July 25, 2015

Grace in tough choices

2 Samuel 14:1–15:37, 2 Peter 1:16–21, Psalm 141:1–142:7

Today’s OT reading could be a study for several days. It almost has too much in it for devotional thoughts. The two chapters contrast David’s tender heart with his son’s open rebellion. The king went easy on the evil Absalom committed, and the son rose up in an attempt to take his throne.

First Absalom killed his older brother, seemingly because of what he did to Tamar, but Amnon was heir to the throne and Absalom wanted it. The he fled to a safe place, staying there long enough to repent, but he didn’t.

In the mean time, Joab who knew of David’s sin of killing Uriah, manipulated Absalom’s return and reunion with his father. David seemed passive. His sin had been forgiven, but was his judgment clouded by what he had done, particularly now that it was being echoed in his sons?

Joab sent a woman with a fictional story to manipulate David, and he realized Joab had sent her. However, he seemed to miss the story’s failure to depict what was really going on. David seemed to flounder. In the end, Absalom feigned tribute to his father the king and to the Lord, but at the same time he was scheming to takeover the throne. “And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.” (2 Samuel 15:12)

Finally David fled Jerusalem in fear of this young man who had no integrity at all. “David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went.” (2 Samuel 15:30) Did he forget that God had his back? Or was he overwhelmed by the parallels of Absalom’s deceit with his own when he killed Uriah?

Even though the king’s attitude seemed hostile toward this son, this conflicted with his tender heart. Eventually “natural affection” defeated his desire to honor the commands of God. In contrast, Absalom murdered his brother and demonstrated no fear of God or respect for anyone else. For me, the lesson here is to be on guard that my own “natural affections” interfere with obedience to Jesus Christ. While family is vital, I cannot violate my relationship with the Lord to favor others. A complicated situation can also mask the reality of what God wants from me.

The NT reading is a warning about false teaching. Peter says, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16) He is talking about being straight-forward in telling others what we have seen and heard. I’m not to make it up or twist it so as to deceive, but be clear and honest.

At first this does not seem to connect with David’s situation, yet when I look at how Satan is the liar and deceiver, the one who tries to destroy people and relationships, then I can see that he was at work in the life of David and Absalom. I can also see how he uses “natural affection” in subtle ways to confuse issues and encourage disobedience. Again, obedience is greater that familial loyalty, but in situations where I must choose between the two, I might feel numb and passive just as David did, and unable to make the choice.

David was a man who loved God. He loved his son Absalom also, but in submission to the Lord he wrote, “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!  . . . But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.” (Psalm 141:4, 8–10)

He also wrote, “I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.” (Psalm 142:5–7)

At first, I’m thinking I’ve never been in such a situation where I had to pick between God and my children. Certainly David’s circumstance was more severe, but I suspect it has happened to me more times than I’ve even noticed. God, grant me grace . . . .

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