2 Samuel 15:1-37
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.…
The monument to Absalom in the valley of the Kidron is buried deep in stones, cast against it by the Jews, as through generations they have passed, in token of their execration of this unatural prince — the counterpart, in the Old Testament, of Judas in the New. These stones are the true monument of Absalom. Let us add our tribute to make it a prominent and permanent landmark in religious history. This instructive example is held up before us in great detail. It is a warning, especially to young men. The methods by which it was secured are carefully stated. The instance is particular; but the application is as general as mankind.
I. ABSALOM PERVERTED HIS NATURAL ADVANTAGES. He was a gifted and handsome young man; he came of a well-favoured stock, and he was its flower. He had a fine head of hair; he paid strict attention to it. It became a matter of national interest when Absalom cut his hair. He had a sheep-farm. We do not know the particulars of his clip of wool; but the weight of his annual poll of hair is carefully noted as two hundred shekels, or more than three pounds. The hair of Absalom represents all natural advantages. For personal gifts play an important part in securing success in this world.
II. ABSALOM HAD A PERVERSE ENERGY OF CHARACTER. He had persistency of purpose in a high degree — a masterful trait. He was calculating and deep. He was a tenacious man. Many men of fine powers fail through want of tenacity. The good man in the famous ode of Horace was tenacious of his purpose. So our bad man, Absalom, did not fail here. When Amnon wronged his sister Tamar he concealed his resentment for two years. He bided his time. When he determined to undermine David's throne he showed a like steadfastness of resolution. He rose promptly in the morning. David rose early to pray; Absalom rose early to plot. This course of patient, insidious plotting Absalom continued for months, perhaps for years, until he was known throughout the kingdom as the poor man's friend.
III. ABSALOM PERVERTED THE STUDY OF HUMAN NATURE. He studied the weaknesses of men. This is called by men of his base aims the study of men. The vices and the foibles are noted; the theory being that for one who would play effectively on this fine instrument what is especially necessary is a Wagnerian mastery of discords. The adventurer, the opposition politician, the quack doctor, the fortune-seeker, give themselves to men have succeeded as Absalom succeeded — in politics, in professional life, in Absalom's study of human weakness. Upon this knowledge their success depends.
IV. ABSALOM HAD UNLIMITED AND PERVERTED SELF-ASSURANCE. With all his shrewdness in measuring others, he had no proper sense of his own weaknesses. To scrutinise the weaknesses of others he closed, so to speak, one eye — that one whose outlook was upon his own heart. Exaggerated self-confidence is typical of this class of men. To the ordinary man with his misgiving and fear of himself it is surprising, dazzling. His own modesty prepares him to yield to the most audacious and preposterous claims of another. Perhaps the wonderful physician can work a cure of the incurable. He says he can. And what hair he hast Perhaps the politician can redress the evils of society which have baffled the wisest statesmen. He says he can. He is a remarkable-looking man. Perhaps one can be safely given a place of trust, though it would seem as if he can have had no experience to fit him for its delicate duties. He says he is competent. There is a degree, and, it is an amazing degree oftentimes, to which men will give confidence to bare pretension. Absalom's pretension was most shrewdly calculated.
V. ABSALOM PERVERTED THE CHOICE OF COUNSELLORS. He chose sagacious, but evil advisers; masterly, but unprincipled. Ahithophel was the oddest statesman in the nation. Absalom improved the opportunity. He sent for Ahithophel. The bad old man came to him — a man after his own heart. We must recognise the dangerous wisdom of the councils of this world. This wisdom is necessary to worldly success. If one heeds it, he greatly increases his prospects of accomplishing all worldly aims.
VI. ABSALOM PERVERTED THE USE OF RELIGION. It has been suggested here that when David rose early to pray he and Absalom may have met. It may be that the crafty prince first shared his father's devotions on the way to the gate. He saw the hold which religion had upon David and upon the nation. It would not answer for him to have the reputation of being irreligious; he must guard his religious standing. He made a religious excuse for visiting Hebron. It was a natural one. He had made a vow, he explained, while he was in Geshur in exile for the murder of Amnon. It was a nicely-calculated excuse. David believed in vows. He would look upon the handsome prince with heightened tenderness, touched by his manifest sensibility. Religion, in all times, is one of the readiest and most serviceable of cloaks. It especially serves the purposes of one who would win success in a religious community. Thus Satan comes among us disguised as an angel of light.
VII. ABSALOM STUDIOUSLY SECURED THE SUPPORT OF GOOD MEN, WITH THE SAME STEADY PERSEVERANCE. He valued them. They could help him. He wanted the approval of such men at large in the nation. He despised them. He wanted them only as tools. But he knew the value to his cause of having men of character associated with his followers. The rebellion triumphed without a blow. It war one of the best considered and most brilliant enterprises in history. Absalom seemed to be repaid for all his self-denial, his unsavoury wiles, his clever hypocrisy, his long patience. He had reached his goal. He was king. Many society. You may be tempted to cherish the low aim. But look at Absalom at the goal of his hopes, in the full flush of success! Even then who would take his place? What had he accomplished but the fatal perversion of a life capable of greatest things. Look into his heart, and try to conceive the thoughts which must have been there in the very exaltation of his triumph. Then look again upon that sombre background, the forest of Ephraim, the figure of a man dripping with blood from many wounds, hanging and swaying in the awful twilight in the terebinth tree, suspended by his beautiful hair. Ah! this, then, is a part of what Absalom was planning — that part of which he was all unconscious, but the inevitable end! Learn from this history how the noblest gifts may be perverted, industriously, painfully, fatally, to secure the false success. How are you using your life? your fine natural advantages? How are you treating the privileges of religion? Who are your chosen counsellors? For what aim of life are you fostering deep, tenacious, self-sacrificing purposes? What a man Absalom might have been with a right aim I What a man you may become if you set your heart on the one end worthy of a Son of God — to be a prince of the kingdom of tight; in love and loyalty and honour, to be one of the pillars of His temple.
(Monday, Club Sermons.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.