We're in a series on the life of David.
If you were to go to Florence Italy, you go to to a museum there and see Michelangelo's most famous work - David. I'm only showing the top half for obvious reasons. It's a 17 foot tall statue carved out of a single block of marble. It's said that it was Michelangelo's intention to create the look on David’s face when he made the decision to fight Goliath. Michelangelo’s David is regarded as the most recognizable piece of art in the world.
And as we look back, it's clear that David's life was in a sense, art.
That there's these high highs and heartbreaking lows.
I've said this before but any systematic study of the life of David that doesn't deal with suffering is incomplete.
In fact the last 3rd of the life of David is so tragic that it's almost hard to get through.
Death of child
There's a scene that I thought about preaching, but ultimately decided to pass over where as a consequence of David's sin he experiences the death of his child.
The story I settled on for today is a sad story, but I think it's a cool story, the story is definitely a little Jerry Springer and a little Shakespearian tragedy.
This is a story about rape and incest and murder and family drama on a level rarely seen in the Bible or life for that matter.
It's a story I've never preached from in my life, but when I came to it I knew there was no way I could skip over it because it's so powerful and so relevant. It's profoundly practical. If there's such a thing as a sermon being too practical, this sermon is that.
I'm going to do a big summary - I'm gonna cover about 10 chapters just major cliff notes, I encourage you to go back and read it. Here's the big idea:
David has a who gaggle of kids. - I don't know when I became the kind of person who says gaggle. But a whole mess of kids. I have an absolutely horrendous family tree for you to look at. (Pic)
The 3 I'm really wanting to point out (pic) - Are Absalom, Tamar, and Amnon.
Absalom in particular is a tragic figure.
David pt 2
Absalom will in many ways remind you of the young David. - Maybe think of him as David pt 2. Think about David, who this young up-and-comer, and there was the old-timer King and people were starting to say 'Saul is great, but DAVID WOW. He's the future. Now fast forward however many years and it's happening again, but this time instead of David being the young up-and-comer, now he's the old-timer, and his son is the cool, young, hip, popular one. This happens to all leaders and all people in general, that we get older and there's someone new and fresh and shiny, and they start getting some of the spotlight we were used to being on us.
One interesting thing about Absalom is he had gorgeous, long hair. And people are asking 'Wow, what kind of product do you use? Is that mousse?!
So David's still King, but Absalom is starting to get a following of his own.
Absalom has a sister named Tamar, same mom and dad. And they had a half brother, from anotha motha, named Amnon.
Now here's where it gets Jerry Springer.
Amnon falls in love with his sister Tamar and he wants to sleep with her. So he comes up with a plan where he's going to pretend he's sick and in bed, and he orchestrates a moment where he's alone with Tamar in the house, get all the servants out. And he rapes his sister. And after he's done that he says 'Get this women out of my sight' and casts her away.
Absalom loves his sister deeply. Not in an inappropriate way, but he loves her as his sister. And when he hears about this, he's enraged, he furious. King David, the dad is also upset but it becomes clear that he's not going to do anything about it.
Kills Amnon - Jerry Springer
So Absalom, what he does is he plays it cool for a couple of years, just laying low. Gives Amnon a chance to get comfortable. Until the day comes where Absalom in cold blood will kill his brother for the rape of his sister. Jerry Springer. I told you. I think I saw an episode on this exact situation. Just kidding.
So David will experience MORE tragedy in the rape of his daughter, and the death of yet another son.
And so now David is left with the question of what he's going to do about his son killing his other son. Of course on the surface, he's grieved at the loss of his son, but there's also this sense of David being disgraced by Absalom. That he's brought even more shame to his house.
And when you read the story, you get this sense that David really loves Absalom, deeply. But this incident, unsurprisingly left a huge schism between them.
Absalom - on the run
And if you remember David being on the run from Saul, now Absalom will go on the run from his father David. But again, David really loves his son Absalom. He wants his son home. He wants him to be ok. But David is that classic male stereotype (that's a stereotype for a reason) where he feels something for his son, but for some reason he's not able to communicate it. He's unable to communicate how he really feels.
Joab, who has faithfully served David for many years, sees this in David, how his heart is broken about his son being on the run, so Joab out of love and adoration for David sets up an elaborate plan to try to get Absalom home.
These 4 verses are going to seem anticlimactic, but I will say that I believe of all the failures in David's life, this is the profound. Greater than his failure with Bathsheba, greater than the murder of his friend Uriah.
