And she answered, I am indeed a widow woman.
A London Minister.The contrast between this parable and the one preceding it is very great. The parable of the ewe-lamb was spoken of by a prophet inspired by God. This one was spoken by a theatrical persons at the instigation of a man of the world, one who, though thoroughly unprincipled, could read human character and discern human motives through a very small crevice. The parable of Nathan was the introduction to a scorching reproof of David's iniquity, the parable of the Tekoan is full of fulsome flattery. The prophet's parable was uttered to induce repentance in David; this one had for its end only the promotion of Joab's schemes of self-interest.
I. THE ARGUMENT OF THE PARABLE.
1. That those who grant mercy abroad should first begin at home. The first reason which the woman urges why David should forgive his son is the willingness with which he would have forgiven hers. A king who is merciful to his subjects is inconsistent with himself if he is not forgiving towards the members of his own family.
2. That enmity ought to die before those who are at enmity die. "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again" (ver. 14). If Absalom were to die before a reconciliation had taken place, the father's heart would be deeply grieved; and if he himself were to die before his son's return to favour he would go down to his grave mourning the estrangement.
3. The Divine Father's example in relation to His "banished ones."
II. ITS IMMEDIATE AND REMOTE RESULTS. The immediate result was the recall of Absalom without outward reconciliation. "Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face" (verse 24). Evils arose from this half-measure. Joab was disappointed, and Absalom was irritated.LESSONS:
1. That the most worthless characters sometimes have the best pleaders. We find this the case occasionally in our law courts. Men with no character, but lacking nothing else, with money and influence in abundance, can have the benefit of the most skilful barristers to bring them out of the grip of the law.
2. That imaginary narratives of human life have most influence when they find a counterpart in our own experience. The power of a story may he very great even when it contains nothing in it that has any likeness to anything that has happened to ourselves.
3. That those who are conscious of having committed great sins are not fit to deal with other offenders. The sin of David included the crimes of both his sons, and the consciousness of this made him weak in purpose, and unsteady in his dealings with them.
4. To restore to favour unconditionally is a sin against the person forgiven.
(A London Minister.)
We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground.I. THE INSTABILITY OF ALL HUMAN THINGS. Most men talk wisely on the instability of the world. We are not weak enough to deny that which the history of every day compels us to admit. But our lives too often contradict our sentiments. Philosophers in opinion, we are, as to this point, children in conduct; and worship the very relics of that image of the world which we have previously stamped to dust, and trod under foot;
II. THE COMPARATIVE EMPTINESS AND WORTHLESSNESS OF ALL HUMAN DISTINCTIONS.
III. THE INACCURACY OF ALL HUMAN CALCULATIONS. It is astonishing to what a degree men are tempted to become the architects of their own plans of life, instead of consulting the models which are laid up for them in Scripture. Pride is always seducing us into a belief that we can choose and act better for ourselves and for others than our Heavenly Father would choose for us. But let our calculations be of the most profound nature, let them proceed upon the most unquestionable facts and principles, how soon does a single unforeseen circumstance confound them all!
IV. THE VANITY OF ALL HUMAN HOPES.
V. THE TRANSCENDANT VALUE OF REAL RELIGION.
(J. W. Cunningham, A. M.)
I. MAN "MUST NEEDS DIE."
1. We "must needs die," because of God's unalterable decree; "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
2. Moreover, we "must needs die," because of the diseases to which we are subjected in consequence of sin. Had man stood he never would have known anything of disease.(1) There are three views which we may profitably take of death. Contemplate it in the pains winch it inflicts. Troops of malignant diseases attend "the king of terrors;" fevers burn, consumptions waste, plagues depopulate, and diseases of every kind attack the human frame.(2) Contemplate death in the changes which it produces. The withering of the grass, the fading of the flower, the fleeing Of the shadows and the vanishing of the vapour are emblems used by the inspired writers to illustrate and impress upon us the nature of death. Oh! what an awful and indescribable change does it produce!(3) Contemplate death in the dissolutions which it effects. The body and the soul are closely and intimately united, though we cannot tell how spirit acts upon matter; the psalmist remarks "we are fear-fully and wonderfully made;" but when death comes, he dissolves the mysterious union, and then is brought to pass the saying that is written "The silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is broken."
3. But let us now come to character; and I remark that the righteous and the wicked "must needs die." The wicked "must needs die," that he may fully prove the truth of God's threatenings. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." The righteous "must needs die" in order to receive the reward of their doings. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God;" the Lord first gives grace, and then crowns it with eternal glory.
