Who Cares? Broken Relationships, Part 1
Broken Relationships, Part 1
Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor
June 15/17, 2007
2 Samuel 13 & 14
Intro: Raymond Video
What a great clip, though I know I am going to get in trouble if I make too many comments about it, since it deals with femaley stuff, time of the month issues. It is tough, because I can think of so many things to say right now, but like George Bush Sr. said, “Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”
The clip does illustrate though how hard close relationships are to keep close. I wish it was easy. I wish that naturally our marriages just got closer, that our parent / child relationships never got complicated, that friends and family just never hurt each other. Yet, we know that isn’t true. We do hurt each other. Fractures in families and among friends happen, and often they are never dealt with or never dealt with well. It seems that building close relationships are hard and hurting each other comes easy. Because of that, we now live in a culture of disposable relationships.
That’s why I have all these disposable things up here, things we buy to throw away. I love this stuff. After John’s message on our responsibility to care for the planet last week, I know I need to change my ways, but if was up to me, I’d always use disposable plates and glasses…I hate cleaning up yucky mess…much easier just to chuck it all in the trash. That’s not good, I now know. I repent. As bad as it may be for plates and cups though, think about what happens when our relationships become disposable…when instead of cleaning up the relational messes we cause, we just move on, throw them away. That is our culture. We live in a culture that is just not willing to deal with the hard stuff that comes with relationships. It is easier either to move on, to divorce or just not be around the offender…or just as bad, we stay in the relationship, but refuse to clean up the relational messes. We just have these messy, bloody, relationships that we don’t heal. We both know the issues, but we just don’t talk about them, we act like the hurts never happened, and we try to move on. Over time, the trash on the plates starts to rot. Our relationships spoil, become putrid or at least shallow.
Today I am going to encourage us to do something different in our relationships, to not just dispose of them or keep them trashed up with relational gunk. Today I am going to encourage us to have the courage to deal with the hard stuff, to clean up our relationships, and to deal with the hurts that tend to keep our relationships unhealthy. I want us to be really open and honest about our relationships today, and I want you to take a moment right now and ask God to bring to mind any relational mess that you have yet to clean up, or a relationship that you have just tried to dispose of, but you know it still affects you. You have undealt with stuff.
This is especially important with family relationships. When family is involved, we might think we can just move on and not deal with things, but we don’t realize how the undealt with stuff affects us every day. And our children are watching us, too. They are learning how to deal with relational hurts and issues by watching us. They will learn how to relate by mimicking how we relate. As I have thought about this, there are two relationships that God has brought to mind that I know I need to address and stop avoiding. Both of them are in my past, and therefore tucked away in the closet, but I know I need to be open to bringing it out of the closet and deal with it. Today, I’m going to encourage all of us to do the same thing. Today we are going to examine a story in the Old Testament book called 2 Samuel that is a tough relationship story of a father and son who had major issues and refused to deal with them. Turn with me to 2 Samuel 13, and today we are going to cover a lot of Bible, so stick with me. You also need to be prepared, because this is a sordid story, a tough story. It is one of those stories in the Bible that surprise you that God would even put it in there. Years ago a friend of my mom’s became a Christian, and I encouraged her to start reading in Genesis, from the beginning of the Bible. When we saw her next, we asked her how it was going and she said, “Wow, this Bible is amazing. I had no idea these kinds of stories were in here. That Abraham was a dirty old man, and all that stuff with these wives, wow. If I had known this stuff was in the Bible, I would have been reading it instead of all those Danielle Steele novels.” This is one of those stories, and it is a tragic one, of a broken relationship between a father and son, two people who love each other but end up destroying their lives because they would not deal with the mess.
