Summary: Considering the events leading up to Absalom's rebellion and seeking to learn from his actions.

“After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, ‘From what city are you?’ And when he said, ‘Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,’ Absalom would say to him, ‘See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.’ Then Absalom would say, ‘Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.’ And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

“And at the end of four years Absalom said to the king, ‘Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to the LORD, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram, saying, “If the LORD will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will offer worship to the LORD.”’ The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he arose and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, ‘As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, “Absalom is king at Hebron!”’ With Absalom went two hundred men from Jerusalem who were invited guests, and they went in their innocence and knew nothing. And while Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.” [1]

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” So goes the excuse that some use to justify civic terrorism. To be valid, such a concept must meet several criteria. The one some combative individual as a “freedom fighter” must be able to justify the resort to violence. If they cannot do this, the argument fails. To qualify as a freedom fighter, the one engaging in violence must actually have suffered loss of freedom or face the probability of loss of freedom. Generally, when speaking of the loss of freedoms that would justify rebellion, we are speaking of those freedoms that are conferred on mankind by the Creator. Governments cannot create freedoms; governments can only recognise freedoms that the Creator has given all mankind. Let me state this again—no government can create freedom; government can only recognise the freedom that is the heritage of all mankind by God’s design. The practical impact of this concept is that government is responsible to guard and to preserve the freedoms God has given. It is not the role of government either to create freedoms or to restrict freedoms which God alone can give.

Of course, I am presenting a broad statement concerning freedom; and the statement is focused on freedom as a person. Christians are free in Christ the Lord. Paul has taught us, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” However, our freedom is not liberty to rebel against governments, which God has instituted. Rebellion against the powers that God has established or permitted must be seen as the extremely serious matter that it actually is.

The message today reviews the act of rebellion against government. Time will not permit me to be comprehensive concerning every possible justification for rebelling against the constituted authorities. What the message does endeavour to do is provide guidance for Christian conduct when we are tempted to rebel.

GRIEVANCES — The opening verse of the text begins, “After this.” This particular construction raises the question, “After what?” Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. Those familiar with the biblical account will know that Amnon, another of David’s sons, was consumed with lust for Tamar. He was so consumed that he employed a ruse designed by a cousin to isolate the young woman so that he could rape her. What is especially heinous about this crime is that David was responsible for sending his daughter into danger that would result in her rape. Admittedly, his son did deceive him; but he acted with his eyes wide open. It seems safe to suggest that the good king had grown complacent in his later years [see 2 SAMUEL 13:1-14].

After raping his sister, the Word informs us that “Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” [2 SAMUEL 13:15]. Tamar pleaded with Amnon not to send her away. If he refused to do the honourable thing and marry her, it would appear that she had seduced him, making her appear dishonourable. Amnon would not listen, ordering his servants to send her away. So, Tamar fled to her brother Absalom, her robe torn as a sign of grief and her hand on her head in the place of her veil which had been ripped away.

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