Absalom was one of King David’s sons. With the renown of his father, it seems that his sons would share David’s contriteness before God. However, as we look into the life of Absalom, we will see a very spirited yet self-focused man.
The account of Absalom is found in 2 Samuel chapters 13-18. It opens with the story of his sister, Tamar, and his half-brother, Amnon. Amnon is in love with Tamar, and eventually deceives her and rapes her. Then he despises her and casts her out of his house. Absalom is filled with anger against Amnon, but gently takes his sister into his own house and cares for her. However, he also carefully connives a plan to murder Amnon for what he did to Tamar. His plan is a success and Amnon is killed.
After this, Absalom runs away and stays in hiding for three years. Eventually he is allowed to come back to Jerusalem, but he is not allowed to see his father, King David. This upsets Absalom and he begins to turn against his father. Through a series of events that seem to be well-planned, Absalom wins over the hearts of the people of Israel. He sets himself up as a strong leader, able to offer justice, and ready to serve the people. At this point, he tells all his supporters to call him their king.
Absalom, wielding the power of an incredible army, raises support to turn against his father. He gathers advisers who support his rebellion. They encourage him to send out the armies after David and his men. David escapes through the wilderness. But a great battle ensues as David’s men fight Absalom and his corrupt cohorts.
During this battle, Absalom is riding through the forest and comes upon some of David’s men. He tries to flee, but gets his long hair caught in a tree branch. Helpless, he hangs there, awaiting his fate. David’s men eventually encircle him and kill him.
So, what do we know about Absalom from this story? We can see that he was a caring man. He loved his sister Tamar. He was a just man. He wanted to see Amnon brought to justice for abusing Tamar. He was good with people and shrewd in business. He convinced an entire nation to follow him instead of the true king. Above all, he was a very passionate man. He put himself fully into whatever he set out to accomplish.
Sometimes Christians today can fall into the same trap that caused Absalom’s demise. On the surface, Absalom looks like a pretty good guy. He seems to have things together. His motives appear justified. But his spirit was set on selfishness instead of the things of God. His passions were used to fulfill his own desire rather than to follow the will of God.
Many Christians today can become very passionate about one thing or another. Unfortunately, we can be misguided by our own passions. They might seem just and good at the beginning, but we must be careful that they are not motivated by selfishness. Just because we are passionate about something does not mean that we are following God’s will. We can allow our passions to sidetrack God’s will if selfishness gets in the way.
As right as it was for Absalom to seek justice for Amnon’s crime, his methods were not righteous. As caring as he was for his sister, his actions toward his half-brother were not justifiable. This spirit of self-righteousness is probably what eventually motivated him to start a rebellion against his father’s throne. He apparently was convinced that he would make a better king than his father. His heart was focused on himself. He even had advisers who fed this narcissism.
We know that only God can see someone’s heart. God reminded the prophet Samuel of this very point when Samuel first met Absalom’s father. 1 Samuel 16:7b reads, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The people of Israel were looking at the outward appearance of Absalom; he was a strong leader who offered justice. But God knew what was motivating Absalom.
Jesus explained to his disciples that anyone’s motivations will eventually come out in their actions. He said in Matthew 7:20, “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (NLT). We certainly see this in Absalom’s life. What looked like good motivations ended with his untimely death.
What is in our hearts will eventually come out. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Jesus gives us a warning in Matthew 12:35. He says, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” In the verse right before that, Jesus tells us that whatever is in our heart will come out in the words we choose.
What is in your heart? Are your passions hijacked by selfishness? Do you have advisers around you that promote the things of God or personal agendas? Just like Absalom, we can think that our spirited actions are justifiable. We can think that our passions are right and true. Consider this advice from 1 John4:1: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
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