II. THE FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE CF THE TEXT. The body, when the spirit tins fled, is compared to "water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." This language may appear to some to argue against the doctrine of the resurrection; but the Scriptures do not contradict themselves. When water is shed upon the dry and parched earth it cannot be collected again in the same purity and quantity; but "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God." It is written, "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remaineth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." And as sure as the harvest follows the first fruits, so surely shall the resurrection of the saints to life eternal, and the resurrection of the wicked to everlasting damnation come to pass.
I. THE AFFECTING CONDITION OF MANKIND.
1. Their mortality. " We must needs die." Solemn and affecting truth! We live in a dying world, and behold! we die daily, and sometimes suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye.
2. The helpless and irretrievable circumstances in which we are placed. "We are as water spilt upon the ground which cannot be gathered up again." What a fearful figure this! and yet, how true! As to ourselves and our own natural powers, we are entirely lost, past all recovery, "as water spilt upon the ground."
II. THE JUSTICE OF ALMIGHTY GOD TOWARDS MANKIND. "He respecteth not the person of any." He is an impartial dispenser and rewarder; he doeth justly, and loveth mercy, and is "no respecter of persons." As "in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
III. THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD VOUCHSAFED TO THEM. "Yet doth he devise means that his banished be not expelled from him."
I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF DEATH.
1. "We must needs die." Well, why must we needs die? not only because the sentence has been denounced, but because without this charge we could not enter on the future state, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead be raised.
2. We must "needs die" also that we may attain a more perfect resemblance to Jesus than is attainable upon earth. Hence the apostle says, "We are buried with him by baptism unto death, &c."
3. There is yet another reason Why we must "needs die," that we may enjoy the glorious recompense prepared for those who believe in Christ. "This is not our rest, for it is polluted." Here we are "strangers and pilgrims."
II. THE CONDITION TO WHICH SIN HAS REDUCED US.
1. Banished. And how affecting is the account recorded in Genesis 3. respecting the banishment of our primogenitors from the beautiful paradise where they were placed.
2. Though they are "banished," they are "God's banished ones." O it is this that gives us courage, that emboldens us; that animates with hope the soul condemned in the court of conscience. But how are they His? "We are bought with a price," redeemed not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious, atoning, cleansing, "blood of Christ."
III. THE DIVINE PROCEDURE FOR MAN'S RECOVERY. Here we learn:
1. That though salvation is all of grace, yet are sinners saved by the intervention of means.
2. That the success of these means originates, not in the cunning of man, but in the power, wisdom, and goodness of God.
(J. Wilcox, M. A.)
I. DEATH MUST BE CONSIDERED IN ITSELF AS AN EVIL, We have in this generally admitted truth an intimation or proof that there is a quarrel existing between man and his Maker, between the creature who is crushed sooner than the moth, and the Creator who is "the Ancient of days," the eternal and infinite God. Is it of no consequence that such a quarrel as this exists? Can we contemplate the reality of it, as evidenced by the death of our fellow-creatures, and our own liability to death, without serious thought taking possession of our minds, as to the necessity of reconciliation with God? The quarrel must be made up, or we are ruined for ever; the quarrel ought to be made up immediately, or we may be beyond the reach of reconciliation.
II. THE UNEXPECTED PROVISION WHICH GOD IN HIS GOODNESS HAS MADE FOR OUR COMFORT AND PEACE. We read in the text, "Neither doth God respect any person: yet doth He devise means that His banished be not expelled from Him." You will see this rendered in the margin, "Because God hath not taken away his life, He hath also devised means that His banished be not expelled from Him," which intimates that, although a quarrel does exist between the sinner and his Creator, God does not proceed at once to determine the quarrel, seeing that He has made provision for that sinner's restoration and security; He has devised means by which the banished may be restored, and meanwhile preserved. Now, see this provision of God's goodness typified under the Jewish law. The manslayer who had unwittingly slain a brother or a neighbour was by the law expelled from society; but there was a provision made that if he fled to the city of refuge, and it should be proved there that he had not intentionally slain his brother or his friend, then at the death of the high priest he should be set at liberty, and allowed to return again to his family circle. You observe in this that God "devised means by which His banished might not be for ever expelled from Him." We see the same provision also in the case of the leper, See, again, how this provision is announced in the Gospel of Christ. All the typical institutions of the law were intended to shadow forth the great truths of the Gospel. The manslayer and the leper betoken the state of the sinner under the condemnation of the Divine law, and unfit, on account of his pollution, for the society of God and His angels. He is therefore considered in the eye of God as a banished person, who can never obtain admittance into the kingdom; but God has devised means by which the banished may be restored. The Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world and died for the sinner's guilt; He is now the great Refuge to whom, if the sinner flee, he shall be saved from the condemnation which he deserves. The moral and spiritual leprosy is thus cleansed; "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us, from all sin."
