Introduction: As a result of David’s many wives, his adultery, and his murder, he suffered from years of family conflict. This included Amnon’s rape of Absalom’s sister Tamar and Absalom’s revenge murder of Amnon. Here, as an added consequence of David’s family dysfunction, Absalom tried to overthrow his government. Absalom was under the influence of Satan. From his conspiracy and revolt, God reveals seven lessons on protecting yourself from Satan’s attacks.
First, acting under Satan’s influence, Absalom conspired with evil people to overthrow his king, David. Like Absalom, Satan conspires with evil people against the King of Kings. Second, Absalom launched a rebellion amongst the Jewish leaders against David. Like Absalom, Satan also seeks to sow the seeds of rebellion against God’s leaders. Third, Absalom was able to turn even the elites against David. In a similar way, Satan will deceive even the elites during the end times. Fourth, David cried out to God for deliverance from his enemies. Jesus also wants you to turn to Him to deliver you from Satan. Fifth, David asked the people seeking to follow him to examine the costs and only come if they were willing to freely accept the risks. Jesus also wants you to count the costs and voluntarily follow Him. Sixth, as he fled, David submitted to God and trusted Him to guide him. Jesus also wants you to submit to Him and trust Him to guide you. Finally, David cried out in his pain for God’s comfort from the betrayal of his friends and family. Like David, Jesus also wants you to turn to Him for comfort from your sorrow and pain.
Absalom’s conspiracy to depose his father and king, David. Because Absalom was blind to his sins in murdering his brother Amnon, he resented his father David for his five-year delay in accepting him back into the royal court. Thus, he conspired to overthrow his father as king: “1 Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men as runners before him. 2 Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, ‘From what city are you?’ And he would say, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.’ 3 Then Absalom would say to him, ‘See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.’ 4 Moreover, Absalom would say, ‘Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.’ 5 And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 6 In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.” (2 Sam. 15:1-6). Absalom was David’s third son (2 Sam. 3:3). He had killed the eldest son Amnon. The second oldest son Chileab would have been the next heir to the throne (2 Sam. 3:3). Yet, despite having murdered his brother, Absalom’s ambition would not let an older brother or even his father stand in front of his desire to be king. He embezzled the country’s funds to hire men and horses to put on regal displays for the people.
Absalom sought to bring glory to himself and overthrow David’s kingdom1
Absalom’s rebellion was rooted in pride and covetousness. Absalom was prideful and coveted power because he was both a prince and one of the most handsome men in Israel. “Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him.” (2 Sam. 14:25). He made people feel as though he were a humble man by bowing before them: “5 And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him.” (2 Sam. 15:5). He also prostrated himself before David in a false act of submission (2 Sam. 14:33). Absalom’s outward acts of humility, his good looks, and his alleged interest in pursuing justice made the people fall for him (2 Sam. 15:6). Today, most people want a leader with a humble and good looking appearance to offer promises of change. Absalom’s actions are hard to separate from most politicians.
The people ignored Samuel’s warning of vain princes who would manipulate them. Absalom’s actions fulfilled Samuel’s warnings to the Jews not to pick a king when God was their true king. He warned that future kings would manipulate the people with flashy displays of wealth and power, just like the one that Absalom employed: “He said, ‘This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.”’ (1 Sam. 8:11). Even after being seduced by Absalom, the people would continue to ignore Samuel’s warning. Adonijah would later copy Absalom in a similar plan to take control over Israel: “Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king.’ So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him.” (1 Kgs. 1:5). Today, politicians also try to sway voters with flashy rallies and similar displays of pomp and pageantry. Sadly, the people’s willingness to be swayed by such flashy displays of power when picking leaders has never changed.
Pride and covetousness lead to God’s judgment. Like Absalom, Satan was also blessed with great beauty and power as one of God’s most important angels. Like Absalom, his pride also caused him to covet God’s power. Like Absalom, Satan also desires to rule over mankind. “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Is. 14:13-14). Like Satan and Absalom, Korah also rebelled against Moses in the wilderness because he was prideful as the nation’s worship leader. He was able to start a rebellion because he found 250 “men of renown” who demanded that Moses share power (Nu. 16:2). Yet, the pride that causes a person to feel entitled to power can ultimately lead to destruction: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). Those who rebel out of coveting also violate God’s Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). For the unsaved, “coveting” also disqualifies a person from heaven (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). The covetous leader will also feel torment. A person who covets can never satisfy their covetousness by giving into their desires (Hab. 2:5). A covetous leader will never feel satisfied and will inevitably lust after more power. If you feel pride in your accomplishments or in your looks, repent of those feelings. They may be the fuel that causes rebellion in your heart.
