David Surrenders to the Lord
2 Samuel 13:1 – 15:37
Key Verse 15:25-26
Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”
“God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.” Let me ask you, is God really good? All the time? Suppose you’re married with lovely kids. You have a wonderful job and people admire and respect you. You also have a beautiful house and two cars. And then one day you’re kids grow up. The kids that seemed so cute and adorable when they were little have become monsters. As a matter of fact they hate each other. They don’t seem to respect you or your authority. They hate each other so much that one day the younger son kills his older brother. That younger son is so ambitious that he devises a plan to ruin your reputation and have everyone around you turn against you. His plan causes you to lose your job, your position in the community, and he even kicks you out of your house and takes your cars. “God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.”
This is the situation that David faced in today’s passage. And in this difficult time, David did not curse God or blame God. At the lowest point in his life, David said that no matter what happens, all the time, God is good. And implicitly he says I submit myself to whatever God has planned. Let us learn from David who acknowledged God and surrendered himself to God’s will.
I. Trouble in David’s household (13 – 15:12)
Read verse 1. In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Notice verse 1 begins with “in the course of time.” “In the course of time” suggests that chapter 13 is the resulted of some prior events. Last week, we learned that though David was a man after God’s own heart, he was still a sinner. And in his sin he commits adultery and murder. God’s justice demands David be punished for his sin. So Nathan tells David in 12:10-12, “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own. This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” Everything we read this morning is best understood within the context of these words from Nathan the prophet. The trouble within David’s family is the beginning of God’s punishment for David’s sin. David was guilty of adultery and murder, and his children would be guilty of similar sins.
First, Amnon’s sin. Read verses 1-2 again. In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became frustrated to the point of illness on account of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her. Like David who could not control his lust for Bathsheba, we see Amnon struggling with the exact same kind of sin. In verse 4 Amnon suggests that he is in love with his half-sister. But if he truly loved her, he wouldn’t have raped her and then “hated her with intense hatred.” There was no love in his heart, just lust. As a result of his lust, the details of chapter 13 are pretty uncomfortable to read and speak about. Chapters 13-15 aren’t stories included in the children’s Bible I read to my kids. When you read chapter 13, you feel shock, and it’s just kind of gross. The way Amnon lusted after Tamar, the way Jonadab helped him out, the way Amnon refused to eat and got permission from David himself to have Tamar bring him food, how Tamar begs him not to do this wicked thing, and finally how after sleeping with Tamar Amnon throws her out onto the street.
To be honest, I was secretly hoping that it wouldn’t be my turn to give the message on this passage. Because I don’t want to talk about the sordid details of Amnon’s sin either. It’s gross and uncomfortable. Some might wish we would just skip this chapter in our study of 2 Samuel. But we can’t. The reason we can’t is 1) it’s an important part of understanding God’s dealing with David and his sin and 2) it helps us face our own sin.
God’s punishment was not just punitive on David, but it was also corrective. When David saw Amnon’s sin, he came to understand his own sin more deeply and more fully. On hearing what Amnon had done David was furious. He couldn’t imagine what would make Amnon do such a wicked thing. Then his heart was convicted of his own sin. He had to ask himself the same questions he was asking of his son. What made me, king David, do such a similarly wicked thing?
When we read this passage, we should ask ourselves a similar question. Amnon’s sin is particular gross and wicked. It makes us feel uncomfortable to talk about. But the truth is all sin is gross and wicked, especially my own. My own sin should make me feel just as uncomfortable. This passage convicts us of our own sin, and reminds us how important it is to guard against sin. Sin is crouching at our door and it wants to devour us. But we must master it. Ultimately, David’s understanding of his own sin led to earnest repentance and surrender of his entire life to God’s will. We should pray to do the same before God.
Second, Absalom, a really bad dude. Read verse 22-23. Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar. Two years later, when Absalom's sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king's sons to come there.
In the movies, do you know who is the most dangerous villain? The patient villain. Absalom didn’t talk to his brother for two years. During that time, he was quietly plotting his revenge for what was done to his sister. He was waiting for the perfect moment to kill Amnon. That perfect time came two years later during the time of sheep shearing which was a festive occasion. Amnon must have known that Absalom hated him, and that revenge at any moment was possible. So Amnon was probably always on guard for Absalom. But during this time of festivity, Amnon would be vulnerable.
Read verse 28-29. Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don't be afraid. Have not I given you this order? Be strong and brave. So Absalom's men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king's sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.” Notice how Absalom kills his brother. He tries to get him drunk, and then he doesn’t do it himself. He orders his men to do it. Sound familiar. Remember when david brought Uriah back from the war. He tried to get him drunk. And when that didn’t work, he ordered Joab to have Uriah killed. Nathan told David, “the sword will never depart from your house.” The murder of Amnon is just the beginning of the violence that will characterize David’s family.
Absalom is forced to run away into exile because of this murder. This where the similarities between Absalom and David end. When David sinned, he immediately repented before God. When Absalom sinned, he ran. He lived in exile for three years. When the king finally let him come back to Jerusalem, did he seem like a repentant sinner? When Absalom comes back to Jerusalem, what is the first thing the author of 2 Samuel notes about Absalom?
Read verses 14:25-26. In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair from time to time when it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard. Recent archaeological excavations of ancient Israel have revealed new discoveries from the period of king David’s reign. There also appear to be representations of this handsome Absalom.
