Sunday, 14 May 2017

Stories of Grace - David - 2 Samuel 13 & 14

I wonder if you can remember first falling in love, with all its emotions and inner turmoil. This was the case with Amnon, who looked 'haggard' because of his love for the young Tamar.

Amnon had a friend who helped him devise a plan. Feign illness, gain sympathy and Tamar will come to your side. The plan worked a treat, but Amnon wasn't after just a first date - his hormones were on over-drive and he wanted to go all the way. Tamar had self-respect and wanted to do things properly, so she protested.

But there was a problem. Tamar was actually the half-sister of Amnon. They shared the same father - none other than the great King David. We would expect such a relationship would not be allowed, after all Old Testament law spelt that out (see Leviticus 18:6, 9, 11 and also Deuteronomy 27:22), but it didn't seem to be an issue for either Amnon or Tamar.

In any case Amnon wasn't going to let things like that stand in his way. His hormones were now on hyper-drive with the beautiful Tamar in front of him. He wanted to go all the way, he wanted to go straight-away ... and so I'm sorry to say that he forced his way. Even worse he then changed attitude in a heart-beat and now wanted rid of her - having consumed it was now time to discard. Tamar protests, but it is no use.

She leaves in disgrace, tearing her royal robes, her life as good as over. Her full brother Absalom takes her in. Naturally he and Amnon are now enemies. King David gets to hear about it and is furious. This is not happy families ...

Two years pass and Absalom throws a party, inviting all his brothers (the King's sons). But it was a trap - when everyone was in high spirits he gives the signal and servants plunge knives into Amnon. The other sons flee and find refuge with the King. Absalom knows the score and takes off, exiling himself in a foreign country. He is now estranged from the whole family.

Three more years pass. The King wants to somehow restore Absalom, but he can't. How could he? The hurt runs too deep. His confidant develops a plan, deploying a wise old woman to go to the King and spin a yarn.

Her story goes like this: 'My husband is dead, and my two feisty sons got into an argument which went out of control - one killed the other. That was bad enough but now others in the family are calling for revenge, eye for eye, life for life - they want him dead. That would leave me with no one, none to inherit my husband's estate and continue his name'. What King would refuse to act, least of all King David with his acute sense of justice. Immediately he decrees safety for the surviving son. The woman presses him - the King gives cast iron guarantees.

Then the woman goes further, 'If you, oh King, would safeguard my son, then why will you not restore your own son?'. She continues, "Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must all die. But that is not what God desires; rather he devises ways so that a banishe person does not remain banished from him".

So let's survey what we have: in-appropriate relationships with outright lust; rape; dereliction of duty bringing on disgrace; enmity between brothers, deception and murder; estrangement and fragmentation in the family that will last for years. This is the stuff of Eastenders, not what you might expect to hear on a Sunday morning!

Yet it is precisely into that mess that the woman utters those extraordinary words: God doesn't desire that we get washed away and just die. No! He devises ways for the banished to be restored. Humanly speaking the King and family should just give up, be resigned the pain and blank it out, have done with it all, disown the offender, try to move on.

But not God!

God cannot settle for that, He wants to restore, to make right, to bring back into relationship. And despite the mess, all wrongs done, all laws broken, he finds a way to forgive. In this Old Testament story, right there in one verse, we have the good news - the gospel! 2 Samuel chapter 14 verse 14: God devises ways so that the banished person does not remain banished.

What about us? What past hurts or wrongs have we parked for years, leaving relationships broken, people estranged. Maybe it is time for us to stand up into the economy of God's forgiveness and find ways to extend forgiveness and seek restoration - and live in the story of grace.

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