Monday, August 6, 2018

King David 5

King David 5
2 Samuel 13

There’s nothing that can be said that makes that story better.
It’s terrible, it was terrible then and it is terrible now.
Its awful for Tamar first and then awful for David.
A nightmare for a parent, and after this, the situation just compounds and gets worse.

Amnon is David’s first born, which was very important in this time.
The first born was the chosen child.
And it was extremely important to royalty,
I’m sure David visualized Amnon as the king that would succeed him.

But like David before him, Amnon saw something that he wanted and he just took it.
But what he wanted was his half sister.
She even offered to be married to him, which I guess was acceptable then.
But he just raped her and then afterward he didn’t want her,
so he took her virginity, then abandoned her, which basically left her unable to marry
Which Tamar says was even worse than the rape.

And David, as a king, should have punished his son,
which probably meant having Amnon killed,
but he cannot bring himself to do it.
David’s public and personal lives are at odds again.
This time instead of using his power for his own ends,
he refuses to use the power he has.
This decision not to act has years of repercussions in David’s family.
The story goes from worse to horrible.

Absalom, Tamar’s brother, takes Tamar into his home and cares for her.
For two years, Absalom’s anger seared against his half brother Amnon
for what he did, and against his father David for what he did not do.

After three years, Absalom invites his brothers including Amnon
to a party where he gets him drunk and then has him killed.
David and Absalom
Marc Chagall
Amnon is dead and Absalom runs away for three years to Geshur
where his grandfather on his mother’s side is king.

David mourns for his son Amnon
And, even though he killed David’s oldest Son, David misses Absalom.

So Joab, David’s military sidekick and nephew, 
persuades David to have Absalom 
come back to Jerusalem,
David allows it, on the condition that Absalom 
stay in his own house and not come near David.
He stayed in Jerusalem for two years 
without seeing David.
He was married and had three children, 
and his daughter he named Tamar after his sister. 
But he didn’t see David in this time.

It mentions here that Absalom 
was a very handsome man.
This seems to be a pre-requisite for being a king,
because it’s mentioned about Saul, David, and now Absalom
But Absalom was apparently really handsome.
The thing that people admired about Absalom mostly was his hair.
It was long and thick and heavy.  This is important for later.

After two years, Absalom sent for Joab 
to bring a message to David, but Joab wouldn’t come.
So “Absalom said to his servants, ‘Look, Joab’s field is next to mine,
and it has barley there. Go and set it on fire.”
So they set it on fire and this was effective. Joab came to visit him.
Absalom asked to see the king. Joab brought the message to David and David agreed.

Absalom came to David and prostrated himself with his face on the ground,
and David embraced him and kissed him. David forgave Absalom.
But Absalom was not repentant, he was just in the middle of a long plan of revenge.

Slowly, Absalom begins to endear himself to the people of Jerusalem.
He would get up early and goes to the city gate
People would go to the King for council and to settle disputes,
but Absalom would intercept all of them and give them 
counsel and subtly insult David and question his ability to lead.

And whenever anyone would bow down or kneel in front of him to give him honor,
he would grab them up and embrace them and kiss them.
He did this for four years. If nothing else, David’s son had patience in his revenge.
The people loved him, it says he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

After four years of doing this, Absalom asks to go to Hebron,
in the Southern Kingdom of Judah where David ruled from after Saul died
and before he became the leader of the united Israel. David lets him go.
Absalom sends out messengers throughout the tribes of Israel saying,
as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout:
Absalom has become king at Hebron

David’s son has orchestrated a coup against his own father.

David knew that the people loved Absalom and they would do what Absalom wanted.
They knew he would have to leave Jerusalem.
So, the whole house of David and a few hundred other people
picked everything, crossed the river and went and hid in the wilderness.

David and his people wept while they walked barefoot over the Mount of Olives,
the same mountain that Jesus would weep for Jerusalem on,
the same mountain that the Garden of Gethsemane was at the foot of, 
and where Jesus would be arrested,
and the same mountain that the disciples saw Jesus ascend to heaven in Acts.

David’s two priests carry the ark of the covenant out with them.
But David tells them to take the Ark back. He says:

“Carry the ark of God back into the city.
If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord,
he will bring me back and let me see both it and the place where it stays. 
But if he says, ‘I take no pleasure in you,’ here I am,
let him do to me what seems good to him.” 

Then while they were passing through one town,
a man who was of the family of the house of Saul came out, named Shimei,
he was throwing stones at David and his people. He said,

Out! Out! Murderer! Scoundrel!
The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul,
in whose place you have reigned;
and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand
of your son Absalom. See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood.”