(W. Cadman, M. A.)
Yet doth he devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.I. THE PLAN OF SALVATION BEGAN IN GOD'S OWN HEART, FULL OF LOVE FOR US. The idea has been sometimes presented that God was only willing to save men after Christ had died for us and paid our debt. But the whole plan of salvation, and the coming of Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross, began in God's own heart.
II. SIN ALONE EXILED US FROM THE PRESENCE AND FAVOUR OF GOD. Absalom fled from his native land and from the presence of the king, his father, because he had not only sinned against David's love and fatherhood, but had broken the law of the land. It was his own deed which sent him into banishment. So it is not because God has ceased to love us and long for our salvation that sin makes us unhappy and that the sinner is the victim of remorse and fails to find peace; it is rather that man was made to find happiness in the presence of God and in the consciousness of harmony with him.
III. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE SINNER TO THWART GOD'S LOVE, and make all the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ of no effect so far as he is concerned. Absalom did just that with those who sought so earnestly to save him.
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
I. GOD'S BANISHED ONES. Strip away the metaphor, and it just comes to this — you cannot be blessedly and peacefully near God unless you are far away from sin. If you take two polished plates of metal and lay them together they will adhere. If you put half a dozen tiny grains of sand or dust between them they will fall apart. And so our sins have separated between us and our God. They trove not separated God from us. His thought, and His knowledge, and His tenderness, all come to every soul of man. But they have rent us apart from Him, in so far as they make us unwilling to be near Him, incapable of receiving the truest nearness and blessedness of His presence. That banishment is self-inflicted. God spurns away no man, but men spurn Him, and flee from Him. Many of us know what it is to pass whole days, and weeks, and years, practical Atheists. God is not in all our thoughts. Away down in the luxurious islands of the Southern Sea you will find degraded Englishmen who have chosen rather to cast in their lot with savages than to have to strain and work and grow. Those poor beach-combers of the Pacific, not happy in their degradation, but wallowing in it, are no exaggerated pictures of the condition, in reality, of thousands of us who dwell fat from God, and far, therefore, from righteousness and peace.
II. GOD'S YEARNING OVER HIS BANISHED ONES. The woman in our story hints at, or suggests, a parallel which, though inadequate, is deeply true. David was Absalom's father and Absalom's king; and the two relationships fought against each other in his heart. The king had to think of law and justice; the father cried out for his son. The young man's offence had neither altered his relationship nor affected the father's heart. All that is true, far more deeply, blessedly true, in regard to our relation, the wandering exile's relation, to God. The whole preciousness of the Revelation of God in Scripture is imperilled unless we frankly recognise this, that His love is like ours, delights in being returned like ours, and is like ours in that it rejoices in presence and knows a sense of loss in absence. And it is you, you, that He wants back; you that He would fain rescue from your aversion to good and your carelessness of Him.
III. THE FORMIDABLE OBSTACLES TO THE RESTORATION OF THE BANISHED. The words "banished" and "expelled" in my text are in the original the same; and the force of the whole would be better expressed if the same English word was employed as the equivalent of both. Now, note that the language of this "wise woman," unconsciously to herself, confesses that the parallel that she was trying to draw did not go on all fours; for what she was asking the king to do was simply by an arbitrary act to sweep aside law and to remit penalty. She instinctively feels that that is not what can be done by God, and so she says that He "devises means" by which He can restore His banished. If there are to be any pardon and restoration at all, they must be such as will leave untouched the sovereign majesty of God's law, and untempered with the eternal gulf between good and evil. God's law is the manifestation of God's character; and that is no flexible thing which can be bent about at the bidding of a weak, good nature. The motto on the blue cover of the Edinburgh Review, for a hundred years now, is true, "The judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted." David struck a fatal blow at the prestige of his own rule when he weakly let his son off his penalty. And, if it were possible to imagine such a thing, God Himself would strike as fatal a blow at the justice and judgment which are the foundations of His throne if His forgiveness was such as to be capable of being confounded with love which was too weakly indulgent to be righteous.
2. Further, if there are to be forgiveness and restoration at all, they must be such as will turn away the heart of the pardoned man from his evil. The very story before us shows that it is not every kind of pardon which makes a man better.
