June 11th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
2 Samuel 14-18
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 14-18
6-11-61 7:30 p.m.
Now one of the young people said to me today, when looking at the title of the sermon tonight Handsome Absalom, that young person said to me, “Listen, we have killed Absalom three times already in these Sunday evening sermons. And you are going to preach on him again?” Well, we have slain him heretofore incidentally; now, we are going to murder him on purpose. One time, Joab, last Sunday night, in the judgment of God upon David; this time we are going to look at the young man for himself. And there is not a more profitable character to study in the Bible than Absalom. It will bring a message to the heart of young people in their visions and dreams like nothing else will, if you will open your heart to look at the message brought to us by God in this handsome, beautiful, athletic, personable, amenable, gifted young man Absalom.
Now turn to 2 Samuel, and we are going to read a passage out of the story. Second Samuel chapter 15, 2 Samuel chapter 15, we shall read from verse 23 through verse 30, 2 Samuel, in the heart of your Old Testament, 2 Samuel chapter 15, verse 23 to verse 30.
Now those proper names in there: Zadok, and Ahimaaz, Jonathan, and Abiathar, now when you get to those names, you pronounce them just like that, and say it out. Don’t mumble when you get down to Ahimaaz, Zadok, and Abiathar; and you say them out. All right, 2 Samuel 15:23-30:
And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the Brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.
And lo, Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.
And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again, and show me both it, and His habitation.
But if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him.
The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer? Return unto the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.
See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.
Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
And David went up by the Ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.
[2 Samuel 15:23-30]
You could not find in literature a more dramatic and pathetic scene than that. David, the king with his head bare and his feet bare, weeping as he climbs the steep Ascent of Olivet, and behind him and around him, surrounded by his mighty men, every one of them bare, every one of them with tears falling from his face, weeping as they climbed the Ascent of Olivet and faced toward the east and the wilderness, leaving their lives, their destiny in the hands of God. Where did such a thing come from that this man, this king of whom God said, “I have chosen Me a man after Mine own heart, and his throne will I establish forever” [Acts 13:22]. This man David, an exile; hated and hounded and fleeing for his life, a refugee from one of his own sons; how could a thing like that ever have come to pass?
It came to pass, it came to pass because of one of the most beautiful and gifted and able young men who was ever born; I describe him to you, in the words of God:
But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot, even to the crown of his head there was not a blemish in him.
And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it, he cut off his hair, because his hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.
[2 Samuel 14:25-26]
Nobody knows how much that was, but it was an extraordinary weight. He was beautiful, long, luxurious, curly hair, with stature and countenance, beautiful eyes, beautiful face, and beautiful form; and he was athletic with it. No sissy, this Absalom. Look again, “And it came to pass . . . that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him” [2 Samuel 15:1]. When Absalom appeared, you never saw anything as dramatic, as athletic. He was a sportsman and a showman from the beginning of the word. And when he came into town, or when he left town, or when he went down the road, the whole populace poured out to see that unusually handsome and good-looking and athletic young man, Absalom. And he was as shrewd and astute as he was good-looking and athletic:
And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king David for judgment, that Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is such and such of the tribes of Israel.
And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right: but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee—
never said anything about David himself, but lamented over David’s administration—
And Absalom said moreover, Oh that I, oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which had any suit or cause might come unto me, and I will do him justice!
And it was so, that when a man came nigh to do him obeisance, being the king’s eldest son, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
[2 Samuel 15:2-5]
This man Absalom; and can you imagine the electric effect that it had upon all Israel? The king’s son, the heir apparent to the throne, the Prince of Wales, the king’s designate, and Absalom takes him and salutes him and kisses him. Why, the man turns aside, “Man, I am a king myself!” Absalom made him feel that way, “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” [2 Samuel 15:6].
They all went back home, and they all went back down the road, and they all went wherever they came from, and they all said, “This man David’s a great man all right. And this man David is a great soldier all right. And this man David is great king all right, but say, that man Absalom, that good-looking, handsome, athletic, that man Absalom, nobody like him!” And he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. That’s why, that’s why, that’s why that he could do the damage that he did, because he was good-looking, because he was able and gifted!
