+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Opening – (Northumbria Community)
One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory.
Reading: 2 Samuel 15-19 (NLT)
2 Samuel 15 (NLT)
+ Subversion – After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!”
When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them. Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.
+ Deception – After four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and fulfill a vow I made to him. For while your servant was at Geshur in Aram, I promised to sacrifice to the Lord in Hebron if he would bring me back to Jerusalem.”
“All right,” the king told him. “Go and fulfill your vow.”
+ Rebellion – So Absalom went to Hebron. But while he was there, he sent secret messengers to all the tribes of Israel to stir up a rebellion against the king. “As soon as you hear the ram’s horn,” his message read, “you are to say, ‘Absalom has been crowned king in Hebron.’” He took 200 men from Jerusalem with him as guests, but they knew nothing of his intentions. While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors who lived in Giloh. Soon many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum.
David Escapes from Jerusalem
+ Conspiracy – A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”
“Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”
“We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”
+ Evacuation – So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.
Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.”
+ Loyalty – But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”
David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.
+ Grief – Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.
+ Worship – Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until everyone had passed out of the city.
+ Resignation – Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle again. But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”
+ Report – The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look, here is my plan. You and Abiathar should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River and wait there for a report from you.” So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.
+ Mourning – David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”
+ Espionage – When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”
So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.
David and Ziba
2 Samuel 16 (NLT)
When David had gone a little beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, was waiting there for him. He had two donkeys loaded with 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 bunches of summer fruit, and a wineskin full of wine.
“What are these for?” the king asked Ziba.
Ziba replied, “The donkeys are for the king’s people to ride on, and the bread and summer fruit are for the young men to eat. The wine is for those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”
+ Ingratitude – “And where is Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson?” the king asked him.
“He stayed in Jerusalem,” Ziba replied. “He said, ‘Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul.’”
“In that case,” the king told Ziba, “I give you everything Mephibosheth owns.”
“I bow before you,” Ziba replied. “May I always be pleasing to you, my lord the king.”
Shimei Curses David
As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”
“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!”
“No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”
Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” So David and his men continued down the road, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at David.
The king and all who were with him grew weary along the way, so they rested when they reached the Jordan River.
Ahithophel Advises Absalom
Meanwhile, Absalom and all the army of Israel arrived at Jerusalem, accompanied by Ahithophel. When David’s friend Hushai the Arkite arrived, he went immediately to see Absalom. “Long live the king!” he exclaimed. “Long live the king!”
“Is this the way you treat your friend David?” Absalom asked him. “Why aren’t you with him?”
“I’m here because I belong to the man who is chosen by the Lord and by all the men of Israel,” Hushai replied. “And anyway, why shouldn’t I serve you? Just as I was your father’s adviser, now I will be your adviser!”
Then Absalom turned to Ahithophel and asked him, “What should I do next?”
+ Irreconcilable – Ahithophel told him, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to look after the palace. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted your father beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will throw their support to you.” So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went in and had sex with his father’s concubines.
Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, just as David had done. For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.
2 Samuel 17 (NLT)
+ Plot – Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek. Then you will be at peace with all the people.” This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
Hushai Counters Ahithophel’s Advice
But then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let’s see what he thinks about this.” When Hushai arrived, Absalom told him what Ahithophel had said. Then he asked, “What is your opinion? Should we follow Ahithophel’s advice? If not, what do you suggest?”
+ Reprieve – “Well,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “this time Ahithophel has made a mistake. You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors. Right now they are as enraged as a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs. And remember that your father is an experienced man of war. He won’t be spending the night among the troops. He has probably already hidden in some pit or cave. And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops, and the word will spread that Absalom’s men are being slaughtered. Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are.
“I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. When we find David, we’ll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down.”
+ Reproof – Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s.” For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!
Hushai Warns David to Escape
Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, what Ahithophel had said to Absalom and the elders of Israel and what he himself had advised instead. “Quick!” he told them. “Find David and urge him not to stay at the shallows of the Jordan River tonight. He must go across at once into the wilderness beyond. Otherwise he will die and his entire army with him.”
+ Report – Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been staying at En-rogel so as not to be seen entering and leaving the city. Arrangements had been made for a servant girl to bring them the message they were to take to King David. But a boy spotted them at En-rogel, and he told Absalom about it. So they quickly escaped to Bahurim, where a man hid them down inside a well in his courtyard. The man’s wife put a cloth over the top of the well and scattered grain on it to dry in the sun; so no one suspected they were there.
When Absalom’s men arrived, they asked her, “Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”
The woman replied, “They were here, but they crossed over the brook.” Absalom’s men looked for them without success and returned to Jerusalem.
+ Retreat – Then the two men crawled out of the well and hurried on to King David. “Quick!” they told him, “cross the Jordan tonight!” And they told him how Ahithophel had advised that he be captured and killed. So David and all the people with him went across the Jordan River during the night, and they were all on the other bank before dawn.
+ Rejection – When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.