A rebellion succeeds when a leader can create or manipulate the people’s complaints. Corrupt leaders often try to cause others to rebel by creating or inflaming complaints. Once the level of complaints causes the people to believe that a leader is illegitimate, they are more likely to refuse to follow that leader and accept a rebellion (Neh. 9:26). For example, Korah’s rebellion took root only after he was able to incite the 250 leaders to complain about Moses’ leadership (Nu. 16:3, 13-14, 41). Other rebellions against God began in a similar way. As another example, the people complained against Moses’ plans to invade Israel after they lost faith in God’s ability to defeat their enemies (Nu. 14:2(a)). Absalom also inflamed the people’s complaints about David to start a rebellion.
Absalom played upon the people’s sense of injustice regarding David’s actions as king. As king and as judge of the highest court of appeal in the land, David was meant to serve as the instrument of God’s divine justice: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). God appointed the kings to “do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kgs. 10:9). As the King of Israel and the highest judge in the land, David was also required to judge according to God’s law (Ezek. 44:24). He was further prohibited from showing favoritism to either the wealthy or the poor (Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:8; Dt. 16:19; 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). God had just shown David and the people his sin in being partial to his sons Amnon and Absalom by withholding judgment because of their privileged status as princes of Israel (2 Sam. 13:21-39.) God then showed David and the people of Israel that David could be swayed by a fake widow who appealed for clemency after she reported that her son had murdered another man (2 Sam. 14:4-11). Thus, with both the powerful and the poor, David failed to fulfill his role as Israel’s king. Even though he was part of the problem, Absalom played upon the people’s complaints about David’s injustice (2 Sam. 15:4-6).
A successful rebellion also requires deceit. Like Absalom, a person seeking to stir up a rebellion often seeks to incite the people through lies and deceit. Korah, for example, accused Moses of exalting himself over the entire congregation (Nu. 16:3). This was a lie. Moses did not want to lead the people at all (Ex. 3:10-4:13). Two other conspirators, Dathan and Abiram, also lied when they accused Moses of leading the people away from the Promised Land (Nu. 16:14). Moses merely warned that God would not be amongst them if they tried to enter the Promised Land because of their rebellion (Nu. 14:42-43). Any type of deceit, especially from a leader, is evil in God’s eyes: “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.” (Prov. 17:7). “They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.” (Ps. 12:2). “His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.” (Ps. 10:7). “For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.” (Ps. 109:2). “Lying lips are detestable to the LORD, but faithful people are His delight.” (Prov. 12:22). If you are using deceit, you are using the devil’s tactics.
Absalom’s perversion of God’s law. Absalom used deceit by claiming that no system existed to resolve disputes. He proposed to judge disputes at the city gate. Yet, under God’s law, trials could only be conducted by either a Levitical priest or an appointed judge (neither of which included Absalom). Trials before the king were reserved for weightier matters or when a conflict existed between judges. “ 8 ‘If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. 10 You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the Lord chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. 11 According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the Lord your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.’” (Dt. 17:8-12). Ironically, it was at the city gate where God called upon the people to purge the nation of those, like Absalom, who conspired to do evil: “2 ‘If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, . . . . 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.’” (Dt. 17:2-5). Absalom should have been stoned at the same gate where he incited God’s people into rebellion.
Absalom was like counterfeit Christ. Through his evil schemes against his father, Absalom was like the false messiah, who will plot evil schemes against the Father: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Ro. 16:17-18). God “will condemn a man who devises evil.” (Prov. 12:2(b)).
Abimelech’s similar scheme to gain control over Israel. David might have learned about the dangers as a ruler from children like Absalom and having multiple wives if he had studied the book of Judges. In the book of judges, a judge named Gideon had children through multiple women. As part of his descent into evil, he slept with a maidservant from Shechem and gave birth to a son named Abimelech (Jdgs. 8:30-31). Abimelech coveted power. Yet, because he was one of the least powerful of 69 brothers, he conspired with the people of Shechem to overthrow his brothers in a similar coup d'état (Jdgs. 9:1-2). To protect against these types of family conflicts, God’s law prohibited a leader from having more than one wife (Dt. 17:17). David ignored both God’s law and the lessons of history at his own peril. Here, he reaped the seeds of his flesh (Gal. 6:7).
Satan’s plans to use deceit to turn people against Jesus. Like Absalom, Satan seeks to deceive mankind. For many, he has become either the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), “the prince of this world” (Jo. 12:31), or the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Any time you refuse to submit to God, you let Satan rule over your life. Yet, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior you need not fear. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). Thus, even though he can cause you pain, the Holy Spirit inside you can protect you from any evil scheme that Satan may try to inflict upon you.
Absalom defames God as part of his plan to overthrow David. After sowing the seeds of discontent, Absalom used a ceremonial vow to God as the beginning of his coup d'é·tat against his father: “7 Now it came about at the end of forty years that Absalom said to the king, ‘Please let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the Lord, in Hebron. 8 For your servant vowed a vow while I was living at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord shall indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.’’ 9 The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, ‘As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’’ (2 Sam. 15:7-9). David’s total reign as king was only 40 years (2 Sam. 3:3). Absalom spent three of these years living in exile in Geshur, the homeland of his maternal grandfather (2 Sam. 3:3; 13:37-38). He spent another two years living under house arrest (2 Sam. 14:28). Thus, many believe that the statement that Absalom approached David after “40 years” (2 Sam. 15:7) is a scrivener’s error. Most commentators believe that the original text referenced “four years.” “. . . Josephus and some manuscripts have ‘four years,’ which would give ample, yet not too long, time for the growth of Absalom’s popularity, and of dissatisfaction at David’s tardy administration of justice.” (Pulpit Commentary on 2 Sam. 15:7).2
Antiveduto Grammatica (1571-1626) “David and Absalom”3
The fulfillment of God’s prophecy against David. Absalom’s rebellion fulfilled a prophecy that God gave to the prophet Nathan after David’s adultery and murder: ‘“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 from your own household;’ . . .” (2 Sam. 12:10-11(a)). Those who sow the seeds of conflict will reap the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7).
Satan seeks to bring down leaders to create conflict. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Jesus once quoted a prophecy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). He will bring down leaders through civil war to create conflict and misery for all. Thus, it is part of his plan for leaders to fight with each other.
David’s chief advisor turns against him and gives legitimacy to Absalom. Absalom’s conspiracy gained strength after one of David’s top counselor’s named Ahithopel turned against him: “11 Then two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem, who were invited and went innocently, and they did not know anything. 12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.” (2 Sam. 15:11-12). Absalom was able to gain support from the masses and the elites with a three-pronged strategy. First, he paid or enticed 200 unsuspecting men to march with him to make it look like the masses supported his revolt. Second, he persuaded the elites to join his revolt by enticing David’s advisor Ahithopel to switch allegiances. Third, to win over the priests, he used religious sacrifices to appear pious.
Ahithopel, David’s chief advisor, betrays him to aid Absalom’s rebellion4
Abimelech’s similar misuse of the people’s offerings to support his revolt. Absalom blasphemed God’s holy name to support his revolt by using sacrifices to create the appearance that he was acting on behalf of God. In a similar way, Abimelech defamed God by using temple offerings to fund his murderous revolt (Jdgs. 9:3-4). If you are engaging in evil practices while trying to appear pious, you will also defame God.
God never approves of rebellion against His appointed leaders. If Absalom thought that he could sanction his rebellion before God through either sacrifices or the endorsement of the elites, he was mistaken. Peter says that those who “despise authority” are “corrupt.” (2 Pet. 2:10). God further considers rebellion to be one of the worst types of evils. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:23). He warns that you are not to speak ill of His appointed leaders: “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” (Ps. 105:15). When you have contempt toward His leaders, it is equivalent in the Bible to having contempt toward Him “Moses said, ‘ . . . Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD.”’ (Ex. 16:8(b), 8; 1 Sam. 8:7). “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Ro. 13:1-2). “By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice.” (Prov. 8:15). “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,” (Titus 3:1). Unless a government practices evil, like the Nazis of World War II, rebellion is never allowed. Change should come peaceably through voting and through prayer.
