#1: I knew father’s day was coming, so on a whim I asked a woman I’ve known for five years if her father was still living. It dawned on me I’ve never heard her speak of her family. No, she said, he died about 6 years ago” and she went into detail about what he died from. She could have put a period on her story and gone on with her day, because she answered my question, but then she continued, my thumbnail version of what she said: “He was a monster and did unspeakable things to me… I feel bad for being glad when he died, I thought it would all be over, but it’s not… I am still haunted…I don’t know what to do…”
Let’s pray for this woman, and countless other sons and daughters, men and women, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, who are in desperate need of a new life, a resurrection of life so that everything is made new!
Story #2: I was honored this week by being let into the home of a man I’ve been getting to know over the past few months. His home is a holy place, a place of peace, a place where he finds rest and comfort, security… I could not help but notice his walls covered with photographs, so I asked for a tour of his life, the people most important to him, with great love and tenderness, he introduced me to each person, the relationship, and too often, with too many of the portraits, the story of brokenness. But that was not the end of the story, all the stories ended with a testimony of thanksgiving for each of these people, and hope. Through all the brokenness, this man emerged as a thankful man who had found peace. With a tear in his eye, he is a man of strength. Out of the ashes of brokenness, God resurrects new life! I saw it…
The story of David and Absalom, father and son, in the Bible, is the story of a grieving father who has no good answers; out of the suffering/brokenness, David’s heart is molded; David emerges as a man of depth. Suffering is the response to loss: health, relationships, life changes, death, profound disappointment. When people are broken, some lose their faith, questioning the character of God forever. For many people the opposite happens: through faith, a deeper understanding emerges, a depth of character, an appreciation for God himself. This is David.
The Scripture 2 Samuel 13-18, too long to read, just few highlights. (Message from May 2009…yesterday found out for sure Jack simply could not make it today)… David and Absalom – What does Absalom mean? Ab(ba) Shalom [“father is peace]. Absalom is David’s third son. #2 appears to have died young. Absalom killed his older half-brother Amnon, because in one of those scriptures which preachers tend to avoid and is skipped altogether in children’s Sunday School, Amnon violated Absalom’s full sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13). David’s response is conflicted: READ 2 Sam. 13:37-38. Brokenness… conflicted… extreme situation perhaps, but not really… the conflicted emotions….
After three years, David agrees to bring back his son Absalom. Listen to this description of Absalom and what happens: READ 14:25-28. Absalom was handsome, charismatic, attracted people.
In Chapter 15, Absalom plots a conspiracy against his father, “Father is peace” is anything but peace to his father. Absalom is power hungry, he is next in line to be king as the oldest living son. He gathers loyal Israelites around himself to enlarge his support base, including a few men in David’s inner circle. David runs from his son: READ 15:13-14. As David flees, Shimei, from the clan of Saul, starts swearing at David. One of David’s loyal men wants to stop the man, but David refuses. READ 16:11-13.
David is conflicted: like the woman who told me about her own father… I thought it would be over when he died, but I am conflicted…Many of you are conflicted/stuck… divided loyalties… David’s son is seeking to overthrow him as king, yet this is his beloved son…In a few moments will get to the important role Shemei plays in David’s resurrection. the conflict between Absalom and David escalates to a battle of those loyal to David and those loyal to Absalom (chapters 16-18). Even as the battle is about to begin, David gives this order to his men: READ 2 Sam. 18:5. Davids men are victorious. As for Absalom, the Bible tells the story this way: READ 2 Sam. 18:9. Joab, David’s impulsive general and nephew, takes it upon himself to kill Absalom. All that is left is to tell King David the double news: David is King, Absalom is dead. What do you think is most important to David? What do you think he cares most about?
Two runners are sent to take the news. Joab knows the king, he tried to dissuade the first runner who volunteered. READ 2 Sam. 18:20. Joab dispatches a runner, then reluctantly lets the other runner go, who outruns the Cushite who had already left. The first runner to arrive does not dare tell the full story, he only wants to tell David that his army is victorious, so the full news is left to the Cushite upon his arrival: READ 2 Sam. 18:31-33.