That’s what does it in every area of life. I can take any boy in this world, any boy in the world, I can walk down the street and in the gutter is an old drunk in his stinking vomit. There he lies in the gutter. There’s not a boy in the world that would want to drink. I don’t need to fear the example of a sot, of a drunkard, there in the filth of the gutter, lying unconscious. The boy says he stinks, the boy says he’s filthy, the boy says that’s the lowest thing a boy could think of, and he turns away. He doesn’t drink because of the sot or the drunkard.
But you take the young men in our church and in everybody’s church, and you take the fine, aspiring young businessmen out there in that world of the skyscraper and the mercantile establishment and the big enterprise in the city of Dallas; you take the young man, and his boss calls him in, and his boss heads the corporation, and his boss is a genius at making money, and his boss is a multimillionaire! The boss calls him in, and by the side of the boss sits a big executive, and over here sits a big merchandiser, and over here sits a big other kind of a man, and the boss has the drinks brought in. And the big man, the ten-talent man, he drinks, and the big executive drinks, and the big merchandiser drinks, and the young fellow says, “Well, well, look at them, the finest in the city, if they drink, I drink, too.” And he empties his glass in the presence of the big executive.
You don’t need to fear the sot. You don’t need to fear the drunkard. No boy is going to follow him. But every boy is impressed; every young man is swept off his feet by the big ten-talent magnate and tycoon! And pretty soon, the boy is an alcoholic because of the example of the big guy, the ten-talent man. All life is that way. It’s all that way.
This man Absalom was as cruel as he was good-looking, as ruthless and as merciless as he was handsome. I just turn the page over here and though it is an awful and foul and terrible thing that happened: Amnon, the eldest son of David, violated Tamar, the sister of Absalom [2 Samuel 13:1-19]. Now, a man may do something in a rage and in a passion. I heard the head of the penitentiary here in the state of Texas say that the model prisoners down there were murderers. And he gave us a reason for it. Every man is a potential murderer. What a man will do in a fit of rage and in a fit of passion, he himself doesn’t know! And there is many and many a man that if he were to see certain things happen before his eyes would lose the equilibrium of his life. And though it cost him his own soul, he would throw himself into some kind of a defense. That’s human nature. Every man is a potential murderer.
But this wasn’t a murder of passion, or of rage, or of fury. Two years, two solid years Absalom waited and plotted, and waited and plotted, and at the end of two solid years when the thing had been forgotten and buried, Absalom slew, in cold blood, his eldest brother, Amnon [2 Samuel 13:23-29]. I’m not justifying what Amnon did. I’m just saying that what Absalom did was a thing of cruelty and ruthless mercilessness. That’s Absalom.
And so Absalom plots this thing against his father. “And it came to pass after four years, that Absalom said to the king,” and he covers it over with religious pretexts, “‘I have a vow to make. I have a vow to make. And I have got to discharge it at Hebron. Let me go there and pick out elders of Israel, two hundred, and my young men, and let me go to the sacrifices and pay my vow in Hebron’” [2 Samuel 15:7-11].
So he goes down there to Hebron. David never dreamed for he loved Absalom, who is now the eldest son living. And his heart is inclined to Absalom. He dotes upon Absalom. If David has a weakness, it is a weakness where Absalom is concerned. And down there in Hebron with the leaders, he sounds the trumpet. And they say, “Absalom is king! Long live King Absalom!” [2 Samuel 16:16].
And all those people he befriended, and all people he’d kissed, and all those people he had been nice to, and all those people that he’d helped, and all those people that he promised justice to, there by the thousands, those men gathered around Absalom. And when David heard it, he said to his men, “Let us flee for our lives! Let us flee for our lives!” [2 Samuel 15:14].
So the scene happened that you just now read, and David leaves [2 Samuel 15:16-17]. And by his side are the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and the Gittites, the six hundred men of war who had been with David from the beginning, standing by the side of the king [2 Samuel 15:18]. They passed over Kidron and up Olivet and then said to the king, Ittai the Gittite, who was a stranger in the land, Ittai the Gittite said, “I also go with thee.” And David said, “You are a stranger. You are an exile from Philistia, you don’t risk your life, don’t jeopardize your future with me. Go back to Jerusalem. Go back to Jerusalem.” And Ittai answered the king and said—and this reminds you of Ruth [Ruth 1:16-17]—”As the Lord liveth,” Ittai says, “and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or in life, even there should also thy servant be” [2 Samuel 15:19-21]. And when the war was fought, a third of his army David gave to Ittai [2 Samuel 18:2], and apparently Ittai lost his life in the battle, last time you ever meet him. So they go over and the king flees to the east of the Jordan [2 Samuel 15:23-26].
