“Absalom said…’See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.’ Absalom said moreover, ‘Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!’ And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”
II Samuel 15: 3-6
King James Version
“Living The ‘Good Life’”
Part IV “A Life of Loyalty”
“A man who will steal for me, will steal from me.”
What does it mean to me to be called “loyal”?
Has anyone ever been disloyal to me in my life?
How did their behavior make me feel and what were the consequences which resulted from their disloyalty?
“If this man (or woman) is not faithful to his (her) God, how can he (she) be faithful to me, a mere man (or woman)?”
“Loyal? As loyal as anyone who plays second fiddle ever is.”
It almost seems as though the famed author, Willa Cather, penned the words above after reading our text today which is found in II Samuel 15: 3-6.
As we continue to look at the defining qualities that are contained in the “good life,” a life that our heavenly Father intends for each of us to have, we see quite clearly that a life which possesses the trait of loyalty, both in our own behavior as well as in the actions of those who surround us, is part of the “good life” God wants us to have.
Unfortunately, for David, disloyal behavior, which nearly ended his reign as king as well as nearly took his life, took root within the palace walls. David’s own example of betrayal when he took to backstabbing a loyal soldier like Uriah, was witnessed by not only those closest to him, including his family, but by his army, too. These were men whose allegiance was pledged to king and country. And yet, they had to stand by and watch as one of their own was felled by a vicious plot, concocted by King David, himself.
Witnessing this treachery, one can only wonder what affect the knowledge of such chicanery had on David’s children. I don’t believe I’m far off the mark when I say that David’s children suffered as a result of their own father’s backstabbing and disloyalty. In fact, their watchful eyes may have taken in a little too much, for in the case of Absalom, he learned very well how to double deal and his disloyalty is evident in
II Samuel 15: 6 where we are told that through flattery, smooth-talking, insinuation, and a little “apple-polishing,” Absalom “stole” the hearts of the people of Israel.
From what the Bible shares with us about Absalom as a person, we know he was a fine looking young man. Handsome. Tall. Strong. A feast for the eyes. But don’t be deceived, good looks alone weren’t the only thing Absalom brought to the table. He was a charmer. And wow, did he charm the people of Israel. In II Samuel 15, we read that Absalom rode around in “a horse-drawn chariot, with fifty men running in front of him. Early each morning, he would take up his post beside the road at the city gate” (II Samuel 15: 1,2). From this vantage point, when the people began to show up with cases they wanted the king to decide, Absalom would beckon them to his side and then he began his intensive pursuit of sowing seeds of discord and uncertainty and distrust. Absalom would say to the people as II Samuel 15: 3, 4 notes, “Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.” Then (Absalom) added, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.”
Now let’s add to this the fact that Absalom was able to act like and fit in with the “regular folk.” Imagine how easy it would have been for Absalom to say to the people, “I understand your plight. The king is too busy and too high and mighty to take time for you. But let me tell you, I know exactly how you feel. When I ask him to take time for me, even to attend sheep shearing, he’s too busy. What can I say? I’m just like you – one of the commoners and I’m his son. So don’t feel bad. Your pain is my pain, too!”
What we see is that this backstabbing and disloyalty led to a theft -- a “stealing” of the people’s hearts or as the Hebrew states, Absalom “secretly, indeed by stealth, and deceitfully” pried the loyalty of the people away from David and soon the people of Israel turned their backs on David and began to fall for Absalom.
What a tragic state of affairs. Just as David began to recover from the loss of the lives of two of his sons, a baby boy and Amnon, in a failed family coup for the throne of Israel, Absalom lost his life, too.
President Abraham Lincoln, writing about loyalty and our lives penned these simple but profound words: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him (or her) while he (or she) is right, and part with him (or her) when he (she) goes wrong.”
David deserved no blind allegiance when he committed the hideous crime against Uriah, but having repented, and with God’s help, as he tried to live a God-like life, he did not deserve to have a knife plunged into his back by his own son, Absalom.
As I was doing research for this devotional and reading comments submitted by people, anonymously, relating directly to times in their own lives when a backstabber took action against them or a once-trusted family member or friend was found to be disloyal, I thought these two comments were especially instructive:
1.) “If you have your doubts about whether you can actually trust a person…chances are you can’t.”
2.) “All the mistakes I made in the world, couldn’t measure up to the day I thought I could trust you.”
What struck me about these two statements is how closely they parallel the advice expressed by one of David’s other sons, Solomon, who was likely an eye-witness to the betrayal that had such a destructive aftermath in his family:
1.) “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him (her) that flattereth with his (her) lips.” Proverbs 20: 19, K.J.V.
2.) “A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet. In the transgression of an evil man (or woman) there is a snare.” Proverbs 29: 5,6 K.J.V.
After watching the mayhem caused by living with betrayal and disloyalty, I find this wonderful passage in Proverbs 3: 1-7 written by Solomon, is a guiding light which points us in our Father’s direction as we walk the heavenly path that leads to the ultimate “good life:”
“My son (daughter), forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck: write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.”
Proverbs 3: 1-7
“Grant me, O Lord, to know what is worth knowing,
to love what is worth loving,
to praise what delights you most,
to value what is precious to you,
and to reject whatever is evil in your eyes.
Give me true discernment,
so that I may judge rightly between things that differ.
Above all, may I search out and do
what is pleasing to you;
through Jesus Christ my Lord.”
Thomas á Kempis
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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