Encouraging Others

David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 Samuel 18:1

Even in the midst of enemies all around him, David encouraged his men. I'm certain David himself was discouraged. After all, he was the King! But he was on the run from his own son. Every step he took must have been painful for David, knowing that he was fleeing from his son.

But he rallied the troops and encouraged them. Great leaders do that. Fortunately, you and I don't have to be great leaders to do that. We can encourage every day. Encouragement, though, takes effort. It's not easy always to see the good in people (especially when you're having a rotten day), but it's there.

The encouragement doesn't need to be earth shattering or dramatic. A smile works. A simple compliment on an article of clothing is fitting. Kind words go a long way. A card, a telephone call, an email, a snail-mail letter. All done without coersion or secondary agendas.

It's a great habit to get into, for I have found that most people need to be encouraged regularly. I've mentioned it before, but Mark Twain is famous for saying, "I can live for two months on a good compliment."

I can understand that.

Worth Dying For

After the men had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, "Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you." So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan. 2 Samuel 17:21-22

This is the beginning of many who would be willing to risk their lives for David. They had hid in a well (and a woman covered for them while Absalom searched for them) and ran to tell David all they knew. What causes people to do this? I've wrestled with that question all my life. All around us we see many people risking their lives for odd causes, many misguided and misinformed.

For instance, many Muslim leaders have convinced younger people that if they sacrificed their lives by blowing others up, Allah would bless them with 72 virgins. If it's such a wonderful idea, why don't those leaders do it? There are other causes that are like this: animal rights, extreme environmentalists, etc. I suspect that many of these people have substituted God with their cause. They have made their cause their god. (again, that view is based on what I've observed and not hard evidence)

Some time ago, I overheard someone say, "this current generation doesn't have anything worth dying for." It's sad, but I understand it.

How about you? Do you have anything worth dying for? Is there anything you can say, "I'd rather die than to do this?" Perhaps it's your kids or your spouse or the Gospel. As Eternity draws nearer for each of us, it's good to look inward occasionally and ask these tough questions.

And thankfully, Jesus saw something worth dying for in us. I'll never understand it.

Rock Solid

Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel's advice. 2 Samuel 16:23

As you recall, David prayed that Ahithophel's counsel would be foolishness. The passage continues with Absalom asking Hushai whether or not to take Ahithophel's advice. Long story short (but worth the read), Absalom doesn't take Ahithophel's counsel (and Ahithophel's advice was foolish).

This verse, however, stood out to me. The reputation of Ahithophel was widespread for he was a man of good counsel. He was a traitor, yes, but up until that time, his advice was solid. His reputation is the key portion I'd like to flesh out.

How's your reputation among the Godly and ungodly? Is your word as good as gold, so to speak? Are you reliable? Do you need to be told a half dozen times before something gets done? Is your counsel "like that of one who inquires of God?" I know, those are large shoes to climb into but if we are to make a significant impact in this world, our reputation and counsel has to be rock solid.

Fortunately for us, though, we can be grounded on the Rock of Ages and rely on Him for our wisdom. Ask him daily, if not more often, for that wisdom for he loves to give it out generously (James 1:5).

Wronged

David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12 It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." 2 Samuel 16:11-12

There's a similar passage in Matthew 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." A man named Shimei came out to curse David, the King. One of the King's men, Abishai wants to kill him for his utter disdain for King David. David saw the futility in it and perhaps the truth in Shimei's words ("for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul"). Killing Shimei would not have solved anything.

Recently my wife and I were debating the concept of "turning the other cheek." Matthew 5 lays out the concept. "Turning the other cheek" in America or Europe is different than it would be in China or parts of Africa. We Westerners tend to think in terms of rights and not having others walk all over us. In parts of Asia and Africa, standing up for your rights can get you killed. Literally.

Under the law, David had every right to kill Shimei for his blatant disrespect for the King. It appears David did the right thing.

Have you been wronged or persecuted for what you believe recently? What was your reaction? Looking back on it, was it the right action?

Honest Prayers

Now David had been told, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. So David prayed, "O Lord, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness." 2 Samuel 15:31

Earlier in 2 Samuel 15:12, we read that Ahithophel was one of David's advisors. Now, though, it is apparent that Ahithophel has sided with Absalom (and against David). It's one of David's many honest prayers. It's a kind of prayer that you wish you never have to pray because and it's regarding someone who was probably close to you. Ahithophel would no longer be valuable to David as a counselor. That was obvious.

But there are times when you are opposed to the strategic direction of leadership in general that it is very appropriate to pray this.