3. If there are to be forgiveness and restoration at all, they must come in such a fashion as that there shall be no doubt whatsoever of their reality and power.
IV. THE TRIUMPHANT, DIVINE SOLUTION OF THESE DIFFICULTIES. The work of Jesus Christ, and the work of Jesus Christ alone, meets all the requirements. That work of Christ's is the only way by which it is made absolutely certain that sins forgiven shall be sins abhorred; and that a man once restored shall cleave to his Restorer as to his life. God has devised a means. None else could have done so. We are all exiles from God unless we have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ. In Him, and in Him alone, can God restore His banished ones. In Him, and in Him alone, can we find a pardon which cleanses the heart, and ensures the removal of the sin which it forgives. In Him, and in Him alone, can we find, not a peradventure, not a subjective certainty, but an external fact which proclaims that verily, there is forgiveness for us all.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. A GREAT AND UNIVERSAL OUTLAWRY proclaimed by God against us all, as members of a rebel race. We have all broken His law, wilfully and wickedly have we rebelled against the majesty of heaven; we are, therefore, in our natural estate, banished ones, expelled from his love and favour, waiting the time when the sentence of His wrath shall be fulfilled, and "Depart, ye cursed," shall flash its lightning flame into our spirits. The ever-blessed God has devised means by which we may be delivered from this state of exile; and the means are very similar to that which was alluded to by the woman of Tekoah, and precisely what occurred to the manslayer occurs to us. Now, what did happen to the man-slayer? First of all, as soon as he had killed a man inadvertently, knowing that the next of kin would be after him to avenge the death, he fled hot foot, as we say, to the nearest city of refuge; and when he had once reached the gates of that city he was secure. Even thus the Lord Jesus Christ was to us in days gone by a city of refuge, and we fled to Him. But though this is the grand means for restoring exiled man to communion with his God, yet through the depravity of our nature it would fail to be of any service to us, did not God further ordain means to make us willing to avail ourselves of it. In most cases it. is the preaching of the Gospel which restores the wandering. The preaching of the Word is God's great saving agency among mankind. But besides the vocal preaching of the Gospel, the printed word of God itself is a preacher through the eye. Many are brought to repentance and faith by sickness. So, too, with Christian influence.
II. OUR SECONDARY BANISHMENTS. Alas! the people of God sometimes fall into sin; they grow careless, and they walk at a distance from their best friend, and then sin prevails against them; but the Lord has provided means for bringing them back from their wandering. "He restoreth my soul." The Holy Spirit, though grieved, wilt return, convince His servants again of sin, and lead them with weeping and supplication to their Saviour. There is another kind of banishment which is produced not so much by sin primarily as by despondency.
III. A PRACTICAL LESSON TO BE GATHERED FROM ALL THIS.
1. The first application of that rule is this: there may be some one a father, a mother, or some other relative, who has been compelled, as he has thought, to deny and no longer to acknowledge a child or a brother. Great offences have at last brought anger Into your bosom, and, as you think, very justifiable anger. Oh, celebrate this day by a full forgiveness of all who have done aught against you! And do not merely say, "Well, I will do it if they will ask me;" that is not what God does, he is first in the matter, and devises means. Try. Consider. Devise means. "Would you have me lower myself?" Sometimes to lower ourselves is to make ourselves much higher in God's sight. The last application of the lesson shall be this: let every Christian devise means for bringing to Jesus those banished ones who surround Him. We must, as a Christian Church, be indefatigably industrious in seeking out the Lord's expelled and banished ones who live in our neighbourhood.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. In the first place, THE FOOTPATH UP THROUGH THE RIFTS OF SKULL-SHAPED CALVARY. Constantine has designated that hill as the one on which Jesus died. Dean Stanley says there are on that hill shattered fragments of limestone rock cleft evidently of the crucifixion earthquake. And it is through that fissure of the rock that our path to pardon lies; through the earthquake of conviction, under the dripping crimson of the cross.
II. Among the means that God has devised that the banished be not expelled from Him, I notice still further, SPIRITUALISTIC INFLUENCES. I do not mean any influence gone up from earth and etherialised, but the Divine Spirit. Some call Him the Comforter; it is best for my purpose that I call Him the soul-saving power of the nations. When that influence comes upon a man how strangely he acts. He cries. He trembles. He says things and does things that five minutes before he could not have been coaxed or hired to say or do. O it is a mighty spirit.
