In our last lesson we looked at what to do when you let down God. David has let God down with his sinning and is paying the severe consequences for his sins. But we have seen David’s humble response by willingly accepting his sin and accepting the consequences. He does not say that the consequences are too great or unfair. What follows is a wonderful message: God does not let you down. David has let God down with his sinning but God is not going to let David down. Let’s look at this important message tonight because God’s message to us is that even if we sin, God does not let us down.
Time For Advice (16:15-17:29)
Ahithophel was David’s important advisor who has betrayed David and has sided with Absalom, David’s son who has usurped the throne away from David. In 2 Samuel 16:15-23 Ahithophel begins to give his advice to Absalom. He begins by telling Absalom that the first way he can establish his reign is to take David’s concubines, who had been left behind as a symbol of David’s rule, and pitch a tent on the roof and sleep with them all so that all Israel will know you are in charge. So Absalom does just as Ahithophel says. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy made against David because of his sin. Remember what Nathan told David.
Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.” (2 Samuel 12:11–12 ESV)
So David’s sins are still playing out against him. David continues to pay for the consequences of his sins. Verse 23 is very important to see at this point because it sets the background for chapter 17. “Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom” (2 Samuel 16:23 ESV). The point is that everyone listens to Ahithophel. He is a sharp political thinker and what he says people do.
David had sent back to Jerusalem his friend Hushai when he learned that Ahithophel had betrayed him and gone with Absalom. The plan is that Hushai could also be an advisor to Absalom to try to counteract the advising of Ahithophel (15:32-36). But do not forget that everyone listens to Ahithophel. Chapter 17 begins by telling us that Ahithophel has more advice for Absalom. Pursue and attack David tonight while he is still weary and weak. Strike down the king and the rest of the people will all run from their lives. Then you will solidify your reign and all Israel will be at peace under your rule (17:1-3). Notice in verse 4 that everyone agrees with Ahithophel’s advice.
But for some reason Absalom also calls for Hushai to give his counsel. Hushai says that Ahithophel’s advice is not good this time. He says that Absalom knows what his father is like in the wilderness. He will be as fierce as a bear robbed of her cubs. He is an expert in war and is not going to be among the people. You are going to attack and fail, which will cause all of Israel to know how mighty David is and you will lose your rule. Hushai says that Absalom should take his time and gather all the armies of Israel together and you lead that massive army into battle and completely wipe out David and all his men. Absalom and all the people of Israel think Hushai’s advice is better. But listen to the end of verse 14.
“For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.”
God is not letting David down even though David had let God down. God is moving the pieces around so that he can bring disaster on Absalom for what he has done. Please see that there is no miracle here. But it is still God’s doing. God is still working and his hand is involved in these things even though no one can see it.
Not only this, but when Ahithophel sees that his advice was not followed, he went home, put his house in order, and hanged himself (17:23). Does this sound familiar? David’s close counselor betrays him and then hangs himself. Jesus’ close companion, Judas, betrays Jesus and then hangs himself. This is the outcome for those who turn their backs on the anointed. Doom comes on those who betray the king.
Absalom’s Death (18:1-19:8)
Yet again we are going to see the hand of God involved in rescuing David. God is not going to let David down even though David has let God down. Absalom has brought out his armies to kill David and his men. David’s men wipe out Absalom’s army. There were 20,000 men killed that day. But notice again the hand of the Lord in 2 Samuel 18:8. “The forest devoured more people that day than the sword.” The success of David’s army had come from the Lord as the Lord is even using the forest to give David victory. An example of this is seen in verse 9. Absalom was riding his mule which went under a great oak and his hair got caught in the tree. Remember that Absalom is the GQ Israelite with long hair. So now his hair gets caught in the tree and he is hanging in midair while the mule went on without him. The source of Absalom’s pride is now the source of his undoing. Mules were royal mounts so the mule going on without him pictures Absalom losing his kingship and power. Here is the symbolic hanging of Absalom, who has betrayed his father, the king.
