“So the king got up and took his seat in
the gateway.”

2 Sam 19:8


David seemed to take Joab’s warning seriously and did what was necessary to appease the
people. Things could easily have gotten out of control had he not taken this
action. “So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway.”

Being a sentimental person with powerful emotions, David would have very much liked to
dwell in his sorrow as long as he possibly could. He could have been overcome
by depression caused by his grave loss and become totally incapacitated,
but that simply wasn’t an option. His position was too important to the entire
nation for him to do that. Happy or sad, jolly or miserable, the king had a job
to do.

Doing what was necessary or what he was called to do shortened his recovery time a great deal. Our grief is
prolonged or extended by our indulgence in it.

The world seems to cease turning when people are overcome by sorrow and they tend to become incapable of
doing anything. I guess that’s a typical symptom of clinical depression. What melancholy
does to people is to rob them of any desire to do anything. They simply lie in
bed all day and wallow in their sorrow, waiting for the world to end.

Our mind tends to become less active and our feelings less sensitive when we are actively engaging in some
rigorous activity, be it doing our daily chores or physical exercising. When we
lie idle, our thinking may take us to places we don’t want to be or we should
not be.

So David did the right thing by getting up and fulfilling his duty as a king. When he was occupied by public
affairs, he at least could set his personal despair aside for a while.

“How do you grow old gracefully,” I asked my mother-in-law, who is ninety-three years old and who three years ago
lost her husband of sixty years. “Learn something new every day,” she replied.

I suppose that is something that keeps her from dwelling in the sorrow of her loss. Her mind has been
occupied by the excitement of acquiring new knowledge and the thrill seems to
have crowded out whatever grief she might have had in her heart.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Indeed David’s loss was great and the sorrow was unbearable, yet in the midst of all the personal tragedies
that happened, he still determined to focus on what the Lord called him to do.
No matter what his circumstances were, he was still God’s anointed and doing
God’s bidding would bring him lasting joy.   

Thursday, June 28, 2012 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“You have made it clear today that the
commanders and their men mean nothing to you.”         2 Sam 19:6


Joab was a  capable general who had been with David through thick and thin and, emboldened
by the victory he just secured, he went to the king and spewed out his
frustration and anger concerning David’s negative reaction to the military

Could David have reacted to the victory of his troops and the death of his dear son any differently?

What was the kingdom to him at that moment? I think the thrill of victory was greatly
diminished for the king, since he had lost what he considered the most
precious. Although his career was rejuvenated by the military success and he
would soon be welcomed back to the city of David to reclaim his throne, this
time the glory of kingship didn’t seem to be all that appealing.

Joab was right when he made the statement: “You have made it clear today that the
commanders and their men mean nothing to you.”

From the moment he was anointed by Samuel as a little lad, David had been working toward
what he was destined to be - the king over Israel. The sacrifices he had made
in the process were truly great since he gave up the pastoral life of a
shepherd he had learned to enjoy. There was probably regret in his heart that
he had traded his life as a shepherd of his father’s sheep to become the
shepherd of God’s people. In the process of keeping his country together, his
own family was broken apart.  

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” lamented King Solomon.

Indeed there was euphoria in his heart when he finally demolished the Philistines and people
from alleys and streets were all singing his praises; there was great
excitement when the crown of jewels was removed from Saul and placed on his
head. The euphoria was, however, a fleeting thing and the king soon came to
realize true joy lies within one’s heart, which is generated from one’s
intimate relationship with one’s God and family.

Even though Absalom was going after his throne, David still held his son dear to his heart
and would have been willing to give up his kingship for his son’s life.

What was Joab to him? Not much. What were the troops to him? Not much. What was the kingship
to him? Not much at all.

The realization came a little too late, however. His son was gone and he would
spend the remainder of his earthly mourning for him. David had made the choice
of pursuing his career as a military man and ultimately a king and the course
became irreversible. Would the man have done exactly the same thing had he had
the opportunity to do it over? If so, we can be sure that his revision would be
drastically different from the original version.   



Wednesday, June 27, 2012 7:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“And for the whole army the victory that
day was turned into mourning…”

           2 Sam 19:2


There was no reason for the troops to celebrate, even though they had scored a great victory
against their enemies. How could they celebrate their brothers’ death?