III. Among the means that "God has devised that the banished be not expelled from Him, I notice, also, CHRISTIAN SURROUNDINGS. There is the influence of ancestral piety. Was there not a good man or woman in your ancestral line? Is there not an old Bible around the house, with worn cover, and turned-down leaves, giving you the hint that there was some one who prayed? Was there a family altar at which you used to bow? The carpet may have been worn out, and the chair may have been sold for old furniture, and the knee that knelt on the one and beside the other may never again be pliant in earthly worship; but you,remember — do you not remember? Ah! that Christian homestead, the memory of it to-night almost swamps your soul.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. THAT SINFUL MEN ARE MORAL EXILES. This is borne out:
1. By Scripture
(1) (2) (3) 2. By the experience of the sinful 3. By the confession of the penitent. II. THE GOSPEL IS GOD'S MEANS OF RECOVERING MORAL EXILES. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." The Gospel: 1. Reveals clear way of return; 2. Supplies sufficient motive; 3. Pro-raises abundant help. (U. R. Thomas.)
(2) (3) 2. By the experience of the sinful 3. By the confession of the penitent. II. THE GOSPEL IS GOD'S MEANS OF RECOVERING MORAL EXILES. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." The Gospel: 1. Reveals clear way of return; 2. Supplies sufficient motive; 3. Pro-raises abundant help. (U. R. Thomas.)
(3) 2. By the experience of the sinful 3. By the confession of the penitent. II. THE GOSPEL IS GOD'S MEANS OF RECOVERING MORAL EXILES. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." The Gospel: 1. Reveals clear way of return; 2. Supplies sufficient motive; 3. Pro-raises abundant help. (U. R. Thomas.)
2. By the experience of the sinful
3. By the confession of the penitent.
1. Reveals clear way of return;
2. Supplies sufficient motive;
3. Pro-raises abundant help.
(U. R. Thomas.)
I. HIS BANISHED ONES; WHO ARE THEY? In a sense we are all banished ones, since for the present our relation to the Infinite Father is obscured; even those who have in them the stirrings of the spiritual sonship, though they may say, "Now are we the sons of God," must yet add, "it doth not yet appear what we shall be." And those who have not entered into the light and sweetness of that recognised sonship are very far, as one may say, from their true home. Time would fail, even to epitomise the story of God's banished ones. The wanderings of David; Elijah's flight into the wilderness; the captivity of the tribes; and the story of the prophets, all illustrate the truth of our text. They are not God-deserted even in the strange land. The story of the outcasts is ever interesting. Look at the scattered flock through the persecutions, now of the Jewish, now of the Romish authorities. Come down to more recent times and read the story of the Waldenses, the Huguenots, and the Scottish Covenanters. These men also knew how God devises "means that His banished ones be not expelled from Him." Take away their outward freedom of worship; drive these men into the wilderness; let their bodies be incarcerated in foul prisons, or given up to torture or death; the spirit finds its way to the secrecies of Divine love, and summers in its smile. Though outcast, they are not expelled from Him. But come yet nearer home; individual life even now illustrates the truth. Take the case, not at all an uncommon one, of the compelled retirement and withdrawal of any one from all that had before seemed helpful, even essential, to the religious life.
II. GO BACK TO THAT GARDEN-SCENE, TOLD US IN THE FIRST BOOK. When we come to that story, and hear how the man and woman were expelled the garden; if we were to read it thoughtlessly, we should say — How terrible a thing to lose so much; and now of course God is always angry. "So He drove out the man;" and he was banished, and, into whatever gardens he may have entered, he has not entered the garden of Eden since. All his life now is in some sense a groping after Eden. How strange — had we never read something like it out of our life-story and the story of men's lives from day to day — God seems to contrive against Himself. He banishes, "yet doth he devise means that His banished be not expelled from Him." One thing leads on to another; whither doth this banishment lead? Why, it leads to a thorn-covered earth; yes, but also to a thorn-crowned Saviour. It leads to much toil and bitterness of men's hearts, but it also leads to God's labour and Christ's travail of soul, of which He shall be satisfied. The way from Eden becomes (through God's devising) the way back to Eden; an Eden, we may say truly, where palms wave and laurels bloom, to wave over and deck the conqueror's brow.
