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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:From the Lord Comes Deliverance
Text:2 Samuel 15:1-37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Preached:04/14/2013
Added:2014-01-09
Updated:2014-05-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray

 

“From the Lord Comes Deliverance”

2 Samuel 15:1-37; Psalm 3:1-8

Most of us here in Oak Lawn are thankful that the local elections are over. The race for mayor in Oak Lawn was one of the more contentious races with each candidate blaming the other for all the ills in our local government. Phone calls were incessant, signs littered the lawns, and the door bell wouldn’t quit ringing. I made a sign, which my wife did not want me to put by the parsonage door bell, which read: “Please, no political solicitation. If you ring our doorbell we will not vote for you!”

Political solicitations, with politicians pointing their fingers at their opponents, have been going on since the dawn of history. We experience it, not just in Oak Lawn, but we read about it in 2 Samuel 15, some 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, back there in Jerusalem where verse 1 tells us, In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him.

He didn’t need all the glossy fliers that we received in the mail; he didn’t have phone service, so there were no robo calls, but back in his day, having 50 men run ahead your chariot would catch the attention of the people. Especially if you were someone like Absalom, whom we read last week was more handsome than any other man in Israel. 2 Samuel 14:25 describes him this way: From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him.

However, it wasn’t just his good looks and his impressive chariot with 50 men running in front of it that captured the hearts of the people. Absalom had that political “gift” of making himself seem ever so compassionate.  He was one of those “I can feel your pain” politicians, for as we see in verse 3, he would tell anyone who had a complaint for the king that their complaint – their concern – was valid and proper.

In fact, it was so proper and valid that Absalom would point out the great irony that there was no one to hear and act on the complaint. Verses 3-4: “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

If there was any doubt that he was on the side of the people, he tries to erase that doubt with the famous politician’s kiss. Verse 5-6:  Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him.  Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

Absalom would have been a real challenge to any of the candidates for mayor here in Oak Lawn.  He knew the political ropes and how to pull them; he even played “the religion card.”  In verse 7 and 8 he tells David that he needs to go to Hebron to fill a vow he had made in Geshur.  Going to Hebron to worship the Lord would look good on his resume; the people of Israel would be even more impressed, he was a committed man who took his faith and values ever so seriously! It is not all that different than a former president who loved to have his picture taken on Sunday while he was leaving church, with his large leather Bible in his hand.

However, underlying this trip to Hebron was the conspiracy to take over his father’s throne.  Absalom had won the hearts of the people and so now, believing he has popular support he goes to Hebron, ostensibly to worship the Lord and fulfill a previous vow, but in reality he is setting all the dominoes in place to take the kingship from David. In the process he sends for one of David’s closest advisors, Ahithophel, and Ahithophel, who David had always leaned on for advice and guidance, goes from his home in Gilon to Hebron. That leads to a second truth this passage teacher, namely that we don’t always know who our true friends are.

True and False Friends

One of my daughters has often pointed out that when she was the new student in school, or when she started a new job, there were always some people that seemed like they would be her best friend. They just came across so friendly and helpful, it seemed like getting to know them would be a wonderful experience. And then, she points out, some others were in their own little world, or maybe they even looked at her as though they were skeptical of having her presence in that school or in that new place of employment. But she always adds that so often, the ones that initially seemed so friendly really weren’t, and the ones who may have seemed skeptical and unfriendly often became the best of friends.

We have probably all experienced that to some degree, and to another degree we have probably all been let down by really close friends, friends that we thought were true BFF’s – best friends forever. I’m sure that is how David thought about Ahithophel.  But David found out that we don’t always know who our true friends really are.

When Jesus predicted His betrayal, there in John 13:18, He told how His betrayal would fulfill Psalm 41:9 which says, even My close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared My bread, has lifted up his heel against Me. Many commentators believe that the Psalm, written by David, although clearly Messianic, springs from the defection of Ahithophel, his one-time friend and advisor, to Absalom.