What we're about to read is I believe the biggest mistake David will ever make.
The king said to Joab, “Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.” (2 Samuel 14:21)
(I need you to notice what David calls his son here: 'The Young Man' NOT 'my son'.
Joab fell with his face to the ground to pay him honor, and he blessed the king. Joab said, “Today your servant knows that he has found favor in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant’s request.” (2 Samuel 14:22)
Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 14:23)
So Absalom is finally home. It would seem like this would be a beautiful end to this story.
But look at this next verse. This is the turning point for the whole story, and for the life of David. This is the moment David will regret for the rest of his life.)
But the king said, “He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.” So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king. (2 Samuel 14:24)
What's the Big Deal?
So what's the big deal here? Absalom is absolutely guilty. He killed his brother, he disgraced his father, it would seem on the surface that David is actually being generous here welcoming Absalom home at all. "You get to have your house. You get to have your stuff. You get to live your life as son of the king, and all the privileges that go with that."
But we see in this story that what David really WANTS to do is to bring his son close, to embrace him, to love on him. - But he doesn't know how to express that. So David, with his wounded ego, still feels like he needs to teach his son a lesson.
So he tells his son "You can have all the stuff, but you can't have me." "You can come back, but you have to stay across the street." And David reaps the consequences of that his entire life. His family never recovers. There will never be unity in David's house again.
David, right on the heels of experiencing the most extravagant grace of his life, after the murder of Uriah, is unable to extend that grace to his own son. I mean, think of the similarities. What did Absalom do that David hadn't already done? Nothing. But David was unable to offer the grace he himself received.
And in a sense I think he WANTS to. But he's not able to communicate any of that.
Prodigal son in Reverse
We talked a lot about the story of the prodigal son last week, and here's what you need to understand: This story, is the story of the prodigal son in reverse.
Just like that story, David has a prodigal son who he sees coming over the hill. And David WANTS to run and embrace his son, but he can't bring himself to do it.
Let me see if I can explain this properly:
In the story of the prodigal son, the son returns home hoping to be accepted back as a servant. But when the father sees him, he immediately welcome him back as a son. He embraces him and loves on him, and kisses him. He's instantly welcome back not just into his fathers house, but into his fathers heart.
It was never just about the stuff, it was about having his fathers heart again. David is the exact opposite: He says to his son, you can have my stuff, but you can't have me.
The biggest mistake of David's life: After he's just received unbelievable mercy, he's unable to offer that to his own son.
Fathers and Sons
I'm about to hit dangerously close to home: I see this happen all the time with fathers and sons. Dad's who are unable to bless their sons even though they deeply love them.
And when their son like all sons do, rebel and push the boundaries, the father even though they really love the son, they lose their ability to say so. The father is unbelievably loving and kind to the daughters but not to the sons.
Their heart is tender, but their embrace isn't.
Happens with sons and fathers, happens with mothers and daughters, happens with all kinds of family relationships, happens with spouses, happens with friends.
That one of the people you love the most in the world, you don't know how to express your love to them, especially when you've been offended.
Absalom - welcome - Dad's stuff ≠ heart.
Ok, back to the story. So Absalom is welcome to his Dad's stuff, but not to his dad's heart. What do you think happens next?
Absalom rebels. Of course he does.
How has that ever worked out for you? I'm gonna teach that person a lesson, I need to prove a point, so you just treat that person coldly. How has that worked out for you in the past?
I can tell you how it worked out: Their walls went up ever further.
Tries - Usurp throne
This is what happens with Absalom. And then when Absalom begins to hear talk around town, "Absalom, it's time for you to take out the old man. We want you as king." - And of course, he's ripe for that kind of manipulation. And he tries to usurp the throne.
So its father against son. There's a war between David's men and Absalom's men.
David issues to command "You can take out everybody else, but you must not kill the young man absalom." Again. Young man, not son.
One day one of David's men comes upon Absalom who is gotten his long gorgeous hair tangled up in a tree. - Too bad. After using all that product. It looked great. All that mousse. But now he's tangled up in a tree.
And in an act of Shakespearian tragedy : Joab, remember Joab, the one who brought Absalom back home? Goes up to Absalom when he's caught in the tree and totally defenseless and kills him. 3 spears to the chest. Against David's orders. They throw the body in a pit in the forest and cover it with rocks.
And just like that, David loses another child.