III. THE VARIED AGENCIES BY WHICH THIS GOOD THOUGHT AND FEELING OF GOD ARE CONVEYED TO HIS BANISHED ONES, What do I mean by this? But that all the varied network of Christian endeavour is proof of the priesthood of the whole Church of God. And it is this priesthood that needs more clear manifesting. The interlacings of what we call Divine and human effort may be in a few simple words set forth. When we come much into contact with men, I mean with that which betrays their inner life, while we find much in them that pains and perplexes us, we do not fail to find repeated and startling proofs of the truths of the Bible, and especially of the truth I am trying to unfold. Well, although in these and countless ways we see proof of the exigency and earnestness of God's love, it is for those who are enlightened from the Light Divine to stretch forth the torch and give a meaning to the vague and unexpressed cravings of the human heart after God. Among the God-devised means are those ties of kinship, of common humanity, which, being sanctified by the love and illumined by the light of God, are only rightly directed under the guidance of Him who came to seek and to save that which is lost. Lost, yet His! "His banished," though their natures be sodden through with the cruel damps of their long wilderness banishment. His, not to be passed over by Him. O think of it in the light of your neglect of them, and your neglect of Him too. The King and the Father unite in this, the restoration of the banished ones.
(G. J. Procter.)
I. THOSE WHO ARE IN A STATE OF EXILE OR ALIENATION FROM GOD ARE SO BY THEIR OWN ACT AND WISH, NOT BY GOD'S. Like Absalom, who was vain, cruel, treacherous, selfish, heartless, ambitious and murderous, we have yielded to sin. Like him, conscious of guilt, but finding temporary security in the Court at Geshur, we have known we were sinful, but we have thought that any time would do to acknowledge it. We in this world are where God can reach am. Hope and restoration are possible here; but, alas; there is a state in which alienation can become eternal, in which hope and faith in Divine mercy are impossible. Banished now, alas, by our own act, by our own hardness and unbelief, we may be, we can be, certainly still further banished. God pities us but He cannot and will not compel us to love Him. A stream among the Mendip Hills, after rising in the darkness far away under the hills, pursues for miles its rapid, winding way among the caverns, and then, just beneath one of those rocky buttresses of the sky," in the Cheddar gorge, suddenly emerges into the light, spreads itself in a small lake, then rushes over a weir, turns a mill, cleanses pampas grass, receives the poisonous washing and refuse of paper mills, plunges under dark tunnels, then away through the open meadows to the sea. Thus with our life, rising in mystery it pursues its way subject to various evil influences, and call either be cleansed or can plunge again into the caverns of darkness or be carried on into the bright open sea. We are in the light now. We have the power, which is denied to a river, of refusing to be subject to the inflow of evil. We can pray. We can look up to God. We can say pardon, cleanse, save us. We can implore God to turn again our captivity as streams in the South. We call say with intensity, "God, save thy banished from being expelled from Thee!"
II. THE MEANS GOD DEVISES TO SAVE MAN FROM FURTHER ESTRANGEMENT. The Tekoite in speaking of God as "devising means" to bring back the banished, had caught a marvellously clear glimpse of a coming Gospel. This was one of the rays shot up above the sombre hills of intervening years and ceremonial observances, telling of that rising sun of Divine love that afterward shone in midday effulgence from the cross on Calvary.
1. The Sabbath is His institution to give man rest and an opportunity of thinking of his eternal interests. It was "made for man," and was intended not only for physical rest but spiritual.
2. Revelation is another way of bringing man back. To Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, God has revealed Himself. Through them and others He has spoken to us.
3. By the institution of public worship, whether round the altar on the hill-top, in the tent at Shiloh, in the temple at Jerusalem, in the synagogues scattered in many lands, or in the churches that have risen all over the world. He has been arranging to draw men from sin and make them glad when they "go up to the house of the Lord."
4. The arrangement of a sacrificial system is in harmony with the ideas of all ages and all races as a means of restoration to the Divine presence. In the sacrifice of Christ our restoration is assured by the death of Him who suffered, "the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." The sacrifice of Calvary was not a mere device, but the natural outcome of the Divine love. Through the intervention of the woman of Tekoah, an exiled son was restored, but only to yield to deeper sin. When we are brought back by Divine mercy, it should be to let the purity of the life emphasise the gratitude of the heart. Christ intercedes; God waits to receive the banished; but the means He has devised are not always availing. Man's indifference and devilish opposition, alas! can spoil the effect of even the Divine devisings.