David’s psalms of pain from the betrayal of his friends and family. While in the wilderness, David later wrote many psalms to lament his sorrow at the betrayal of his closest friends and family members: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Ps. 41:9). “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend;” (Ps. 55:12-13). “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off.” (Ps. 38:11). “I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother’s sons.” (Ps. 69:8). “My relatives have failed, and my intimate friends have forgotten me . . . All my associates abhor me, and those I love have turned against me.” (Job 19:14, 19). If you are suffering from the pain of betrayal, God also wants you to give your struggles to Him.
Sin spreads when left unchecked. David’s servants certainly would have alerted him to Absalom’s actions. Yet, possibly because he was conflicted in taking action against his son, David did not arrest Absalom or take any action against him. Because no one acted to stop Absalom’s conspiracy, it spread quickly (2 Sam. 5:12). In a similar fashion, Korah’s rebellion against Moses quickly spread throughout Israel. If any type of sin is left unchecked, it will quickly spread like cancer and grow worse over time.
Absalom swayed the elite in David’s time. Absalom was able to deceive Ahithopel, even though he was considered a wise man who consulted with God through prayer (2 Sam. 16:23). Absalom likely played upon Ahithophel’s emotions in enticing him to switch sides. He was Bathsheba’s grandfather (2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34). Because Absalom had a different mother, they both most likely resented David for his adultery with Bathsheba. But Ahithophel would later regret his actions and hang himself (2 Sam. 17:23). In this way, Ahithophel was like Judas. Both would betray their King. Both would also later feel regret for their actions and commit suicide by hanging themselves (Matt. 27:3-5).
Absalom manipulated the people to back his coup d'état5
Satan will also deceive the elect during the end times. Just as he deceived the leaders who surrounded David, Satan will deceive the elect during the end times: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt. 24:24; Mk. 13:22). “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,” (2 Thess. 2:9). Absalom was a handsome leader (2 Sam. 14:25). Thus, you must test every leader, especially the attractive ones, to make sure that they are following God. You will know if a leader is a God-fearing person by their fruits (Matt. 7:16).
David was forced to flee Jerusalem to escape from Absalom. Once David’s advisors determined that Absalom had gained support throughout Israel for his revolt, David was forced to flee with just 600 men: “13 Then a messenger came to David, saying, ‘The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.’ 14 David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, ‘Arise and let us flee, for otherwise none of us will escape from Absalom. Go in haste, or he will overtake us quickly and bring down calamity on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.’ 15 Then the king’s servants said to the king, ‘Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king chooses.’ 16 So the king went out and all his household with him. But the king left ten concubines to keep the house. 17 The king went out and all the people with him, and they stopped at the last house. 18 Now all his servants passed on beside him, all the Cherethites, all the Pelethites and all the Gittites, six hundred men who had come with him from Gath, passed on before the king.” (2 Sam. 15:13-18). Although David had taken no action up to this point, he obviously knew that his son was capable of inflicting great suffering upon the people. He further knew that an open conflict with his son would bring destruction and death to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 15:14). He fled to spare the innocent from a bloody civil war. David also left behind his ten concubines (2 Sam. 15:16). Some believe that he did this to preserve his claim of authority over Jerusalem. But it was against God’s express law to have more than one wife (Dt. 17:17). In the Bible, the number 10 can symbolize the judgment of the Ten Commandments. By leaving his concubines, David left behind part of what was evil in his life as he drew closer to God for protection. When David regained control as king, he never again slept with his 10 concubines (2 Sam. 20:3).
David was forced to flee Jerusalem after the people turned against him6
David’s psalm requesting God’s deliverance. After being forced to flee, David wrote a psalm asking that God deliver him from his own wicked son: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no deliverance for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.” (Ps. 3:1-6). “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me . . . Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon You; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol. Let the lying lips be mute, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt.” (Ps. 31:1, 17-18). “O my God, in You I trust, do not let me be ashamed; do not let my enemies exult over me.” (Ps. 25:2). “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” (Ps. 120:2). If you are in need of deliverance, God wants you to bring your petitions to Him through prayer and fasting.
Give your burdens to God. While hiding in the wilderness, David felt great sorrow because of his feelings of loss and betrayal. Yet, instead of getting angry, he gave his pain and his sorrow to God in his psalms: “4 My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. 6 I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. 7 ‘Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. Selah. 8 I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.’” (Ps. 55:4-8). When you are feeling hurt, God also wants you to trust Him by giving Him your burdens.