I think is one of the saddest pieces of scripture in the entire bible. There is just something so heart wrenching that it's almost hard to stomach. I honestly don't think there's any other piece of scripture that gets me quite as sad as 2 Samuel 18.
Then the Cushite (one of David's men) arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.” (2 Samuel 18:31)
The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (Again, notice 'The young man ≠ 'my son') The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” (2 Samuel 18:32)
This is David learning of the death of his son Absalom
The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)
This is haunting to me, that what Absalom needed most, the heart of his father, the loving embrace of his father, his father was only able to give him once it was too late.
Only now - son died: 'My son'
Only now that his son has died is David able to refer to him as 'My son' and not 'The young man'. Only now that his son has died is David able to become the father in the story of prodigal son. David is finally able to give his son what his son most needed. "My son, I would give my life for you." But it was too late.
"My wife knows I love her, I don't need to tell her all the time."
"My son knows I love him, I don't need to tell him all the time."
Some you - Very hard
Some of us in here a very hard. And what bothers me is you think it's a strength. It's not.
It's emotional constipation.
And you might think "I'm fine with it." - Well you can't speak for the people around you. Your son, your daughter, your spouse, your parents, your friends - those are the victims of you sin.
It should surprise no one that being Eiffert, my dad (and my mom) were very emotionally available to me and my sister.
And now years later, now that I have my own family, I have absolutely no problem being affectionate towards them. Telling my wife how much I love her. Telling her that she's an amazing wife and an amazing mom. And telling my daughter how much I love her. And telling my mom and my dad and my sister how much I love them.
But see, I reaped the benefits of my parents being affectionate towards us.
And I'm well aware that many of you didn't grow up in a house like that. And one or both of your parents were very stingy with their inner self. But now, can't you see how if left unchecked, you can keep that sin going generation after generation?
And again, I see this all the time. That people don't say the things that need to be said until it's too late.
There is a sense of regret in almost every funeral I do. All the things that should have been said that weren't.
3 years ago, I did the funeral of my good friend Bill McKinley.
Bill was an amazing guy for lots of different reasons. He was my 2nd grade Sunday school teacher. Always sticking things in his nose at church. He'd stick gummy worms up his nose then eat them. One time he fit 4 quarters up his nose. I kid you not.
But Bill McKinley was to me the first person to ever make church fun. Changed my life. And I never told him that. And I wish I had.
Me - Make - uncomfortable
So you know for me, I can tend to make people uncomfortable. Because I'll come right up and say I love you, I appreciate you, you mean so much to me. and give you a huge hug. I hear the phrase "I'm actually not much of a hugger" - often.
But you know what, I don't know how you're gonna be around, and you don't know how long I'm gonna be around. So I'm not gonna leave all kinds of stuff unsaid, because you don't get a million opportunities to say it. And you rarely know when those opportunities are running out.
If I was dorkier, I would have arranged this sermon so that at this point in the service the worship team would come out and sing 'Say What You Need to Say' by John Mayer.
I think being able to communicate your love to people requires two things:
Clarity to see life on this earth for what it really is. Precious and beautiful, and temporary.
This is especially true for men and shall we say the more emotionally conservative women, that it can take a lot of courage to go up and tell someone what they mean to you. That's not easy. But you'll regret it if you don't. Don't be like David here, holding onto your affection until it doesn't make any difference.
Isn't that strange?
I'm a Sweet Person - Until Offended
I am a very sweet person. I really am. I love people. I love animals. Whenever that commercial comes on with the sad puppies and the Sarah McLachlan song, I bawl my eyes out.
I even love bugs. I went online to purchase a device that would allow me to pick up bugs and take them outside without hurting them. It has these little bristles that come out and gently grab the bug and then you get let them out. Works great, if you can get them to hold still. Which is not typically a bug's strong suit.
And this isn't bragging I don't think. But I don't find it that hard to love evil people. Perhaps that's a common characteristic with people who have done jail ministry. One time I was in the jail helping with a bible study and afterwards a man came up to me and explained that he was in there because he stabbed his girlfriend in the face. And I have absolutely no problem looking at a person like that and saying "God loves you, I love you. And we can get through this." - That's not that hard for me.
But then you take someone who has offended me personally. And it's a whole other story. "I know God has been merciful to me, but what you have done to me is different." "How is it different?" - "Because in this case I'm the victim."
I think I'm still trying to get my head around the different ways that being in the ministry changes you.
A lot of them for the good and some of them for the bad.
Ministry ages you in dog years.