1. It may be that in the clearest and most literal sense of these words the appeal needs to be made as it was made to David. The wise women of Tekoah, they come into our midst to-day and take their places before some of us, and make the appeal that we fetch home the banished. You have been wronged and hurt, but you do yourself a greater wrong by nursing your bitterness. You have been vexed, ashamed, humiliated. True. Yet is it not time that bygones should be bygones? You cannot undo the mischief. There it is. But does not your perpetual thought and talk of it make it all a thousand times worse? Is it not better to let the dead bury the dead than to keep a dead past alive by thought and anger, and to give it such power to hurt and annoy? Remember that this hard and bitter spirit is agrievous sin. You undo your own prayers and choke the better life within you by this nursing of your wrath. How can you bow and ask God's forgiveness if you withhold your own forgiveness?' If this woman, with her stratagem, could prevail with the king, surely the Cross of Christ should prevail with us. Lift up your eyes to the Crucified. For His dear sake fling open wide the door of the heart, and let love flow forth as freely, as graciously as His love greeted us. Devise means. Be ingenious in finding out ways of love. We have but one life.
2. But further: Here is a blessed word for all of us. This is the story of all ages: a summary of the Gospel. Time began with the scene of the banished ones as they go forth from the Garden of Eden. Then comes the centre of all time, of all things — Christ and the Cross, the Cross whereon hangs the Saviour of the world, bringing us who are afar off nigh unto God by His blood. And far away we see the end of all time in the scene of the banished ones brought home; and the cry is heard, "Hallelujah! for the Tabernacle of God is with men." What means hath our God devised that His banished be not expelled? The gift of His Son, the great provisions of His grace in Jesus Christ, the appeal of love and wisdom and glory in Him, the thousand precious promises that speak to us from the Word, the prompting and influence of His Spirit, the force of holy example and teaching — all these are means of His devising for bringing us home to Himself. How ingenious is the love of God, how unwearied and skilful! How many devices have to be baffled, how many entreaties have to be resisted, if we will still persist in dwelling in the far country. Never any circumstance is there in the daily life, never any occasion, but the blessed Spirit seeks to turn to account for our home-coming. Think of these banished ones; let them pass before us. Like Absalom they dwelt of old time in the palace of the King. The happy freedom of the King's chamber was theirs; they sat at the King's table and saw the King's feast; they had the joy of a communion deep and constant, and easy was it for them to pass softly within the banqueting chamber, and rest in the peace of His love. What music filled the soul! They laughed at fear. All was deep peace and thankfulness that knew no want, and scarcely knew a desire beyond Himself. Alas! of how many, of how very many all this is true. They came up to the city from the country, from some little company of Christians, happy and devout, where glad service for Him filled all the days. But here the attachment was loosened. There was, perhaps, no welcome as the stranger came and went. Perhaps the country shyness as well as the city indifference had something to do with it. At any rate, it came about that old ways were forsaken; doubtful things were trifled with until they became almost necessities; doubtful companions were tolerated until they became friends and their ways had to be accepted. By a stratagem the pity of the king was roused, and Joab fetched home the banished, but for two whole years he dwelt in Jerusalem and saw not the face of the king. Oh l not so is it that our Father deals with us. Listen, let the heart take hold of it: "When he was yet a great way off his father saw him and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." Nothing was enough to do; nothing was enough to give. That great love could not be satisfied.
(M. G. Pearse.)
(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
I. THE BANISHMENT. Absalom is living at Geshur. It is not his native place, it is not his fatherland; he is there an exile and a foreigner; he is living a life of banishment. As a transgressor Absalom is under sentence of the law, and in order to escape that sentence he is living at Geshur, a banished man. He has banished himself; his conscience acknowledges the crime that he has committed, and the justice of the doom that hangs over him, so he flees from his country, from his father's house. Here we have a picture of man's state as a sinner. Man, as a sinner, is living in banishment. Sometimes this banishment will make itself felt: there are times in which the soul of man will cast a longing thought back upon the Father's house, like the prodigal in the far-off land, when the famine pinches, when the pleasures of sin have worn themselves out, and a sense of want presses; then the memory of home comes up, These longings are but the memories of home, the sighing of men in banishment, for though the banishment has gone on through long generations, the memories of home have not altogether faded from the soul.