It all started with a huge offense. As we jump into the story, keep in mind that David as a king had a lot of wives and concubines. He wasn’t supposed to, but he did, and because of that he had many, many children. His first child was named Amnon, who was first in line to the throne. Next in line was Kileab, who most likely died young. So, really second in line was a son named Absolom, a very handsome, intelligent, a lot going for him kind of person. Amnon and Absalom were the first and second sons, but they had different mothers; they were half brothers. Absolom’s mom was a daughter of a king in a neighboring country, and he had a full sister named Tamar who was also very beautiful. With that behind us, we are ready for the story:
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 13:1-2
In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became frustrated to the point of illness on account of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her (13:1-2). This is obviously not good. Absalom is in love with his ½ sister and Absalom’s full sister, so much so he feels sick. He can’t get to her though, because she would have lived in a house with all these other virgin daughters of the king, so a friend of his concocts a plan for him to be able to be alone with Tamar in his bedroom. He acts like he is sick and gets Tamar to come into his room to nurse him back to health. I’m not even going to read the story—you can later if you want to—but when she comes into his room, he rapes her and she runs away to her brother Absalom. In that culture, she was disgraced by Amnon and could no longer live with the other virgins, so she moves in to Absalom’s house. After she moves in to Absalom’s house, and the rape becomes known to David, here is what happens:
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 13: 21-22
When King David heard all this, he was furious. Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar (21-22).
David hears about the rape, and is furious, which is fitting…but he does nothing. As a father to Tamar, he does nothing. As a father to Absalom and Amnon, he does nothing. As a king who is responsible to ensure justice, he does nothing. He gets angry, but doesn’t do what he is supposed to do. Both as a father and as the king, what he should do was laid out in that culture, but for whatever reason, he just refuses to do anything. And Absalom just sits back and stews. Absalom is ticked off at his brother, and mortified that his dad doesn’t do anything. And this is where the issue we will see between David and Absalom starts, this offense.
Since David does nothing, Absalom decides to do something to avenge his sister. He waits two years. For those two years, Absalom doesn’t talk to his father, and he doesn’t talk to his brother. But after two years, he does go to his dad and puts into his place his own concocted plan to get Amnon away from all his bodyguards at his home for a celebration. His plan works, and Absalom has Amnon killed, and Tamar is avenged. So, now the plot gets thicker. One son has murdered another.
David’s other sons run back to David’s palace, where he hears the news, and grieves. Again, he doesn’t do anything, but he grieves. Absalom runs away to his grandfather, the king of Geshur, to live there. And while he was gone, verse 37 tells us,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 13: 37
“But King David mourned for his son every day.” It is unclear which son this verse is talking about, though he was likely grieving the loss of both of his sons. Clearly, he grieved for Amnon’s loss, but even more so his heart went out to his son Absalom. What Absalom did was wrong and horrific, but I’m sure David understood the pain he had caused Absalom with his previous offense. The next verse says,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 13: 38-39
“After Absalom fled and went to Geshur; he stayed there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.”
You see this strange but familiar dynamic in the relationship between David and Absalom. They are mad at each other, and have both done terrible things. Yet, there is this magnet that continues to pull at them toward each other. There is a desire to reconcile, to be a family again. God designed us for connection, for closeness, especially with family, so they have this push pull thing going on…offended and angry at each other and yet underneath this relational pull wanting to reconnect.
God created us with this strong relational pull, a desire for connection, a deep hope that we could get along with those we love. When I was in kindergarten, we had a good bit of time every day for recess, which of course was my favorite part of the school day. At recess, we would divide up on the playground and play cowboys and Indians. Some of my friends were always the cowboys and other friends were always the Indians. The cowboys came to school in cowboy boots and the Indians came to school in moccasins. We are talking serious rivalry here, we were into it. But I liked both groups, so after a while I started coming to school with a cowboy boot on one foot and a moccasin on the other—that way I could play with both and be part of both…a way to say, “Can’t we all just get along? Cowboys and Indians, dogs and cats, democrats and republicans?” I wish the solution to broken relationships was that easy—just wear boots and moccasins…but it isn’t. We all have a strong desire for connection, but over time in relationships these barriers of hurt get built that keep those relationships from getting close…some issue in the past that we just can’t get over. It is hard to get past the past. Sometimes it just gets silly, other times it is quite serious and painful—but relational breaks always affect us and with our closest relationships is this God-given desire to reconnect, for that relationship to be much more than it is.
