On Tuesday mornings there is a group of a dozen or so men who have been getting together to study the book of Romans. And early in our study we discovered a weird little part of the letter. Paul is listing the behaviour of people who are in his words “sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
Hopefully nobody here is saying, “Hey that’s me.”
And then later in the passage he lists some of their behaviour, Romans 1:29-30 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and . . . they disobey their parents.
They disobey their parents?
The story that was read earlier is about a man who disobeyed his parents, in a big way.
His name was Absalom and while the scripture that was read doesn’t state it, he was the son of King David. And he decided that he would be a better king than his father and so he led an unsuccessful coup against his Dad. Just as an aside we are told in 2 Samuel 14:25-26 Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds!
The scripture that was read earlier chronicles the end of Absalom’s story.
But let’s set the story up. Absalom was David’s third son. And there is all kinds of history here. David’s life reads like a series from Netflix at times. He had multiple wives and so his children, in a lot of cases, were half siblings, same father different mother.
And that is really where the problems began. Absalom had a sister by the name of Tamar who was raped by their half-brother, Amnon, David’s oldest son.
When the King wouldn’t do anything about the rape Absalom took matters into his own hands and had his brother murdered. And you thought you had problems with your kids.
Because of that, David and Absalom became estranged and Absalom went to live with his maternal grandfather. Apparently killing your brother to avenge your sister’s rape wasn’t the done thing.
It was during that time of exile that Absalom decided that he should be king.
After three years of exile, David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem and that’s when he put his nefarious scheme to work. Let’s pick up the story in 2 Samuel 15:1-6 After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here!
It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and embraced them. Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.
So, Absalom become populist, loved by everyone who meets him as he builds his base of support.
Eventually Absalom gets tired of playing a slow game and made his move and the political coup become an attempted military overthrow. And while David was willing to put up a defence he told his commanders in 2 Samuel 18:5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.
Which bring us to the story that was read earlier.
This is the fourth week in our “That’s Weird” series. So far we’ve looked at an Axe Head that floated, a donkey who spoke and last week at a fig tree that was cursed because it had no figs. If you missed any of those, the manuscripts and videos are available on our website and Facebook page.
If you are honest there are stories in the bible that make you scratch your head and go huh? And so, we thought we’d jump in and see what we can learn from those stories. Because remember what we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
All scripture is inspired and useful, even the scriptures that seem a little strange.
So back to the story that was read for us earlier.
David’s troops seem to get the upper hand and the rebels are on the run. As Absalom attempts to flee, his mount goes under a tree and Absalom gets caught up in the fork of a large branch.
Some translations say he was hung by his hair, which goes back to the comment of his awesome hair, while other simply say he was hung by his head, either way not a great situation to be in.
In the original language it says he was hung between heaven and earth, which is why Matthew Henry would wax poetically, “He hung between heaven and earth, as unworthy of either, as abandoned of both; earth would not keep him, heaven would not take him, hell therefore opens her mouth to receive him.”
And that’s where David’s men found him. And what I find weird is that the first guy who finds him just left him there. He goes back to Joab, his commander and says “Hey, you’ll never guess who I just saw hanging from a tree?”
And Joab was like, “You found Absalom in a tree and you didn’t kill him?”
David saw his son as going through a phase but Joab figure that Absalom wouldn’t rest until he had overthrown his father, so he killed him, in direct disobedience to the King.
And maybe you are thinking, “Wow, getting hung by your hair is weird, but so what?” Remember, all scripture is useful, and there are a couple of lessons here.
A Lesson for Parents We don’t really hear a lot about Absalom and his siblings before 2 Samuel chapter 13. As a matter of fact, the only time they are mentioned is when their birth order is given in 2 Samuel 3.
We don’t hear anything about their childhood or their teen years, nothing, zip, nada.
Now personally I am of the philosophy of “that no news is good news”. Which supposedly dates back to the 1600’s when King James said, “No news is better than evil news.”
I have discovered that people very seldom call me to tell me that they are enjoying good health the kids are doing well and they got a raise. Not even my family.
It would appear that everything was going well for the royal family, in that they weren’t making the news. I’m sure that there are times that Queen Elizabeth wished her family wasn’t making the news.
But everything changes in 2 Samuel 13, It seems like all of a sudden, the wheels come off the wagon.
That’s where we see the story of Tamar being raped by her half-brother who is then killed by Absalom.
What happens that suddenly cause things to change? That the family that nobody hears about suddenly looks like they should have their own reality show.
I would suspect that many of you didn’t really know much about what was happening with the royal kids, but you are probably familiar with a story that happened just before the wheels came off the proverbial wagon.
It is the story of David and Bathsheba. Maybe you remember it, here’s the highlights.
The story begins with these words in 2 Samuel 11:1-2 In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace.
As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.
If you don’t know the story here it is in a nutshell, David discovers that the woman, whose name was Bathsheba was the wife of one of his soldiers. He has her summoned to the palace where we are told that he slept with her. Well, they must have been doing more than sleeping because the next time he hears from her is when she lets him know that she is pregnant. Oops.
In an effort to fix the problem David eventually has her husband killed and marries Bathsheba, not exactly the honourable thing to do.
And it was only when David was confronted by the prophet Nathan that he confesses and repents of his sin.
If you read the book of 2 Samuel you discover that it covers 33 years of David’s life. The First half is a story of multiple triumphs. Chapters 1 to 5 deal with David’s Political triumphs, 6-7 his spiritual Triumphs and 8 – 10 his Military triumphs. His life comes to this high point in chapter 11 where he is literally on top of the world and it’s here that he has the affair with Bathsheba.
And then everything flies to pieces.
