A Humble Faith (II Samuel 15:1-37)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 15:1–15:37
Crying for a King
A Humble Faith
II Samuel 15
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
January 19th, 2014
I. All About Absalom
Absalom. What does the Bible tell us about Absalom? Well, Absalom was the third son born to David, the king of Israel. He was born in the city of Hebron, and his mother's name was Maacah. She was a princess, the daughter of a man named Talmai. Talmai was the king of a small kingdom called Geshur, which sat on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. Absalom had an abundance of half-brothers and sisters. Be he also had a full-blooded sister. Her name was Tamar.
But if you were here last week, or if you listened online, then you know there is more we could say about Absalom. A lot more. After his sister was raped by his half brother, Absalom took his sister into his home. But he also plotted his revenge. For two years Absalom waited. But finally, his trap was set and sprung. His half brother Amnon was dead. Absalom knew the penalty for premeditated murder was death, and so he fled to his grandfather in Geshur.
Even though David was understandably both crushed and angry, Absalom was eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem, after three years in exile. But for two whole years, Absalom was not allowed to come into David's presence. That did change. We are told in the closing verse of chapter 14 that Absalom “came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.” (14:33b)
But notice what we are NOT told at the end of chapter 14. We don't read anything about Absalom's repentance. We don't read anything about David pardoning Absalom. We don't read anything about David embracing or crying or rejoicing over Absalom. There may have been a kiss, a formal sign of acceptance, but something does not seem right here.
So in light of that simple review, turn over to II Samuel chapter 15.
II. The Passage: “And the Conspiracy Grew Strong” (15:1-37)
As you can see from the sub-headings, most Bibles reflect the idea that we can break chapter 15 into two parts. As we will see, I think we could say that the first third of the chapter, verses 1-12, reveal evidence of God's punishment, while the final two-thirds of the chapter, verses 13-37, reveal evidence of God's presence.
A. Evidence of God's Punishment (15:1-12)
So keeping in mind what we know about Absalom and David, look with me at verses 1-12 of chapter 15. Let me read...
After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him.  And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,”  Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.”  Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.”  And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him.  Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.  And at the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to the LORD, in Hebron.  For your servant vowed a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the LORD will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will offer worship to the LORD.’”  The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron.  But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, ‘Absalom is king at Hebron!’”  With Absalom went two hundred men from Jerusalem who were invited guests, and they went in their innocence and knew nothing.  And while Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city Giloh. And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.
Now, we are not going to spend a lot of time dissecting these verses. I think they are fairly clear in terms of how Absalom, as verse 6 expressed it, how Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel”. We already knew from chapters 13 and 14 that Absalom is calculating, driven, and willing to go to extreme measures to get what he wants. Whether or not what happened reflects a growing disappointment with David's leadership is hard to tell.
But what did I mean when I said that these verses reveal evidence of God's punishment. Well to understand that, we need to look back at chapter 12. When the prophet Nathan came to David to confront the king about his heinous acts of adultery and murder, this was the punishment he announced to David. II Samuel 12:10 and 11...
"Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house." (II Samuel 12:10-11a)
Clearly, Absalom's coup, Absalom's rebellion is the fulfillment of this punishment. From within David's own house, his own family, a sword has arisen, evil has burst forth. So what will David do in light of this conspiracy? Let's look at the remainder of the chapter.
B. Evidence of God's Presence (15:13-37)
Look with me at verses 13-16. We're told that...
...a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom.”  Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.”  And the king's servants said to the king, “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides.”  So the king went out, and all his household after him. And the king left ten concubines to keep the house.
Notice why David responds the way he does according to verse 14. First, things are happening so fast, David knows he is unprepared to fight Absalom at this point in time (notice the word “quickly” is used twice in verse 14). Second, David does not want the city to become a battleground and it inhabitants victims of Absalom's brutality. David knows the best move at this point is simply to run.
Now what we find in these final verses are three episodes in which David, as he's fleeing, is met by a number of different individuals. And as you'll see, each of these three episodes tell us fourt things: 1) the location, 2) who comes to meet David, 3) David's response, and 4) the response of the other person or people.
Now remember. The writer of this book could have simply said, “So David, and all who were with him, escaped into the wilderness”. That would have been accurate and straight to the point. So in light of that we have to ask, “Why does the author include these three 'mid-flight' conversations? Well, like I mentioned before, I believe these episodes reveal evidence of God's presence. But before we talk about that idea, let's actually at these episodes.
1. David and Ittai (15:17-22)
First, we read about David and Ittai. Look at verse 17-22...
And the king went out, and all the people after him. And they halted at the last house.  And all his servants passed by him, and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king.  Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home.  You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.”  But Ittai answered the king, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.”  And David said to Ittai, “Go then, pass on.” So Ittai the Gittite passed on with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.
We don't know much about Ittai, except that he was a Philistine from the town of Gath, which was also Goliath's hometown. Ittai probably knew David from the time when David was hiding among the Philistines, when he was on the run from Saul. But what stands out here is Ittai's loyalty to David. Even though he just arrived in Jerusalem the day before, he and his family and all his men are willing to leave the city in order to support David. What an amazing picture of devotion and loyalty.
2. David and Zadok (15:23-29)
But look at the second episode, in verses 23-29...
And all the land wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness. And Abiathar came up, and behold, Zadok came also with all the Levites, bearing the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God until the people had all passed out of the city.  Then the king said to Zadok, “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 his dwelling place.  But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.”  The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Are you not a seer? Go back to the city in peace, with your two sons, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.  See, I will wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.”  So Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem, and they remained there.
