Absalom: a Character Study
2 Samuel 18:1-17
And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds over them.…

I. The first suggested point in this Old Testament character study is, that of A ROYAL FATHER AND SON IN DEADLY ANTAGONISM. The ground of this antagonism was Absalom's attempt to usurp the throne. He sought by intrigue to dethrone his father, and to seize the kingdom and crown for himself. There is another antagonism of a more momentous character raging to-day between the Royal Father in heaven and the rebel Absaloms in our midst. An antagonism spiritual in its nature, gigantic in its proportions, fearful in its tendencies, tremendous in its issues. It is hostility between the creature and his Creator, the subject and his Sovereign, the recreant son and his loving, all-compassionate Father. Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! Can the finite contend with the Infinite? Can the worm: strive with his Maker? Can man fight with God? "Woe unto him," says the prophet, "that striveth with his Maker." "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel but not of Me, and that cover with a covering but not of My spirit, that they may add sin to sin." "The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man. He shall stir up jealousy like a man of war. He shall cry yea, roar. He shall prevail against His enemies."

II. The second practical suggestion of this Old Testament character study is, THAT THE MEANS USED TO ESCAPE FROM THE KING'S SERVANTS BROUGHT DEFEAT AND DEATH. Absalom depended on the fleetness of his mule for safe and speedy flight, which, had it been on the unobstructed highway instead of the untrodden, perilous forest path, might in all human probability have been accomplished. As it was, the fleeter the animal, the greater the danger of becoming entangled among the trees of the wood. So it is to-day with the modern Absaloms who have formed conspiracies against goodness, purity, justice, right; who are subtly or openly assailing the kingdom of truth, the throne of God, the kinghood of the Nazarene, doing their utmost to wrench the sceptre of authority from His grasp, and to dash the diadem of divinity from His kingly head, they are getting the worst of the contest. Absalom-like, they are trying to evade the King's army, to escape the King's pursuing servants, but ere long they will find the giant oak of Divine retribution in the way, which will grasp them between its mighty arms, while their fleet-footed "mules" will go suddenly from under them.

1. Some have mounted the "mule" of intellectual pride, and are posting off into the wood of scepticism, rationalism, deism, agnosticism, secularism, atheism. Much learning is generally conceit, and conceit is turning men intellectually and morally insane. "Advanced thought" is but the synonym for advanced alienation of the heart from the living God, and "advanced thought" is only the modern form of unbelief. Pseudo-philosophy is weaving a shroud for the burial of truth. Men to-day glory in what they do not rather than in what they do know. Ignorance seems bliss. Doubting is emphasised and glorified. Believing and knowing are childish. Thus the advocates of doubt, the spastics of unbelief, the boastful know-nothings, have exiled from their little world the Creator, and enthroned blind chance or arrogant-reason. They have struck out from their sky the blazing sun of truth, and are groping their way amid the shadows and uncertainties of a scholarly scepticism or an ignorant know-nothingism! In a word, they have mounted the mule of intellectual vanity, imagining thereby to escape God, who pursues them on the line of their intuitions, moral instincts, inner consciousness, and crushed but not extinguished spiritual nature, not knowing that there is a mystic tree of judgment, whose giant branches shall seize their haughty heads and swing their spirits back to the God who gave them.

2. Again, there are others who are trying to escape from their convictions of right, duty, and personal responsibility to humanity and God on the "mule" of alcohol. Such foolish Absaloms I have known. Some of them men of broad intellect, wide reading, and splendid parts, but weak on one side of their nature in more senses than one. For years there has been hostility to God, the will running counter to the Divine Will, the actions contrary to the Divine Commands, the heart opposite to the Divine Spirit. They have defied the Divine Almightiness, trampled in the dust the Divine Law, and flung insult and injury on the Divine Heart of Love. Thus have they tried to get away from conscience, remorse, God! But what folly. True, they may drown conviction for a time, but only for it to come back with tenfold force. I can conceive of no infatuation greater than that of a man resorting to drink in order to drown trouble, quell fear, or quiet conscience. As well attempt to extinguish debt by burning the creditor's bills, or to ease pain by plunging the hand into the fire, as to evade trouble, remorse, God, by fleeing to the gin palace or the beershop. In reality this method is only adding fuel to the fires of conscience, poignancy to the stings of remorse, terror to the recurring thought of God and eternity. It is heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. Absalom never intended riding rote the jaws of death, but he got there. Once seized by the iron grip of the drink appetite, and it clutches a man most insidiously but surely; there is little or no chance of release from its fatal consequences.

3. Once more, others in society to-day are making the effort to escape from their convictions of right, duty, God, on the "mule" of absorbing worldliness. They have plunged into business, and are, driving bargains and speculations furiously. They have invested all their capital, their energies, talents, attention, interests, being, with its wealth of possibilities, in pushing trade to a golden success. Principle has to do homage to policy, morality to bow to fraud or the ordinary so-called "tricks of trade" in order to pile up a pyramid of gold and to rank as merchant princes. It is business, nothing but business; bargains, nothing but bargains; the muck-rake of mammon and nothing else, until they become walking icebergs of materialism. But conscience lifts up its thunderous voice and pours forth a whole valley of warnings, threatenings, alarms. Its voice is unpleasant. Its constant speakings are distracting and offensive. To get beyond its condemnatory voice they spur on their "mule" into the denser wood, the more perilous forest of worldliness, oblivious of the Nemesis of retribution which will seize their sordid soul, and swing them into eternal poverty with a Dives and a rich fool.

4. Another, as the representative of a large class, has saddled the "mule" of worldly pleasure. He rides in search of carnal amusement, delight of the senses, spurning religion which holds the true secret of abiding happiness by fixing itself within the man. He hurries hither and thither, seeking job: from without, rootless joy, and all he gets proves false, precarious, brief. Like gathered flowers, though fair and fragrant for awhile, it speedily withers and becomes offensive. Whereas joy from within, rooted in God, is akin to drinking in aroma from the rose on the tree; it becomes more sweet and beautiful; it is enduring; it is immortal. To live in the realm of sense is to die in the realm of sorrow I Believe me, there is no pleasurist of this world without his Eve, no Eve without her serpent, and no serpent without its sting. "The wages of sin is death." "The sting of death is sin." I tell you, you cannot get away from all God's servants. If you escape pinching poverty, blasting pestilence, drivelling insanity, torturing affliction, painful bereavement, there is one servant that will overtake you, "the pale horse and his rider." That horse of untiring strength and unpausing celerity is teeter of foot than your "mule."

(J. O. Keen, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

WEB: David numbered the people who were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

The Service of Love
Top of Page
Top of Page