God reduced David’s army to the size that it was when he fled from Saul. David fled with 600 men (2 Sam. 15:18). This was the exact number of men that David had when he lived in the wilderness fleeing from Saul’s army: “Then David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the pursuit.” (1 Sam. 23:13; 30:9). Sadly, it was the gentile converts who stayed most loyal to David (2 Sam. 15:18). The Gittites were also amongst the core supporters who followed David as their true king when he lived in exile amongst the Philistines. In a similar way, it is the gentile converts who have stayed most loyal to Jesus, the King of Kings (Rev. 19:16).
David finds comfort from his faithful gentile friends. David found his true friends amongst the gentile converts when he gave them the chance to leave. He accepted those who stayed voluntarily at great risk to themselves: “19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why will you also go with us? Return and remain with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile; return to your own place. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander with us, while I go where I will? Return and take back your brothers; mercy and truth be with you.’ 21 But Ittai answered the king and said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.’ 22 Therefore David said to Ittai, ‘Go and pass over.’ So Ittai the Gittite passed over with all his men and all the little ones who were with him. 23 While all the country was weeping with a loud voice, all the people passed over. The king also passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over toward the way of the wilderness.” (2 Sam. 15:19-23). Like many of David’s 600 men, Ittai was a gentile convert. He was a Philistine from the city of Gath where Goliath came from. He gave up his idols to follow Yahweh. If it was God’s will, David was willing to give up his power by telling Ittai to stay with the “king”: “remain with the king.” (2 Sam. 15:19). Thus, he gave Ittai the choice to stay. David accepted Ittai as a follower only after he agreed to accept the risk of following after David.
Like David, Jesus also led the disciples over the ravine of the Kidron. David, the first true king, took his followers over the Kidron (2 Sam. 15:23). By doing this, he foreshadowed Jesus, the King of Kings, who also took his followers across the Kidron: “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.” (Jo. 18:1). The Kidron was a valley of dead people that symbolizes death (1 Kgs 2:37). Only Jesus’s followers will be able to cross over the valley of death and find eternal life.
Like David, Jesus also did not cling to his throne. David did not fight Absalom to maintain his grip on power. He even called Absalom the “king” when Absalom had no right to that title (2 Sam. 15:19). Instead of clinging to power, David trusted God to restore him if it was God’s will to do so. In this manner, David again foreshadowed Jesus. Like David, Jesus did not cling to power. Instead, He emptied Himself of all grandeur to die for us all “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8). Will you trust God to build you up in His timing?
Follow Jesus, just as Ittai followed David. Like David, Jesus wants each person to voluntarily follow Him. Like David, Jesus wants each believer to count the cost before following Him (Matt. 16:24). Like Ittai, each believer in Christ should publicly commit to following Him (Matt. 10:32). Like Ittai, each believer should first count the cost of being a believer (Lk. 14:28). Like Ittai, the prospect of trials should not cause you to turn from Jesus. Like Ittai, are you prepared to sacrifice everything to follow your King?
Be kind in times of crisis. David would be forgiven if he were self-absorbed in the face of the rebellion of his son and Israel’s leaders. Yet, David stopped and showed kindness to a foreigner during his time of crisis. Like David, you are called upon to always show truth and kindness to others during your times of trial: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Prov. 3:3). When a crisis strikes in your world, are you kind and helpful to others?
Allow God to mold you in the wilderness. God picked David to be a shepherd over Israel because of his training as a lowly shepherd (2 Sam. 7:8). He then molded David through years of suffering in the wilderness while he fled from Saul. Here, God again would mold David to remove the sinful desires and pride that allowed him to commit adultery and murder. David later celebrated how God refined and molded both him and all of Israel through their many trials. “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). David further learned that God’s testing would continue until He removed David’s iniquity: “You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” (Ps. 17:3). Will you praise God for molding you through trials?
