Heartbrokenness 

MTS-3273

Heartbrokenness

“But David continued up the Mount of
Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot.”          2 Sam 15:30

 

David wasn’t climbing up the Mount of Olives to worship the Lord; he thought he was going to
his favorite spot for the very last time and the mere thought was enough to
break his heart. O how he remembered the time when he led his children to the
top of the mountain, singing and praising the Lord as they went, and spent the entire
day there feasting and praying. But now he must bid the beautiful mount
farewell and was quite unsure whether he would frequent the spot again.

This journey up to the mount was a journey of sorrow and repentance for David. He couldn’t
help blaming himself for what was happening to his family and to the entire
country. “What could I have done to prevent this disaster from happening?” He
must have asked himself this question repeatedly.

Indeed he had been a good father to his children. He was loving to all of them, but he might
have had trouble keeping track of all of them since he had so many. Who would
blame the king if he had a tinge of regret for begetting so many children?

Was he weeping for something he did as a king in the past or something he failed to do
as a father? Likely both, I suppose.

His power and entitlement as a king caused him to commit the sin he had never dreamt of
doing; and being a father to so many children made him incapable of keeping an
eye on each one of them, allowing many of them to become wild and
undisciplined. Had he been a mere shepherd overseeing his father’s sheep, all
these bad things wouldn’t have happened.  

Even the man after God’s own heart was incapable of resisting the temptations of being a
king and keeping himself from becoming corrupted. Things happened and failures
occurred; what could the man do except continue to repent? The journey away
from Jerusalem and down the Mount of Olives was essential for David, for he
needed to weep and to mourn for all his failures so that he could again be
renewed and restored. The Lord took him away from the holy city, and he would
take him back after he had accomplished his purpose.

So David kept on coming down the Kidron valley and going up and down the Mount of Olives with
his head covered and feet bare, weeping out loud as he went. The king was hopelessly
heartbroken, as if he was completely forsaken by the Lord, and all hope of
restoration seemed to have vanished. He was experiencing the “dark night of the
soul” that many of us have tasted or will taste in the future. David might have
felt forsaken, but the Lord would meet him at the end of the dark tunnel and
usher him into the light. He would one day return to the holy city
triumphant.     

Thursday, May 31, 2012 8:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Submission 

MTS-3272

Submission

“...let him do to me whatever seems good
to him.”

           2 Sam 15:26

 

David told Zadok the priest to haul the Ark of the Covenant back to the city, even though he had had every
intention to bring the ark with him to wherever he was heading, for he desired
to be in the presence of the Lord even when he was in exile. His intention of
returning back to Jerusalem was equally strong and, if God decided to show
mercy to him, it wouldn’t be long before he came back to the city again.

It was also possible, however, that David wouldn’t have the opportunity to return to the city and therefore would
be forever separated from the ark. It must have been extremely painful for
David to entertain the possibility, but he was willing to submit to God’s will
if that was indeed the case. It was foolish and futile to fight again God’s sovereign
will, he thought.

One bad thing led to another and David hardly had time to absorb all of them or to consider the reasons
behind all the tragic events. God was sovereign over all, and he could do
anything to his servant. Surely David was well aware of this and he knew better
than to gripe about it. It only would have made things worse had he harbored
bitterness against the Lord in his heart. Submitting to God’s will was the best
route to take, he believed.

If he wasn’t the direct cause of all the traumas he experienced, he at least contributed to their occurrences
by his reckless acts, particularly the evil things he did to Uriah and
Bathsheba. How could he forget the words of Nathan, warning him what was going
to happen to him and his family for all the evil he had committed?

The king knew that he had no right to complain, for he knew he deserved every bit of the trouble he was
experiencing. In the midst of great turmoil and pain, he could only ask for
strength to endure suffering and he prayed that eventually God would show mercy
to him by bringing liberation to him and his family.

“Let him do to me whatever seems good to him.” He said to Zadok the priest.

Did the Lord consider it good for David to suffer such horrific pain? Being a loving father,
I don’t believe God is pleased to see his children suffer any sort of pain. It
might have been unavoidable for David to experience what he was going through
though, since he appeared to be the one who started the domino effect of sin
and punishment. The tragedy might have had the effect of catharsis in David’s
life, which gave him a sense of inner cleansing and renewal. It takes a
spiritually mature person, however, to utter what he uttered to Zadok in the
midst of great suffering.

