his celebrity status will once again deceive the people of Israel who will enter into a treaty with him in those last days.
Absalom’s agenda is about to be revealed. He means to seize the rightful throne of his father, King David. King David was about to lose his throne, his crown, his trusted advisor, Ahithophel, and ultimately his son, Absalom. The storm clouds will grow darker. The whirlwinds will grow more fierce and the darkest hours of the storm are about to come into David’s life.
*Again let us consider what we know about the end times. Paul records three extraordinary events which will take place prior to the Lord Jesus’ return:
1. The falling away of the church. In the end times, the church will be apostate- large portions of membership will abandon the true faith, preach heresy, and practice ungodliness.
2. The “man of sin” must be revealed. The extraordinary, satanic, ruthless, wicked leader will rebel against the Lord’s authority. He is known as the Antichrist.
3. The “restrainer” the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth. All of this will occur in the end times during what is known as the Tribulation. (2 Thessalonians)
We are also told it will be like it was in the days of Noah. Men’s thoughts were on evil 24-7 and the believers were a minority- only 8 souls survived the flood, God’s wrath. Jesus also told us it would be like it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. Where sexual perversion was the norm and considered a right and anyone who defied it would be vilified.
RIDING OUT THE STORM
Absalom had advanced his own interests by pretending a deep devotion to the interests of the people. This is the same playbook the ANTI-CHRIST will use in the end times. King David’s actions on the other hand reveal why he is called a “man after God’s own heart.” King David will sacrifice for his people. David had once before won the hearts of the people through service and sacrifice. Absalom did it by manufacturing a false image of himself as a caring person who best understood them. David was a hero. Absalom was passing celebrity. So Israel once again finds its kingdom divided by three kings: King Absalom, a fake king; King David, God’s Chosen King, and Jehovah, Israel’s Sovereign King. Our forefathers knew if we were to be one nation, it would have to be one nation under God. God had used King David to restore Israel to its greatness as they became one nation under God and were restored to their greatness.
Absalom seizes the right moment as he has built an overwhelming loyal following to announce he is king of Hebron and at the same time names Aphithophel as his counselor who has left King David.
Watch what David does. He realizes he is being chastened by God. David is no stranger to crisis and responds as he always does by placing the interest of others before himself. He orders his family, officials and bodyguards to leave Jerusalem immediately. He wants to save their lives and save the city of Jerusalem from an attack which would cost the loss of hundreds of lives in addition to the physical damage to Jerusalem. He abandons his throne and risk his own life in order to protect others. Just as the Lord Jesus did- who left the throne of heaven to protect us and save us from our sins.
We meet some people which were unknown to us, like Ittai, a foreigner whose loyalty to the David reminds us of the loyalty of another foreigner, Ruth the Moabite, who would not desert her mother-in-law. We will see many “nobodies” in this world of celebrities be rewarded in heaven for their faithfulness and sacrifice even though they never were recognized before. The last shall be first. The priests follow King David bearing the ark of the covenant of God. David will send them back to Jerusalem.
As we observe how King David rides out the storm, let us consider the principles and truths to which David returned. David faced the truth and consequences of his sin. He experienced godly sorrow which leads to repentance. His heart felt prayer for forgiveness in Psalm 51 is well known. We read he prayed and fasted for seven days after Nathan told him their child would die. He “inquired of God” that this son might live. When God did not relent and the child died, David was not bitter. He recognized God’s sovereignty. Like Job, he realized God giveth and God taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. But he also was comforted that he would see this son in heaven. King David during the darkest storm of his life faced the: truth of his situation; the reality of the consequences of his sin; repented, and claimed the truth of God’s Word.
What do we do when we are in a dark storm? Riding out a storm means seeking shelter. Two people on our street have storm shelters. Our shelter is the Lord. David, Paul, James and others tell us of the benefit of tribulations, storms of all kinds. Paul writes in Romans 5: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produced perseverance: and perseverance, character: and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. “David writes in Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” One of the things which accompanies severe storms is the power is knocked out and we are in darkness. But we need not fear the darkness for the Lord is the light of our lives. So what if the power is out- He is our strength. So David closes this Psalm 27 with these verses: “I would have lost heart, unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: Wait, I say on the Lord!” And James writes: “My brethren, count it all joy, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. “(James 1)
Do you know these truths? Do you believe them? Do you claim them? The Lord told us we would have trouble in this world. God has revealed to us the purposes of these troubles. He wants you to know the reason for them. You are what you are for a reason. You are part of God’s intricate plan.
His plan involves storms coming into our lives. These storms are as varied as the physical storms which come. It is clear they are for a purpose. Learning how to ride out storms is an essential truth we must learn. We also must look at the benefits derived from storms which can only be built into our lives through storms. Jesus told us to expect storms. Peter said we should not consider fiery trials as strange. They refine our faith. They build endurance. They shape our character. They reveal hidden sins. They teach us to trust the Lord with all our heart and not lean to our own understanding.
“Perseverance has been defined as accepting a difficult situation as from God without giving Him a deadline for their removal. We know we need to learn endurance, but we generally shun the process by which it takes root in our lives.” (Charles Stanley).
So we have the promise He is working all things together for our good. We have been promised He will never place more on us than we can bear. We have His Promises. But much more than that we have HIM!
God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storms. Cast His anchor by casting your cares upon Him who cares for you.
When it is all over, David will still be standing. Are you still standing?
Standing on the Promises of God my Savior.