Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 17 Number 3 March 2015
Page 13

Absalom, A Man Who Stole Hearts

Ernest S. Underwood

Ernest S. UnderwoodAbsalom was the third son of David by Maacah. He fell into disfavor with his father when he plotted the successful assassination of his half-brother Amnon. After this event, he fled to his grandfather where he remained for three years. Through the work of Joab he was restored to favor with his father.

The Bible describes Absalom as a handsome man. “But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him” (2 Samuel 14:25). To the populace, he was the beloved and beautiful son of the king. To God, he was a murderer and a seditionist. Such reminds us that God “looketh on the heart” and not on the outward countenance (1 Samuel 16:7).

For all of his beauty, Absalom was a treacherous man. He was not satisfied with God’s arrangement. At the command of God, Samuel had anointed David to be king over Israel. However, Absalom wanted to supplant God’s way. He desired the glory that God had designated to his father David. He wanted a following even if it meant that he must rebel against both God and his father. It mattered not to him that the subjects of the kingdom would divide their allegiance between him and his father. He was ready and willing to use subtlety and deceit, if necessary, to accomplish his purposes. Thus, we read:

And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that hath a controversy came to the king for judgment… Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice…And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. (2 Samuel 15:2-6)

By these actions Absalom was able to raise such a following that he finally led them as an army against his father the king.

Does anyone think for a moment that Absalom was really interested in whether the people received justice or not? His further actions gave proof of his true motives. He wanted to be king. He wanted the people to look upon him as a “somewhat” in the kingdom, and Absalom was prepared to use them to accomplish his purposes. He was able to some degree to accomplish his goal, but look at how many people were hurt by his actions. Notice the shame that he brought to the people of God. Ultimately, he was defeated in battle and was murdered.

It should be the desire of each of us as Christians to bring glory to God by the way we live our lives. In fact, Jesus commanded such of His disciples (Matthew 5:16). However, we must be careful that our motives for doing things are for the right purpose, and not for self-aggrandizement. In like manner, we must be certain that our respect for others does not cause us to esteem them and their actions above the Word of God.

As we judge men by their fruits (Matthew 7:20), it becomes quite clear that some religious leaders are “in it for what they can get out of it.” One only has to view many of the religious shows, and those who put on these “shows,” to let it serve to illustrate the truth of this point. It is all too apparent that the desire of such men and women is the accumulation of this world’s riches. It has been quite clearly shown that the desire of the leadership in what is commonly called postmodernism is power, numbers and self-glory. These leaders seem to have an insatiable desire to control other people. Such desires, and the cults that develop out of them, are sinful and must be avoided if one is to remain faithful to God.

There are those who engage in power struggles on a local area level. Through means that are sometimes devious they attempt to steal the hearts of people so that a following can be acquired. The end result of such actions will always be to the hurt of the precious body of Christ.

Even the mission fields are not immune to the heart stealing game. In fact, by its very nature it can easily become the breeding ground for this action. A missionary by his very work will naturally gain the respect of those whom he teaches and converts to Christ. This is as it should be, and presents no problem until he develops an attitude that because he is so beloved he may do as he pleases without being called into account for his actions. When he is called into such account for some sin, he will likely stay in the background and let those whose hearts he has stolen make his defense. The sad thing in such a situation is that these poor souls are not aware that they are being used in such a fashion, nor are they aware that they are defending error.

That God was not pleased with the actions of Absalom is evident from the record. Those today who steal the hearts of men by converting them to themselves rather than to the Lord are no less pleasing to God than was Absalom. Our calling as preachers, elders, teachers and saints of God is too sacred and too holy for us to use it to bring men unto ourselves, rather than to cause them to “obey from the heart” the saving Gospel. Heart stealing will always bring division to the body of Christ, and it will cause brethren to mistrust one another. If anyone has been guilty of this action, there needs to be genuine repentance. Otherwise, souls will be lost. May each of us have the desire to “walk in the light” of God rather than steal the hearts of men who will glorify us and not the God who saved them.

All Have Sinned

Ed Benesh

Ed Benesh“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). How often have you seen these words of Paul quoted or heard the preacher or the Bible class teacher use them? How often does it really sink in that you and I are truly sinful creatures? We have offended God, refused Him, wantonly displayed our hatred for Him or have simply been negligent with regard to His will.

I think most people quote the passage, but very few really absorb the message. I am certainly no proponent of some irresistible genomic propensity to sin that is passed from one generation to the next as one might pass along a learning disability, mental disorder or heart problem. Yet, it seems clear enough to me that mankind has sought and created a sinful baseline of behavior, digressing from truth overtly and often, there to meet our fellow men. It may not be genetic, but it is the natural thing. Don’t believe me? Well, then you simply have not been around enough people or have not observed them with much thoughtfulness or done any real prolonged sort of self-examination. Even the best and most respectable among us are sinners. I do think, however, that at some point we reach a line in the sand, a landmark or a place where we are called to make a critical decision about sin. In this place we are met with an appraisal that can take a number of forms, but can be reduced to one simple idea – will I get better with God or will I get better at sin. You must choose.

Plenty of folks – no, most folks – choose the latter. That is the whole “strait and narrow” concept at play. The simple fact of the matter is that most people do not choose to get better with God. They instead decide somewhere and in some way that they, perhaps by longstanding practice, will get better at sin, which often looks like the former. Think of it in terms of specific sins.

For instance, think of it in terms of lying. When one of my students lies to me, it is usually pretty obvious because he or she is just not very good at it. I know my students well enough to pick up the small changes in their behavior, tone and wording that indicate they are being deceptive. Even among the drama-filled middle school age kids, it is a relatively easy chore. Adults, of course, are a lot more difficult to discern. Why? Well, some have chosen to get better at sin. So good are they at things like deception that they even convince themselves that what they believe, say or do is true to reality, despite even the most obvious of contradictions. All too often we “are the man” and do little more than deny the lie.

Not you? Couldn’t be? I am sure David thought that as well. How could David, knowing full well his own history and the fact that he had sinned, listen to Nathan’s story of a poor man robbed of his lamb by the rich man and not know that the rich robber in the story was him? David knew he had sinned. Why else would he try to cover it up? He knew that he had sinned and rather than choosing to get better with God, he chose to become a better sinner.

The “best” sinners among us have the appearance of righteous men, but are full of rot and refuse. When we choose to refine our sin ability, then we steadily move toward self-deception and denial. I have seen good men – great men – speak lies and deceptions without batting an eye because secretly they have fostered and grown that sin in their lives, refusing to let it go, as if it were some security blanket.

Fortunately for all of us we can always turn back and choose to let God heal us. He is loving and merciful, and He wants us to get better. Granted, it means you will still have to deal with your sin, which will get harder and harder each day as you persist in it and become more adept at it, whatever it may be. In this day, let it go and let God help you – before it is too late!

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