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

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