One of David’s men sees this and tells Joab about it. Joab asks why he didn’t kill Absalom while he had the chance. Joab would have given him 10 shekels of silver and a warrior belt for doing it (18:11). But the soldier says that even with the reward he still would not raise his hand against the king’s son because he commanded us to protect Absalom (18:12). Further, you would have hung me out to dry and blamed me for Absalom’s death (18:13). Joab goes and plunges three javelins into his heart while he was still alive. Ten of Joab’s armor bearer then kill Absalom. Absalom is buried like a cursed man (18:17; cf. Joshua 7:26; 8:29; 10:27). In fact, we truly see the pride of Absalom in verse 18 where we are told he set up a monument to himself. Saul is the only other Israelite king recorded to have set up a monument for himself. Absalom’s pride has brought about his disaster. Truly pride goes before the fall. God used his pride to destroy him.
News comes to David about all of this in verses 31-33. The message is that the Lord has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you. But David disregards this message and asks about his son, Absalom. The answer is a good answer in verse 32. “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.” So David weeps over his son Absalom. He know that Absalom’s death is because of his own sinfulness. David’s sins is what has brought all this about. But Joab is angry with David in chapter 19 because David has turned this great victory into mourning. David is missing the point. The Lord had Absalom killed. The Lord was moving pieces into place to bring about his disaster. Absalom was worthy of death. But David is not seeing this. So Joab confronts David and tells him you better clean yourself up and act like the rightful king or everyone will leave. You need to get your act together.
The Return of the King (19:9-43)
Now David returns to Jerusalem. The big question for Israel is what is David going to do to the people who have run him out of town? What is David going to do with all the defectors who did not support him? Even with Absalom’s death we are twice told that Israel is arguing over if David should even be king (19:8-15, 41-43). What David is going to do is going to be pictured in three people.
First, Shimei shows up in verses 16-23. Remember that Shimei was cursing David as he went, proclaiming lies, and throwing rocks and dirt at David and his men. Shimei now comes out first to meet David bringing with him 1000 men from Benjamin. He falls down before the king and pleads for mercy (19:19-20). He confesses his sin. Abishai says that he should be put to death for cursing the king. He is right. Shimei deserves death. But look at what David shows him grace. No one is going to die today. The king shows grace.
Second, Mephibosheth meets David in verses 24-30. David asks why he did not go with him when he left Jerusalem. Mephibosheth says that he was all set to go but Ziba left him and went to you and slandered me to you. Remember that Mephibosheth was lame so he could not leave on his own. He says that his servant left him and made up a story about his desire to reclaim the throne. In fact, Mephibosheth can prove it because he had not taken care of his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes ever since David left. In short, Mephibosheth shared with the suffering of David and was exiled in spirit. He left himself go to show that he was with David throughout the whole ordeal. David says that he will divide the land back between Ziba and Mephibosheth. But look at verse 30. Mephibosheth does not care about the property. All that he cares about is the safe return of the king. That is all the reward he desires.
Finally, Barzillai came to David. He had provided for David while in Mahanaim (19:32). David wants to repay him for his loyalty. But Barzillai says there is no need. If you want to bless someone, bless my servant. There is no need to bless me. Barzillai did not act for what he would later receive from the king. He simply did what was right by the king.
Here is the picture that I want us to see. David had failed God but God did not fail him. Even though David needed to endure the consequences of his sins, God did not forsake David. God did not abandon those who belong to him. David’s failure did not mean that God left him. God did not let David down. This is the important teaching truth from this text. Our lives can go into complete chaos, but God is not going to let us down. He will not let us be put to shame. He will not abandon us, even if the chaos of life is because of our own sins. Even if we make horrible decisions, God is faithful.
David understands this and represents this when he returns to Jerusalem. He shows grace to Shimei, even though he had previously cursed him and threw rocks at him. Grace can be given to Shimei. Further, grace will be given to those who were faithful to the king like Mephibosheth. He lived as if he were in exile until the return of the king. Grace is given to those who live not for this world but live in anxious exile for King Jesus to return. Finally, a reward will be given to those who were loyal to him. Barzillai supported the king and he would be repaid for his loyalty. If we will live in loyalty to the Lord, we too will be rewarded with Jesus comes back. There is grace for our failures. There is grace as we live looking for his return. There is grace as we look for the king’s return and the reward that will come for those who stay with him through all of life’s difficulties. God does not let us down. God will never let us down. The king will return with grace if we confess our sins and are then ready for his coming, living in light of his return.