The last years of David’s reign were sad ones. They were shadowed with three rebellions, of which Absalom’s was the most serious. It was followed by one under Sheba, a Benjamite (2 Sam. 20), and later by one under Adonijah (1 Kings 1), when Joab and Abiathar proved disloyal to David.
In our studies of the times of David we have suggested that the reign of Saul foreshadows conditions depicted in the church at Sardis, with its few worthy ones, illustrated in Jonathan. The early days of David, especially in rejection, illustrate what is characteristic of Philadelphia, whereas the failures of his reign were the seeds from which the troubles of his last years were harvested. These last years only too aptly portray the conditions existing in Laodicea, where the Lord is represented as outside, given the place of rejection by those who profess to be His own. Two of the rebellions were led by his own sons! History repeated itself in the church at Ephesus, for the 2nd Epistle to Timothy shows clearly how the warning of the Apostle was fulfilled. In his farewell to the elders he had said, “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20. 30).
Of Absalom we read that he had sheep-shearers, while of Adonijah it is said that he slew them! The darkest hour was just before the ushering in of Solomon’s reign of glory. Sheep-shearers have an unsavoury character in the Scriptures. Laban is the first, and how he raised the cry of sheep stealer when the true shepherd began to lead the flock to the highlands of the land of promise. Nabal, which is just Laban in reverse, was no better. He had no heart for the shepherd of Israel. It was the fleece they were after. Unfortunately their ilk is not dead! Let Christians be led into the apprehension and appreciation of their inheritance and the charge of sheep stealing will yet be heard. Alas, how many of the Lord’s people today are being fleeced, supporting unconverted modernistic or ritualistic ministers.
“In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty.” Physically he was a perfect specimen (2 Sam. 14. 25). When Satan chooses his messengers he sees to it that they are men who can glory in appearance. Of Arius, the father of Arianism, with its denial of the deity of the Lord, it was said that he was the most charming of all the bishops when at conference.
After the murder of Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshur and remained there for three years. When he did return he was not allowed to see the King’s face for two full years (14. 24-28). Without giving any evidence of repentance for his sin, he was then restored to the palace and kissed by the king. After this he waited either two or four years (15. 7) before leading the revolt. During these years he stole the hearts of the men of Israel by fair speeches and wonderful promises that savoured of electioneering methods. By a subtle strategy he deceived David and went to Hebron which was the centre of the rebellion. From there he sent spies throughout all the tribes and at a given signal all were to say, “Absalom reigneth in Hebron.” The record of the Rebellion in chapter 15 reveals three classes of people, whom we will briefly consider.
1. THE SIMPLE AND TOTALLY IGNORANT.
They were deceived. Absalom called two hundred men, of whom we read that “they went in their simplicity, and they knew not anything” (2 Sam. 15. 11). They did not know the character of the movement with which they were aligning themselves, and evidently did not consider it necessary to investigate. How like many today, who, in their ignorance of the teaching of the Word of God, are deceived and caught in the meshes of one or other of the many cults and ’isms of the day. Seventh Day Adventists and Russellites or Jehovah’s Witnesses sell their books from door to door, and unfortunately many Christians buy them! Christians should take heed as to what books they buy. What these cults sell may be wrapped up as medicine, but nevertheless, it is rank poison. In the language of Leviticus they are leprous in the head and are “utterly unclean.” The prudent forseeth the evil, but the simple pass on and are punished. Be sure you are not among the simple, carried away by every wind of doctrine.
2. THE SUBTLE AND TREACHEROUS.
Ahithophel, David’s counsellor, was Bathsheba’s grandfather. He had long nursed his grievance and was glad of an opportunity for revenge. His counsel was to smite the King only, and this saying “pleased Absalom well” (17. 2-4). As with these treacherous murderers, so today, the aim of all false teaching is to attack the person of Christ and in some way rob Him of His glory. They all deny either His essential deity or His sinless humanity. If you are not to be taken in your simplicity and become entangled in the meshes of some false cult, it is absolutely essential that you should be acquainted with what the Bible teaches as to the person and work of Christ. Beware of any doctrine that is in any way derogatory to or assails the virgin birth, the sinlessness, and sacrificial death or the bodily resurrection and ascension of our Lord.
3. THE STEADFAST AND TRUE.
If the rebellion discovered the simplicity of the two hundred that were called who were evidently key men, and the treachery of some who had hitherto been trusted, it also proved the loyalty of others. Of these three are mentioned: Ittai, the soldier; Zadoz, the priest, and Hushai, the friend. Each was tested in a different way, and victory for David depended upon the co-ordinated services of the three. The soldier was tested on the battlefield, the priest in the sanctuary, and the friend in the city.
was a Gittite, a stranger, one who had become attached, to David from the city of the Giant. He had not long been with David, but he was a general and with him. were 600 men. In the battlefield he would be called upon to defend the King’s person, may be at the cost: of life. His words to David rank among the noble confessions of Scripture.
along with Abiathar were tempted to take the ark into the conflict, following the ill-advised example of the days of Eli. But priestly ministry is for the sanctuary, and the ark was to be covered by the smoke of incense rather than the smoke of conflict. The din of battle is not conducive to priestly ministry, but the temptation to sacrifice the silent vigil of the sanctuary for the more public contention for the truth is a very real one. David knew that that path would lead only to defeat. Hence Zadok and Abiathar are sent back to perform their ministry before the veil. They were to be liaison officers between Hushai and the fighting forces.
the trusted friend, was that trustworthy that he could be relied on to be true to David even though he would be alone in the city where the very atmosphere of Absalom’s retinue was charged with murderous hatred towards David. If he failed, the priests could not perform their duty, and the soldiers would not have been prepared. Therefore the order in which these* three were tested was in the inverse order of that in which their names appear in the chapter.
Similarly if the life of the believer in the world is not true to his Lord the witness of the sanctuary will suffer, and in consequence there will be no real spiritual, readiness to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. What a need there is today for men like these three, and how important it is that in our individual and assembly life there should be equal importance attached to each aspect of the Christian life and testimony, whether it be the witness in the world, the worship of the sanctuary, or the warfare of the battlefield. May it be that in the drift and departure of the present day apostasy, believers, elder brethren and ministering servants will be found loyal to Christ. In the matter of contending for doctrine our hands should not hang down; in devotion, our knees should not be feeble, and in practice we should make straight paths for our feet. May God grant the enabling grace.
This series will be continued in our next number