David is broken. Out of the Ashes, God resurrects new life.
Twenty some years ago when I first started in the pastoral ministry, Sally and I spent time in Seattle, Pasadena, and San Francisco. As it so happened, those were all cities/churches that my grandfather lived and served as the pastor of the church. It’s been close to 35 years since he died, so fewer and fewer people remember my grandfather, Dr. Alvin Lobb, but in those days many folks remembered him, and they told me stories. Wherever I went they talked about an incredible man of faith, his faithfulness, his compassion, but what they most admired: his love and devotion to my grandmother. I never knew her, I was 2-3 when she died. For decades she was a sickly woman, often in bed, perhaps today she would be diagnosed with severe depression, but in those days the only remedy was to love her and care for her. Grandpa would not describe what he did as suffering, but his life was shaped by his wife, and what people saw in him was a tower of strength, a man of incredible faith. The illness in my grandmother was not good, but the Lord used the illness to shape a man of incredible faith. Out of the ashes…
David is broken: What emerged?
Humility. That’s what Shimei, taunting him, cursing him did for David. After his affair with Bathsheba and murder of Urriah, Shimei brings him back to reality…humility is a good thing because we need the realism of who we are. I heard a well known speaker talk once about the pride that would well up within him when he’d fly off to a faraway place and speak to groups of thousands, then he’d come home and be asked to do the dishes. Humility is a good thing to keep our pride in check. Shimei begins the shaping process for God to begin to resurrect a new David, a man of faith once again. As Shimei cursed at him, murderer, David certainly heard a ring of truth in the words. Humility keeps pride in check.
Through brokenness David was driven to prayer. READ 2 Sam. 15:31. As Absalom manipulated the people to attack his father, one of the great disappointments to David was for a trusted advisor, Ahithophel, to switch allegiance. David had a great admiration for the counsel of Ahithophel. In a later verse the praises of Ahithophel are sung: READ 2 Sam. 16:23. This man, in a crushing blow, aligns himself with Absalom. David’s normal fighting instincts are taken away, because this involves his son, so instead he turns the mater entirely over to God.
David has grown. In the earlier infamous story of David and Bathsheba, David sinned, if you go back and read the story, David’s response is NOT prayer, it’s manipulation, trying to orchestrate his way out of the mess, justify himself… David only made a worse mess when he came up with his own plans to cover his sin by summoning Bathsheba’s husband home and then ultimately giving the orders for Uriah to be killed. Now, as a sign of maturity of faith, David is driven to prayer: David prayed for the Lord to control the situation. It’s as if David is saying, “Lord, not my will, not the way I would do it, but you do it, your will be done.” Prayer is an awesome response to brokenness….
Through brokenness, David gained compassion. “Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man Absalom.” That’s compassion. How do you love your enemy? David’s compassion for his enemy, his son, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom. If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son.” Through suffering, David rediscovered his extraordinary capacity to love.
Those who face suffering, death, illness, life changes, often emerge as more compassionate people with the ability to understand what others are going through. A bit quicker to forgive. To come alongside those who are hurting. Suffering does that: the ability to see through the eyes of others.
Add the three together: Humility + Prayer + Compassion = perspective. Through suffering, David gained perspective. David sees what is most important, not power and control, not his kingship. Even Joab instinctively knew the news of Absalom’s death would overshadow the news of victory. Brokenness puts into perspective what is most important. Standing before the wall of photographs this week I heard a man lovingly tell me what was most important in his life…
Brokenness spotlights the importance of family…faith…love…respect… How many times have you heard people in the hospital find great strength in realizing how important their husband is, wife, children, friends, God. Let brokenness bring out an appreciation for that which is most important. Out of the ashes of brokenness, God resurrects new life.