Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Height of Hypocrisy

Today's passage:  II Samuel 14
     Absalom is a petulant child.  In reality, he is a young man (he has four children already), but he behaves like a petulant child.  "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty:  from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him."  Obviously, Absalom is a good looking fellow, not surprising since he has King's David's DNA.  Can I say this?  Be very careful with your beautiful children.  All of our children are beautiful, but sometimes there are stand-outs.  You can tell this, because everywhere they go, they are admired.  People dote on them, talk to them, stare (in a good way) at them, admire them.
     My oldest son and I had a talk about this just the other day. My eight year old and my two year old are best buddies.  Firstborn takes very good care of him, but often spoils Youngest.  Now Youngest happens to be a very beautiful child.  Of course, I say that because I am his mother, but I get compliments everywhere I take him.  People naturally are taken with his blond curls and charming smile.  As nice as it is to have these compliments, Youngest is already learning that being cute can be very rewarding.  And since he is two, the tantrums when he does not get his way have increased.  I was correcting Youngest for this behavior the other day, when Firstborn asked me to be lenient.  "Oh Mom, he's just so cute!"  I explained to Firstborn, that is exactly why he needed correction.  Perhaps he is cute at two, but that behavior will not be cute at five or six.  Firstborn saw the logic in this, and let me proceed.
     I do not want to raise an Absalom.  I'm wondering if Absalom's mother, or perhaps nursemaids gave into his tempers and rewarded him with all that his heart desired--he was such a good-looking boy.  Youngest has already learned that he does not necessarily have to throw a tantrum to get his way, instead, he is learning that people give in when he flashes his sweetest smile and lowers his lashed eyelids.  Maybe that was Absalom's approach.  Parents, be careful you don't fall for that act too much either.  I can't say for sure that Absalom was spoiled as a child, but I'm guessing as handsome as he was, he was probably indulged.  A lot.  Selfish traits don't usually just spring up in adulthood, they have been carefully fostered throughout the years.
     In this passage, we see how Joab has finagled a way to get David to bring Absalom back into the fold.  But David still refuses to see his murdering son.  Joab is responsible for Absalom's return, but quickly sees that he will lose favor with the king if he gives in to any more of the prince's demands.  Absalom wants an audience with his father, and calls for Joab to mediate.  Joab refuses to come.  Absalom calls for Joab again.  Again, Joab does not comply.  So what does Absalom do?  He has his servants burn Joab's field. Are we talking about adult behavior here? I mean, that kind of thing probably worked in the palace nursery as a boy when the governess refused to give him his way, but really?  He's a grown man.  Joab seeks out Absalom (which is exactly what Absalom knew would happen) about this immature behavior.  Absalom simply responds with, "Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither,"  as if that is a good enough reason to destroy someone's property.  Absalom's action is grossly disproportionate to Joab's conduct.  But what is the most disturbing is that it works.  Joab does exactly what Absalom manipulated him to do.  If Joab had refused, Absalom would have upped the ante and probably burned his home as well, or killed Joab's servants.  The degree of selfishness in Absalom is equal to the weight of his newly shaven hair.
David Forgives Absalom--Taken from Treasures of the Bible (United Kingdom)
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
The International Publishing Company, 1894
     It is probably too late to corral Absalom's selfish ambitions.  He has been a selfish being for too long to be able to mend his ways now.  Of course, God can do that in him, but even then, it would take time.  David was always repentant when he had done wrong, but we don't see that in any of his sons.  I'm sure David taught the boys about the Lord, but unfortunately some of David's actions were so contrary to what he taught, that they saw the hypocrisy and walked away from God.  We all have some degree of hypocrisy in our lives, and our children will see it above all else.  We will never be perfect people, and we will never do everything exactly as we should.  But David's refusal to welcome Absalom back (despite his vengeful act of murder against Amnon) was the height of hypocrisy in Absalom's mind.  Why?  Hadn't David been a murderer?  Hadn't David had a man killed so that it would not be discovered he had been intimate with the man's wife?  In Absalom's mind, David's murder was so much worse.  Absalom reasoned that at least when he had his brother killed, it was retribution for dishonoring his sister.  Where was the nobility in what David had done?  David repented, and I'm sure Absalom refused to do this.  But perhaps the wise thing for David to have done, would be to have this conversation with Absalom and persuade him that his actions were unconscionable.  Maybe Absalom and David had these letters by messenger, but this was David's son--a face-to-face talk should have commenced.  Again, it is easy to sit in my office chair, play Monday-morning quarterback hundreds of years later, and advise David on what would have been a better way.  I'm sure if and when things go wrong in my life, others will do the same of me.  Still, God puts these things in His Word so we can benefit from David's triumphs and his mistakes.  God wants me to glean what I can on how to raise my children (or how not to) so that I don't have to go through the trials and tribulations that he endured.  It is too bad that David had to be the example, but I'm thinking that David had examples he could have watched.  Did he take advantage of that?  Did he have the privilege of talking to his father who had raised eight boys?  I don't know.  I just know that I do have that advantage, and I must grab hold onto any knowledge the Lord will give me.  I don't want to raise a petulant man/child.

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