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Wednesday Lent 5B (2 Samuel 15-18; Fourth Commandment)

March 28, 2012

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Wednesday of Lent 5

28 March 2012


Fourth Commandment:  Honor Your Father and Your Mother

Bible Narrative:  2 Samuel 15-18  Absalom’s rebellion


Honor your father and mother.  Honor them.  Fear and love God so that you do not anger or despise Dad, Mom or other authorities.  Honor them. Serve and obey them.  Love and cherish them.  After all, parents and those in authority are God’s masks.  God’s servants! His representatives! For you and for your advantage in this world! 


God is present – hiddenly at work – in and through them!  God rolls up His sleeves!  He is active in the world through them.  You remember what Jesus Himself said:  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” (Matthew 22:21).  Twelve-year-old God in the flesh Jesus, after being found in the Jerusalem temple, “went down to Nazareth with them [Mary and Joseph] and was obedient to them,” (Luke 2:51).   And then thirty-three-year-old Jesus, although completely innocent, suffered at the hands of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate – who then unjustly handed Him over to be crucified!


The blessed apostle Paul puts it this way:  “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities … The authorities that exist have been established by God … He is God’s servant to do you good,” (Romans 13:1, 4).  So too the blessed apostle Peter:  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men,” (1 Peter 2:13). 


All this flows from the Fourth Commandment – especially with the word:  “Honor!”  You are to honor parents – you are to honor authorities because of the hidden majesty behind them:  God Himself!  Remember, God uses them as His instruments – for your good! 


But there is a young man:  Absalom.  King David’s son.  Fabio before there was Fabio!  Absalom was an Adonis!  His body, face, and hair were the talk of the ancient world!  “In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom.  From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish on him.  Whenever he cut the hair of his head – he used to cut his hair from time to time when it became too heavy for him – he would weigh it, and its weight was about 5 pounds by the royal standard,” (2 Samuel 14:25-26).  The hunk of all hunks!  In the ancient world such a unique man would often make divine claims about himself! 


And Absalom sure acts that way.  He is so full of himself.  So curved in on himself!  He plays by different rules.  His own!  He is his own authority!  He takes judicial and criminal matters into his own hands!  He put out a hit on his brother Amnon who raped his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-29).   He does what no man, including the king himself, ever did in the history of Israel because it was strictly forbidden![1] He obtains for himself a chariot and horses as well as an entourage of 50 bodyguards to always run ahead of him (2 Samuel 15:1).  Without any legitimate authority, he sets himself up as a judge to hear court cases among people who feel they are getting the shaft by the legitimate authorities (2 Samuel 15:2-6).  Absalom purposely does this to UNDERMINE HIS FATHER’S AUTHORITY!  He does it to win hearts and followers for himself! 


“Honor your father and your mother”?  That is not even on Absalom’s radar screen!  That Fourth Commandment, let alone any of God’s words, doesn’t even register.  He is deaf to the Word of God!   He does not fear, love and trust in God above all things. 


Then Absalom does it! No more pretense!  He crosses the Rubicon!  Civil war!  Insurrection!  Rebellion!  Against his father and king – David!  He proclaims himself as king of Israel in Hebron!  Amasses troops from all of Israel!  Marches on Jerusalem!  With the help of King David’s best and most trusted advisor and strategist now turned traitor: Bathsheba’s grandfather – Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:10-12)!


King David and his petite army of loyalists have to flee the capital.  Quickly they cross the Kidron Valley and high tail it eastward to hide in the desert!  The king is diabolically betrayed.  Totally humiliated.  A price on his head!  “KING DAVID – WANTED DEAD!  NOT ALIVE!” 


Absalom occupies Jerusalem.  In broad daylight for every man, woman and child to see with their own eyes, Absalom makes love to David’s ten remaining concubines (2 Samuel 16:22)!  In the ancient world, such an act was Absalom’s way of saying publically that he’s in total command!  That he alone is king, not David!  In addition, such a tawdry and crude act sealed Absalom’s irrevocable mutiny against his father and king!  His total rejection of the Fourth Commandment’s injunction to honor his father and king!    


Then, as David flees for his life into forced exile, a distant relative of deposed and dead King Saul named Shimei gets right in David’s face!  He curses David!  Throws rocks at David!  Showers David with dirt!  Incredibly, David lets it be.  He passively suffers it (2 Samuel 16:5-14)!  Just as he suffers his son’s rebellious, insurgent civil war!   In fact, David explicitly orders his men not to harm his son:  “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake,” (2 Samuel 18:5). 


The decisive battle takes place in the forest of Ephraim (2 Samuel 18:6).  There, David’s army goes on the offensive.  Although his troops are completely outnumbered, Absalom’s forces are defeated.  20,000 casualties! 


