2 Samuel 13:23; 14
Bring The Young Man Again
The narrative contained in these two chapters shows, most beautifully, the way in which God acts now, in His grace, awl in His desire to bring back the sinner to Himself. There is one great point though, in which the narrative differs from, indeed is entirely in contrast to the gospel; because whatever God does is righteous, and if He loves, it is righteous love; whereas the narrative shows its love travelling faster than righteousness, and the sequel is, there is a grand revolt, David’s throne is upset, as we see in chapter.
If God show love, if God save me, He does it righteously; He saves by His grace, He saves utterly, but He saves righteously.
David brings back this young man, but he brings him back unrighteously, without judging his sin, and the consequence was he got bold; and that is what people who do not believe in hell now are, they are bold and defy God. Absalom was a murderer. However deep might be Ammon’s guilt, there was no excuse for Absalom. He was a murderer; and yet you hear him saying in the end of chapter 14, “If there be any iniquity in me.” His sin had not been judged, he had been brought back unrighteously, his conscience was hardened, and the consequence was, the moral character of the throne of David was destroyed. Well, says God, “The throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:16), and where this is lacking the moral character of the throne is upset and it provokes a revolt, as chapter 15 tells us.
Now God cannot make light of sin, though He has only love in His heart for the sinner. You have outraged God’s character and God’s throne, but you have not changed one whit the heart that fills that throne; and though you may be a sinner of the deepest dye, yet you are an object of the love of God; His love has not been destroyed by your sin. And so we see in David, his heart yearns after the runaway.
Notice that it is recorded three times “Absalom fled.” Why did he fly? Because his conscience, then fully alive to his guilt, told him that, though his father might be king, yet he himself was a murderer, and that there was nothing, in righteousness, for a murderer but death. So he fled, for sin makes cowards of us all, and when a man has sin upon his conscience, he feels he cannot face God. It is a solemn thing, my friend, to have to face God in your sins. Have to do with God you must; you cannot evade it; and you have sinned. I do not care bow much or how little, but you have sinned. It may not be like Absalom’s, but sin is sin. Sin is man following the desire of his own heart; and have not you done that? You know you have.
Here, the will of his own heart makes Absalom a murderer, and he flies from the presence of the king. And have not you got away, have not you fled from God? Does not your conscience still keep you at a distance from Him? Friend, do you not desire to get back to God? May His word bring you back just now. Why is the gospel preached? Because the world is away from God. If you were not away from God, why need the gospel be preached to you? The gospel tells you that you are away from God, but that His love wants to bring you back. God wants to have you, and to this end “Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Not bring us to heaven, nor to bring us to peace, but to bring us to God; and no soul is brought to God till it is brought to trust the blood of Christ.
Now the grace comes all from God’s side. Have you been seeking to know God? God has been beforehand with you. He has been seeking you. He gave His own Son for me long before I ever had a thought about Him; and now the cross tells me God wants to save me, and the cross tells me God can righteously save me. Are you unconverted, with a weight of sins upon your conscience? God wants to bring you back to Himself. The soul of David longed after Absalom; three years had Absalom been away! and how long have you been away? Twenty years? Thirty years? Threescore years? Well, I do not know your age, but this I know, that if unsaved, you have never been near God yet. You have spent your life at a distance from God, but He wants to have you brought back; God wants to have the link of relationship formed between Himself and you.
Cast your eye back for a moment over life’s pathway, and tell me what relationship has there ever yet been between your soul and God? Has Christ been uppermost? Has He had a place in your thoughts? Has He had a place in your plans? Has He been your object? The soul that is unconverted and honest says, “No, God has had no place in my thoughts hitherto; my plans have all been formed without Him; Christ has not been my Object.” But you must meet God. Why not meet Him now in grace, when in the love of His heart He wants to save you? Oh! when is so good a time to meet him as this very moment?
The reason man does not accept God’s offer of mercy is because he does not care for it. Why did not the men in in the Gospels accept the invitation to the feast? Because they were like you, who remain unsaved; they did not care for it, they had no heart to come, and you have not cared to be saved. If the heart had been right, the man with the yoke of oxen would have said, “The oxen are very fine, but I can wait until tomorrow to prove them,” and the man with the piece of ground would have said, “I can wait till tomorrow to go and see that,” and the man who had married a wife would have said, “I am going to a feast, my dear, and you had better come with me,” i.e., he would have gone himself and taken her with him. But they had no heart to go, and hitherto you have had no heart for Christ’s invitation; but though your heart is all wrong, God’s heart is towards you.
David’s heart was towards his guilty son, but he said, “If my heart bring him back, this hand holds a sword that must be planted in his bosom as soon as he returns.” Then Joab comes in, through the wise woman of Tekoah, as you read, and the end of it is that David gives way and brings Absalom back without judging his sin. But does God bring back His prodigals without judging their sin? No, no. He has judged it in the cross of Christ.
Until the cross, where Christ suffered and bare sin, there was a barrier between man and God. Until the cross of Christ God was behind the veil; God dwelt between the cherubim (symbol of His righteousness); and there was a thick veil between man and God. The high priest drew near once a year; went inside that veil, alone, with blood of others; but he came out again, and the veil remained. But when Jesus died, when man had nailed Him to the tree, when man had done his worst—for it was man’s hand that drove in those nails, it was man’s hand that planted the crown of thorns upon that peerless brow, it was man’s hand that plunged the spear into that blessed side—then, I say, when man had done his very worst against God, He seizes that very moment, in His matchless, His exquisite, His infinite grace, to do His very best for man. Christ, in that hour of darkness, when God’s righteous wrath and man’s unrighteous wrath alike fell on His blessed head, did a work that enables God to come out in righteousness and in love to man, and save the vilest.
When Jesus died, not only were the rocks rent, but he who entered the temple next found the veil rent from the top to the bottom. Why from the top to the bottom? Because it was God’s hand that had done it. If man had rent that veil it would only have been to bring swift destruction on himself; and if man goes into God’s presence now without Christ’s blood, what must it be but sure destruction to him? But God Himself breaks down the barrier. That cross where the Holy One died for the sinner, opened the way into God’s very presence. “I am the way,” says Christ; and if you seek another way, you are on the wrong way.
David’s love, as we have seen, outstrips his righteousness, but when God brings back the sinner He brings him back in righteousness. The cross of Christ tells me this, that God’s grace reigns now, in the place where death reigned before, and it reigns through righteousness, not at the expense of righteousness. Instead of death falling on the guilty soul, death falls on Jesus—the death of the cross, death in the dark shades of Golgotha—and that death opens the way into God’s presence for you and me.
If I were not brought to God in righteousness, I should be afraid some day He would rake up the question of my sins; but when I know my sins have all been taken up by my substitute, Jesus, and that He has borne every one of them, not as I know them, but as God knows them, then I know that I escape the penalty due to them, through sovereign love indeed, but love that is based on righteousness.
Do you believe this story of the cross? Then do you not see in it how God loves you? Yes, He wants you. He tells me first of all that He has gauged my guilt, and that Christ took the full weight of that guilt on Him when He died; and “mercy and truth meet together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
The wise woman of Tekoah said, “We must needs die,” i.e., the moral of her story is, “Make haste”; and the moral of my story to you is make haste, for you may soon die, you know not how soon, and you must meet God. “Yet,” she says, “doth he (God) devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.” I have told you God’s means. I know they find no acceptance in the eyes of man. “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews it stumbling-block and unto the Greeks foolishness,” but the cross of Christ is God’s only way of salvation. Christ maintains the character of the throne of God in righteousness, while He manifests the character of the heart of God in its deep, deep love. Can you, my friend, agree with a lunatic who once thus exquisitely expressed it?—
“Could I with ink the ocean fill,
Were every blade of grass a quill,
Were the whole heaven of parchment made,
And every man a scribe by trade—
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
Blessed man! whatever else he did not know, he knew the love of God which “passeth knowledge.”
Now note the contrast between this narrative and the gospel, between David’s message and God’s message. The king’s character breaks down; love reigns at the expense of righteousness; God’s love reigns through righteousness. The king’s message is, “Go, bring the young man back,” but “let him not see my face.” What is God’s message to you? “Bring him, bring her, to Me.” “Christ suffered to bring us to God.” Luke 15 says that while the returning prodigal was “yet a great way off, his father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
After two years Absalom gets the kiss, but how long has the sinner now to wait for the Father’s kiss? Two years? No! Not two seconds! What do you find when you come to God? That He has open arms for you. I think that prodigal must have stood still in downright sheer amazement when he saw his father run, and he kissed his unwashed cheek, kissed him in his rags, fell on his neck and kissed him! What wondrous grace! God’s own heart proposes the plan for our salvation. God gives up His Son to die; God’s hand raises Him from the dead. God sends down the Holy Ghost, and God now Himself sends out the message, inviting the sinner to come near. It is all wondrous grace and love. In David’s heart there is love, but not light, in God there is both. He has shown me up in my true character. He has to make no discoveries of me by-and-by. He has discovered my true state, and love comes in and meets that state. Light shows me my sin, love puts that sin away.
Oh! will you not turn to this One—the One in whom both love and righteousness are combined? Will you not receive Christ at once? With Him everything is yours. May you receive His grace, and taste the joy of it, and be a witness and confessor of how good is God, how perfect His way, and may you walk accordingly till the day when He shall take you up to Himself.
But oh! my unsaved friend, do not you miss the day of His grace, the day of His love now, and be left to face the day of His terrible judgment.
The Gospel Messenger 1903, p. 57