Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the third Wednesday in Lent 3/10/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 7pm, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Lent3 Vespers Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the account of Absalom’s rebellion and David’s exile from Jerusalem, in 2 Samuel chapters 14-16.
The rebellion of Absalom is so nakedly evil that it is almost boring. As you begin to read, you can see exactly how it is going to play out.
Where are you from? What’s your problem? Poor you. Too bad the king doesn’t care. He must not love you. You know, if I were king, I could give you what you deserve.
Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:6
Absalom thinks that he would be a better king than his father. He thinks that he is somehow more gracious and more loving than David. He thinks he can do better than the father who received him back into the land, even though he didn’t really have to.
Absalom has already killed his brother, and has been banished. But now, David has allowed him to return to court. Justice would have him banished forever, but David is a merciful father. He’s not perfect, of course. David had to be half tricked and half convinced to do this, but he did it. He let his lying, murdering son come home.
This is the temptation for the Christian as well. Just as Absalom thinks he would make a better king than his father, Christians are tempted to think that that would also be a better god than God Himself.
So often it is a question of grace. God is gracious enough to restore a wandering, exiled sinner; but we think He cannot actually be trusted to be gracious, merciful.
How many Christians fall prey to the lie that they are more merciful than God is? How many sermons are preached that actually serve to erase what God so clearly says? How much ink is spilled trying to explain away God’s commands to make them more palatable? The history of the Church is littered with people who have made it their mission to make God’s Word more attractive and worthy in the eyes of the world.
Absalom wasn’t merely telling a crass lie. He really believed the world would be better with him on the throne. Even though he is the kind of son who is happy to usurp his own father, nevertheless, he ought to be king over all of Israel’s fathers and sons.
This is how it is for us. Though we constantly sin against our neighbors, though we constantly sin against our Lord, though we constantly stand in need of grace and mercy – we are still tempted to think we could do a better job.
We think God ought to overlook the sins we prefer for ourselves. We think God ought to wink at the sins we don’t want to talk about in the world. because if we were God, that’s what we would do.
This is what makes David a man after God’s own heart. David takes the risk. He knows that with Absalom back in court, he could make a move to overthrow him.
Did you notice how quickly he reacted to the news of what Absalom had done? This was not an unimaginable outcome. David knew the risk of letting his murdering son come home.
But even as David fought to take back Israel, his orders were to leave Absalom unharmed. This was not just about the kingdom; it was about his son whom he loved.
But that part of the story is for next week. For now, David must suffer.
God has made good on the Word He gave to David. For his sin with Bathsheeba, he is being put to open shame. What David did in the shadows, his son, Absalom, does in the light. On the roof where David first saw Bathsheba, another man’s wife; a tent is pitched so all Israel can see him emasculated and his household violated.
It is not a stretch to see that this is what happens with the true and greater David. The true Son of David will suffer where all Israel can see, but for sins that were not His own.
Like David, Jesus will be mocked, abandoned, and put out of the Holy City. Like Absalom, He will be made a stench to His Father, Who turns His gaze away on Good Friday.
All this seems like foolishness. What kind of King would give Himself up to be crucified between two criminals? What kind of God would give Himself into death for the sake of those who hate Him?
One not like you.
One not like me.
One who is truly just and merciful toward you.