They were not fighting against the Philistines this time; they were fighting against their
fellow Israelites. Instead of gloating over their countrymen’s death, they
should have mourned for them.

Victory in war is not worth celebrating. Death is always tragic, including our enemy’s
death. Our enemy’s loss does not necessarily mean our gain. As God’s children,
any individual loss is also a collective loss.

The war was just so personal for David since he was fighting against his beloved son and he
was put in a lose-lose situation.

Perhaps we should take all wars personally.

When the missiles were flying over the desert of Iraq in the night sky the day after the
Gulf war broke out, some of us Americans might have enjoyed watching the
spectacular scene as if we were looking at July fourth fireworks, not realizing
some parents were losing their children and some women their husbands when the
deadly weapons landed on houses and streets.

Death was brought closer to home when the coffins of American dead arrived on our soil
and we mourned for our countrymen and women who sacrificed their lives for our
country. As far as the death of Iraqis was concerned, we seemed to feel no
remorse or sadness for them, as if their death was not a loss, or not tragic at

Would David have wept openly had his son Absalom remained alive after the war? Probably
not. War becomes much more personal if we are at risk of suffering personal

Being the father of all men, God must take all wars personally. It must sadden his heart
a great deal to see his creatures slaughtering one another for various reasons,
mostly superfluous and unjustifiable.

David might have started viewing all wars in a different light after the war he had to fight
against his own son. Being a seasoned warrior himself, David must have killed
hundreds of people with his own sword. Yet never was there a single incident
when he mourned for his enemies. 

Goliath’s mother must have mourned for her son’s death just as much as David mourned for the
tragic loss of his son Absalom. 

My dad wept when he came to visit me when I was going through boot camp. His heart must
have been laden with anxiety and care for his son, not knowing what would
happen to me the rest of my days during my military career. I am sure his greatest
fear at the time was that war might break out and I would be shipped to the
frontlines. Had he had the power at all, he would have tried his best to
prevent war of any sort from breaking out.

We may consider otherwise, but all wars are personal and all deaths are equally

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The News 


The News

“The king was shaken. He went up to the
room over the gateway and wept.”

              2 Sam 18:33


Even a king is not immune to sorrow. At the news of his son Absalom’s death, David was
heartbroken and went up to his room and wept. He was hoping for victory in
battle, but his greatest hope was for the leader of his enemies, his beloved
son, to remain alive.

The battle was won, and his son was dead.

It wasn’t a bitter-sweet kind of thing for the king. Had he had a choice between the two,
he would have chosen his son’s life over triumph in battle. The crown meant
very little to him after he had lost his child.

He could easily have handed the crown to his son without fighting if by doing so he
could preserve his son’s life. But that simply wasn’t a viable option, for many
people’s lives and livelihoods were depending on him and he was responsible for
all of them. Therefore he could only hope for the best.

The news of Absalom’s death came swiftly.

Even though he was a king over a nation, he was still a father of many sons and losing any one
of them must have been unbearable. The power and glory he had acquired as a
king did nothing to diminish his sorrow over such a great loss and, if it were
possible, he would have been willing to give it all up to bring his sons back.

David had lost three sons thus far. He had lost his infant son by Bathsheba, another son
Amnon by the hand of Absalom, and finally Absalom himself in battle. Every one
of these losses bought a great amount of sorrow to the king, but the loss of
Absalom seemed to be the greatest, for he had such high hopes for the man.  

By this time, David was well acquainted with grief and, apart from the Lord’s sustaining and
comfort, he would have become a broken man.

Wealth and fame simply don’t fortify men from sorrow and pain. After we have accomplished
all things, we still have to face loss and death. If our dreams only consist of
the things on earth, they will certainly be shattered in the end. “Now what?”
This is the question that people often ask after they have achieved what they
desired to accomplish. We are so afraid to look beyond the rainbow of our
dreams, for what lies behind is utter darkness. Surely Solomon’s Ecclesiastes
isn’t for the fainthearted to read, because it uncovers what lies beyond all
earthly fame and fortune.

What was the king going to do after all the losses?

After all the earthly joy was taken away from him through adverse circumstances, he could
only turn to God for the joy of the Lord to sustain him. He might have lost all
options by this time except his salvation. 


