Feelings, Failings, and Callings (II Samuel 18:19-19:8)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 18:19–19:8
Crying for a King
Feelings, Failings, and Callings
II Samuel 18:19-19:9
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
March 23rd, 2014
I. “Speak, Lord”
As we come to God’s word this morning, I pray we will take the advice that Eli gave to the boy Samuel, way back at the beginning of our study. That advice was given in light of the possibility of hearing from God. I Samuel 3:9…Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’”
I pray that is your prayer and my prayer this morning.
II. The Passage: “The King Covered His Face” (18:19-19:8)
Turn with me to II Samuel 18. As we return to our ongoing study in the book of II Samuel, let me briefly remind you of how the stage was set for the passages God has given us today.
When Israel's first king failed to lead by being first led by God, God gave them David, a man of faith; a man of obedience. God established David's throne, and in so doing, established Israel in peace. But even though God gave David so much, David eventually wanted what was not his. He took another man's wife, and then had that man murdered, believing no one knew. But God knew. David should have died, but God was merciful.
And yet, David would still suffer for his sins. His own family would be fractured and embroiled in conflict. David's son Absalom set his sights on his father's throne and gathered an army to take it for himself. Now David was on the run. But as we saw last time, God had ordained Absalom's defeat. The young man, the wicked son, the wannabe king, Absalom was now dead. David and those loyal to him were victorious. The threat had been addressed. The rebellion had been crushed.
But because it was far too risky, David had not been involved in the battle. So at this point he
knows nothing about the outcome. He knows nothing about the death of his son. Remember,
back in verse 5, David had ordered his generals to “deal gently” with Absalom. But when he
had the chance, Joab had ignored that command and killed Absalom, knowing that sparing
his life would be politically foolish.
A. A Message for the King: David's Feelings (18:19-33)
So this is where we find ourselves in the story. Let's pick up the action in verse 19. We read...
Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run and carry news to the king that the LORD
has delivered him from the hand of his enemies.”  And Joab said to him, “You are not to
carry news today. You may carry news another day, but today you shall carry no news, because the king's son is dead.”  Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed before Joab, and ran.  Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite.” And Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?”  “Come what may,” he said, “I will run.” So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.
 Now David was sitting between the two gates, and the watchman went up to the roof of
the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone.
 The watchman called out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is
news in his mouth.” And he drew nearer and nearer.
 The watchman saw another man running. And the watchman called to the gate and said,
“See, another man running alone!” The king said, “He also brings news.”  The watchman
said, “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And the
king said, “He is a good man and comes with good news.”
 Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, “All is well.” And he bowed before the king with his
face to the earth and said, “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men
who raised their hand against my lord the king.”  And the king said, “Is it well with the
young man Absalom?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king's servant, your servant,
I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was.”  And the king said, “Turn aside
and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still.
 And behold, the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “Good news for my lord the king!
For the LORD has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite
answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be
like that young man.”  And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over
the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!
Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Now, I'd like us to look at two passages this morning, two passages which revolve around a
message for the king. The first is what we just looked at, the second half of chapter 18. The
second passage is the first eight verses of chapter 19.
Now, in this first passage, there are many details we could discuss; many questions we could
ask. But I want you to see that this whole story about the two runners carrying a message to
the king is intended to remind us of David's focus and thus prepare us for his reaction in
verse 33. Do you see how the two runners give us two opportunities to hear from David? And
what question does he ask both times? “Is it well with the young man Absalom?”
Joab knows how David will react, and so he doesn't send Ahimaaz, the priest's son. Ahimaaz
can seen who David is focused on, so he pretends to not know anything about Absalom's
death. And when David does learn the truth, he laments by repeating Absalom's name three
times, and the expression “my son” five times.
Now, at first glance, we find something understandable here, something we would expect to
see: a father grieving for his son. But there is more going on here. How do I know? Look with
me at the second passage.
B. A Message for the King: God's Calling (19:1-8a)
Let's see how the story continues in verses 1-8 of chapter 19. Verse 1...