That relational pull is at work in this relationship, but there are these huge barriers. David’s heart goes out to his son and he wants to reconnect, but he refuses to act on it. Three years go by after Amnon’s death, five years after Tamar’s rape, and still nothing has been said or done about any of it. David’s right-hand-man in the kingdom is his general, a man named Joab. After all this time, Joab decides to do something to bring the two back together. He can see David’s desire to reunite and is frustrated with his inaction, so he does something.
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14:1-2
Verse 14:1-2 says, “Joab, son of Zeruiah, knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. So Joab sent someone…” Joab hatches yet another plan in this dysfunctional family to cause David to send for Absalom so that they can be reunited. He sends this lady that makes up a story where David realizes that he should send for Absalom and offer forgiveness and deal with their issues. So, in verse 21 finally after three years, it says,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14:21
“The king said to Joab, ‘Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom” (14:21).
Okay, now we are getting somewhere. It looks like progress is being made, that a breakthrough is about to happen, but let’s read what happens next,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14:23-24
“Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king said, ‘He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.’ So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king (14:23-24). David sends for him, after not seeing him for 3 years, and yet doesn’t allow Absalom to come see him. He brings his son back to Jerusalem, but doesn’t allow contact. Verse 28 tells us,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14: 28
“Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face.” What? David brings him to Jerusalem, and Absalom agrees, expecting to be reunited to his father, and David won’t even see him. For two years, he is just sitting in Jerusalem. And actually he isn’t just sitting, during that time of separation, like both the 3 years in the other country and the two years in Jerusalem, Absalom has four kids: verse 27:
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14: 27
Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. The daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman. Wow. David has four new grandkids he has not met, one of them named Tamar. This wound is still fresh, still unhealed. He names his daughter after his beloved sister. And David won’t see him. He is just there in Jerusalem waiting, for two years, and nothing happens.
Why not? What is David thinking? No doubt David was being a goober here, and no doubt Absalom had also been a very big goober…but why did David choose the goober path? Probably the same reason you and I often choose not to deal with relational issues ourselves, either by escaping the relationship (disposable) or just not dealing with the offense…we just leave our relationships dirty. Why don’t we deal with them?
Here are some possibilities that I can relate to that I’m sure came into play with David as well.
Slide:_______________ (1) Pride
It takes humility to deal with relational hurts, because I have to either admit that I am hurt by you or that I have done something to hurt you, or both. Neither is easy. David could have easily thought, “Okay, I offended you by letting Absalom rape your sister and doing nothing…but you killed my son and your brother. You are the one that needs to be suffer, or grovel, or live in guilt.” I can relate to that. I hate admitting responsibility. There are times that Christy and I argue, and about half way through I see where I was wrong but in the heat of the argument, I just choose to ignore that…press on to show how wrong she is. My goal becomes winning the argument, proving I’m right, not trying to reconcile the relationship. Why don’t I just say, “Stop. I’m wrong, and I’m sorry.” Probably because I’m not the one that is wrong very much, so I don’t have much practice at it…but why is that so hard?
Slide:_______________ (2) Justice
If you have hurt me, you don’t deserve to have it dealt with, which I know will end up with me supposed to be forgiving you, letting you off the hook. I want you to suffer. I want to get back at you. It’s not fair just to forgive.
Slide:_______________ (3) Procrastination
Another reason we don’t break through the offense barrier to deal with the issues is just procrastination. We wait too long because it is uncomfortable to deal with issues, and we wait so long that either it seems like the person has kind of moved on or we have both moved on and it is way in the past. We know that it still effects us today, but it is just easier not to deal with it, especially if it was a long time ago. One of the people in my life that I no longer have a friendship with is in this category. I knew a few years ago that I did something that hurt them, though I don’t believe that what I did was wrong. Honestly, I thought they were being petty, but I still should have pursued them, and I didn’t. Now it has been so long it seems irrelevant, but it isn’t. I need to do it. That’s the bummer about preaching messages like this, sometimes you actually have to practice what you preach. Stuff gets harder to deal with the longer we wait, so better not to wait. For David, it had already been seven years since Tamar was raped, and five years since Amnon was killed.