II. THE MEANS DEVISED. "Yet doth He devise means, etc." The expression seems to imply that there was a difficulty in the way. Means must be devised, wisdom must set to work to discover a plan, a scheme whereby the banished might be restored. What was the difficulty? The king was very anxious that Absalom should come back (2 Samuel 13:39). He made no secret of it. Joab perceived it. Here, then, was the king longing after his banished son. He loved him though he was a transgressor. Now translate the temporal into the spiritual. There is man,. as we have shown you, in a state of banishment, an exile from God's presence on account of sin, living far off from God; and there is God, full of love to the banished, longing for his return; but there is the difficulty — His love cannot set aside His justice. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" What means shall be devised? Where shall wisdom be found to solve the difficulty? The text says, God doth devise means. In the history you see there is a third person brought upon the scene. The king says nothing of bringing Absalom back. Absalom sends no request to be restored; but Joab takes the matter up, and by the political craft of which he was such a thorough master, he gains his end. Now in the means that God has devised, a third person appears, one comes between the Father and the banished one. He sees the Father's heart yearning over the lost; He knows that while God hates the sin He loves the sinner, and so he undertakes the matter. "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." Here is the means that He doth devise. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "Yet doth He devise means." The gospel message is just the declaring of this. The difficulty is overcome; the barrier is removed; the way is open; there is nothing now to prevent God from receiving back the sinner, nothing to prevent the sinner from coming back in confidence to God. When the king was pacified toward Absalom, because of Joab's intercession, Joab, we read, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. There was no hesitation, no unwillingness on the part of Absalom to return. Joab told him that all was made right with the king, that the king longed for his return, and so he came at once to Jerusalem. But in spiritual things the matter is very different. The ambassador of Christ is continually urging the exiles to return. He tells them that peace has been made, propitiation for their sin, and that the Father is longing for their return, ready to welcome them, and receive them in His embrace of love. Yet there is hesitation, indifference, disinclination, procrastination, if not absolute neglect and scorn. Is banishment so sweet, is exile so to be desired? You know you are not happy, you cannot be, away from God, away from home. Then why hesitate; why demur; why halt between two opinions? Is it that you think of what you will have to give up? What! things which cannot satisfy, can impart no solid happiness, but must perish in the using, put them all into the balance, and you shall find them lighter than vanity itself.
III. THE RESULT. You have it in the last verse. "The king kissed Absalom." That kiss was the kiss of peace. It told of perfect forgiveness, it told of a reinstatement in the father's heart of love. So with those who accept the gospel message, and by faith in Christ return to God. They have the Father's kiss of peace. Theirs the promise, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins." "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." They are reinstated in the Father's favour and affection. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us that we should be called the sons of God." "The king kissed Absalom." There was no distance, no reserve. Freedom of access to God at all times through Christ is the portion of every true believer. The Father has no word of reproof or upbraiding for his repentant child. It is written, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
(R. Page, M. A.)
But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Absalom sent for Joab... but he would not come to him.
I. THE TEXT WITH REFERENCE TO BELIEVERS IN CHRIST. We cannot expect to avoid tribulation. If other men's barley-fields are not burned, ours will be. If the Father uses the rod nowhere else, he will surely make his true children smart. Your Saviour hath left, you a double legacy, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace." Gold must be tried in the fire: and truly the Lord hath a fire in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem.
1. You have first, this sweet reflection, that there is no curse in your cross.
2. That your troubles are all apportioned to you by Divine wisdom and love. As for their number, if He appoint them ten they never can be eleven. As for their weight, he who weigheth the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance, takes care to measure your troubles, and you shall not have a grain more than His infinite wisdom sees fit.
3. That under your cross you have many special comforts. There are cordials which God giveth to sick saints which He never putteth to the lips of those who are in health. Dark caverns keep not back the miners, if they know that diamonds are to be found there: you need net fear suffering when you remember what riches it yields to your soul. There is no hearing the nightingale without night, and there are some promises which only sing to us in trouble. It is in the cellar of affliction that the good old wine of the kingdom is stored. You shall never see Christ's face so well as when all others turn their backs upon you." When you have come into such confusion that human wisdom is at a nonplus, then shall you see God's wisdom manifest and clear.
4. That your trials work your lasting good by bringing you nearer and nearer to your God.(1) Our heavenly Father often sends for us and we will not come. He sends for us to exercise a more simple faith in Him.(2) At another time He calls us to closer communion with Himself. We have been sitting on the doorstep of God's house, and He bids us advance into the banquetting hall and sup with Him, but we decline the honour. He has admitted us into the inner chambers, but there are secret rooms not yet, opened to us; He invites Us to enter them, but we hold back. Jesus longs to have near communion with His people.(3) Frequently the call is to more fervent prayer.(4) Often, too, He calls us to a higher state of piety.
II. A few words TO THE SINNER.
I. God also has sent for you, O unconverted man, God has often sent, for you. Early in your childhood your mother's prayers sought to woo you to a Saviour's love, and your godly father's first instructions were as so many meshes of the net in which it was desired that you should be taken; but you have broken through all these and lived to sin away early impressions and youthful promises.
2. If God is sending these, are you listening to them?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)