It was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.”  So the victory
that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, “The king
is grieving for his son.”  And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who
are ashamed when they flee in battle.  The king covered his face, and the king cried with a
loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!”  Then Joab came into the
house to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your
servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters
and the lives of your wives and your concubines,  because you love those who hate you
and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and
servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were
dead today, then you would be pleased.  Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to
your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this
night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth
until now.”  Then the king arose and took his seat in the gate. And the people were all told,
“Behold, the king is sitting in the gate.” And all the people came before the king.
Clearly, David's public expressions of sorrow have not let up, even as the weary soldiers
make there way back into the city. Notice that the “Absalom” count is up to five, and the “my
son” count is up to eight. And the sense is that David was repeating that cry of grief, over and
over. The king is hiding his face. He is wailing. And everyone knows it. Everyone can hear it.
Look again at verse 2: So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for
the people heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And if that weren't enough, the
writer drives the point home in verse 3: And the people stole into the city that day as people
steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.
It is those verses that express the central dilemma in these two passages. There is a
message brought to the king that sends him into a 'tailspin' of sorrow. But as we see here,
there is also a message brought to the king ABOUT that 'tailspin' of sorrow. As we heard in
verses 5-7, Joab is not mincing words with the king. He is straightforward and strong.
Now wait a minute. Couldn't it be that these passages are meant to highlight the insensitivity?
of the people; the insensitivity of Joab? My goodness, the man just lost his son. Shouldn't
everyone be a little more understanding?
But the overwhelming weight of these passages is not leaning in that direction. Joab's rebuke
of David is presented as completely warranted. By only writhing in his loss as a father, David
has abandoned his responsibility to lead as a king. By weeping over the enemy, David has
failed to welcome home those loyal to him. By lifting up the name of the son who tried to take
his throne, he has forgotten to lift up the names of the subjects who fought to regain his
Something is wrong with this picture. And Joab knows. Everyone knows it. Finally, David
knows it, to at least some extent. He realizes that he must go to his people. He must be with
them. He must reassure them of his favor and gratitude. And so, verse 8, “the king took his
seat” in the gate of the city... “And all the people came before” him.
III. Our Struggle in Light of David’s
Think about the picture God has painted for us this morning. A victorious kingdom, but a
defeated king. Now, before we talk about what God has for us in all this, I want you to think
about what might have been happening in David's heart.
Let's be clear: this passage is not a rebuke of healthy grief. How do I know that? Because we
already know something about how David grieves. He grieved over the deaths of Saul and
Jonathan by writing a song of lament and punishing the man who claimed to put out his hand
against God's anointed king (II Samuel 1). He pleaded for the life of his infant son, the child of
Bathsheba, but accepted God's will in the matter when the baby died (II Samuel 12). He
mourned for his son Amnon, who was murdered by Absalom, but for a long time, as king, he
prohibited Absalom from returning to Israel (II Samuel 13, 14).
But Absalom was not God's anointed king, as was Saul. In fact, he sought to destroy God's
anointed king. Absalom was not a friend and covenant partner, as was Jonathan. Absalom
was not an innocent child, like Bathsheba's son. And unlike Amnon, Absalom DID deserve to
die, as a both a murderer and a traitor and a rebel. But nevertheless David grieves for him in
a way that is far different from the others. Why?
Let me suggest a few reasons: first, I think it's safe to say David did grieve as a father who
lost his son; as a parent who lost another child. But, second, in grieving over Absalom, David
was also probably grieving over his own failures as a parent. The seedbed for Absalom's
revolt was partly planted by how David mishandled Tamar's rape by Amnon and Amnon's
murder by Absalom and Absalom's exile and restoration.
But third, David's sorrow here was also sorrow for his own sin. We know from II Samuel 12
that God's judgment against David for his sins against Bathsheba and her husband, that
judgment was realized in Absalom's rebellion and rape of the royal concubines. David knows
why his family is imploding. Remember the final words of chapter 18: “O my son Absalom,
my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Why is it so important that we try to understand David's heart? Because we need to see that
David's feelings and failings were clouding his commitment to God's calling on his life.
