Flawless One (2 Samuel 18)

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Service Notes

Lenten Midweek III + March 27, 2019
  • Liturgy: Responsive Prayer 2
  • Hymns: LSB #451, 454, 423

Theme Verse

1 Then David mustered the men who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 And David sent out the army, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” 3 But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.” 4 The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. 5 And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom.

6 So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword.

9 And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 10 And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king's son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’ 13 On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” 14 Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. 15 And ten young men, Joab's armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the troops came back from pursuing Israel, for Joab restrained them. 17 And they took Absalom and threw him into a great pit in the forest and raised over him a very great heap of stones. And all Israel fled every one to his own home. 18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King's Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom's monument to this day.

19 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run and carry news to the king that the Lord has delivered him from the hand of his enemies.” 20 And Joab said to him, “You are not to carry news today. You may carry news another day, but today you shall carry no news, because the king's son is dead.” 21 Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed before Joab, and ran. 22 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite.” And Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?” 23 “Come what may,” he said, “I will run.” So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.

24 Now David was sitting between the two gates, and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” And he drew nearer and nearer. 26 The watchman saw another man running. And the watchman called to the gate and said, “See, another man running alone!” The king said, “He also brings news.” 27 The watchman said, “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And the king said, “He is a good man and comes with good news.”

28 Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, “All is well.” And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth and said, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.” 29 And the king said, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king's servant, your servant, I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was.” 30 And the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still.

31 And behold, the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “Good news for my lord the king! For the Lord has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you.” 32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.” 33 And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18)

Sermon Text

Absalom, David's third son, is best summarized in these words: "In all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him."[1] Like others of David's sons, Absalom decided to take matters into his own hands. Absalom's story runs from chapter 13 through chapter 19. We read about his death, but his life shows that he is not the flawless one everyone thought he was.

Absalom was just like Jesus' description of the Pharisees: "whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and unrighteousness."[2] From outward appearances, Absalom was everything anyone could ever want in a man. Physically attractive. Probably athletic. The perfect, ideal man. On the outside. Inside, he still harbored hatred for his half-brother Amnon's violation of his sister Tamar.[3] He harbored hatred against his father. Absalom's outside was beautiful, but his inside was horrible.

As a result of his hatred towards his father, Absalom masterminds a coup to take over the kingdom of Israel. On the positive side, He figured out how to make it bloodless. He simply stole the hearts of the people away from David.

People came into Jerusalem from all over Israel. They sought an audience with King David. The man after God's own heart. The shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath. The warrior-king who had killed his ten thousands.

Absalom stood at the gate of the city. He questioned those who entered. For those seeking face-time with the king, Absalom would convince them that the king had no time for them. But if he were king, everyone would be able to have an audience and get justice from the king.[4] But while David was seated on the throne, no one would be able to get justice from him.

The turning of Israel's hearts after Absalom caused David to flee Jerusalem. Instead of fighting the son trying to usurp his throne, David abdicated the throne to him. It was better that David not fight his son than to split the kingdom. David knew Absalom's rage and what he was capable of.[5] He did not want to see anyone killed because of a family squabble.

Absalom rewards his father's courtesy by fulfilling Nathan's prophecy from David's adultery with Bathsheba: "Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'"[6]

Absalom makes himself a stench to his father by this act.[7] David must come back into Jerusalem and retake his kingdom by force. Absalom, who took the kingdom without blood, died in his attempt to flee from the battle with his warrior father.[8]

Absalom trusted in his beauty to be able to get himself out of every trouble. But his vanity led to his death.

Absalom had long, flowing hair. As he was fleeing, his mule passed too closely to a terebinth tree. Absalom's long, flowing hair became caught in the thick branches. The mule went on without him. He hung in the tree. Suspended between Heaven and earth. Being caught by his hair, which was his pride and joy.

Hanging from the tree, Absalom was at the mercy of anyone who came by. Would it be friend or foe? Absalom found out that his own treachery would be repaid by more treachery. When Absalom was found by one of David's servants, that servant told Joab, David's commander-in-chief. Joab killed Absalom by stabbing him with javelins. Joab's ten armor-bearers joined in the stabbing as well.[9]

But it was war. Where was the treachery? David had strictly commanded, "For my sake protect the young man Absalom."[10] Joab refused to listen to the king. David wanted to spare Absalom because he was his son. He wanted his servants to show his fatherly love and compassion upon his prodigal son.