The lesson is that there are consequences to our actions.
In David’s case, his children’s moral compass had been shattered. David who had been described as a man after God’s own heart is revealed to be at the best an adulterer and a murderer.
Probably considering that he was king what happened in his bedroom was probably more like one of the Harvey Weinstein encounters.
I knew a family once where the husband, a pastor, had an affair and left his wife. Before the year was out his youngest unmarried daughter was pregnant, his older married daughter had an affair and left her husband and his son rebelled against his father and the church.
Their moral compass had been shattered. Their father who helped defined their morality had basically, through his actions, told them it didn’t matter what they did.
Those things are called generational Consequences. When God was giving his people the Ten Commandments, he warns that the sins of the parents are laid upon their children, the entire family is affected even the children in the third and fourth generation.
That doesn’t mean God punishes children for their parent’s sins, but it means that they will suffer the consequences.
We know about the dangers of women drinking while they are pregnant. And we know about the dangers of second-hand smoke. If you see someone smoking with a kid in a car with the windows rolled up you’d probably call the authorities, when I was a kid and you saw someone smoking in a car with kids with the windows rolled up you’d probably say “I didn’t know the Smith’s had air conditioning in their car.
When you see people put kids in dangerous situations you are probably outraged. Because you know those kids will suffer because of their parent’s actions.
But God warns about the spiritual consequences to our kids as well.
I told you a little bit about what happened in David’s family after his affair. Do you think you will fare better? Do you think that children will trust someone who cheated on their mother or father? Someone who had no qualms about lying to their spouse? About betraying their marriage vows?
And not only that, understand that children learn from what they see. Remember more is caught then taught. If they see a normal marriage is one where adultery is the norm then they will perpetuate that model. That’s a no-brainer.
Bottom line is summed up in Proverbs 6:27-29, which by the way was written by David and Bathsheba’s second son, Solomon, Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? Those are rhetorical questions; no answers are expected. So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished.
So, don’t think you will.
I keep telling you: Sin will always take you further then you want to go, it will always cost you more then you want to pay, and it will always keep you longer then you want to stay. You think you will be in control, but it will be sin that is in control.
Adultery is used as a simile throughout the Bible for disobedience to God’s will and God’s word. You may not be cheating on your spouse, but you still might be cheating on your God.
Your relationship with God is setting an example that your kids are going to follow, for better or for worse.
And so while it’s easy to blame the rape of Tamar, the murder of Amnon and the rebellion and death of Absalom on their father’s actions there is also a A Lesson For Children
And not everybody here is somebody’s parent, but everybody here is somebody’s child.
As I begin this point, may I offer you a word of advice, “If you find yourself blaming your parents for who you are and what you do, stop it.”
Absalom may have been partly defined by his father’s choices, but in the end, he made his own choices.
Regardless of what his father may have done or not done the only person making choices in Absalom’s life was Absalom.
We can argue over nature vs nurture and genetics vs environment for hours. My daddy used to say if you looked like your father that was genetics if you looked like your neighbour that was environment, but I digress.
Understand this, regardless of how we were raised, regardless of the decisions that our parents made, in the end, we all make our own decisions.
David acted horribly, that didn’t mean that Amnon had to rape his sister or Absalom had to kill his brother. Absalom may have felt that his father’s behaviour justified his attempted coup, but that was a decision that Absalom made. And in the end that resulted in his death.
Every person here can rise about their past and above their parent’s mistakes.
And that leads us to A Lesson for Christians
You’ve probably already figured out that the lesson that apply to parents and children applies equally to us as Christians.
The pastor who left his wife didn’t just impact his immediate family, the damage was felt in his church and his community.
And if you are thinking, “Glad I’m not a pastor” you are deluding yourself.
If you are a Christ follower and people know that, then they are watching you. If you are a Christ follower and people don’t know it, that is a sermon for a different time.
Each one of us is responsible to make good choices. And at the end of the day we can’t, in good faith, lay our bad behaviour at anyone else’s feet.
Our lives might be coloured and shaped by our past, our genetics or our circumstances but in the end each of us has what it takes to do what is right, if we want to.
God has promised us forgiveness from past sins and the ability to resist future temptations. But the choice is still ours.
When we pray: “Lead me not into temptation” we need to be willing to do our part. You ever take your dog for a walk and he wants to go in a direction different than where you want to take him. You’re pulling and tugging and he’s pulling and tugging.
You ever feel that God is leading you in one direction, but you are tugging on the lead wanting to go where you want to go? Eventually he will let you go, that’s the reality of the free will thing.
I don’t know when Absalom starting making bad choices, but he could have stopped at any time.
Today is the day for each of us to make good choices in our lives.
As long as we blame other we will not grow. I beat this drum all the time, we are all the result of choices we made.
We chose if we would work hard in school or not. We chose where we would go for our secondary education. We chose who we would date and who we would marry, we chose where we’d work.
And if you are thinking, “Well I didn’t have much choice about any of those things.” That may very well have been the result of choices that you had made earlier.
The decision to accept responsibility for our lives is just that, accepting responsibility, not blame. It was also your choices that led you to the good things in life.
Because once we accept that we are where we are today because of choices that we made yesterday then we understand that we have the power to determine where we will be tomorrow by the choices that we make today.
And the great thing, is that as a Christian we don’t have to do it on our own.
When Jesus told the disciples that his time was drawing near he made them a promise that is the same promise that he makes to us.
John 14:15-17 Jesus said “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”
And then Jesus goes on to flesh out what that means for us as Christians John 14:26-27 “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Today as Christians we have the opportunity to choose to do what is right. And when we make that choice then God will give us the power to fulfill it.