Hanging From an Oak Tree

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 16-18; Luke 17:20-37

So the troops marched into the field to meet the Israelites. The battle was fought in the Ephraim forest. The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s soldiers. A great slaughter of twenty thousand men took place that day. The battle spread out over the entire countryside, and the forest devoured more soldiers than the sword that day.

Absalom came upon some of David’s men. Absalom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the tangled branches of a large oak tree. Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair while the mule under him kept on going. 10 One of the men saw this and reported to Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” (2 Samuel 18:6-10, Common English Bible).

When you read some of the other translations of the Bible, instead of the phrase “…hanging from an oak tree,” as is the case with the Common English Bible, in the New Revised Standard Version, for example, we read, “…hanging between heaven and earth.” It creates an interesting image, regardless of which version you might read.

Regardless of how you might read it, depending upon your perspective, the image can be pretty comical and pretty scary all at the same time. To be down on the ground and seeing Absalom in the tree, hanging either from his hear or by his neck between two tree limbs (I prefer by his hair), he, the would-be ruler of Israel, hanging in a tree by his hair. But, on the other hand, from Absalom’s perspective it had to be terrifying. The king’s army is after you and you hang helpless from a tree, defenseless. In addition to all that, it had to hurt!!!

There are two other things about the Absalom story that are really important. First of all, if you remember back to just a few days ago when we read the story of David and Bathsheba. God said, through the Prophet Nathan, that David would face revolt from within his own family. This is that prophecy coming to life.

The other thing, and it is actually in today’s “Journey Through Scripture” reading from 2 Samuel. David asked Joab and his other two military commanders to please go easy on his son Absalom. I understand how David felt. I have two sons. I would beg anyone to spare their lives regardless of what they had done to me. We saw evidence of that just a couple of months ago, when in February, Governor Abbott commuted the death sentence to life without the possibility of parole for Thomas Whitaker, who had killed his mother and tried to kill his father. It was in part, Thomas’ father Kent’s appeals to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and to the Governor that led to the very rare action on the part of the Texas Governor. David and Kent Whitaker were thinking a great deal alike on this one. David was thinking like a father, not a deposed monarch.

Joab, on the other hand, knew, as long as Absalom was alive and free, or perhaps just alive, David’s throne would remain in jeopardy. Joab knew, that for him to truly serve his king, there was only one action he could take. Absalom had to die.

One more thing I want to mention regarding all of this. Nathan had prophesied that David would face an uprising from his own family. And, as we have already said, it did happen. And, Absalom already had control of the country and there were people who were extraordinarily happy about it, as we can see from today’s readings. This was all over David’s affair with Bathsheba and the execution (or it may as well have been an execution) of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. God could have let Absalom take over the country. Already Absalom had all but won. It was really just a matter of catching his father and either executing him or putting him in prison. Yet it didn’t happen. And friends, that is grace, the unjustified merit of God. David deserved what he would have gotten, but God protected him anyway, unmerited favor.

God gives grace to all of us. God offers, let’s take grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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