+ Absalom mobilizes – David soon arrived at Mahanaim. By now, Absalom had mobilized the entire army of Israel and was leading his troops across the Jordan River. Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army, replacing Joab, who had been commander under David. (Amasa was Joab’s cousin. His father was Jether, an Ishmaelite. His mother, Abigail daughter of Nahash, was the sister of Joab’s mother, Zeruiah.) Absalom and the Israelite army set up camp in the land of Gilead.
+ David regroups – When David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted by Shobi son of Nahash, who came from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and by Makir son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and by Barzillai of Gilead from Rogelim. They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”
Absalom’s Defeat and Death
2 Samuel 18 (NLT)
David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains to lead them. He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”
But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us, and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”
“If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.
And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.
So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.
During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”
“What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero’s belt!”
“I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”
“Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.
Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.
During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.
David Mourns Absalom’s Death
Then Zadok’s son Ahimaaz said, “Let me run to the king with the good news that the Lord has rescued him from his enemies.”
“No,” Joab told him, “it wouldn’t be good news to the king that his son is dead. You can be my messenger another time, but not today.”
Then Joab said to a man from Ethiopia, “Go tell the king what you have seen.” The man bowed and ran off.
But Ahimaaz continued to plead with Joab, “Whatever happens, please let me go, too.”
“Why should you go, my son?” Joab replied. “There will be no reward for your news.”
“Yes, but let me go anyway,” he begged.
Joab finally said, “All right, go ahead.” So Ahimaaz took the less demanding route by way of the plain and ran to Mahanaim ahead of the Ethiopian.
While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates of the town, the watchman climbed to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked, he saw a lone man running toward them. He shouted the news down to David, and the king replied, “If he is alone, he has news.”
As the messenger came closer, the watchman saw another man running toward them. He shouted down, “Here comes another one!”
The king replied, “He also will have news.”
“The first man runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok,” the watchman said.
“He is a good man and comes with good news,” the king replied.
Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, “Everything is all right!” He bowed before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise to the Lord your God, who has handed over the rebels who dared to stand against my lord the king.”
“What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?”
Ahimaaz replied, “When Joab told me to come, there was a lot of commotion. But I didn’t know what was happening.”
“Wait here,” the king told him. So Ahimaaz stepped aside.
Then the man from Ethiopia arrived and said, “I have good news for my lord the king. Today the Lord has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you.”
“What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?”
And the Ethiopian replied, “May all of your enemies, my lord the king, both now and in the future, share the fate of that young man!”
The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”
Joab Rebukes the King
2 Samuel 19 (NLT)
Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness. They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle. The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Then Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.”
So the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him.
Meanwhile, the Israelites who had supported Absalom fled to their homes. And throughout all the tribes of Israel there was much discussion and argument going on. The people were saying, “The king rescued us from our enemies and saved us from the Philistines, but Absalom chased him out of the country. Now Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, is dead. Why not ask David to come back and be our king again?”
Then King David sent Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, to say to the elders of Judah, “Why are you the last ones to welcome back the king into his palace? For I have heard that all Israel is ready. You are my relatives, my own tribe, my own flesh and blood! So why are you the last ones to welcome back the king?” And David told them to tell Amasa, “Since you are my own flesh and blood, like Joab, may God strike me and even kill me if I do not appoint you as commander of my army in his place.”
Then Amasa convinced all the men of Judah, and they responded unanimously. They sent word to the king, “Return to us, and bring back all who are with you.”
David’s Return to Jerusalem
So the king started back to Jerusalem. And when he arrived at the Jordan River, the people of Judah came to Gilgal to meet him and escort him across the river. Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin, hurried across with the men of Judah to welcome King David. A thousand other men from the tribe of Benjamin were with him, including Ziba, the chief servant of the house of Saul, and Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed down to the Jordan to meet the king. They crossed the shallows of the Jordan to bring the king’s household across the river, helping him in every way they could.
David’s Mercy to Shimei
As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. “My lord the king, please forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel to greet my lord the king.”
Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, “Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!”
“Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah!” David exclaimed. “Why have you become my adversary today? This is not a day for execution, for today I am once again the king of Israel!” Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, “Your life will be spared.”
David’s Kindness to Mephibosheth
Now Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him.
Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”
“You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”
“Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”
David’s Kindness to Barzillai
Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.”
“No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.”
“Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home.
The king then crossed over to Gilgal, taking Kimham with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king on his way.
An Argument over the King
But all the men of Israel complained to the king, “The men of Judah stole the king and didn’t give us the honor of helping take you, your household, and all your men across the Jordan.”
The men of Judah replied, “The king is one of our own kinsmen. Why should this make you angry? We haven’t eaten any of the king’s food or received any special favors!”
“But there are ten tribes in Israel,” the others replied. “So we have ten times as much right to the king as you do. What right do you have to treat us with such contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing him back to be our king again?” The argument continued back and forth, and the men of Judah spoke even more harshly than the men of Israel.
“When David Heard That Absolom Was Slain” – Thomas Tomkins
Blessing – (Northumbrian Community)
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!