April 23, 2015

 II Samuel 14-16
Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king, deep down, still cared for Absalom. So he sent to Tekoa for a wise woman who lived there and instructed her,... The woman of Tekoa went to the king, bowed deeply before him in homage, and said, “O King, help!”  He said, “How can I help?”....  ‘The word of my master, the king, will be the last word in this, for my master is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil.’ God be with you!”....

“Let the king invoke the name of God,” said the woman, “so this self-styled vigilante won’t ruin everything, to say nothing of killing my son.” “As surely as God lives,” he said, “not so much as a hair of your son’s head will be lost.  Then she asked, “May I say one more thing to my master, the king?”  He said, “Go ahead.”  “Why, then,” the woman said, “have you done this very thing against God’s people? In his verdict, the king convicts himself by not bringing home his exiled son. We all die sometime. Water spilled on the ground can’t be gathered up again. But God does not take away life. He works out ways to get the exile back.”...

The king said, “Is the hand of Joab mixed up in this?”...” Yes, it was your servant Joab who put me up to this, and put these very words in my mouth. It was because he wanted to turn things around that your servant Joab did this. But my master is as wise as God’s angels in knowing how to handle things on this earth.”

The king spoke to Joab. “All right, I’ll do it. Go and bring the young man Absalom back.”... Joab got up, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. The king said, “He may return to his house, but he is not to see me face-to-face.” So Absalom returned home, but was not permitted to see the king.

This Absalom! There wasn’t a man in all Israel talked about so much for his handsome good looks—and not a blemish on him from head to toe!... Three sons were born to Absalom, and one daughter. Her name was Tamar—and she was a beauty.   Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, and not once did he see the king face-to-face. He sent for Joab to get him in to see the king, but Joab still wouldn’t budge. He tried a second time and Joab still wouldn’t. So he told his servants, “Listen. Joab’s field adjoins mine, and he has a crop of barley in it. Go set fire to it.”...

Joab came to Absalom at home and said, “Why did your servants set my field on fire?”  Absalom answered him, “Listen, I sent for you saying, ‘Come, and soon. I want to send you to the king to ask, “What’s the point of my coming back from Geshur? I’d be better off still there!” Let me see the king face-to-face. If he finds me guilty, then he can put me to death.’”
Joab went to the king and told him what was going on. Absalom was then summoned—he came and bowed deeply in reverence before him. And the king kissed Absalom.

As time went on, Absalom took to riding in a horse-drawn chariot, with fifty men running in front of him. Early each morning he would take up his post beside the road at the city gate.  When anyone showed up with a case to bring to the king for a decision, Absalom would call him over and say, “Where do you hail from?”...Then Absalom would say, “Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.” Then he’d say, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.” Whenever someone would treat him with special honor, he’d shrug it off and treat him like an equal, making him feel important. Absalom did this to everyone who came to do business with the king and stole the hearts of everyone in Israel.

After four years of this, Absalom spoke to the king, “Let me go to Hebron to pay a vow that I made to God... The king said, “Go with my blessing.” And he got up and set off for Hebron.

Then Absalom sent undercover agents to all the tribes of Israel with the message, “When you hear the blast of the ram’s horn trumpet, that’s your signal: Shout, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’” Two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem. But they had been called together knowing nothing of the plot and made the trip innocently. While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he managed also to involve Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s advisor, calling him away from his hometown of Giloh. The conspiracy grew powerful and Absalom’s supporters multiplied.

Someone came to David with the report, “The whole country has taken up with Absalom!”...So the king and his entire household escaped on foot... The king called out to Ittai the Gittite, “What are you doing here? Go back with King Absalom... But Ittai answered, “As God lives and my master the king lives, where my master is, that’s where I’ll be—whether it means life or death.”...

