[Today’s post was submitted by one of our occasional guest bloggers, Dave Coats. Dave is a pastor, certified biblical counselor (ACBC), college professor, and author of Building a Pure Life.]
We all go through trials of various kinds. We may face trials that involve the physical body. Those trials may include medical personnel and their inability to diagnose the source of a problem. We don’t slam them as doctors and nurses in those situations (or at least we should not). They are not all-knowing. But medical uncertainty is a test of life that we must negotiate. Other trials are a result of living in a fallen world. We have things that break down. We have people that fail to follow through. Some people just won’t care how their interaction affects us. Other people may do things deliberately to hurt us. Some hurt and pain in this world is less directed at us than it is at people in general. Some people just want others to feel a similar pain to theirs.
But I think the kind of trial that is perhaps the most intense and painful is attached to, or comes from, people who are close to us. The trials flowing out of personal relationships with family, close friends in the church body, or someone at work whom we trusted, tend to be the most devastating. We invest in these people. We share with them. We open ourselves up to their input. We involve ourselves in their interests. We spend time and treasure on their future or our combined future in various endeavors. I have counseled my own children and their spouses as much in this arena of hurt coming from other close relationships, as anything else, as they have gone into ministry. The hurt can run very deep.
So when I began the study of David’s life with our church, I anticipated that God would show me things about these kinds of trials. But I did not realize that the lessons and biblical patterns would be so revealing of my own heart idolatries as I processed the story of David within the greater story of the Bible. Last fall we worked our way up to the David/Bathsheba event and then stopped for Thanksgiving to New Year’s. This past Sunday we reconvened our weekly look at David’s life. I took a step back in order to get an overview of the David and Absalom story and came out with some challenging thoughts regarding this mega-trial for David. He truly faced a deep trial that rocked not only his world, but those around him in the palace and the kingdom. It was in seeing how David processed these events that I saw some things that may help us with our own pain and hurt when God allows us, too, to go through the valley of betrayal.
Notice with me how a parallel exists between Absalom and Judas Iscariot, along with David and Christ. It was in seeing this parallel that I began to ask myself how David’s events should point me to the gospel and to Christ at its pinnacle. Furthermore, how should the parallels in the two stories and the pointing to Christ help me to process my own pain and hurt in people-sourced trials?
- Notice with me how both Absalom & Judas were so close to the kingdom of God and yet they never enjoyed it. Can you see all the events Judas experienced? He was there for all of the miracles and the teachings of Christ. But his heart was not in it. Absalom grew up in the kingdom with his father. He benefited from his attachment to David. But as his adult life progressed, he was not satisfied with who he was and what he had. He wanted more. He did not like the way things were.
- Notice how both Absalom & Judas were willing to destroy the one who represented God’s kingdom to them in order to get what they wanted. Judas’ heart idolatry was clearly wrapped around the financial world in which he was so adept. He was given the charge of the disciples’ finances and was said to be a thief (John 12:6). But whatever income he gained and stole through the ministry of Christ it was not sufficient. He wanted something more. And he was willing to sell Christ to the enemies of the kingdom of God to get it. Absalom worked the kingdom people, gaining popularity. He wanted more. He wanted them to think he would be a much better leader than the present ones (II Sam. 15). He was slowly destroying his dad’s credibility (or adding to what had already eroded in the Bathsheba event).
- Both Absalom & Judas were deceitful, hypocritical men who were not what they seemed to be. This simply follows the above statements. They were hiding their personal agenda which was destructive for everyone involved. They did not care what the collateral damage was.
- Both Absalom & Judas ended up hanged and dying. Not only did they try destroying their leaders and closest friends, but they destroyed themselves in the end.
But now I want to show you how we can see Christ in David as we pick up the story in 2 Samuel 15.
- David crossed the brook Kidron and ascended the Mt. of Olives, weeping (II Sam. 15:30); we see Christ ascending to the Garden of Gethsemane facing the betrayal of Judas, physically and emotionally broken by the weight of what He faces. Both David and Christ are called by God to face their trial as something that cannot be avoided. In fact it is clear that this is God’s doing. In Christ, we know this. But we must see it in David as well. And as David responds to what God is doing through the betrayal and death-threats of his own son, he must have the same kind of response as Christ.
- Jesus kneels in the garden and says to the Father, “Not my will but Thine be done.” David says to the men carrying the Ark of the Covenant that they are to take it back to Jerusalem. David says “If God says thus: ‘I have no delight in you,’ here I am. Let Him do to me as seems good to Him.” What is David saying? I suggest three simple but powerful thoughts that can be seen in David’s life and words.
Thought #1: God’s will is most important in this situation.
- God’s ultimate will is determined and will be carried out. God does not ask us permission to use our trials for His purposes. He lovingly knows it is in our best interest and more importantly for His glory that the ultimate story is played out on our turf. The story of the ages which points to the Ultimate Deliverer and His kingdom has come to our home and our church. My life and your life are a part of this big story. Can we see the connection? David had to know this underlying principle as he began his ascent of the mount and his exit from Jerusalem.
