Summary: A sermon that causes self-examination by asking "are you backsliding?" The sermon focuses on Absalom and Ahithophel.
2 Samuel 18:18 KJV Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place.
I. INTRODUCTION—THE BATTLEFIELD AT SARATOGA
At the battlefield in Saratoga (NY) there is a 155-foot tall monument that commemorates the fight where the British made their last stand on American soil. It sits in the foothills of the Adirondacks and Taconics and it gives a silent testimony to those men who bravely refused to bow down to the British.
Around the base there are four deep niches and in each niche there appears a name of one of the American generals who commanded there. Above the names stand giant bronze figures on horseback, as famous today as they were when they were shouting commands and encouragement to their men. In the first niche the name Horatio Gates appears; in the second, Philip John Schuyler; and in the third, Daniel Morgan.
But the niche on the fourth side is strangely vacant. The name appears, but the soldier is absent. In fact, it is conspicuously absent. When you read the name, the mind rushes back into the yesterdays of history to the foggy banks of the Hudson River where a man sold his soul and forfeited his right to be remembered. How the mighty are fallen! The brigadier general who once commanded West Point, the major general who distinguished himself at battles along Lake Champlain, Mohawk Valley, Quebec, and Saratoga, committed treason and died a synonym of disgrace—Benedict Arnold.
The final place of Benedict Arnold is in a lonely room in London. He dies an old man but his age is not an honor to him as he dies without friends, without family, without a home, and without God. He was a hero, a patriot, and a traitor. (Adapted from Clarence Macartney)
Clarence Macartney—The empty niche in that monument shall ever stand for fallen manhood, power prostituted, for genius soiled, for faithlessness to a sacred trust.
-The text we read gives us a picture of another man, another traitor, who died in place that he, should never have been.
-In the previous verses of 2 Samuel 18, there is an accounting given of Absalom’s death. Joab jams three darts into his young body and kills him. Absalom is then cut down from the limb of the oak tree that had entangled his hair and unceremoniously tossed into a pit and covered with rocks.
-A place to bury a rebel prince was chosen as a sorry substitute for where he should have been buried. He was buried under a rock-pile instead of a stately monument for the royal family. In fact, Absalom had built a great monument for himself in the valley of the kings and he never made it.
-What a tradeoff!
• A gashed and broken body.
• Lying at the bottom of a pile of rocks.
• Only a forsaken father to mourn over him.
• His winsome ways all come to nothing.
• His ability to listen to people wasted in tragedy.
• His whole life—entirely unfulfilled and never living up to his calling.
-We find that world and the Church are full of Absaloms who never live up to their calling or their ambition. They build huge monuments with their words but their deeds are never called to a nobility of action.
-Their final end will be one filled with regret and horror. Life is filled with people like Absalom and we need to make sure that we do not fall into that category. They end up making it to stone-piles of regret and infamy. And people all wonder how in the world that it could have happened.
• How could Benedict Arnold be a traitor?
• How could Absalom turn his back on his nation and his father?
-One man said it like this: Men never fall far. That means that the failures we see in them was something that had begin to erode their souls months before the calamity took place. . . for some it was years that they managed to hide behind a façade until the sudden collapse came.
-Look at the landscape of life and even of this church. . .
• How many Absaloms have been missed over the years?
• How many are about to make their exit now?
• How many have built a monument that will be filled with the barrenness of failure?
-We missed them when they left and we will miss them when they leave. But I can’t go with them, no matter what wooing words or logical reasons that they may give. . . Above all else I must be saved!