Monday, June 25, 2012 8:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Monument 


A Monument

“He named the pillar after himself, and
it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.”           2 Sam 18:18


Absalom had started to think about his legacy after he took over the throne from his father. Since he had no son to carry on his name, he decided to erect a monument in the King’s Valley and name it after himself. He was indeed contemplating the fleetness of fame and fortune and making preparation for his death, or lifeafter death to be more exact.

What does a name, either good or bad, do for a man who has already died? Not a whole lot, really. If death is the end of all things, all things will mean nothing to men; if it is not the end of all things, then it’s not up to men to determine what to keep and to discard. We may have some control over our lives here on earth; but we will have zero control over our lives beyond this earth. The monument we have constructed in this life may serve as evidence of our crimes, by which we will be condemned in the life to come.  

What is evidence of the first emperor of China, Emperor Ching, of evil deeds on earth? It is the Great Wall of China which, although it is a monument to the ruthless king’s crowning accomplishment, it is nonetheless the symbol of many broken homes and thousands of people’s deaths. The sacrifice of human lives in the process of building the infamous wall was the least of the king’s concerns.

What did Absalom’s pillar say about Absalom the man?

It said that the man was a head taller than all his peers and was extremely handsome. It also stated that the man had heavy thick hair that was peerless in his time. Indeed the prince was the envy of all men in his generation.

The monument also said something about the man’s arrogance and his burning desire to avenge the abuse his sister had suffered under Amnon. By looking at the monument people were reminded of the murder Absalom had committed.

There was more, much more, the stony monument could attest about the man who erected it. Absalom would forever be remembered as a son who broke his father’s heart, both by his life and by his death. David probably loved Absalom more than any of his sons, yet the son had absolutely no concern for his father and tore the king’s heart to pieces by his revolt. When people generations later looked at the silent pillar, they could still hear the mourning of a father over the death of his son echoing in King’s Valley: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom!” 

The monument would become exhibit number one in the heavenly court when Absalom was prosecuted and he would be found guilty. Building a monument to proclaim his name and to preserve his legacy was one of the many sins Absalom committed on earth and it would serve as evidence, testifying of a life that was wicked and sinful.

What kind of monument are we building with our lives?

Thursday, June 21, 2012 7:08:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 


The End

“They took Absalom, threw him into a big
pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him.”          2 Sam 18:17


That was not what the ambitious young man had envisioned for himself to be at the end of his
earthly life. Surely he had a lot higher aspirations than that. Had he remained
as a king of Israel for a little bit longer, he would have started erecting a
splendid tomb for himself, just like Egyptian Pharaohs had done before him. In
a matters of months after he took the throne from his father, Absalom was
thrown into big pit in a forest and was covered by a heap of rocks.

It was indeed a tragic ending for the otherwise very promising young man, but his ending was
no different from that of all the kings of the earth. Quite a few kings in
human history seemed to have died at a young age, and many of them by
assassination. Some fortunate ones died a peaceful death and a great service
was performed on their behalf, but all of them have been covered by dust and have
become food for worms. Kings might command great respect and admiration while
alive, but at death they are no different from the paupers and beggars of the

What did Absalom take with him besides remorse and regret?

He probably didn’t have any time to mediate on his life. His most urgent concern was how to
free himself from the tree branch and how to rally his troops in battle. Even
though his life was hanging by a hair, he was still holding onto the hope for
his future as a king. For a man with great ambition and fortitude, Absalom
thought he could again defy death. 

This time death had the final word.

Absalom was hardly ready for his life to end in such an inauspicious manner. Being an
optimist, defeat seldom entered into his mind and death was never a part of his
meditation. He actually thought the war against his father would be a short and
swift one, and he was, in fact, planning his victory celebration. Then,
unfortunately, there was this great oak branch, hanging low to the ground,
waiting to trap the man, to put an end to all his earthly dreams, to put a dark
period to a life story so promising and so depressing.

What do we witness in the man who was endowed with such great promise? What have we learned
from the man who could easily have become another Solomon?