God wants us to pray honest prayers; I firmly believe that. Wrestle with the issues, then seek God. Seek God and wrestle with the issues. We should be passionate about what we pray for and not let anything hinder us, and especially not the English language. I know when I pray in public, I get all tongue-tied and don't really know what to say. It's different in private.

If someone is a "stumbling block," pray that the person would be removed. If someone is conniving and dishonest, pray that their wisdom will be as foolishness.

The Hound of Heaven

Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, "Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword." 2 Samuel 15:14

Once again, Absalom began to sow seeds of discord among the people, and David realized it was time to flee for his life. The Bible said that the hearts of the people had turned toward Absalom.

King David, mighty man of valor and accomplishment, reduced to flee from his own son. It certainly gives new meaning to the term "dysfunctional." How sad was that! Couldn't he just muster enough of an army to go and defeat his son? Evidently he couldn't or wouldn't. So he fled.

It would be easy to make two opposite conclusions here: 1) David knew when his reign was over, and 2) why didn't he just go out and defeat the man who was his own flesh and blood? Could that have been so difficult? Absolutely!

So David fled with all of his servants. With a massive entourage of servants and helpers, it wasn't exactly like he could hide wherever he was going. Throughout his entire reign up to this point, it was as if David was pursuing the love of those who were supposed to be closest to him, his children. Now the object of David's love was chasing him or would soon do so.

We are much too much like David. We go chasing after things and people and peace but don't find it until we relent and allow God to pursue us. And in reality it was God who had been chasing us all along, looking for ways to draw us closer while we kept searching "in all the wrong places." Francis Thompson wrote a poem about the "Hound of Heaven," always pursuing, always wooing. Without His constant Draw or Tug or Pull on our lives, I wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading this.

Below is the beginning of Francis Thompson's Hound of Heaven

"I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him."

Victory in Jesus

Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:6

If King David was intriguing, his son Absalom was even more so. After quite a long time, Absalom finally got to see the King, his father. Then for some reason, Absalom turned against his father and began to "steal the hearts of the men of Israel." Absalom also had good looks to go with his convincing demeanor.

Absalom seemed to have held on to the bitterness of his sister being raped, and the King doing nothing about it when he found out about it. Shakespeare said that bitterness was the poison you drink hoping the other person will die.

Perhaps you are wrestling with bitterness and resentment. Maybe something happened last week; or maybe it was thirty years ago. Holding on to it only hurts you. You have to let it go. Keeping it is only hurting you. Let it go, Brother. Let it go, Sister. Give it over to Jesus once and for all. And if it creeps back into your life in a month, let it go again.

Being able to let it go and turning it over to Jesus is just one of the true Victories in Jesus.

Longing’s a Good Thing

Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king's heart longed for Absalom. 2 Samuel 15:1

King David is certainly an interesting study. He wept over Amnon and longed to see Absalom, the son who had murdered Amnon. It had been three years since Amnon's death and David was growing anxious in wanting to see Absalom. We don't hear much about the affairs of the kingdom, but we get a great sense that King David was trying to bring his family together. For whatever reason, Absalom would have nothing of it.

Have you ever longed for something only to be rejected time and time again? Have you ever set your heart on a trip you were taking and just couldn't wait to get there? We all have and we all know the feeling of almost getting there or getting that thing but being turned away. Disappointment. Rejection. Sadness. Frustration.

Focus on the Family's well known theme is "Turn Your Hearts Toward Home." In a sense David was doing that. We should too.

Are you longing for that Home? Are you longing for the day when you will be with Jesus? Yes, day by day we get frustrated and disappointed at the things we see around us, but every day we live is just one day closer to when His Glory will be revealed.

The King Wept Bitterly

As he finished speaking, the king's sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his servants wept very bitterly. 2 Samuel 14:36

Absalom had just killed his brother Amnon. A few years earlier Amnon had raped his sister, Tamar. It was obvious to all around (and they said so) that Absalom had killed him to avenge the rape. The King of Israel, King David, wept.

The king is weeping over his family. He had everything a man could want and yet his children were out of control. One son was a rapist; another was a murderer. Even David himself was a rapist who had his lover's husband murdered. It's not hard at all to imagine David weeping and weeping over what his family had become. His weeping showed his sorrow and his compassion.

It's not hard nowadays to weep when we read the news. Children are slaughtered senselessly; homes and fortunes are confiscated by ruthless dictators; genocidal evil men roam many countrysides in Africa. Unfortunately the list could go for pages on as there is a great amount of wickedness in the world.

Fortunately, though, we can weep in our prayers to God. We can weep over the wickedness; we can weep over the injustice; we can even weep over the state of our own souls.

When was the last time you wept?