Sometimes I feel like my back must look like Swiss cheese from all the knives that have been in there. - Most of them by me. And by attributing hurt to stuff that really doesn't deserve it. You know "Someone doesn't like something I said in a sermon so they write a mean email to the front desk." - And I'm in my office weeping. Or man, someone leaves the church, and God has really helped me with this. People move around churches a little. I wish it happened less but it happens and people are leaving a church but they're still in the same kingdom, and believe it or not churches aren't competing with each other. - But man early on, people would come and hear me preach, and then they'd decide they like another church better, whoosh! Man I felt like they were rejecting ME. Which of course was not the case. And I'm like 'Those people are dead to me.'
Here's my point: I have a much easier time being nice to a man who stabbed his girlfriend in the face than if a friend of mine leaves the church.
The Amazing Race
My wife and I love the show the Amazing Race.
It's a vert interesting social experiment to pair people off who travel around the world in these super stressful situations. And how they relate to each is fascinating.
Here's one thing we notice: Put spouses together, often times they're screaming at each other and losing their minds. And then you put those same people with a stranger, now they're nicest people on the planet. - Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about married people.
Raise your hand if you're familiar with the story of David and Mephibosheth.
This is a story that I had to pass over a week or so again.
But the 12 second version is that there's this poor, crippled man named Mephibosheth who's never been loved his whole life. And he was in hiding from David because he was a descendant of Saul, so he was assuming there was still bad blood there.
And David is literally hunting this man down to show kindness to him. And he tells him that he's welcome at the kings table always. He said 'I will give you land. And treat you as my own son.'
Unbelievable love to a perfect stranger.
Love that he's not even able to give his own son.
David is nicer to a perfect stranger than his own son who has wounded him.
Sometimes people put a dependency clause on forgiveness. "God I'll forgive them as long as they know how wrong they were and their apology is SUPER good.
Absalom no speech
When Absalom came home, there's no indication that he tried to go to his dad with some speech "Papa, I'm so sorry, please forgive me."
I've got news: Sometimes - never - hear - speech.
I've got news: Sometimes you're going to be hurt, and you're never going to hear that speech that you're waiting for. It's not gonna happen.
And you're still left with the decision whether or not you're going to walk in forgiveness and mercy anyway.
You're gonna have to do decide whether or not to show the grace and mercy and forgiveness God has shown you. Or are somehow the rules different now?
I think we can get in this trap of 'I'll forgive them as long as their apology is REALLY good.' Or 'I'll forgive as long as they understand exactly how bad they hurt me.' - I've got news friend - sometimes people aren't going to understand how they hurt you and they're never gonna say sorry, and you're STILL called to forgive.
We expecting the perfect speech. The perfect speech that God never required of us. I doesn't matter if they're really guilty. Absalom is really guilty. YOU'RE really guilty.
David forgot that he sinned against God in all the ways Absalom sinned against him.
Oh dear Lord, I feel like the Lord is beating me half to death with this message. I feel like I want something to hide behind. No one needs to hear this more than I do. Except for maybe you.
This is hard on me too. I much prefer preaching against stuff I don't do. I love that kind of preaching.
I can think of all the times that I had an opportunity to reconcile with my Absaloms and to embrace them, and how many times I've made excuses for why my pain is different than everybody elses.
Listen, doesn't mean you're always gonna be buddy buddy with everyone. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about giving free grace. No strings attached - I love you and I bless you and to whatever extent we can walk together, I want to do that.
Forgiveness is about believing that the cross of Jesus Christ is sufficient payment. Not only for everything you’ve done, but also for everything that’s been done to you.
Here's the closing thought for the day. Two questions to ask yourself.
Which of course brings us to Jesus. As Christians, Jesus is our model for life.
Talk about not leaving anything unsaid. Jesus hours before his execution was praying for us. And as he was taking his last breaths, he died praying for our forgiveness.
And then he comes back. Still offering us forgiveness and embrace.
I mean, you talk about the father in the story of the prodigal son. That's God. Who's not sitting back. But he's actively watching for you, and ready to break into a sprint. And to embrace you and welcome you home, not as a hired hand, but as a son. As a daughter.
And that's what the table of Jesus is all about. It's all about coming home. That no matter how far you go, and no matter how long you've been gone, that Jesus has been saving that seat for you. Waiting for you to come home.
And as we sing I want to encourage you to just focus on that beautiful love and beautiful mercy that God offers to you even now.
(Pass) / (Inviation)