It isn't clear why the priests and Levites bring the Ark to David. They probably believe it will bring blessing to David, and/or they do not want it to fall into the hands of Absalom. Whatever the reason, David sends it and them back to the city. But notice what David also asks of Zadok. He says in verse 27, “Are you not a seer?” A seer was another name for a kind of prophet. So David is asking Zadok to send word to him if God reveals anything about David's fate or about what he should do.
3. David and Hushai (15:30-37)
But there's one more episode here, in verses 30 through 37. We read...
But 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.  And it was told David, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”  While David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and dirt on his head.  David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me.  But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father's servant in time past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel.  Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So whatever you hear from the king's house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.  Behold, their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, and Jonathan, Abiathar's son, and by them you shall send to me everything you hear.”  So Hushai, David's friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.
The term “friend” that is connected with Hushai in verse 37 may in fact be an official title, something like a counselor or personal assitant. Whatever the title meant, we can see that Hushai was the answer to the prayer that David prayed, asking that Ahithophel's advice would be unwise and unfruitful. If Abaslom accepts Hushai as a counselor, Hushai can find a way to counteract or frustrate Ahithophel's counsel. We also see here that David makes sure to connect Hushai with the rest of his spy network, specifically, the priests and their sons.
And the timing of Hushai's return is perfect. He comes into the city just as Absalom arrives. Why is that important? So that Absalom will believe that Hushai never left...that Hushai was waiting for the new king.
III. Faith and Humility
So again, why might the writer have included these three conversations? I think these three episodes reminds us that even though David is on the run as a result of God's punishment, as a consequence of the consequences he's receiving for what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah...even so, God is still with David. God is not done with David.
Remember, Nathan's message in chapter 12 did not say anything about whether or not David would remain on the throne. Nathan's message said nothing about whether or not David would end up like Saul. Yes, David had been given God's covenant. But that covenant was the promise of an eternal throne for David's family, not David himself. Maybe Absalom was the “offspring” God talked about in chapter 7. WE know that offspring was Solomon, but David didn’t know that at the time. Maybe Absalom was God's new king.
But God has not abandoned David, as these episodes make clear. David is not alone. God has given him hundreds of loyal followers...even Philistines! Moreover, David is still supported by God's own priests. And on top of that, God is hearing David's prayers. In response to those prayers, God has given David hope, hope of defeating this new threat. Hope of returning to Jerusalem.
You see, unlike chapters 13 and 14, here we see David, once again, talking about and turning to God. And as we can see from his words, he is looking to God with a very humble faith. A humble faith. I think both of those words are important, but there’s something unique about putting them together.
David knows he is suffering because of his own sin. He knows he doesn't deserve anything. He knows God is God, and that his life is in God's hands. God can justly do whatever He chooses to do with David. And David humbly accepts this. He expressed this humble faith in verses 25 and 26...
“If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me back and let me see both it [Jerusalem] and his dwelling place [the Ark].  But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.”
Think about your own life in light of this. When you know you have failed, when you know you have fallen, when you know you disregarded God and His word, and lived as a practical atheist, when you’ve chosen your way over God’s way, but then know you’ve done the wrong thing…do you find yourself with a humble faith?
Some of us seem humble when we know we’ve sinned, but that humility is more like wallowing in our shame; unable to move the right way because we are beating ourselves up about going the wrong way. But others of us seem to demonstrate faith when we acknowledge our guilt, but we are quick to control of our repentance, we are quick to figure out what we should do, AND what God should do.
But genuine repentance, that is, a genuine remorse over and an inward rejection of sin, repentance involves and inspires a humble faith. In fact, is there really any other kind of faith. If faith gives us eyes to see God for who He is, shouldn’t we be humbled by that vision? If faith gives us eyes to see the ugliness of our sin, should we be humbled by that recognition?
David here is such a wonderful example of that humble faith. But the Scriptures us another picture of this humble faith. Turn over to Psalm 3. Notice the superscription right below the title of the psalm. What does it say? “A Psalm of David. When he fled from Absalom his son.” Listen to the words of the psalm:
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;  many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.  But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.  I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.  I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.  Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.  Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3)
So how can we have, or how can cultivate this kind of humble faith. We can respond this way when we’ve fallen by first recognizing that we’ve fallen altogether. The first signs of humble faith are recognizing that not only have we sinned, but that we are by nature sinners, AND recognizing the “time of our visitation”. What does that mean? Well listen to a fascinating parallel to our passage this morning…
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,  saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’”  So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”  And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”  And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.  And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.  As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,  saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,  saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side  and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:28-44)
In II Samuel 15 we see a king leaving Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he goes. In Luke 19 we see a king coming to Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives, weeping when he sees the city. With David, he flees to escape a certain death. But with Jesus, he comes in order to embrace a certain death. David weeps over his own sin and its horrible consequences. Jesus weeps over our sin and its horrible consequences. He weeps because the people do not recognize the One who has come to rescue them.
Do you recognize Him and the time of our visitation, that is, the fact that Christ has come for us? Only when we see and understand the ‘why’ of the cross and the ‘who’ of the cross, can we evidence of a humble faith. When you stumble, remember Jesus. Yes, let the ugliness of your sin humble you. But also let the beauty and grace and goodness and love of the King humble you, as you reach out to Him, everytime, for the forgiveness and acceptance He died to give you.