But Joab would have none of it. Joab wanted this thorn in his king's side dead. Refusing to obey a direct order of the king, Joab prepred himself to receive David's wrath. That wrath waited until Solomon took the throne and he fulfilled his father's dying wish concerning the man who had killed his son.[11]

Joab had once again taken Absalom's fate into his own hands. Joab was the one who convinced David to let Absalom return to Jerusalem.[12] Joab is the one who would kill Absalom for all his treachery against David.

But Absalom is not the only Son of David who was suspended from a tree. Moses had said, "A hanged man is cursed by God."[13] Absalom was cursed because he had become entangled in the terebinth's branches. His vanity had become his curse.

The ultimate Son of David was also suspended from a tree. Not by his hair or the vanity of his appearance. "He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him."[14] Jesus became the curse of sin when He was crucified.[15]

Jesus was suspended between Heaven and earth with no one to help Him. No one in Heaven, since the Father had forsaken Him.[16] No one on earth as they taunted Him.[17] No help was there for Him. But He needed no help. He was taking on all the flaws of all humanity, internal and external, into His death so that He might become their flawless one.

When David hears of Absalom's death, he mourns. Mourns like he did for his unnamed son with Bathsheba.[18] Mourns like he did for Amnon.[19] David mourns because another son has died for his sins. Sins of not being a godly father. Sins of his collection of wives. Sins of his own pride and arrogance. David mourns because he has now lost a third son.

But he rejoiced in the fact that his ultimate Son would conquer death. For his unnamed son, he said, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."[20] For Absalom, he says, "Would I have died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"[21] David's grief is real and heart-felt. Not a show put on for others. A very public display of his private grief.

But David's grief would be short-lived. Not temporally, but eschatologically. David knew of a Son who would sit on his throne forever. That there would be a time when there would be no more grief. He wrote about it himself: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."[22]

How could he have such confidence? He knew that he would have a Son who would conquer death. Again, David wrote, "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.'"[23] St. Peter picks that verse up in his Pentecost sermon to show that Jesus is "both Lord and Christ," as the angels declared to the shepherds on Christmas evening.[24]

This ultimate Son of David would be the One who received the shouts of "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!" However, it would not be because of any earthly battle. He received those accolades because of the cosmic battle He would wage on the cross. There He battled sin, death and the devil and came out the victor. Although He died, He rose from the dead on the third day to give life everlasting. Life without grief. Life without sin.

Jesus is God's flawless one. It's not that He was physically attractive.[25] Jesus is the only man born without the blemish of sin. All the Levitical sacrifices that we are studying in the Sunday Morning Bible Study during this Lenten season call for an animal sacrifice without blemish. There could be no blemish in the animal externally or internally.

Jesus is the only true flawless one. He had no sin, but He became sin for you. He took on your flaws so that you might take on His righteousness.[26]

You want Absalom's external flawlessness, but you know that your heart is filled with flaws. You strive for the interior beauty and purity that Jesus calls for. It's an ongoing struggle. The more you learn about the Law and yourself, the more disgusting your life becomes. You are so far from perfection. But thanks be to God that He sent the ultimate Son of David, Jesus of Nazareth, to fulfill both the letter and the Spirit of the Law for you so that you can shout with the pilgrims on Palm Sunday: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Amen.


  1. 2 Samuel 14:25
  2. Matthew 23:27
  3. 2 Samuel 13
  4. 2 Samuel 15:1-12
  5. 2 Samuel 13:23-33
  6. 2 Samuel 12:11-12; 16:20-23
  7. 2 Samuel 16:21
  8. 2 Samuel 18:6-15
  9. 2 Samuel 18:14-15
  10. 2 Samuel 18:13
  11. 1 Kings 2:5-6, 28-35
  12. 2 Samuel 14
  13. Deuteronomy 21:22-23; cf. Galatians 3:13
  14. Isaiah 53:2
  15. 2 Corinthians 5:21
  16. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
  17. Matthew 27:39-44
  18. 2 Samuel 12:15-23
  19. 2 Samuel 13:30-33
  20. 2 Samuel 12:23
  21. 2 Samuel 18:33
  22. Psalm 23:6
  23. Psalm 110:1
  24. Acts 2:35-36; Luke 2:11
  25. Isaiah 53:2
  26. 2 Corinthians 5:21