“Let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”        

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Kidron Valley 

MTS-3271

Kidron Valley

“The king also crossed the Kidron
Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.”        2 Sam 15:23

 

David and his men marched out to the east of the city, crossing the Kidron valley, and going
toward the Mount of Olives, and moving on toward the wilderness beyond.

The valley served as the distinct landmark outside the old city and it must have suddenly
dawned on David and his men that they were leaving their beloved city behind and
there was nothing but the wilderness ahead of them. It was going to be a long
and hard journey for them and no one could predict what was lying ahead of
them.

We have no idea how many people the king was taking with him. The number could have been
in the thousands, if not more, for David wasn’t giving up his crown by leaving
Jerusalem; he was fully intending to fight a long and dragged out war against
his foes and to recover what he had lost. Therefore his top priority was to
keep his military in shape, which needed an ample supply of food and water. The
exodus from the old city must have been quite impressive.

The king might have had experience managing a few people on the run in his younger days,
but the number was quite a bit larger this time. It must have been quite a
daunting challenge to keep the people fed and their morale high.

David might have thought his days of roaming up and down the wilderness was over before this
happened; yet here they were again. He and all his people “moved on toward the
wilderness.”

Did years of living in the palace turn David into a more tender and weaker person and made
him ill-prepared for the life in the wild? Perhaps. Besides, the young soldier
who once marched toward Goliath without fear was now a much older person and,
after he’s been through so much pain in life, David must have become old and
frail emotionally. The thought of fighting another war, against his own son
nonetheless, must have made his knees buckle a little bit. “O Lord, spare me
from this pain,” he might have pleaded.

David had no other option at this time but to move on and do what was required for him to
do. His family strife was not merely a family conflict; it had become a
national crisis. Only he could make amends for the situation. If he failed, his
country would suffer great loss. Indeed David’s problem wasn’t personal; it was
national.

So David marched out from the eastern gate, crossing the Kidron valley, and moved on
toward the wilderness, the great unknown, and his only hope was that the Lord
would again shower his mercy upon him, like he had done so many times in
David’s life. 

       

Friday, May 25, 2012 6:35:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Weeping 

MTS-3270

Weeping

“The whole countryside wept aloud as all
the people passed by.”

             2 Sam 15:23

 

The country folks near Jerusalem only knew the king through legend and hearsay. To most of
them David was the young man who took out Goliath the giant and saved the
nation. They also came to know him as a national hero who killed many Philistines.

What’s not to admire about the man? Not much. David was just such a larger than life figure that
they believed he could move mountains if he was called upon to do it. A lot of
Israelites had grown to love the man and were attached to him emotionally. It
was quite shocking for them to see what was transpiring before their eyes. The king
and his men were on the run.

They felt badly for the king; but they must have felt worse for themselves, for they knew what
the impending war between King David and his son Absalom would mean for the
ordinary people. The peace and harmony they had come to love and enjoy so much would
soon be taken away from them and their sons would again become soldiers to be
butchered.

They wept aloud for themselves and their children as David and his men were passing by.

They might have come to love David because the king basically left them alone in time of
peace. They had nothing to worry about as long as they paid their taxes and did
what was required of them to do. It’s hard for me to imagine that people could
love a monarch who wasn’t related to them personally and would shed tears over
his downfall, unless their destiny was closely linked to the king’s rise and
fall.

Again the Israelites were forced to choose sides.

They had done so between Saul and David years ago, and now they were again called upon to
express their allegiance either to the son or the father. The elderly might
have been more inclined to go with the old father, but the young ones were most
likely to side with the young and charismatic Absalom. The division within
David’s household somehow divided the entire nation as well.

“Don’t cry for me, O Israel; cry instead for your children and your children’s children,”
David might have thought as he saw people crying out loud on the roadside,
realizing what was going to transpire for the entire nation. War and death were
becoming inevitable.

There was a lump in David’s throat when he heard the weeping and he must have felt like
crying as well. Indeed, he had every reason to feel sorry for himself, for his
loss was far greater than most people. His kingdom was falling apart and his
own beloved son was the perpetrator. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Faithfulness 

MTS-3269

Faithfulness

“…wherever my lord the king may be,
whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”        2 Sam 15:21

 

What did Ittai the Gittite find in David that caused him to make such a bold commitment?
No matter what the situation was going to be, he and his men were going to be
faithful to David to the death.