His unbridled ambition was something that doomed the man and brought him to his tragic end.
Absalom might have been a tragic hero who was doomed by a tragic flaw, which
was his burning passion for position and power, but things could have turned
out differently had he had some reverence and fear for God. There were a lot of
great things he could have done for the kingdom had he brought the Lord into
the equation of his decision making process. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 7:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“So he took three javelins in his hand
and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak
tree.”    2 Sam 18:14


Joab was a pragmatic person who knew what the best thing to do militarily was. He was well
aware of the king’s command concerning Absalom and might have thought about the
consequence of putting the prince to death, but being a military leader, Joab
did what he considered the best for the country, choosing to ignore the king’s

 I think Joab must have thought through the
whole thing and had decided to kill Absalom if the opportunity presented
itself. Did the general have any fear of the king’s wrath? He probably did, but
knowing that David’s power was greatly diminished at the time, he believed it
would be fine for him to violate the king’s order. 

Joab must have realized the dire consequences of keeping Absalom alive, for he
knew what sort of person the king’s son was and how he was perfectly capable of
making another comeback, were he given another chance. It was simply too great
a risk to take at that juncture.

Joab used to think very highly of the young prince and had gone to such an extent to vouch
for the man while he was still in exile. But things had changed since then. The
destiny of the entire nation was in jeopardy and he had to act, and act

One javelin was probably sufficient, but he plunged three into Absalom’s heart, just to
make sure. It was awfully cruel, yet the general didn’t seem to have any other choice.
He wanted to prevent another, similar thing from happening to the nation. It
was a war in which Joab was very reluctant to get involved, for it broke his
heart to slaughter his own countrymen. He just wanted to make sure there
wouldn’t be another civil war like that ever again.  

Joab might have had more compassion for Absalom had he looked at the whole thing from the
point of view of a father. Was he a father himself? Likely. “Being
compassionate to your enemy is cruel to yourself.” I repeated this slogan so
many times when I was in boot camp that this idea must have become engraved in
my heart. The killing of Absalom might have been inhumane, it was nonetheless a

The war was ended temporally with Absalom’s death, but there were other conspirators
looming in the dark, waiting to strike. Joab didn’t end the war by killing the
king’s son; he merely bought David more time as a king over Israel. The time
would come when the kingdom would be divided in twain and brothers would
continue to butcher brothers until both kingdoms were wiped out by foreign
powers. Therefore Absalom’s death didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference
to Israel in terms of maintaining peace and harmony. As long as sin is rooted
in the human heart and greed for power permeates our souls, war is simply

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“He was left hanging in midair, while
the mule he was riding kept on going.”

           2 Sam 18:9


Absalom wouldn’t have been caught by an oak tree branch if he hadn’t been so tall or hadn’t had
such long, thick hair. The things that he was the most proud of somehow turned
into deadly snares. The wonderful qualities that made him stand up taller than
all his peers became the things that brought him down lower than the lowest.

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your
decrees,” said the Psalmist.

The prince was born with all the privileges available, and
rarely was he afflicted in his youth. In fact, he was adored by all and
disdained by none. All of his friends must have desired to be like him and all
mothers in Israel must have secretly wished they could give birth to a precious
son just like Absalom.

It wasn’t Absalom’s fault that he perceived himself the same way
other people were perceiving him. He was born with all the entitlements and he
must have felt he deserved them all. He had learned to take all things for granted,
since all things were granted to him without charge.

No wonder what happened to his sister Tamor was such a shock to
him. “Such a thing shouldn’t have happened to the princess, to Absalom’s
sister,” he must have exclaimed with great agony. Getting even with his
half-brother Amnon was the only way for him to get his pride and dignity back
as a prince.

If only Absalom had been born as a pauper, shorter of statue and
with less hair, things would have been fine. As an ordinary person, he most
likely would have led a normal life and died an ordinary death. He might even
have become a godly man with a humble heart and a servant attitude and his life
would have become a great blessing to many people.

“He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.”

The mule he was riding on cared very little about what was occurring to his master. He kept
on going as if nothing had happened. The handsome mule, Absalom’s symbol of
stature, didn’t come to his rescue at crunch time; the animal just went out of
sight and his rider was left daggling in midair, trying desperately to get

Could Absalom have severed his hair and gotten himself free? He could have done so had he had
a sword or a knife with him, which was quite likely, since he was involved in a
battle. Was it possible that he became a little reluctant to cut off his hair
and was discovered during that split second by Joab’s men while he was debating
whether to do it or not? Perhaps his hair was just too thick to be severed by a
sword. Just like the tragic hero before him, Absalom seemed to live and die by
his precious hair.