- We can trust God to work out His desires and designs in our lives. This statement follows the first one related to God’s ultimate purposes. The reason we can say this is because God’s ultimate will is not something capricious and or careless in its design. God cares. He is our Father. His desires for His kingdom fit very well with his desires for His people. We will doubt it, I would suggest. Our deepest trials don’t feel like they come from a caring God. But my problem is in resisting “how” God works out His design. I have no problem being like Christ. I like being seen as a good man, a patient man, a holy man who cares about sin, and an unselfish man who will serve others. But when I have to be and do those things and the result hurts then that isn’t on my agenda.
- We must continue to affirm to God that we are willing to submit our will to His. There it is in black and white. I remember hearing that a past man of God said something like this: The hardest thing about following God’s will is to have no will of my own. How true. I like God’s will as long as it goes in the direction I think good things are found. I want progress and profit. I want to see people saved and grow. I want to see lost people rescued and kids’ lives changed forever. Good? Yes. But I can’t stop there, and I can’t tell God how it will come to pass. That is His work.
- If Christ could say in the Garden “Thy will be done,” we can certainly affirm it as well. I have not yet resisted unto blood (Heb. 12:4). He has.
- Even David, knowing that some of his sins and weaknesses had brought this to pass, could say that He wanted God to do what seemed best. He trusted God. He knew God’s track record. In David’s pain, he saw His God. He did not see God punishing him. He had to see God—in kindness and love—establishing David further.
- So it is not Absalom or Judas, but God who is at work in 2014. Can we see that? It is not that neighbor who brought your child to tears or your friend who left your church and cursed you to others or your dad who left your family alone and in a financial hole. And the list goes on. It is God who is at work. We must see God. I hurt to say that. I hesitate to say it because I know more hurt and pain is down the road. Just because I faced hurt previously does not mean I am done. But this is my God who is at work. I must speak this gospel truth to myself. The God of the cross is planning to work out more of His plan.
Thought #2: God’s Word will be accomplished in the lives of men.
- Satan and men are intent on destroying God and His people. But in doing so they accomplish God’s plan. Can we see this? It may be harder to comprehend. It may be hard to see that when Christ was nailed to the cross these evil men fulfilled God’s Word to mankind. God promised a Deliverer, a Hero of the ages. He must die that we can live. We don’t seek pain and hurt. We will have enough evil for each day and more than sufficient grace to deal with it. Satan thought he would destroy Christ and God, but instead Satan accomplished God’s prophecy and truth.
- David had God’s promises of the kingdom and covenant (II Sam.7). God promised to not take His mercy from David’s line. He would rest in peace with his fathers. But God had also said He would raise up adversity from David’s own house (II Sam. 12:11). This was part of how God handled David’s sin. I don’t have space here to explain further the difference between consequences, loving chastening, and punishment. But God did not punish David. He lovingly chastened him and allowed these events to be a part of God’s Word to him for the future.
- We must continue to go back to the gospel hope and truth. This gospel hope is epitomized at the cross and was the accomplishment of God’s word through the ages. That truth will carry us through the hard trials. We must preach the gospel to ourselves on a regular basis. This means we will remind ourselves that we are children of God and chosen by Him. We are reconciled and received by the Father through the Son. David’s journey into the wilderness, where he spent a lot of time before becoming king, is not something he should fear or hate. It is the place where many of his Psalms were written. The gospel news is about who we are, not what we have done, or where we live. It is good news because God never leaves us nor forsakes us. Especially in the wilderness.
Thought #3: God’s ways can be seen in our lives as we point people to Him.
- God’s ways are best seen in our lives as we express His character. His love shows up in our love for others. His mercy flows as we are merciful. His grace is received as we are gracious. His justice can be experienced as we are just. His holiness moves us to be holy.
- So we get to glorify God by showing His character in our lives in difficult times.
- See how David responds to Shimei and the mighty men that want him to be headless. David says, “God has ordered this.” David knew God’s hand and trusted Him. David could just as easily have said, “Do what you want; it won’t be on my head.” But instead he takes the opportunity to show his men the right view of God and God’s character. David’s godliness was a means of God showing Himself real in the trials and troubles of life.
- David had said to all his people, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord.” David counted on the grace of God. They all watched the Ark of the Covenant retreat back into Jerusalem. That ark had been a reminder of God’s presence and power. But David believed that God’s favor was found through God’s ways in the trials as well.
- David knew the goodness and kindness of God. “Let Him do what seems good” (15:26). David had experienced God’s goodness in the wilderness times before he came to the palace. He knew when God was protecting him in his time with the Philistines. David’s people, especially his mighty men, but then everyone else around him needed to hear from David that his trust was still in the character of God in this painful, discouraging moment. David knew God’s goodness even when it seemed like God was harsh. His people had turned away from him. His son was out to take his place and take his life. But God had not forsaken David. I would say there are at least two places that come to mind in the Old Testament that are like Romans 8:28 in the New Testament. The first section is where we find Joseph’s words to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 and the second is here as David responds to the trial he faces and shifts his focus to what is “good” in the sight of God.
I close with David’s words in Psalm 3. They are possibly David’s words in prayer to God on the run from Absalom. “You O LORD are my shield and glory and the One who lifts up my head. Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon your people.” Selah.