Things sure didn’t look too good at the time. Absalom was gaining power rather quickly and
the people who were following David out of Jerusalem probably only numbered in
the hundreds. David had practically forfeited the throne and had become a man
with little power and might.

Ittai was following David the man, not David the king. Albeit David had lost the kingship
at the time, he still remained a man with dignity and integrity, who was still
worthy of people’s love and admiration.

Surely it wasn’t blind loyalty Ittai was showing toward the king. He could have stayed in
Jerusalem and sworn allegiance to the new king, but that would have gone
against everything he held dear in his life. He simply couldn’t make himself
bow down to a man who had rebelled against his own father.

“An honorable man is willing to die for someone who truly knows him (士為知己者死.)” Is this Chinese saying some
sort of hyperbole? Perhaps. I guess in David Ittai had found someone who was
worthy of his unconditional allegiance, for David appeared to know the essence
of his being and he seemed to become completely transparent before the man. In
many aspects, David had become Ittai’s best friend.

Had David found another Jonathan in Ittai the Gittite? Not quite. But the man brought no
small consolation to David’s heart. Just when he was about to drown in a flood
of sorrow and self-pity, God threw him a lifeline in the person of Ittai and
David was able to pick himself up and do what needed to be done.

The times might have been dark, but they weren’t the darkest they could have been. If
David looked hard and long enough, he could still see a glimpse of hope
shimmering in the valley of death. He might have lost a son in Absalom; he
appeared to find another son in Ittai the Gittite. 

So David ventured out into the darkness and was able to gain a foothold somewhere and
start to regroup. The war in which he was about to engage might have been the
cruelest he had ever encountered in his entire career, for in the process of
seeking victory on the battlefield, his main concern was to protect his arch-enemy.
It was even likely that he would rather lose the war and keep his son alive
than win the war and lose his son Absalom.

It was indeed tragic that David was put in such a predicament, but it was a horror from which
he couldn’t have escaped. The Lord seemed to decide not to shelter his anointed
from such great pain, and all the man could do was to surrender and pray for
God’s mercy of covering in time of great sorrow.   

           

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Unknown 

MTS-3268

The Unknown

“And today shall I make you wander about
with us, when I do not know where I am going?”            2 Sam 15:20

 

Just moments before the revolt occurred, David and his family were living in a cozy palace
where they had all the luxuries they had ever wanted, but the situation changed
rather quickly. They hardly knew how to react when they were told to pack up
all their personal belongings and to leave the city instantly.

“Where are we heading?” some people might have asked the king before they took off.

“I don’t really know,” David replied.

Had David any idea where they were going? He might have known the general direction they were
heading, but it was true that he had no inkling of where their destination was.

David and his men were running for their lives. All they wanted to do was to get away from
the city before Absalom and his men arrived.

This was not a new experience for the king, for he had had to run for his life many times
before. He had spent many months running away from Saul who sought to kill him.
He even sought refuge in Philistine territory and one time he pretended to be
insane just to remain alive. He just didn’t realize his own son was capable of
doing such a thing.  

He might have thought the days of roaming in the wild were over when he became king over
Israel, which was, in fact, wishful thinking. Being a king was probably more
dangerous than being a refugee, for a refugee knows exactly who his enemies
are, but a king generally has no earthly idea where his enemies are lurking.

All the king’s subjects are his potential enemies.

If David’s own son could turn against him, anybody within the court could have done the
same thing. How could he trust anyone?

Was there any regret in David’s heart for being what he was at the time? Likely. The shepherd
boy from Bethlehem didn’t choose to become the anointed one of Israel. Surely the
Lord didn’t consult with him before the anointing took place. He was tending
his father’s sheep when he was called home and, boom, the unthinkable took
place. An old prophet with a long white beard poured a jar of oil on his head
and it changed his entire life, but not necessarily for the better.  

Being a shepherd, his enemies were lions and bears, which only appeared occasionally,
and he knew exactly how to deal with them, but dealing with people was entirely
different.

 He knew not the reason why Saul hated him so much and wanted him dead; neither did he have any idea how his family strife
would turn into a national crisis. At the time of personal and national crisis,
the man after God’s own heart might have had great trouble figuring out what
the Lord was doing in his life.    

  

 

Monday, May 21, 2012 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ittai the Gittite 

MTS-3267

Ittai the Gittite

 “Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a
foreigner, an exile from your homeland.           2 Sam 15:19

 

Ittai the Gittite was a Philistine who had taken his men and followed David to Jerusalem.
David told him to remain in the city and be loyal to the new king while David
was fleeing from the city.