Then, you have the story, and I will not follow it in detail, it’s too long. Then you have the story of the war. I wish I had time to follow it through, I prepared it tonight, but I don’t think I should, how the king sends back Zadok, and Abiathar, and Ahimaaz and Jonathan, the sons of the two priests, “Tell David what is going on so he will know how to do” [2 Samuel 15:27-29, 35-36]. And Ahithophel, the wisest man, look, “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God” [2 Samuel 16:23], guiding Absalom.
And then David sends back Hushai in order to subvert the counsel of Ahithophel [2 Samuel 15:32-37]. And it was so that Ahithophel gave the wisest counsel to Absalom. “While David is fleeing, give me twelve thousand men, and I will overtake him, and we will destroy him from the earth, and the kingdom will be yours” [2 Samuel 17:1-4]. And had Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, he would have destroyed David, for David was weak and fleeing and disorganized. And the kingdom would have fallen, would have devolved upon Absalom, but Hushai, the counselor who was secretly in sympathy with King David, Hushai said, “Not so, not so, but wait. Wait. Let David go. Don’t worry about him. And gather together as the sand of the sea all of the armies of Israel and Judah. And you lead them in person and go war against the king and overcome him. And the kingdom will be yours in glory and in honor.” And the thing appealed to Absalom. So, that’s the plan that he followed [2 Samuel 17:5-14].
So he made Amasa, Joab’s cousin, he made Amasa captain of the hosts. And David divides his hosts into three parts. One part he gave to Joab. And one part he gave to Abishai, Joab’s brother. And the third part he gave to that Hittite named Ittai. And there on the other side of the Jordan River, somewhere in the hills of Gilead, in a forest called Ephraim, there the battle was joined. And it was fought bitterly. And twenty thousand men were slain that day [2 Samuel 18:2-7].
And the battle was scattered over the face of all the country. And those who were pursuing in the woods, slaying each other, killed more in battle than those that were destroyed as the battle was joined face-to-face. And Absalom’s hosts were scattered and decimated. And Absalom himself was fleeing away. And as he was fleeing in the darkness of the woods, his head got caught in the bows of an oak tree. And his hair helped entangle him in the branches [2 Samuel 18:9]. And early in the morning a young man saw him hanging there, caught by his head in the tree.
And he went to tell Joab, and Joab said, “Why didn’t you slay him?” [2 Samuel 18:10-11]. And the servant said, “Because King David said touch not the young man Absalom” [2 Samuel 18:5, 12]. And Joab brushed him aside and with the young men who carried his armor, walked to the place where Absalom was caught hanging from the oak tree. And Absalom took—you have it translated “darts” here; they were just branches, rods—and Joab took those rods and he thrust through the body of Absalom, one time, two times, three times [2 Samuel 18:14].
And then the ten young men who bore his armor, they said, “Cut him down.” And they hewed Absalom to pieces, put him in a pit and poured stones upon him in a mark of derision, and horror, and hatred, and disgust, and ignominy, and shame [2 Samuel 18:15-17]. And then, word has to be sent to David because David’s word was, “You are not to bother the young man Absalom” [2 Samuel 18:5] Isn’t that unusual? You see, Absalom was seeking the life of David, and David is fighting with his men against the conspiracy and the rebellion, “but do not touch this young man Absalom” [2 Samuel 18:12]. So, Ahimaaz wants to carry news, and Joab says, “No, you could not tell him.”
“Oh, but let me run!” And he calls the Cushite, Joab calls the Cushite and says, “You run and tell David.” And after the Cushite left, Ahimaaz says, “Let me run, too.” So Ahimaaz runs and he outruns the Cushite, going by a more direct route [2 Samuel 18:19-23]. And when Ahimaaz comes to David, David says, “And how is the young man Absalom?” [2 Samuel 18:29]. And Ahimaaz won’t tell him, “I do not know” [2 Samuel 18:29], he says, “I saw a tumult, but what it was I do not know.” And while he was standing there, the Cushite comes, and the king says, “But, how is the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite says, “May all of the king’s enemies be as that young man is!” [2 Samuel 18:30-32], dead and buried under a heap of stones.
And the paternal heart of the father, overcomes the kingly spirit by which he reigns and governs. And the king was much moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept, and as he wept, thus, he said, and this is the cry of many a father since, weeping over a prodigal and wayward boy, “O, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee! O Absalom, my son, my son!” [2 Samuel 18:33]. All because he was good-looking, all because he was handsome, all because he was athletic, all because he had a flair for the showman, all because he had a genius in making friends, all because he was amenable, all because he was personable; and he stole the hearts of the people, but underneath he was cruel, and wrong, and selfish; had no other goal in his life but to win a kingdom for himself.
I wish now I had an hour to expatiate, what is the blessing of life; what is it in a marriage? What is it in a home? What is it in a man? What is it in a woman? What is the great incomparable blessing of life? “Oh, to be good-looking! Oh, to be handsome! Oh, to be beautiful! Oh, to be able to shine, to sing, to do, to excel!” Ah, in themselves they are curses, but sometimes drag our souls and drags those who love them down to the depths of sorrow and despair.
What is the great virtue of life? Not on the outside, nor is it one on the inside of selfishness and grasping eagerness just for us. The great pristine virtue of all the benefits and blessings and boons that God could bestow upon us is this: that our hearts are right; godliness, to love Jesus, faithful, devotion, loyalty. These are the things that will bless a home, that will bless a life, that will bless a boy, that will bless a girl, that will bless a young man in his business, that will bless a girl in her prayers and in the devotion of her life. All of the rest is as dust and ashes.
But if on the inside of us our hearts are right, we have Jesus, we have God, then with that you can build a kingdom. You can raise an empire. You can erect a house. You can build a home. You can live a life. And in the world that is to come, you can look with anticipation to the glorious favor of God upon us. How mistaken are we in the things we covet in life! Oh, that I were rich! Oh, that I were handsome! Oh, that I could excel in athletics! Oh, that I had these things! And most of the time these things damn us and curse us and destroy us.
Whereas the great hope of our souls, and the prayers of our life ought to be, “Oh! that my heart can be filled with the goodness of God, that I might have Jesus on the inside of me, that my life might be His, and that all of the issues of my day might flow toward His blessed loving grace and mercy!” That’s it, and if you’ve got Jesus, you have got everything. If you don’t have the Lord, no matter what you have, you are poor and someday shall face the most tragic despair that life could pay for or imagine.
“Choose you this day!” [Joshua 24:15]. I choose Jesus. That was a big placard at the front of the tabernacle out there at the camp. “I choose Jesus.”
And the man who made that great, large placard put on the one side a boy with his hand raised up to a likeness of Jesus. And by the side of the boy there is a girl with her hand raised up to that form and figure of Jesus. And there stands the boy. And there stands the girl. And their hands are raised up to the form and figure of our Lord and the caption above, “I choose Jesus.”
That’s it. Then whether we are rich or not, whether we are good-looking or not, whether we are handsome or not, whether we succeed at all or not, these things are nothing, but having God, we have the world and all that’s in it and heaven beside, ”I choose Jesus.” And that is the appeal we make to your heart tonight. While we sing this song of invitation, giving your life, and your soul, and your heart to the Lord Jesus, would you come? Would you come?
To the farthest seat in that upmost balcony, there’s time to come. Down one of these stairways and here to the pastor, on this lower floor, somebody you, “Here I am, and here I come. I give my life in devotion and in trust to God. I’d rather have Him than to have the world. I’d rather have Jesus than houses and land. I choose Jesus.” Would you make it tonight? Or somebody you that ought to come, putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church, while we make this appeal and while we stand and sing this song, would you make it now? “Here I come, and here I am.”
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 14-18
I. Absalom talented, most handsome, most influential, most loved in the kingdom
1. Absalom influenced people with his looks, charm, shrewdness
2. Young people are always influenced into sin by successful men
1. Absalom was as cruel as he was handsome
2. Model prisoners in penitentiary are murderers, who murder in a fit of instant rage
3. Absalom waited two years to murder his half brother, plotting patiently
IV. Israel allows Absalom to take kingdom from David
V. Absalom tries to murder David
VI. David’s general Joab kills Absalom, David mourns for his son
VII. Choose Jesus over vanity