Remember, two posts back we saw that because God’s VERY NATURE is self-giving, self-sharing, self-sacrificing, that is also how He rules…it captures the nature of His dominion. We saw last post that David demonstrates this in his self-sacrificing behavior in the David and Goliath story (of course, he does a bad job of this in the whole Uriah and Bathsheba incident). In this current post, we want to learn the same lesson, but in another way. Instead of seeing the glory of Jesus’ self-giving dominion through a positive example, we’re going to see his glory through a negative example.
I looked online for a good picture of Absalom and found one…
blood sucking vampire
Oh wait, is that not Absalom? Let me search again…ah, that’s better.
Let’s turn to 2 Samuel 14 to meet this handsome devil. At this point, David is King on the throne over all of Israel. Absalom is his oldest son. David had two older sons, but both are now dead.
Before we dig in, you need to know that the Bible spends 7 chapters on Absalom. From 13-19. SEVEN chapters! As we look at this story, be sure to ask yourself, “Why does God spend so much time telling us Absalom’s story?” I’m going to argue because he wants a very detailed picture of earthly kingship to contrast with His Kingship. So, let’s look at Absalom.
David was described as a man after God’s own heart. What about Absalom? In 14.25-26, here’s what we read: 25 Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight.
Now, you may be thinking, “Schell, it’s not a sin to be good looking.” But, there is a heavy emphasis on the external with Absalom. Contrasted with the earliest descriptions of David, all of a sudden, this description is quite chilling. Remember, the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t look at the outside!”
We also see another glimpse of his heart if we skip to chapter 18, verse 18, which reads “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day.” Anytime anyone in the Bible starts to worry about their own name, trouble is close behind. You may remember at the tower of Babel, God has just told the people to spread out, to fill the earth, and the people gather together and say, “Let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to heaven so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
This is worrisome behavior, but where we really see what’s in his heart is in chapters 15-18 where he plots to overthrow and kill his father, David. Starting in Chapter 15, we’re just going to do a fly over to catch the highlights of this story while really looking at Absalom.
- He provided himself with a Chariot (15.1). This is an act of claiming the throne. One of his brothers will do this later in the book.
- Set self up as judge, threw David under the bus (15.2-4). David was judging the people’s cases, but Absalom told them otherwise.
- Stole the hearts of the people (15.5-6)
- Rebellion: Has himself declared king. “ABSOLOM IS KING IN HEBRON” (15.10)
- Tricked many into joining his side (15.11)
- Even made sacrifices (15.12), almost as if to say, “Well, the king of Israel needs Yahweh’s approval, so I’m going to at least fake it.”
- David is forced to flee for his life (15.13-14).
- Sleep with David’s concubines (16.21-22) to bring shame on them and ridicule to David.
- Seeks the life of his FATHER (17.1-4, 18.3).
Now, you know why I confused Absalom with a blood sucking vampire! Finally, in the midst of the battle, Absalom’s hair gets caught in a tree (18.9) OH, THAT HAIR, that beautiful hair, that luscious hair, a physical expression of the glory that Absalom hungered for was his downfall. And, in short, he is speared by Joab and his men and thrown into a pit. (18.14-17)
What does all this tell us about JESUS? Well, we saw in David’s faith in God, a picture of Jesus’, who is God the Son, trust in God the Father. David is a positive picture. And Absalom is a negative picture. To see Jesus’ in contrast to Absalom, look at Philippians 2.5-11.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Notice first that Jesus was exalted to his throne only AFTER trusting His father and saving His people. BECAUSE (Therefore in v. 9) He was self-giving (vv. 5-8), He is fit to be King (vv. 9-10).
HOW MUCH MORE DIFFERENT COULD JESUS BE FROM ABSOLOM? Let’s look at three ways.
First is how they relate to their fathers.
David flees Absolom
Absalom slept with his father’s concubines to bring shame on David, to show his contempt for David, and ultimately, he wanted to kill David. He wanted glory and dominion for himself.
Not my will, but yours be done, Father
Jesus said things like “I’ve come to do the will of my Father. My food is to do the Father’s will. Father, not my will, but yours be done.” He wanted to give glory to the Father. He wanted to bring men and women to the Father!
What about in this area of glory and name?
Absalom riding through Jerusalem to be seen
Absalom didn’t just want glory in this life, seen in buying a chariot and riding through town to be seen and admired by everyone, but sets up a monument to himself so that even when he’s dead, people will think about him. He tries to build himself up.
Washing the feet of His disciples
Jesus emptied himself. He left the glories of Heaven to come to earth. Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. Literally emptied himself, pouring out his blood to save sinners. He was the greatest SERVANT of all.
What about their judgments? Both Hung on a Tree, buried in a pit/tomb.
Absalom, full of himself, is ensnared, literally, by his pride. His life said, “everyone’s life for mine”. Jesus’ act of supreme sacrifice declared, “MY LIFE FOR YOURS” from start to finish. Absalom was speared through for his own sin. Jesus was speared for our sin. Absalom hung on a tree because of his treachery. Jesus hung on a tree to forgive our treachery. Absalom got what he deserved. Jesus got what we deserved. His life for ours.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!
So, Absalom helps us see the glory of Christ, precisely because he is nothing like our Jesus. From the core of his being to the way he rules, our God is a self-giving, self-sharing God, and that is how Jesus came and how He continues to rule!