David felt he had no right to ask the Philistine to follow him and to wander in the
wilderness, since Ittai was an alien who wasn’t supposed to be loyal to him.

“How can I ask a foreigner to be loyal to me while my own son is plotting to overthrow
me?” he asked himself.

It’s easy to imagine how David must have been feeling at this time of great distress. By
leaving the city of Jerusalem, he practically declared to the world that he was
giving up his throne. Thus, he changed from a man with all entitlement into a
man without any rights. He turned into man who was running for his life.

“A stiff blade of grass stands strong under a strong wind; and a faithful subject is
known during a time of crisis (疾風知勁草; 版蕩識貞臣.)” During this time
of great danger and uncertainty, Ittai’s faithfulness to his master was tested.

The man had every right to remain in Jerusalem and change his allegiance to the new king,
who clearly had the upper hand at the time. Had Ittai been more worldly-wise,
he would have chosen to do what was the best for himself and his family and no
one would have blamed him for that.

Who could have blamed Ittai for making the most expedient decision?

No one would have blamed Ittai except Ittai himself. There were obviously many good reasons
why Ittai decided to leave his hometown and to follow David to a strange land.
The reasons must have been quite compelling for a man to do that. He might have
found in David a man worthy of his trust; or he might have found in the Lord a
God worthy of his worship. For one reason or another, he arrived at the city of
David and he remained loyal to David, even though he was about to lose his
throne and his power, which goes to show that Ittai was following David the
man, not David the king.

Ittai’s decision to follow him into the wilderness must have brought David great
consolation during a time of utter desolation. Being a man of powerful emotions,
David might have been seduced by the dark force and become depressed and
bitter, thinking that the entire world was turning against him. Yet in this
Philistine man David seemed to see a glimpse of hope and was able to face the
new challenge with renewed courage.

Who is our Ittai when we experience the dark night of our soul?

Praise the Lord there was Ruth’s presence and comforting words that brought hope to an
otherwise hopeless Naomi, who had suffered unimaginable loss in a foreign land.
Didn’t Ittai’s words to David remind us of what Ruth had uttered to her
mother-in-law when she urged her to remain in her homeland?   

   

 

 

   

Friday, May 18, 2012 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Departure 

MTS-3266

Departure

“So the king set out, with all the
people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city.”          2 Sam 15:17

 

It was the place he loved dearly, yet David had to leave her behind. He could have stayed
in the city and fought to the death, but he chose to escape, for he decided not
to turn his beloved city into a killing field.

David and his men halted briefly at the edge of the city, which gave the king time to reflect
on what was happening.

He could hardly believe what was taking place. How could he? Just a few days earlier he
was sitting on the throne, thinking that things were going so well, not knowing
that trouble was brewing. The situation with the Philistines was pretty much
under control and, after a long struggle with the heathens, David and his men
were able to take a breather from war. Yet, an internal strife was about to
break out.

“Think about danger when you are at ease (居安思危,)”
goes a Chinese saying. I don’t think David was overly concerned about what was
going on within his own household at the time. In fact, Absalom was gradually
becoming David’s pride and joy and it had never entered David’s mind that his
beloved son would rebel against him.

David indeed was being a little naïve. Even though he had been ruling over Israel for some time
now, the king had yet to master the art of scheming and politicking within his
own court. He had no idea that someone closest to him was about to stab him in
the back.

Yet the inevitable happened.

Many times he had set out from the city with every intention to return, but this time was
different. David must have had apprehension in his heart as he was looking at
the city of David for perhaps the last time, which might have brought tears to
his eyes.

He remembered the day he entered into the city and assumed the kingship over entire Israel. O
what a joyful day that was! With all his wives and children by his side, with
the heavy crown on his head, he stepped up to the throne and pronounced
blessing on all his subjects, who shouted in union: “Long live the king!”

O how he loved the city that sat on a hill with all her splendor and beauty! How could
he forget the day when he welcomed the ark of the Lord into the city with
dancing and singing? The memory was as fresh in his mind as if it had only taken
place days ago, and the thought of leaving the ark behind was painful beyond
belief.

“So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the
city.” 

So they halted for a brief moment for the king and his men to bid farewell to the city,
to reflect on what was happening to them, and perhaps say a quick prayer for
the city they loved and the homes they treasured.