Then, while frantically riding his mule in the massive confusion of the woodland battle, Absalom — Adonis Absalom, GQ Absalom, Arrogant Absalom, Almighty Absalom – falls into the hands of David’s men!  His gorgeous hair gets tangled and caught in the thick branches of a huge oak tree!  He’s helpless!  Hanging by his hair in midair as his mule keeps on going! 


General Joab disobeys David’s explicit orders!  He launches three javelins into Absalom’s body.  Then more soldiers, ten in fact, surround his mortally wounded body and finish him off!  How tragic!  How ironically tragic!  The self-serving revolt is over.  Absalom is graveyard dead!    


All this serves as a warning to all of us!  It shows us how serious God is regarding the Fourth Commandment!  We are to honor our parents and authorities!  We should fear His wrath and not doing anything against any of His commandments! 


Pulling an Absalom in any way, shape or form is not God-pleasing!  But we do it all the time!  And we could care less! 


We anger our parents.  We despise them when they won’t let us do whatever we want. We only obey them only in order to get something we want. 


We do not honor anyone in authority!  Seriously, we don’t!   We are anti-authority in every way!  We mock our teachers who expect us to learn.  We incessantly ridicule our leaders who do their best to serve the country, state, or community.  We even despise our pastors.  And why is that? 


Because they – (are you ready for this?)  — they humbly expect us to hold God’s Word sacred, hear it gladly, and come to the divine service willingly!  How horrible!  Isn’t it?  But that’s not the worst of it!  On top of it all, they have the audacity to beg us – beg us — to repent! 


Repent?  Now that takes the cake!  Isn’t that just the worst?  It’s criminal, isn’t it?  Then we tell everyone who will listen just how awful the pastor is!  And none of this rebellion against every authority from parental to spiritual to civic bothers us at all!  Not one bit!  Not one bit!  Living like there could never be any negative consequences for such sinning!  And we have the gall to rag on Absalom and falsely believe that we’re any better!


So what is there left to do?  Do I dare say it?  I might as well.  After all, what could happen?  Well, all heaven could break loose among us!  So here goes!  It’s time to … repent.  Time to admit our sin.  Tell the truth about ourselves.  Stop all the self-justifying and the blaming of others. 


And trust King Jesus!  King of kings Jesus!  All authority in heaven and on earth Jesus!  Who, instead of fleeing from Jerusalem – resolutely heads to the capital as King AND STAYS PUT!  To do battle!  Against the evil powers of sin, death and Satan!


There, just outside of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives, Judas betrays King Jesus into the hands of sinners!  Abandoned, denied, and disowned! Arrested!  Jailed!  Beaten beyond recognition! Cursed!  Insults hurled in His face!  Mocked with a crown of thorns and a purple robe!  Finally, unjustly and unfairly sentenced to death as if He were the worst criminal in the Roman Empire! 


He willingly suffered it all!  “Put your sword away Peter!  There will be none of that!  Let it all be!  I’m not here to lead a rebellion!” 


Then, as He hung, pinned to a Tree, caught and suspended between heaven and earth, His enemies come upon Him.  Sin, death, and Satan are delighted to have found Him in such weakness!  Such helplessness!  They then have their way with the King of kings!  They throw themselves at Him with all that they have!  These three powers – like three javelins – propelled into Jesus’ corpus with all their might! 


What does hanging in a tree Descendant-of-David-King-Jesus do?  He lets it all be!  In fact, He prays for all of us who rebelled against His Lordship:  “Father, forgive them.”   “Forgive them Father I beg You!  Let no harm come to them!  Don’t let any evil or the Evil One harm them!  Let not their sin damn them!  Instead, let their sin damn Me!  I will suffer it!  I willingly take into Myself the guilt of their rebellion against You Father!  I will die for their sake Father!  For their salvation sake!  Forgive them Father!  Don’t hold any of their sin against them.  I beg You!  For my sake!”


Then He dies!  The only true God King on the earth dies!  The salvation job accomplished.  For you and for the world!  King the most!  Savior the most!  When He’s hanging dead from the Tree – graveyard dead – gruesomely tangled in its branches! 


He died this way for you!  From the Tree and from His Blood that stained it He exercises His authority over you.  He lords His death over you with the promise that your sin is forgiven!  He has the wounds and scars to prove it!  In addition, He gives you His Body and Blood in the Sacrament to confirm it!  He gave you His Name in Holy Baptism to substantiate it! 


His royal prayer from the Tree for your forgiveness has been answered!  You are forgiven!  Jesus has the kingly authority to say so!  His absolution bestows and gives what it says! 


His regal forgiveness gives you your life back.  A life that now rejoices and gives thanks for your parents and other authorities that He’s put into your life.  A redeemed life in order to honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.  In addition, His kingly absolution gives you even more:  salvation!  His heavenly reign breaking wide open in your life now and forever!


So go in peace!  In the Name of Jesus. 

     [1]Deuteronomy 17:16

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