One of David’s men goes to kill them man, but David stops him and says,
“If he is cursing is because the Lord has said to him ‘Curse David’ who then shall say,
‘Why have you done so? Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him.”

A few chapters earlier, David would haves surely cut off this guy’s head.

Finally, Absalom and his army enter Jerusalem,
He sends 12,000 men to capture David and bring him back.
Joab convinces David that he should sit this battle out on the city gate.
David tells Joab and his men: “Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man Absalom
Absalom’s men meet David’s army out in the forest of Ephraim.

The battle was fierce. It spread over the whole countryside. It says 20,000 men were killed.
And it says that the forest claimed more victims than the sword.
One of those victims was Absalom.

Absalom was riding his mule and his beautiful hair,
which he was noted for, got caught in the branches of an oak tree,
the mule rode on and it left him hanging there, “between heaven and earth.”

He was found hanging there, but  knowing what David commanded, no one would kill him.
Then Joab, David’s military leader, always willing to shed blood, killed Absalom.

Two boys race to tell David the news.
The first one said, “all is well”
And David said, “Is it well with Absalom?” hoping that Absalom had survived the battle.
The other boy arrived and said to David,
“May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”
and David knew that Absalom was dead.

He went up to the room over the gate where he was waiting, and he mourned out loud
O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!
Would I had died instead of you
David had won as a king, but lost as a father.

Joab tells David that he needed to start acting like a king again,
he was insulting all the people who saved his life and the life of his family.
He told him, rightly, that if he did not make a public appearance right then,
no one will stay with him, and it would be the biggest disaster he had ever faced.

So David put his emotions aside and mustered up the courage,
and made himself seen at the city gate for the people of Israel to see.

Then David returns to Jerusalem, as both a victorious and defeated king.

This story is a tragedy. It’s not a clear moral tale.
There is not one thing that would have changed the situation.
No one wins, there is no possible pleasant resolution, no silver lining.
This story is a tragedy. Maybe one of the saddest in scripture.
And it’s so tragic because we can relate to it.

If you’ve ever been betrayed by a family member, you understand it.
If you’ve ever had a child that was difficult, but you still loved beyond anyone’s comprehension, you understand it.
If you have ever not been able to muster that tough love that everyone says you should, you understand it.
If you’ve ever what went wrong with your own relationship with your children, you understand this.
If your private life and public life have ever been in conflict, you understand it.
If you have ever won and lost at the same time, you understand it.
If you’re past decisions have ever caught up with you, you understand it.
If you’ve ever looked back on your life and wondered if you’ve deserved your pain, you understand this story.
If you’ve felt like giving up, but you had to put on another show
for the good of everyone else, you understand this story.
If you’ve ever had to hide your grief, you understand this story.

Life goes on for David, but life will never be the same for him.
I’m not sure of another character in scripture where we get
both the outer workings and the inner struggle and turmoil.

Some preachers play Monday morning quarterback with David’s life:
If only he wouldn’t have sinned, if only he would have punished Amnon,
if only he wouldn’t have let Absalom back into Jerusalem, if only.
But these are mistakes that all of us could have made,
and many of us would choose again, if we were put in the same situation.
At each point it was love that drove David to disaster.
And it is hard to second-guess love.

Through reading this story repeatedly, one thing came up for me the preacher.
Where was God through this whole ordeal?
All throughout the previous chapters of this book,
David is in constant contact with God through his prophets and priests,
through his own conversations, through prayer and song and dance.
And God seems to be orchestrating the whole thing, giving praise and power, and taking it away.
But now David seems alone.

God seems absent, unclear, almost as if things were set in motion
and everything was left to crumble and fall where they may.

And when David seems like he’s trying to guess and almost divine or discover God’s will.
Like when he lets Shimei live after yelling at him and throwing rocks,
saying, “Maybe God told him to curse at me, who knows?”

Like when he tells the priests to leave the Ark in Jerusalem.
“If God finds favor with me, then he’ll let me see it again.”
And David does see the ark again, but it’s not mentioned,
there’s no joy in his victory, if it was even God’s decision that he should win.

And often in the midst of tragedy, I think this is how we feel too.
Confused, longing for clarity, wanting God to act, to decide, to just get it over with,
Bring a solution that makes everyone happy again.

But life is not black and white like there was when we were younger,
There is no pleasant resolution, there is no silver lining.  Life is always part tragedy.
Life goes on for us, but it is never the same.

Somehow the fact is comforting that the people of God knew that 3000 years ago,
that they struggled with it, they felt God’s presence and absence
and they still always returned to the one they called Yahweh.

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