We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. --2 Samuel 14:14
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Ways and Means
David’s son, Absalom, had arranged the murder of his brother, Amnon, for the rape of his sister, Tamar. For David, it must have all seemed an ugly sort of justice for his own adultery and the arranged murder of Uriah the Hittite. I have said, and I have often heard it said, that God was punishing David for his sin. In a sense that is correct, but I realized that whatever seed we sow is the same kind of crop we will bring in … God will not take away life. Injustice and unrighteousness on my part will cascade through my life and impact those around me, including the innocent.
David’s innocent, virgin daughter was subjected to violence, humiliation, and ruin because of the seeds of disobedience planted by the father. If you keep a skunk into your house, you’ll get used to the smell after a while, but the stench, in reality, remains as sickening and disgusting as ever. I speak from some personal experience, having seen my own faults and failures raised up as disobedience and suffering in the lives of our children.
After the murder of Amnon, Absalom fled to the land of his mother’s people. David missed him and was grieved by his absence, but he could not bring himself to send for him. Justice called for Absalom’s death, and yet justice had been due Amnon, as well -- justice David himself should have executed. Our friend Joab is concerned about the king’s state of mind and so arranges with a wise woman of Tekoa (later home of the fig-picking prophet, Amos) to present a dramatic story to David to help him see the situation more clearly and – as had been the case with the prophet Nathan’s parable of the little ewe lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-14) – have David pronounce his own judgment upon himself.
In the course of convincing the king of the justness of her plea, the woman renders this word of prophetic and revelatory significance with regard to the love and grace of God. Humanity has failed God, disobeyed and been justly banished from His presence, yet God’s love for His children, those made in His image and likeness, remains undiminished. From the moment of the Fall, the Lord has been in the process of devising means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.
The banished one – it is personal and individual. God doesn’t just bring people in. He figures out a way to bring you back. He figures out a way to bring me in. The Way is Christ and the Cross, but we do not all reach the Place of the Skull by the same means or the same path. Each one brings a different story of the grace that carries us to the foot of the Cross.
Water spilled speaks, like spilt milk, of that which cannot be undone, the eggs that cannot be unscrambled, the past frozen, set in stone, becoming, often, monuments to our defiant iniquity, willful ignorance or mere whimsical stupidity. As we say every so often, we cannot change the past, but we can change what the past means.
I call myself a Christian. Still, some days, it seems that I remain very far from where I need to be. Wherever we, any of us, find ourselves, however foreign and hostile the locale, we can know that at this moment a messenger seeks us with the word that our banishment is over, and that we will be welcomed home.