by G.J. Stewart
“Yet doth he devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.” (2 Sam. 14:14)
Absalom had murdered his brother and fled from his father, and was three years in the court of his mother’s father, Talmai, king of Geshur. “And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (13:39).
But David was king, and righteousness stood in the way, for he knew that “he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” And so David’s desire was from year to year unsatisfied. Would not the people of God cry out if the king should extend grace to his son at the expense of righteousness?
Now Joab, with his worldly wisdom, knew that the king longed after Absalom, and he judged that the people who loved their king would be glad to see him yield to the affections of the father’s heart, even if at the expense of kingly justice; and he fetched a wise woman from Tekoa that she might enact a parable before king David, and draw out the grace that was in his heart. This she does by representing herself as a widow having two sons, one of whom had killed his brother, causing all the family to demand the death of the murderer, which, as she graphically described, would quench her coal that was left, and leave to her husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth.
David is moved, and assures the woman that the revengers of blood shall not touch one hair of her son.
This she then applies to himself. He would act in grace towards one of the people; but he thinks wrongly of the people of God by not accrediting them with the same feelings towards himself. Why doth not the king fetch home again his banished? We must needs die, she urges, and are as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. God respects no man’s person, be he king, or one of the common people. Yet, oh, wonderful and blessed fact, God does devise means whereby His banished be not expelled from Him.
David detects Joab’s hand in all this, and yields to it, saying, “Behold now, I have done this thing; go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again” (v. 21). Grace (which is not grace) and fatherly affection reign at the expense of righteousness.
But the thing is not settled. There has been no confession, no atonement; the feelings created by a wicked act on either side have not been removed, and for two full years Absalom dwelt at Jerusalem, but saw not the king’s face.
But this is not God’s means, nor does it illustrate it, save by way of contrast.
Let us for a moment glance first at the application to ourselves of the wise woman’s aphorisms, in verse 14. Part of the truth of Romans 5 is there—“We must needs die.” Why? Because, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (v. 12)—Not only must Absalom die, but the unsaved readers of the Gospel Messenger must die also. But, you may object, I have not murdered my brother! Probably not; but you come from Adam, through Cain, who did so; and many a fratricide has marked the genealogy since. You at least have the same nature, and have sinned in other ways, and for this you, too, must die—“It is appointed unto men once to die.”
Again, “We are as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again;” so Romans 5:6, all are “without strength.” None can help himself, let alone others in this controversy between God and His sinful creatures, who have utterly failed in all their original responsibilities to Him.
“Neither doth God respect any person.” All alike must give an account unto God, each for himself. Neither the dignity of the king nor the misery of the beggar; the riches of the wealthy nor the poverty of the indigent; the learning of the wise nor the ignorance of the foolish, can blind the eyes of divine justice, when every man shall give an account of HIMSELF before GOD.
What. Then are God’s means whereby His banished be not expelled from Him?
There are two sides to this at least, viz.:—
1. That which satisfies God’s throne and heart.
2. That which changes my state of enmity.
That is to say, the righteousness of God’s throne must be satisfied before the affections that are pent up in His heart towards His fallen creatures can flow out. This is the objective means.
And then the state of my heart must be changed before I can enjoy that which His love so freely provides. This is the subjective means.
How blessedly has God accomplished the first! Outside of ourselves, and independently of us, He has acted when we were sinners, without strength, and unable to act for ourselves. His love has provided that which His righteousness demanded, and forth from Himself came His own well-beloved, only-begotten Son, come forth to express the desires of that Father’s heart, that His banished be not expelled from Him, and at the same time to accomplish the only means which could righteously satisfy the claims of His throne. That means was to take the sinner’s place, to die the sinner’s death, to bear the sinner’s judgment. None but He who was God could do this, and come forth from the awful conflict, for all the wrath of God against sin must be exhausted ere one sinner can stand before Him.
But—oh, most blessed news!—all is done! Jesus died! Jesus rose again! Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God! Every claim of the Throne has been satisfied! All has been accepted! And a man upon the throne is the proof that God has devised means that His vanished be not expelled from Him. Here is an object for the sinner—Jesus a Man at the right hand of God.
But who cares to look there? Who of His righteously banished ones cares to get into His presence again? Reader, do YOU?
Alas, how many, like Absalom, would like to be recalled from banishment, like to be accredited by power, desire even to see the king’s face; but there must be no humbling himself, no confession, no recognition of wrong-doing, no exercise of that hated principle—grace. Such would come in upon an equality, but only to use the very position to endeavour to devise means whereby God should be dethroned, Christ and His grace ignored! Such are unregenerate hearts. They will draw near to God in official nearness, but they know not the Father’s heart. Alas for them! “Their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
What need, therefore, of the second part of God’s means, and this, too, from Himself—a change of state before Him! This is not the work of God’s Son for us, but the work of God’s Spirit in us. The enmity of the heart must be subdued, the alienation removed. And this, though wrought in us, imposes responsibility upon us for its acceptance; as the apostle in 2 Corinthians 5 beseeches: “Be ye reconciled to God.” But what does he urge as a reason? Oh, listen! That God “hath made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us!” Can you withstand such an appeal? God loves! God gave!! God hath made Him to be sin!!!
Reader, will not you yield to such a manifestation of God’s love? Will not you be reconciled? Then, and at once—though more fully displayed by-and-by—shall you become the righteousness of God in Him. Then shall the love of His heart be enjoyed; then His affections answered to; then shall His face be seen.
As the heart quivers beneath the play of His affections upon it, what joy to retrace all the means devised, and carried out at such a cost, that all this bliss may be the portion of His banished!—a full share in His own joy, though He shall exceed as ever. No seeking to dethrone our David as we gaze upon His unveiled face, and behold His resplendent glory, but even now shall there be an ever-increasing moral likeness to Himself—a changing from glory to glory into the same image, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. This work in us must go on ever while here, answering to the raptured gaze upon His glory who has wrought so wonderfully for us.
Is my reader still banished from Him? Will not such means bow your heart to Him? The true David—Jesus Christ our Lord—is the only rightful King of your heart. Oh, enthrone Him there! “Now, then, do it!!”
The Gospel Messenger 1900, p. 159