For so long David has been a shooting star. His ascendency to power and his faithfulness in the process is an example to follow. He truly was a man after God’s own heart. As such, God blessed David with a covenant of an eternal throne (2 Sam 7). However, as we recently read, David’s ascent has stalled, and his story is plummeting.
We enter chapter 14 with one son dead, and another son living among foreigners to avoid the consequences of murder. Where David fled Saul in righteousness, Absolom fled in sin.
In chapter 14, David’s man Joab hatches a plot to grant a pardon to Absalom. Like Nathan, Joab brought the woman from Tekoa to tell a story for which David would render judgment, and unknowingly, challenge his own circumstances. Joab’s ploy worked and Absalom could return to Jerusalem.
Absalom was acquitted legally, but not relationally. For two years, Absalom lived in Jerusalem, but did not see the king. Like a spoiled child, Absalom set fire to Joab’s field to get his attention. After arson got Joab’s attention, Absalom said that it would have been better for him to stay where he was than to be in Jerusalem without a relationship with his father. The king summoned Absalom and the relationship restored.
This story illustrates a major difficulty in Scripture. How can a person or God be both just and merciful? Many of us are going to swing more one way than the other. Parenting repeatedly illustrates this difficulty. David was both father and king of the murderer.
This difficulty of justice and mercy is a theme of scripture. However, it was addressed clearly in Romans 3. Paul makes the connection that God must be just as He justifies people, and this was done by the severe sacrifice of Christ. God’s justice was satisfied because His wrath was poured out on Jesus (Romans 3:25). Amazingly, in this passage, Paul also shared how this sacrifice might be effective for us—to be received by faith. Sin does not go unpunished—God is just. Because of Christ, we get to experience mercy instead of the consequences of our guilt.
Ultimately, David offered mercy without justice, which doesn’t usually work out well for the forgiven. For us, we receive mercy through faith, for which justice has been satisfied. Likewise, we understand that true faith includes repentance. Absalom’s mercy never included repentance in the story. This kind of mercy has a way of causing problems as we will see. However, when we receive mercy from the Lord it is complete. Unlike Absalom, we don’t have to wait years to have a relationship with the King. When we receive Christ, by faith, we are not only acquitted legally. Through Christ we experience a full and complete relationship.
For all that is “wrong” in this story, let us today dwell on the words of the unnamed woman. In verse 14 she makes an incredible statement, “[God] devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” It took an incredible sacrifice, but Jesus made it so. Spend some time thanking God that He is both just and merciful—that when we were banished in our sin, He devised a way.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate