2 Samuel 13-15
Yet Doth He Devise Means
Read 2 Samuel 13:28-end; 14; 15
I have no doubt that God has told us this history that what the gospel really is might come out by way of contrast, because, while we have, in David, a type of what is in the heart of God to the sinner, in grace, yet David began to gratify his heart at the expense of righteousness, and his throne was upset. Now the gospel is based not on the love of God merely, but on His inflexible righteousness. “Grace reigns through righteousness.” In the day of which these chapters speak, grace was allowed to come out at the expense of righteousness.
Absalom was at heart a murderer, and no sooner was his anger wreaked than his conscience told him he was such, and we read “but Absalom fled” (13:34). In three verses (34, 37, 38), we read that this guilty murderer fled. He knew he was guilty, and that he had laid himself open to the righteous vengeance of the law, so he fled. It is but the history of man over again. If you go back to the Garden of Eden, what do you find? Lust comes in, and when that is gratified conscience wakes up, and Adam flies from the face of God—puts the trees of the garden between himself and God.
In Genesis 9:5, you get the moral foundation of what should have been the action of David at this moment: “At the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.” No doubt Absalom felt, “I am a murderer, and must pay the penalty,” and so he fled from the presence of the throne; and that is what works in the sinner’s mind, he feels he has sinned, and that the wages of sin are death, and therefore he tries to get away from the presence of God. God cannot have to do with sin save to judge it, but too often the soul feels that God cannot love the sinner. This is a mistake. While hating sin, God loves the sinner.
Absalom got as far from Jerusalem as he possibly could, and the heart of “David longed to go forth” unto him (13:39). Why did he not go forth? Because if he had he must only have judged him. And did not God long to go forth after man? He did, and when the right moment came He sent forth His own Son to bring us into the Father’s house straight away, and to reveal to us all that is in the Father’s heart.
“Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was towards Absalom” (14:1). Does a wanderer, a banished one, read this? Friend, let me tell you the Lord’s heart is towards you. His heart has been towards you all the time.
What then paralysed David’s hand? Righteousness. He knew perfectly well that if he sent for Absalom it must only be to judge him. If David’s throne were to be “established in righteousness,” then, had he sent for his son, it must only have been to put him to death in the first hour of his return.
And so the wanderer was three long years absent, and the heart of the father was yearning over him. And then Joab—schemer that he was—comes in with a long story through the wise woman of Tekoah (14:1-20).
David could not keep the “throne guiltless” without judging the guilty, but it is my joy to tell you, my reader, that the throne of God is established in righteousness, and yet that the guiltiest sinner out of hell may be saved by the gospel. The cross of Christ is the means. Into man’s place has stepped Another, the guiltless One in the place of the guilty, and there is now no need for the guilty one to wait three years, for the moment atonement is made, the Holy Ghost comes out and proclaims pardon to the guiltiest.
Is there a banished one reading these lines, feeling that sin has broken every link between his soul and God? Ah! my friend, the Father’s heart is yearning over you.
The woman of Tekoah tells her mythical story to interest the king’s heart, and he says to her that he will look after the matter. He is interested in her case, and then she turns round and says, as it were, “If you would do it for me, why not do it for your own? Why not bring again your own banished one?” And then she gets bolder, and says, “If you are going to do it at all, do it quickly, “for we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.” She adds also, “Neither doth God respect any person, yet doth he devise means that his banished be no expelled from him” (v. 14).
David’s means for bringing back his banished will not bear looking into, his means were based on unrighteousness, and the glossing over of his sin; and though Absalom comes up he does not see the king’s face. But having been brought back, without his sin having been judged, he gets bold, and sends for Joab, and says, “Now therefore let me see the king’s face, and if there be any iniquity in me let him kill me,” and then we read that Absalom was brought to the king, “and the king kissed Absalom.”
But the throne that does not judge sin is upset by the sinner, hence in the next chapter (15) we read that David has to flee from Absalom. Now the beauty of God’s gospel is that the sinner is brought back, not at the expense of righteousness, but with the maintenance of righteousness. God is able to bring you, my friend, into His house, giving you the Father’s kiss of reconciliation based on accomplished righteousness. God has devised means, and His means are the cross of the Saviour. The sinner is brought back in righteousness on the ground of the work of His sinless Son, who has suffered for sin, so that the throne of God is perfectly justified in its action of grace, and the Father’s heart perfectly satisfied.
God’s heart was towards us, and the proof of that is the gift of His Son. The birth, the life, of Jesus were the expression of the interest God took in man. His life alone would not do. There must be His death. “The wages of sin is death,” but there is something after death. You have to meet God, my friend. You cannot get away from the fact that after death there is the judgment. Men dare not deny that they have to meet death; how can they deny the other thing, the judgment of God after death? The Word of God is most distinct and plain, that “he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” But before that appointed day of judgment the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
The cross is God’s means whereby His banished may return to Him. David spared the guilty; God, did not spare the guiltless—even His blessed Son Jesus, when He took the place of the guilty. Righteousness smote Him, when He took the sinner’s place. There alone on that cross, in the blessed love of His heart, the Lord Jesus took my place—the guilty sinner’s place—bore my judgment, and now the outcome to me is life and pardon and peace.
He took the guilty sinner’s place,
He suffered in his stead;
For man (O miracle of grace!)—
For man the Saviour bled.”
These lines I believe from the bottom of my heart, and therefore rejoice to sing also, and I hope, my reader, you too can chime in—
“Jesus, my soul adoring bends
To love so full, so free,
Thy Word declares that love extends
In saving power to me.”
The truth of the gospel is, that if He bore my sin on the cross there is nothing left for Him to judge in the day appointed by-and-by.
If you build an arch there must be two pillars on which it shall rest. And what are the two pillar on which the arch of Christianity rests? The love of God, and the righteousness of God. The believing soul says I can repose in perfect security on these two pillars. Put on afterwards all the superstructure of peace, and pardon, and justification, and life, &c. But what do they all rest upon? That God loved me when I was a sinner, and that Jesus died for me when I was a sinner. If you come to God, He will tell you that He has judged all your sins on the cross of His Son. How then can He judge you since He has judged Christ instead of you? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” God sends out to you a messenger with the news that the claims of His throne have all been met in perfect righteousness. The claims of His heart now want to be met, and His heart will not be satisfied till He sees you coming to Him.
When Absalom first saw Joab coming to fetch him, I have little doubt he was not very happy in his mind. He might naturally fear he was going to be brought to justice, but Joab could say to him, “Fear not, it is all going to be slurred over.” And do you ask, “Is God going to slur over my sins?” Not one of them. Either every one of your sins was judged when your Substitute hung upon the cross, or you must pay the penalty for every one of them in the depths of the lake of fire. God spoke to His Son about your sins, that He might speak to you about Him.
Absalom at length gets the king’s kiss, but it is not like the kiss the Father gives the prodigal in the 15th of Luke, for, in the first case, the sinner arises next against the throne itself which has brought him back unrighteously, but in the 15th of Luke the prodigal goes into the father’s house, and all is joy and merriment. God’s gospel rests not till it brings the soul, repentant and believing, right into His blessed presence, there to rest in the sense of present favour and unchanging love. It is the Father who starts the joy, and His grace maintains it too. The song of Luke 15 never dies out. God is ever the same, and the heart that dwells with Him dwells ever in the presence of unchanging grace and undying love. When He says, “Let us make merry and be glad,” what has the believing soul to do but to follow suit, and sing in harmony with Him?
Well may we sing—
“The new and living way
Stands open now to heaven;
Thence, where the blood is seen alway,
God’s gift is given;
The river of His grace,
Through righteousness supplied,
Is flowing o’er the barren place
Where Jesus died.”
The Gospel Messenger 1904, p. 113