David was called by God to be the king of Israel. But that calling was being drowned out by a
deafening clamor of grief and guilt. And those feelings and failings were not only deafening
David, but they were also twisting his vision, so that the truth about Absalom was sacrificed
on the altar of David's guilt.
Listen, if you are a follower of Jesus, than God has placed a calling on your life. Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.
(I Corinthians 7:17) For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. (I Thessalonians 4:7) For to this [to what? To suffering for Christ, in faith…to this] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21)
Listen to how Jesus expressed it:
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:7-10)
We have a duty to God. We are responsible in terms of God’s calling on our life. Think about it. After Paul talks in Romans 13:7 about our responsibilities in terms of taxes and respect, he says this in verse 8: Owe no one anything, except to love each other… (Romans 13:8) You see, I owe it to you to love you. We have a responsibility to love one another. Why? God has called us to do so. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19 both speak about our responsibility to make the most of what God has entrusted to us. And like Timothy, we have a responsibility to “train [ourselves] for godliness”, to “not neglect the [spiritual] gift you have”, and to “keep a close watch our [ourselves]” spiritually. (I Timothy 4:7, 14, 16)
And I could go on because, to sum it up, we have a responsibility to live like Jesus, as we saw in I Peter 2. But we sometimes we struggle to think about this in terms of being responsible. In some cases, some of us struggle with responsiblity across the board, and thus, our spiritual lives suffer as well. But at other times, our priorities get mixed up.
Sometimes we feel more of a responsibility to our employer and to our job than to our King and His kingdom work. Sometimes we feel more of a responsibility to manage our investments and to save for retirement than to managing of our spiritual assets and investing for eternity. Sometimes we feel more of a responsibility to eat well than to feeding our own souls with the word and prayer. Sometimes we feel more of a responsibility to our favorite team, or to our kids’ involvement in sports, than God’s people and to training up our children in God’s truth and grace. Sometimes we feel more responsible about the upkeep of our houses than the spiritual upkeep of our families. Sometimes we feel more responsible about the civic success of our neighborhoods than the eternal destinies of our neighbors.
And why do we struggle like this? Because, like David, my feelings and failings cloud my commitment to God’s calling on my life. Because I get wrapped up in wrestling over my own sin. Because I feel defeated or incompetent. Because I allow genuine sadness to turn into paralyzing sorrow. Because I am bitter about those who have hurt me, rather than faithful to those who have loved me. Because I give in to feelings of alienation, rather than cling to the reality of acceptance. Because I would rather rehearse my failures than rest in God’s forgiveness. Because I fixate on what I’ve lost rather than all God has given me.
And why do I do these things? Because I am lost without Jesus Christ. Because in my own strength I am utterly weak. Because my heart is so needy, so desperate for freedom, for deliverance. And even when I have it, I lose sight of it. You see, the responsibilities we have are not simply driven by a desire to do what is right before our Maker or the promise of reward in His presence. That sense of responsibility must first be a response to redemption. It is not the slavish duty of a subjected servant. It is the joyful service of a rescued child.
Listen, it is important to let God’s word do what Joab did for David: to speak sobering truth into His life. Joab’s words were not ultimately words of condemnation, but words of correction. He didn’t tell David not to be sad about his son. He told him to be faithful in his responsibilities as king. That means David could do both. That means we can do both. We can wrestle with our feelings and failings, AND be faithful to God’s calling. Is that easy? Of course not. But if we don’t talk about our responsibilities, we will find ourselves adrift on notions of false grace, always comforting ourselves in light of our feelings and failings, but never anchoring ourselves in the grace of God that calls us to new life and a new way to live.
Wherever you are this morning, ask yourself this: have my feelings and failings clouded my commitment to God’s calling on my life? If they have, be encouraged. The son of David has come to heal and help hearts like ours. David was consumed by his grief. But Jesus Christ bore our griefs and carried our sorrows up to the Cross (Isaiah 53:4). He is faithful to both correct us and strengthen us for the calling He has placed upon our lives.
Do you trust Him this morning? Do you hear Him this morning? David cried over and over for his lost Son. Today, let’s cry out over and over to God’s Son, that we would be faithful to do what He has called us to do, for His glory alone.