David is provided with other friends, some from places that you might not expect friendships to develop. In verse 19-22 we read about Ittai the Gittite. The Gittites were Philistines, which makes Ittai’s commitment all the more remarkable. In verse 21 we read:  But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

He is a friend who fulfills the definition of true friendship, indeed true love, given in 1 John 4:16, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

In the Hebrew, in verse 21,  Ittai’s words are recorded as “whether it means death or life, - not life or death as our English Bibles have it -  there  will your servant be.”   He was so conscious of the possibility of dying For David’s cause that he put the word “death” before “life.”  He truly was ready to lay down his life for David, if need be. And again, he wasn’t a fellow Israelite, but a Philistine, a Gittite.

In verse 32-37 we meet another unlikely person, Hushai, not an Israelite but an Arkite, who was there as a friend for David.  Hushai also willingly put his life on the line, for he served as a spy, returning to Jerusalem in order to frustrate the advice given by Ahithophel to Absalom.

The Focus of David’s Trust

A third thing that we see in the passage is the trust David had, not in external religious objects, even the ark of the covenant, but David’s trust was placed in God’s providence, regardless of the outcome.  When Zadok and the Levites brought the ark of the covenant with them to meet David, David said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city.  If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, He will bring me back and let me see it and His dwelling place again. But if He says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let Him do to me whatever seems good to Him” (25-26).

By contrast, when Saul went to battle, he summoned the ark of the covenant to be brought out to the battlefield.  The same was true in the days of Eli, and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phineas. Many in Israel had looked at the ark of the covenant as their so-called  “good luck charm,”  but not David. David’s trust was in the providential hand of God no matter what the outcome. There is no better place to put your trust than in God’s providence. Believers of every age have found that out.  Job, in all his affliction and trials, declares in Job 13:15a, Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him…”

And the same is true for you and me. In whatever trials of life we face, we need not look to external religious objects for strength, but we are to look to the Lord and trust in His providential care.

There are many other truths that we could glean from 2 Samuel 15.  Not the least would be that the truest friend we will ever have is the Lord Himself, and we do see that between the lines of Psalm 3, which serves as an inspired commentary on 2 Samuel 15. The subscript to the Psalm says: A Psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

Circumstances Not Always as They Seem

From the inspired commentary of Psalm 3 we see, first, that circumstances are not what they seem. The Psalm begins with David exclaiming,  “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!  Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him’” (1-2).

That’s certainly the way it looks in 2 Samuel 15, doesn’t it?  Absalom has won over the heart of the people. He has David’s right hand man, Ahithophel, as his advisor. David is on the run. He is weeping as he climbs the Mount of Olives, which is a shadow pointing to Christ who would take that same road to the Mount of Olives and the cross of Calvary.

The difference is that David took that road weeping because he was suffering the consequences of his own sin.  Jesus took that road, in the words of  Hebrews 12:2  for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross scorning it’s shame.  He took that road because he was bearing the sins of all who would believe in Him.

In both situations circumstances were not what they seemed. It seemed as though David’s defeat was inevitable. It seemed as though Absalom would be successful with his conspiracy and would reign with power as king over Israel to the praise of the vast majority of people. But as Psalm 3:3 notes, David has a shield around him, - an invisible shield. He has the protection of the Lord Himself.  Verse 3:  But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. As we will see in the coming weeks, David is restored to the palace in Jerusalem; he will continue to serve as king over Israel, not because of his strength, but because the Lord is his shield, his deliverer, his strength, his salvation.

The same was true for the greater David, on His journey to the Mount of Olives, - circumstances were not what they seemed.  It seemed as though the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who hated Jesus so much, had won. He had been sentenced to be crucified. He was thoroughly humiliated; exhausted He was unable to carry the cross any further and Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to carry it to Mount Calvary, where Jesus would be crucified between two criminals.

The people mocked Him, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35b).  The soldiers cast lots for His seamless undergarment.  The band of His followers were few, just some women and His disciples, a sorry lot, watching life ebb from their leader whom they loved. The devil must have danced with glee!