Slide:_______________ (4) Insecurity
We don’t know how the person will respond. Will they be angry? Will they laugh it off? Will they be mean? You know, the Bible helps us out here. It tells us that we have the responsibility to deal with hurts, not stuff them. One of those places says, “As long as it is within your power, be at peace with all men.” That’s a great verse, because it means that I am only responsible for what I can control. I can pursue peace and do my part, but I can’t control how they will respond. My responsibility is to do all I can to be at peace and restore what is broken in that relationship, and if they don’t respond well—bummer…but I’ve done my part.
With David, we can only guess what his motives were, but regardless of motive, he leaves Absalom hanging. Sometimes I will high-five one of my boys, and they will just leave me there, and I’ll say, “Don’t leave me hanging.” David left him hanging, and that only makes things worse. The offense is growing. Absalom still so desires relationship with his dad, and we know from the passage that David wanted the same thing…but he won’t see him. So, Absalom decides to do something. He contacts Joab to arrange a meeting, but this time Joab won’t do it. He won’t meet with him. Joab stuck his neck out to make this reconciliation thing happen once, but in those days you didn’t cross a king. You could only push your good relationship so far, and Joab wasn’t willing to push too far. Twice Absalom pushes for a meeting with Joab, and he won’t, so Absalom burns down one of Joab’s fields to get his attention. Can you see how much Absalom wants reconciliation here? Do you feel that gravitational pull toward this father that he both loves and is angry at? He does get Joab’s attention, and Joab meets with him. Absalom says,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14:32a-c
“Look, I sent word to you and said, ‘Come here so I can send you back to the king to ask, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I was still there!’ David has to talk to his dad through Joab, which reminds me of my junior high days, when I would go to the friends of the girl I was interested to ask if the girl would “go steady” with me. We also broke up through intermediaries. It was cleaner, but no so healthy. Absalom continues,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14:32b
“Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.” Hear Absalom’s heart. He is saying, “I don’t care about my guilt any more. I’d rather be killed if that is what is right then continue like this, just waiting and wondering if I will see my dad again. Please tell him I just want to see him, to reconnect, whatever that means I don’t care.”
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 14:33
The next verse says, “Then the king summoned Absolom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom (14:33). Sounds great, like everything is fine now, but it isn’t. There is still no real conversation, no real reconciliation. This is a very formal meeting, where the king is saying with the kiss that he is not going to kill Absalom for killing Amnon, but this is far short of reconciliation, of working through the issues. Absalom goes back home, still with no relationship with his father. He saw him once in a formal way, and that’s it. That isn’t what either of them wanted, but the only thing David chose to give.
So, Absalom’s hurt and anger only grow. And Absalom in his anger makes a very bad choice. Keep in mind that Absalom is now the first in line to the throne, so his presence in Jerusalem has not going unnoticed by the people. David was an effective soldier, but really not so great a king in the sense of dealing with people’s disputes and issues. David wasn’t available for that kind of thing, and Absalom made himself available. That made him very popular, and as his popularity grew more and more people urged him to take over the kingdom from his father. In his anger, Absalom gives up on ever having a real relationship with his dad and chooses to usurp the throne. Absalom gathers a huge army, much bigger than David’s core troops that were loyal to him and had been fighting with him for years. Absalom’s army was bigger, but full of untrained soldiers. David’s army was a crack fighting force. David flees with his troops, and for a while Absalom crowns himself king. They are now at war.
As you will see in the story, things do not turn out well for Absalom, and he is making a huge mistake…a terrible mistake. Yet, before we are too hard on Absalom, ask yourself this question, “Have you ever made a mistake in a relationship when you were angry?” Of course you have. Anger leads to very bad decisions in relationships. Anger comes from hurt, and when we are hurt, we get angry, and we want to hurt back. We want to strike out. Far too many times, I wish I could take back something I did or said while angry.