Isn’t it time for us to tear down the precious self-image we have erected our entire life so
that we can live as children of God?      








Monday, June 18, 2012 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional




“…and as the mule went under the thick
branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree.”          2 Sam 18:9


secret of strength lay in his long hair, and he lost his supernatural power
when his hair was severed by his enemies. His hair was supposed to be his asset
and strength, but it also became his weakness and liability.

What set Absalom apart from ordinary people were his birth, height, thick hair, and good
looks. Although he did nothing to earn those things, they nonetheless became
the main sources of his pride, things that made him feel superior.

It would have been better for Absalom had he been born without any of those advantages. He
would have led his life as an ordinary man who would have gotten married and
raised a family and then died in his old age like most people did. Such an ordinary
life would have been much better than the atrocious one he led as a
handsome prince.

Absalom’s strength was really his weakness and his advantage was indeed his disadvantage.

Absalom became furious when his sister Tamar was raped, which was something that hurt his pride as a
brother. He obviously pitied his sister for having to live through such a
tragedy, but his self-esteem was also injured in the process. Being an arrogant
man, when life dealt him a heavy blow, he always tried to punch back even
harder. Amnon had to die.

The crown could have been his had he waited for it to happen naturally, for he appeared to be the one among
David’s sons who was the most suited for the throne. David must have been
observing all his sons and finding most of them wanting, except Absalom and young

People with great ambition are rarely patient. They feel they can cause things to happen by their actions and
make their dreams come true through their maneuvering and, being overconfident
in their ability, they simply don’t think they can fail in any way.

Never a single time did he ever entertain the idea that he might be hung by his hair from an oak tree, yet
that was exactly what                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
                             happened to him.
The thick glossy hair that brought him so much vanity and pride was something
that brought him down at the end. What he had trusted so much eventually failed

Paul indeed had much strength which brought him fame in his youth, yet he loved to boast about his weaknesses,
knowing that it was his frailty that drove him to the living stream of
strength. “When I am weak, I am strong,” he said.


Friday, June 15, 2012 7:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 


The End

 “He put his house in order and then hanged

            2 Sam 17:23


There wasn’t anything left for Ahithophel to do, really. His career was over and he knew
very well who would come out on top in the struggle between the father and the
son, and if that were truly the case, his head would roll since he was a
traitor. Ahithophel had taken a big gamble and failed.

He could have taken a chance and waited it out until the war was settled to see what
transpired. Being an intelligent person, he could see very well the writing on
the wall that spelled his doom. Rather than wait for the victor to come to
claim the spoil, he chose to end his life with dignity.

Things could have turned out entirely differently had he not succumbed to Absalom’s enticement
and had remained loyal to the old king. He simply let his hunger for power and
position get the better of him.

Had Ahithophel been caught in a power struggle between the king and his son and been
victimized by an adverse situation, or was he merely an opportunist who did
whatever he could to advance his career and only had himself to blame?

It didn’t matter to him anymore. He was overcome by hopelessness and could not see any
way out. The thought of facing David again was just so terrifying and
humiliating that it would be worse than death. He had sacrificed his honor for
power and, when it failed, the rug was pulled out from under him and he had no
place to stand. It was a bet that he shouldn’t have taken, for what he would
have won through the adventure would have been miniscule compared to what he would
have lost. Instead of plunging into the cesspool of ambition, Ahithophel should
have guarded his honor and integrity as the king’s counselor.

By taking a misstep the man lost the good name he had been trying to build his entire life.
It was hardly worth it, was it?

It would have been a little too late for him to start over and, besides, I doubt David would
have given him that opportunity. By this time Ahithophel was probably an
elderly man and what else could he have done except end it all with his own
hand. He had lost all control over the situation and chose to do the only thing
over which he still had control, which was a sort of protest against whatever
was dealt him by the Almighty.

Restoration was still possible had the man given it a try, however. Forgiveness from people
might have been difficult to obtain at the time, but he could still have sought
pardon from above. Ultimately, the latter was far more important for him than
the former, anyway. By committing suicide, Ahiphophel lost the chance to
achieve either.

How had a life started with such great hope end up in such an enormous failure?
Surrendering to the seduction of power was all it took to ruin a person’s
otherwise promising life. 





Wednesday, June 13, 2012 6:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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