But circumstances were not as they appeared. Through His death and subsequent resurrection Satan would be defeated, the band of disciples would become bold apostles and the church of Jesus Christ would spread around the globe, persecuted, yet always upheld and strengthened just as David was so long ago.

And I trust you have found in your life, as I have found in mine, that the dark circumstances of our lives are not always as they appear. The deepest storm clouds often shower us with the greatest blessings. The greatest trials often draw us closest to our Lord.  Even the valley of the shadow of death becomes the entranceway to glory for the true believer. The outward circumstances of this life do not convey the true picture as we see it reflected in the inerrant Word of  God.

The Great Power of Prayer

In the inspired commentary on 2 Samuel 15, written in Psalm 3, we also see the great power of prayer. In verse 4 David writes: I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain.

You remember David had gone a long time without praying when he sinned with Bathsheba. Sin does that. Sin separates us from God.  But now, in the repercussions of that sin, in Absalom’s revolt, in this great trial in David’s life, what does he do? – He prays!  God often allows us to face trials so that we will pray.

 “How powerful is prayer?” you ask.  It’s so powerful that even though David is on the run for his life, even though his own son is in a political conspiracy against him, even though his most trusted advisor, Ahithophel, has defected to the other side, David can close his eyes and sleep.  Through prayer he can rest in the power and strength of God and have no fear for those drawn up against him on every side. He writes, I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the  Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side (5-6).

There’s a lesson there for us, especially to those of us who are given over to the sin of worry, for worry is a sin; it is a lack of trust and faith that God will provide in whatever situation of life we face.  The lesson we learn from David is that when we pray to God we can leave our burden with Him and He will give us rest. He is the perfect One to leave our burden with. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, as another Psalm says (121).

I read about a missionary who was traveling in the heart of Africa. He could not reach the village he was going to before night came on, and he was forced to spend the night in a desolate and dangerous part of Africa. He tried to find a soft spot to lay down, an area where he would feel somewhat comfortable and protected, but he heard all the sounds of the night and imagined the animals that could come upon him, the lion, the tiger, any number of snakes, the hyenas.

He prayed and prayed, but he still couldn’t sleep, until well after midnight when he recalled those familiar words of Psalm 121,  He will not let your foot slip -  He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (3-4). – And the missionary prayed, “Lord, there is  no sense for both of us to stay awake…”  And he described how he fell into a deep and wonderful sleep, the sleep of the righteous that God gives His people even in the greatest turmoil life brings our way.

Our Deliverance Is Always From the Lord

A third truth that we see in the inspired commentary on 2 Samuel 15 is that deliverance and blessing come not from political leaders, but from the Lord. The  Psalm comes to this conclusion in verse 8,  From the LORD comes deliverance. May Your blessing be on Your people.

The Old Testament nation of Israel would survive this turbulent time.  After David was restored he continued to reign until his other son, Solomon, took over the throne. God would bless Solomon with great wisdom and wealth, and God blessed Israel in that time in such a way that they were the envy and the admiration of all the nations of the world of that day.

But the blessings came, not because David had prepared Israel so well for the reign of his son, Solomon. The blessings didn’t come because Solomon was so wise and knowledgeable.  No, the blessings came because God is gracious, merciful, loving and kind, true to every promise He has made, and it is from the LORD that deliverance -  literally salvation - comes.  It is by His grace that we are blessed, as individuals or whole societies at times of His favor as His people acknowledge Him and live according to His Word.

In His Hands

I am thankful that the election for the mayor of Oak Lawn is over. I will pray for our new mayor, as 1 Timothy 2 tells us to uphold those in power over us, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1-2).

But I’m far more thankful that God hears and answers prayer, gives strength and deliverance to His people, that circumstances are not always what they seem, for God is yet working all things for the good of those who love Him – even for David as he is on the run in this chapter for his very life.

And in whatever dark circumstances come in your life and mine we can yet have assurance that the Lord is our strength, our shield, our protector.  He is our salvation. And with that heartfelt knowledge we can sleep the sleep of the righteous, trusting in Him alone. Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 04/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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