 

   

 

 

Thursday, May 17, 2012 7:00:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Conspiracy 

MTS-3265

The Conspiracy

“And so the conspiracy gained strength,
and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.”            2 Sam 15:12

 

Absalom told David that he was going to Hebron to worship the Lord, but he was in fact going
to start a conspiracy to overturn his father and drive him from the city. He
took two hundred people with him and no one knew what he was intending to do
until the news broke out in Hebron. 

Some of the two hundred guests who accompanied Absalom to Hebron might not have wanted to participate in the
conspiracy, but Absalom left them with absolutely no choice. They were stranded
in the city and their lives would have been in jeopardy had they decided to
remain loyal to the king.

King David hadn’t really envisioned this coming at all. He was doing his best governing the nation, and
the country was in pretty good shape at the time. The Philistines were still
causing them some trouble, yet the country was relatively peaceful compared to
what they had experienced in the past. David might have been looking forward to
harvesting the benefits of his years of labor, not knowing there were enemies
from inside raising their ugly heads after he subdued the foes on the outside.

David wasn’t suspicious at all when his son requested that he be allowed to go to Hebron to fulfill the vow he
had made years ago when he was in exile. Absalom had been a pretty good son
after David took him back and became reconciled with him. David might have
considered what Absalom had done to promote himself was the chore a faithful
son did out of love for his father. David, being more of a man with an artistic
temperament than a man of schemes and calculation, seemed to have taken what
his son did in stride and saw no evil in all Absalom’s actions.

David could have been fooled by a father’s eagerness to trust his own beloved son.

Indeed Absalom had caused the death of David’s son Amnon, but time appeared to have healed the wound and
David’s affection for Absalom was increasing. How could a father not love such
an outstanding son? Absalom was tall and good looking and was universally
praised. Even Joab, the great general, thought highly of the man. David was in
fact quite proud of the boy, albeit he rarely mentioned it to anyone.

David was being naïve at this time, for he was quite pleased that Absalom was taking his vow to the Lord
seriously, not realizing that his son was taking the journey for an entirely
different purpose. No doubt the king had always taken his faith in God
seriously, and he must have desired all his children would follow suit.

It was too late when David found out what was taking place and the conspiracy continued to gain strength.
The snowball effect was rolling down the hill too fast to be halted and the
only thing David could do was get out of the way for a while until the dust
settled.       

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Stealing 

MTS-3264

Stealing

“…and so he stole the hearts of the
people of Israel.”

              2 Sam 15:6

 

Absalom was merely a politician at this point and he was trying to win people’s hearts by
standing at the city gate and acting as a fair judge. In the process of doing
this, he also took the opportunity to badmouth his father the king for not
doing his job. By doing so, he was able to convince people gradually that he
would make a better king than his father.

This doesn’t mean that king David was doing a poor job governing the nation; Absalom had an
agenda doing what he was doing. In order to lift himself up, he had to put
someone who was higher than him down. One must pick a fight against a great man
to prove that he is his equal. That was exactly what Absalom was doing.

What Absalom desired was the entitlement and trappings of a king, and he was just building
his reputation to reach that end. Absalom seemed to know how fickle people are
and he was able to steal their hearts from his father rather easily.

O how quickly they forgot the heroic acts David had performed on their behalf. It was so long
ago when David took down the seemingly invincible Goliath and rescued the
nation from perdition. They must have forgotten the chanting by the ladies:
“David killed ten thousands…”

By this time David was likely occupied by many other things; he didn’t find time to attend
to the needs of some people and an undercurrent of grumbling was starting to
surface. When it did, Absalom was there to lend them a listening ear and was
able to win people’s hearts one by one. Slowly, he succeeded in building a
sizeable following among the people.

It must have been hard not to be impressed by the king’s son. He was handsome and eloquent
and people must have felt quite flattered when the prince lavished them with his
undivided attention. In the meantime, David was practically invisible at the
city gate, for there were more urgent things demanding his attention than
socializing with the hoi polloi with their petty complaints. 

One by one, Absalom was stealing votes from David and when the “election” was held in
Jerusalem, the son won by a landslide and the father had to flee.  

Had David been a little more vigilant in attending to people’s needs and paying more attention
to what he son was doing, things would have turned out entirely differently. He
didn’t put his foot down when Absalom was acting like a king by having chariots
running before him on the broad streets; and no one seemed to have alerted him
when his son was gathering people around himself. When the revolt broke out, he
had no option left but to flee from Jerusalem. 
   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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