2 Samuel 15-18 gives the account of Absalom’s rebellion against David. David reigned as king over Israel, and when we look at history, he was Israel’s most important king. But his own son Absalom rebelled against him. Absalom didn’t want David to be his king; Absalom wanted to be king himself. So he turned many of the people against David and started an open rebellion. When Absalom’s followers and those loyal to David finally met in battle, David’s soldiers won a convincing victory. 2 Samuel 18:6-8 says, “So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim; Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men. For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.” Twenty thousand of Absalom’s men were killed in the battle. 2 Samuel 18:9 says, “And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.” Absalom quickly fled the battle, but his mule rode under an oak tree, and Absalom’s head caught in the branches. The mule rode away, and Absalom was left hanging there. His rebellion had failed miserably. He had tried to make himself king in place of David, but he failed. David was still king. Absalom’s army was defeated and scattered. Now he himself is caught in a tree, and he cannot escape. He tried to rebel, but he failed, and he is without strength. He has no strength to defeat his enemy, and he has no strength to run away. He is at the mercy of the one against whom he rebelled.
But David had ordered his men to show mercy to Absalom. David still wanted to treat him well. But one of his men, Joab, did not listen to David’s command, and Joab killed Absalom while he hung in the tree.
In a sense, Absalom gives us a good picture of our spiritual condition before God. When we sin, we are trying to rebel against God and make ourselves to be a god. That is what Satan tempted Eve with (Genesis 3:5), and when we sin, we are essentially saying that we want to go our own way instead of God’s way. We don’t want to follow and submit to what God said; we want to be in control of our own lives. But that rebellion fails miserably. God is still God, and we are not more powerful than Him. In our sinful state, we are very much like Absalom hanging in a tree. We deserved God’s punishment, and God would be fully just to punish us.
But at that moment, what does God do? When God could punish us, does He?
Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” We had tried to rebel against God. We had tried to go our own way. But we were left without strength. We had no strength to try to fight against our Enemy (the Bible says that we are separated from God and enemies of God because of our sin-Isaiah 59:2; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:1-3), and we had no strength to escape His righteous wrath and punishment. But at that time, instead of crushing us, God moved for reconciliation. God proved His love for us by sending Christ to die for us. Instead of moving to destroy us, God moved to reconcile us to Himself. Even though we had offended God and moved away from Him, God moved to draw us back to Himself. That is the message of the Gospel, and that is a message that we as Christians should never forget. We were helpless to bring our salvation; we could do nothing that would cause God to forgive us for our sin. We were completely dependent on His grace and mercy, but that is exactly what He chose to show us. The right response to that message is to accept Him as Savior, and for someone who has never done that, today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). We should never put off until tomorrow what God has called us to do today. We do need to accept Christ as Savior and trust Him alone to save us from our sin.
But once we do, we also must never forget where we came from. Sometimes it can be easy for us as Christians to forget how desperately we needed God’s mercy in the first place, especially if we have been a Christian for a long time. But this was our position before Christ, and seeing what God did for us should humble us, and it should radically affect the way that we live our lives and interact with others today. As we interact with others, we should never forget that we once were without strength before God because of our sin.