David’s submission to God’s will. Most of the priests saw through Absalom’s evil schemes. Thus, they tried to follow David with the ark. Yet, David did not act presumptuously in taking the ark in case it was God’s will for him to lose his throne: “24 Now behold, Zadok also came, and all the Levites with him carrying the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God, and Abiathar came up until all the people had finished passing from the city. 25 The king said to Zadok, ‘Return the ark of God to the city. If I find favor in the sight of the Lord, then He will bring me back again and show me both it and His habitation. 26 But if He should say thus, ‘I have no delight in you,’ behold, here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him.’ 27 The king said also to Zadok the priest, ‘Are you not a seer? Return to the city in peace and your two sons with you, your son Ahimaaz and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 See, I am going to wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.’ 29 Therefore Zadok and Abiathar returned the ark of God to Jerusalem and remained there.” (2 Sam. 15:24-26). The priests acted with great courage in following after David. All of them risked being executed. David also acted with great humility. He knew that Absalom was evil. But David was also right to allow God to decide who should be king. David trusted God to restore him. He did not want to parade the ark before him as a good luck charm if it was not God’s will. He trusted that God would speak through the prophet Zadok to tell him God’s will and for God to pick the right solution.
Like David, wait on God by submitting to His guidance. From his experience, David learned to wait patiently upon God to guide him: “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1). “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14). “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.” (Ps. 43:4). “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:5). “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” (Ps. 37:7). Like David, will you trust God and submit to His guidance in times of crisis?
Submitting to God includes trusting in His solution. David did not act presumptuously in deciding for God what should ultimately happen. Like David, Samuel also preached the importance of trusting in God’s solutions: “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, ‘It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.”’ (1 Sam. 3:18). Will you trust God to find the right outcome to your crisis?
David’s prayers to God for comfort from his sorrow. After fleeing from Jerusalem, David turned to God in tearful prayer: “30 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot. Then all the people who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping as they went. 31 Now someone told David, saying, ‘Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.’ And David said, ‘O Lord, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness.’ 32 It happened as David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, that behold, Hushai the Archite met him with his coat torn and dust on his head. 33 David said to him, ‘if you pass over with me, then you will be a burden to me. 34 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 I will now be your servant,’ then you can thwart the counsel of Ahithophel for me. 35 Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So it shall be that whatever you hear from the king’s house, you shall report to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36 Behold their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send me everything that you hear.’ 37 So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.” (2 Sam. 15:30-37). David prayed as a broken and repentant man. He knew that what Absalom was doing was evil. But he knew that he brought this evil upon himself. Thus, he trusted God instead of fighting against his wayward son.
Pieter de Grebber (1600–1653) “King David in Prayer” (oil painting 1637)7
David’s prayers to thwart the evil counsel of Ahithophel. When David learned that his friend Ahithophel was advising Absalom, he prayed that God would confound Ahithophel’s advice with foolishness (2 Sam. 15:34). God later answered David’s prayer: “Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.’ For the LORD had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring calamity on Absalom.” (2 Sam. 17:14). God’s power includes “causing the omens of boasters to fail, making fools out of diviners, causing wise men to draw back and turning their knowledge into foolishness,” (Is. 44:25). Will you turn to God in prayer for deliverance from your adversaries?
David’s psalm of trust in God and thanksgiving. David also learned from his experience not to worry about the schemes of evil men, like his son Absalom. Instead, he trusted in God: “A Psalm of David. Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers . . . Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” (Ps. 37:1, 7-8). David also celebrated God when God delivered him: “He also brought me forth into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (2 Sam. 22:20). Do you trust in God to defeat those who scheme against you and give thanks when He does so?
Put your hope in Jesus, whose suffering has set you free. Just as David’s suffering led to the restoration of his reign, Jesus’ suffering will lead to the restoration of His righteous reign when He returns: “As David and a procession make their way out of the city of Jerusalem and up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, it is easy to recall the procession that left Jerusalem, making their way to the cross of Calvary. In the midst of the sadness and sorrow of our text, there is the foreshadowing of hope that comes from the work of our Lord on the cross of Calvary. Just as David was rejected as Israel’s king, only to defeat his enemies and to return once again as the King of Israel, so our Lord will return to subdue His enemies and establish His eternal throne on this earth. May our hope and trust be in the Son of David, who came to save sinners and to establish His righteous kingdom upon this earth.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh (“16. A Friend in Need or The Trail of Tears (2 Samuel 15:13 --16:23)”).8 Is your hope in leaders or in Jesus?
Image credit: David and Absalom by Antiveduto Grammatica on artnet↩︎