The whole country was weeping in loud lament as all the people passed by... Zadok was also there, the Levites with him, carrying God’s Chest of the Covenant... Then the king ordered Zadok, “Take the Chest back to the city. If I get back in God’s good graces, he’ll bring me back and show me where the Chest has been set down... So Zadok and Abiathar took the Chest of God back to Jerusalem and placed it there, while David went up the Mount of Olives weeping, head covered but barefooted, and the whole army was with him, heads covered and weeping as they ascended.

David was told, “Ahithophel has joined the conspirators with Absalom.” He prayed, “Oh, God—turn Ahithophel’s counsel to foolishness.”  As David approached the top of the hill where God was worshiped, Hushai the Arkite, clothes ripped to shreds and dirt on his head, was there waiting for him.... ‘I’m ready to be your servant, O King; I used to be your father’s servant, now I’m your servant.’ Do that and you’ll be able to confuse Ahithophel’s counsel for me. The priests Zadok and Abiathar are already there; whatever information you pick up in the palace, tell them.... Hushai, David’s friend, arrived at the same time Absalom was entering Jerusalem.

Shortly after David passed the crest of the hill, Mephibosheth’s steward Ziba met him with a string of pack animals, saddled and loaded with a hundred loaves of bread, a hundred raisin cakes, a hundred baskets of fresh fruit, and a skin of wine...The king said, “And where is your master’s grandson?”  “He stayed in Jerusalem,” said Ziba. “He said, ‘This is the day Israel is going to restore my grandfather’s kingdom to me.’”  “Everything that belonged to Mephibosheth,” said the king, “is now yours.”

When the king got to Bahurim, a man appeared who had connections with Saul’s family. His name was Shimei son of Gera. As he followed along he shouted insults and threw rocks right and left at David and his company, servants and soldiers alike.... Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “This mangy dog can’t insult my master the king this way—let me go over and cut off his head!”  But the king said, “Why are you sons of Zeruiah always interfering and getting in the way? If he’s cursing, it’s because God told him, ‘Curse David.’ So who dares raise questions?”  “Besides,” continued David to Abishai and the rest of his servants, “my own son, my flesh and bone, is right now trying to kill me; compared to that this Benjaminite is small potatoes....

By the time they reached the Jordan River, David and all the men of the company were exhausted. There they rested and were revived.

By this time Absalom and all his men were in Jerusalem.  And Ahithophel was with them.  Soon after, Hushai the Arkite, David’s friend, came and greeted Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”  Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this the way you show devotion to your good friend? Why didn’t you go with your friend David?”  “Because,” said Hushai, “I want to be with the person that God and this people and all Israel have chosen. And I want to stay with him. Besides, who is there to serve other than the son? Just as I served your father, I’m now ready to serve you.”

Then Absalom spoke to Ahithophel, “Are you ready to give counsel? What do we do next?”  Ahithophel told Absalom, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, the ones he left to tend to the palace. Everyone will hear that you have openly disgraced your father, and the morale of everyone on your side will be strengthened.”... The counsel that Ahithophel gave in those days was treated as if God himself had spoken. That was the reputation of Ahithophel’s counsel to David; it was the same with Absalom.

I Corinthians 11 - In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband and from husband to wife.  The authority of Christ is the authority of God...This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship while men take their hats off.  By these symbolic acts, men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.

Don’t by the way read too much into the differences here between men and women.  Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority.  Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God---that is true.  But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head” her husband.  The first woman came from a man -- true, but ever since then, every man comes from a woman!  And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

Regarding the next item, I am not at all pleased.  I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best.  First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other....And then I find that you bring your divisiveness to worship--you come together and instead of eating the Lord’s supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves.  Some are left out and go home hungry.  Others have to be carried out too drunk to walk.

Reminder of the importance of the Lord’s supper then state: What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat the bread and every time you drink this cup you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master...you must never let familiarity breed contempt....Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.  If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of Christ when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences.  That is why so many of you now are listless and sick and others have gone to an early grave.  

So my friends, when you come to the Lord’s table, be reverent and courteous with one another....It is a spiritual meal---a love feast.