Slide:_______________ Proverbs 12:18
Proverbs 12:18 says, Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. In my marriage, I can still remember mean things I have said while angry that I really don’t believe to be true, but knew that they would pierce, that they would hurt. And it feels really great in the short run to shoot that arrow and see it connect…but soon you see the hurt, and wish you could just take it back, rewind the tape…but you can’t. That’s why we have to be so careful when we are angry, with both our actions and our mouths…because once you have done it or said it, it is out there. The arrow is shot and hits its mark and causes the wound. Damage done.
I bet you can remember something said to you or done to you that hurt. If I ask you, “Who has hurt you the most in life?” you can probably quickly come up with the answer. Those wounds stick. And when we get hurt, we get angry and want to hurt them back. That’s why we have to be so careful when we are angry. When I behave with my kids for example, I’ll say, “I want you to go to your room, and we will talk about this in a few minutes. Right now I’m too angry to be godly. Let’s talk about it in a few minutes.” That’s always better than acting in the moment. The kids like it better, too!
Absalom makes the mistake of attacking his father, and even though his army was bigger, David’s was better, and in a very short amount of time Absalom’s army is defeated and Absalom himself is killed in the battle along with 20,000 other people caught up in this family dispute.
After Absalom is killed, and David is informed, he is not rejoicing that he got his kingdom back…at that point, he didn’t care about his title. He had lost his son. You can’t help but feel for David as he mourns in chapter 18:33,
Slide:_______________ 2 Samuel 18:33
“The king was shaken. He want up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said, ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’ And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, ‘The king is grieving for his son.’ The men stole into the city that day as mean steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’” 18:33-19:4.
How tragic! All David was concerned about was his son, Absalom, and yet, where was he two years before? Three years before? Five or seven years before? David had to be wondering, “How did I let it get this bad? How did it ever get to this place?” He not only lost his son, but 20,000 people died. Think about that. 20,000 families didn’t have a dad any more, all because of this unresolved baggage in one relationship.
This is not a feel good story, is it? It is a tragedy, so why did God put it in the Bible? Because you can choose to avoid the same tragedy in your relationships. It is not an easy choice to deal with relational issues. It is easier to dispose of the relationship or bury the issues in a relationship, but that easy choice leads to tragedy. The only way to avoid the tragedy is to do your part, do all you can, to deal with the hurt, with the offense.
Good friendships are worth the fight. Marriages are worth the fight. Parent / child relationships are worth the fight. Church relationships are worth the fight. Other family connections are worth fighting for. You can choose to push past the barriers of pride, insecurity, procrastination, desire for revenge…to actually deal with the issue, to begin the hard work of working the issues out.
Like David and Absalom, within us is the desire for that kind of connection even with the people we are angry with. Unlike David and Absalom, let’s make the choice that leads to healing and reconciliation. As a pastor, I have had enjoyed the privilege of seeing lots of relationships healed that looked impossible at the beginning. I’m not saying that they all got to a place where they agreed about everything; in fact, in most cases, there were still disagreements. Yet, they were able to get to a place of forgiveness, mutual respect, and ongoing relationship. Their children got to see it happen, and they will mimic the same great behavior. We have marriages in our church that were at such a bad place, prayer seemed like a stretch…but now they are some of the strongest marriages in our church. It comes down to some basic choices.
Who has God brought to mind over these last minutes for you? I have two relationships that I know I need to do my part to get to peace, to fight for. I’d honestly rather just leave those past relationships tucked in the closet and keep moving forward with my life. But those issues are anchors to my life and to their’s, too. I have the opportunity to remove those anchors and potentially bring healing into someone else’s life, too. How about you?
Next week we are going to talk about the hows. Today is about motivating us to make the choice, to do our part. Next week we will talk about how to move beyond our hurts, how to move past the past in relationships.
For now, I want you to get those people or that person in your mind, and we are going to commit ourselves to God to do our part. Let’s pray.