Thursday, July 22, 2021

2021.07.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 18:1–18

Read 2 Samuel 18:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What did David do to those who were with him (2 Samuel 18:1)? In order to do what? Into how many main divisions did he divide them (2 Samuel 18:2)? Under whom? What then did he say to the people? How do they answer in 2 Samuel 18:3? For what reason do they want him to stay where instead? How does the king respond in 2 Samuel 18:4? What does he do? Whom does the king command in 2 Samuel 18:5? What does he tell them to do? Why? Who hears this instruction? Where do the people go in 2 Samuel 18:6? Against whom? Where does the battle end up? Who were overthrown before whom (2 Samuel 18:7)? With what result? What factors led to this result (2 Samuel 18:8)? Upon whom does 2 Samuel 18:9 now focus? What happened to him in what way? How does this participate in the “result factors” from 2 Samuel 18:8? What does this suggest (cf. 2 Samuel 17:14)? What did a man do in 2 Samuel 18:10? Whom did he tell what? How did Joab respond in 2 Samuel 18:11? What did he say he would have given him for what? What did the man say wouldn’t have been enough (2 Samuel 18:12)? Why? What does the man say he would have done to whom if he’d killed Absalom (2 Samuel 18:13)? Whom does he suggest would have done him in? How does Joab interrupt in 2 Samuel 18:14? What did he go do to whom where? Who else went (2 Samuel 18:15)? Whose special forces were they? What did they do? Then what did Joab do (2 Samuel 18:16)? And what did they do with Absalom (2 Samuel 18:17)? And what did Absalom’s forces do? By what means was Absalom memorialized, since his body was under a heap of stones in the woods (2 Samuel 18:18)?

The main features of this passage seem to be David’s concern, Joab’s conniving, and God’s control.

First, there is David’s concern. He begins by playing the part of a king. He numbers the people (2 Samuel 18:1a). He organizes the military in its various ranks (verse 1b) and into three main divisions (2 Samuel 18:2a). He initially goes out to lead it himself (verse 2b)—something which, if he had done it in chapter 11, could have averted all of this.

But it is when the people convince him that it’s in the best interest of the cause that he stay behind (2 Samuel 18:3-4) that we then learn what his great concern is: that Absalom come through this ok. Since he’s not going to be out in the field leading the operations directly, he now gives the three generals the over-arching order of the day in 2 Samuel 18:5. This is at cross purposes with what we know (2 Samuel 17:14) to be God’s intention in all of this. 

So, David’s concern is at odds with God’s concern. That’s not promising. We ought to have our concerns directed by the Word of God. Yes, Absalom was a son. But he was also a murderer and now a usurper who had raised himself up against the Lord’s anointed. When a child grew up to be uncorrectable, his parents were to be the first to give testimony at his stoning (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18–21). God’s Word was clear about what David’s concern should have been. 

Then, we see Joab’s conniving. He and all David’s servants know the orders (2 Samuel 18:52 Samuel 18:12). But Joab has his own orders to give (2 Samuel 18:11), his own mission objective to complete (2 Samuel 18:14), and his own servants (2 Samuel 18:15). When David comes unraveled as the history turns over into chapter 19, Joab has the necessary sway to avert disaster. 

It’s helpful to see all the plotting that Absalom had done, and all the plotting that Joab is doing, because we live in an age where there are people plotting on every side in every situation. Indeed, Psalm 2 implies that this is the story of every age. But as we see in this passage, man’s plotting doesn’t undo God’s sovereign control in the least bit. He overcomes opposition (Absalom), employs imperfect servants (Joab, David), and even works directly through creation.

Which brings us to God’s control. While 2 Samuel 17:14 has prepared us to see the entire history from this viewpoint, it’s especially underscored by 2 Samuel 18:8-9. “The woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.” That means that at least 10,000 Israelites (cf. 2 Samuel 18:7) met their end through humanly unassisted means in the woods! By what mechanisms can this occur? 2 Samuel 18:9 gives us an example: a mule, a terebinth tree, and two hundred shekels’ weight of hair (cf. 2 Samuel 14:26) conspire to hang the usurper-king helplessly in the air. This leaves him vulnerable to three spears to the heart (2 Samuel 18:14) and ten men outfitted with the premium armor (2 Samuel 18:15).

By using the mule, the tree, and the hair, God makes His point at the end of Joab’s spear(s): whatever concerns men like David may have, and whatever conniving into which men like Joab may enter, it is ultimately God Who is in control.

Absalom missed this. He missed it when he thought he could overcome the Lord’s anointing by taking over the kingdom. He missed it when he set up a monument to overcome his God-appointed childlessness (2 Samuel 18:18). He wouldn’t be buried by that pillar, but under a very large heap of stones in the very woods that killed him (2 Samuel 18:17). Don’t you miss it too. God’s supreme control should squash our pride and extinguish our anxiety. His concerns will be the ones ultimately addressed, and His conniving will have the ultimate success!

What is something about which you are deeply concerned? How does God’s Word direct (or perhaps, need to correct) that concern? What long-term plans or preparations are you making, and how are you submitting to Christ in both what you pursue and whether He brings it to fruition? What is God’s ultimate plan for the world, for the wicked, and for believers? 

Suggested Songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

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