The implication here is that Absalom was not a repentant prince, but still a proud and spoiled prince. And it seems he had every reason to be proud. He was cunning, bold, good-looking, he had heavy hair, fearless, ambitious, loved by the king, and the people loved him, too. Absalom in a lot of ways was perfect. He was exactly what we would want our leader to be. But in his heart he was perfectly corrupt. He did not know God, nor did he care to know God. Look at the ways he burns Joab’s field, or plots his conspiracy in chapter 15. Absalom was his own man, subject to no one but himself. Whatever he wanted, he was going to get. It didn’t matter who or what was in his way.
Absalom looked spiritual. See 15:7-8. At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron.’” He pretended to want to worship and sacrifice to God. But there was no Spirit inside him. Absalom reminds us of king Saul who had all the outward characteristics of a great leader. But whose heart was far from God. The opposite is true of king David. He was the youngest of eight sons. He was a lowly shepherd boy. He was humble. Nothing qualified him to be king. But he was a man after God’s own heart. Remember what God said to Samuel before choosing David as the next king. 1 Samuel 16:7b, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
We can learn from a lot from the life of Absalom. Absalom knew all the right words, the right rituals, even surrounded himself with wise and holy people. But he had no idea who God was or what God wanted. We learn from Absalom the importance of living a genuine life of faith before God. It’s not enough to look or even act like a Christian. [Note all the things we can do for God] Living for God begins with a deeply personal relationship between us and Jesus. Without the relationship the outward appearance means nothing. To have a relationship with Jesus, we cannot come to him proud and demanding. We can only come to him with humility and earnest repentance. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” These are the sacrifices God desires and will never reject if we come to him.
II. David surrenders to the Lord (15:13-37)
Read verses 13-14. A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.”
David had achieved great success as king of Israel. God used him to unify the country. He made Jerusalem the capital city of God. He won great victories over God’s enemies. He lived in beautiful palace. Now all of that didn’t matter, and everything is being taken from him. He will become a fugitive again. Remember in 1 Samuel 21 David had to flee from Saul and live a life on the run. It was happening again. But this time the pursuer is his own son Absalom.
Everyone has abandoned David except for his loyal men, and a group dominated by foreigners, Kelethites, Pelethites, and Gittites. There is one person who stands out in this group. That is Ittai the Gittite. David tells him to go back because David cannot promise him if and when they will return. Look at what Ittai says. Let’s read verse 21. But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”
I bet few of us knew who Ittai the Gittite was before studying this passage this week. Some of you may have been introduced to Ittai for the first time today. Ittai the Gittite has to be one of my new favorite people in the Bible. Top 5, definitely. Why? Look at what he says again. “As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” This is awesome and amazing. This is going to be my key verse for 2011.
Ittai hardly knew David. Verse 20 says one day. When he came to Jerusalem David was the king and today David ain’t the king no more. David basically says your timing was off and you were unlucky. If you had arrived one day later, you’d be with Absalom. I’m not going to hold that against you. Feel free to go back. Yet Ittai was loyal, even when the cost of that loyalty may be high. Even David couldn’t tell him how long they would wander or have to fight. Ittai’s words are a voluntary, decisive, and public confession of loyalty to the king.
I wonder if we could do the same for our king Jesus. To say, “Jesus, wherever you are, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” Spurgeon once said, “If Ittai, charmed with David’s person and character, though a foreigner and a stranger, felt that he could enlist beneath his banner for life…how much more may you and I, if we know what Christ has done for us, and who He is and what He deserves at our hands,…vow, ‘As the Lord liveth, surely in whatsoever place my Lord and Savior shall be, whether in death or life, even there also shall His servant be.’” I want to be able to say these words too. Don’t you? Let us pray to make similar voluntary, decisive, and public confessions of loyalty to Jesus.
Read verses 25-26. Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”
David is forced to flee from his home, he is pursued by his evil son, and now he must return the precious ark of God back to Jerusalem. It cannot get any worse. In this, the darkest moment of his life, David’s words are perhaps the brightest moment in David’s life. His words shine as a testimony to his relationship with God and his trust in God’s sovereignty. At this most difficult time, David confesses that God is good.
If I find favor, he will bring me back. If he does not, I am ready for whatever he does, it is good. David completely surrenders himself to God and God’s good and perfect will. Notice what David’s words are not. They are not reluctant or hesitant. They are not begrudging. God, this sucks! This is unfair. How could you do this to me! But because it’s you I will accept it. He doesn’t say any of these things. He can’t. Because Amnon and Absalom’s sin has reminded him of his own sin. God is entirely just and fair and has been exceedingly gracious to him. Because of this I will put my life in God’s hands.
Surrendering to God fully is a very difficult thing. Our surrender often looks like Peter’s in the New Testament. When things were going great and the disciples were enjoying their time with Jesus, Peter said he would be willing to die for Jesus, to give his life up for him. But when Jesus was arrested, and a little girl asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples, he said he didn’t know Jesus three times. He was afraid for his life.
Surrendering our life to Jesus is an essential element of being a disciple. This means when things are good and especially when things are difficult. And it is the mark of a true relationship with him.
My daughter Samantha loves me. At least she tells me she loves me. Her birthday is coming up. She wants presents. Pillow pet, play-do that doesn’t dry up, and some bean that she saw on TV. Is her love predicated on what I can give her? I don’t think so. She loves me because I am her daddy. She even loves me when I discipline her. Implicitly she trusts me. I know that because when she gets scared or afraid she runs to me.
We can’t love God only for his blessings. We love God because he is God. We love him because he is good. And when we get scared because life seems so hard we don’t run away from God. We need to run to him and trust him to take care of us. David passes the test and reveals that his love for God isn’t for what God gives him. But it is for who he is. If we were to be tested like this, if God were to discipline us this way would we pass the test? You can be assured that God loves you. May we respond to his love by giving our whole life to him. Let’s read the key verse.