Today, we are wrapping up our series on David. I skipped a lot of David’s story through this series. There are so many personal details I didn’t mention. To get all of who David was, you have to read his story for yourself in 1 and 2 Samuel.
What I can tell you is that David was a man who loved the Lord with all of his heart. Through it all, he was never confused about who the real King is. Even though he made mistakes, he really did try to do the right thing. On more occasions than not, he did do the right thing. That is why the people of Israel loved him and why the nations around them respected him.
Today we’ll be reminded of something that very few of us actually need to be reminded of. The hope is we’ll walk away with this lesson in a new context.
Life Rarely Goes as Planned
The part of David’s life that we’ll be going through today reminds us that life rarely goes as planned or anticipated. Plans are good. Everybody needs a plan. But as great as plans are, the reality is…reality is greater than our plans. Sometimes it’s because of things other people do. Other times it’s because of what we do. At the end of the day, what this means is that some of our dreams won’t come true. Worse than that, some of our dreams can’t come true.
The two of you may not live happily ever after.
You may never need to purchase a high chair and all the other fun baby stuff.
You may never get the opportunity to walk your daughter down the aisle.
Your prodigal son or daughter may not be coming home.
He’s going to marry her anyway. She’s going to marry him anyway.
The dream job isn’t going to be the dream job after all.
How do we react?
Anger? As our dreams begin to crumble and things aren’t going in the direction that we thought they would, depending on how you grew up or what your religious background is, there is often this internal sense of panic and anger, because after all, God promised you, right?
Entitlement? Maybe you even feel like God owes you. You played by the rules. You did everything right. You raised them right. You behaved. You waited. You did everything you knew to live the right way, yet your dreams aren’t coming true. In some cases, it looks like they can’t come true. You wonder…Isn’t there a cause and effect? Isn’t there sowing and reaping?
Jealousy? Maybe it looks like everybody else’s dreams are coming true but yours. At times, it may seem like God has granted somebody else your wish.
Well, today we’re going to ask the question that David’s life answers for us…
What do we do when our dreams can’t come true?
As we saw a few weeks ago, when David was in his 20’s, thanks to the behavior and the decisions of crazy King Saul, he realized some of his dreams weren’t going to come true. He had a plan. It was all planned out. God had made him very specific promises, but crazy King Saul decided that he needed to die. Consequently, David found himself on the run in the wilderness and everything was upside down.
He did what many of us do when we realize our dreams can’t come true. He panicked. When he panicked he made bad decision, after bad decision, after bad decision. People died. But during that season of his life he learned a very, very important lesson.
Now as king, he would undermine his own dreams coming true. The lesson that he learned in that season of his life is a lesson for all of us.
Last week, we left off with David becoming king.
I’m skipping a bit, but about 22 years after he became king (he’s in his 50’s – back then that was old) he sent his men off to war. We don’t know why he didn’t go, maybe because of how old he was at that point. One late afternoon, after a mid-day nap, David woke up and took a walk on the palace roof. He looks down and sees this woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. Her name is Bathsheba. He calls a servant over. He says, “Who’s that?” The servant says, “That is Uriah, the Hittite’s, wife.” Uriah was a commander in David’s army. David says, “Send her to me.”
We know from the beginning of this series… God warned Israel, “Don’t have a king. Let me be your king. When you have a king, there are problems that come.” One of the problems of having a king is that no one can tell the king no. You can tell a priest, prophet, and judge no, but you can’t say no to the king.
Bathsheba comes up to David and they spend the night together. They probably spent multiple nights together. She, after some time, sends a message to him that’s she’s pregnant.
David decides he’s got to fix this. He calls for her husband to come in off the battlefield to give a report of how the war’s going. Then he said, “Now as long as you’re here you might as well go home and relax.” He even sent Uriah a gift after he had left the palace.
But Uriah’s a righteous man, and instead of going home to his wife he spends the night on the ground outside the palace gates with the palace guards.
David finds out he didn’t go home and says, “Why didn’t you go home to your wife?”
Uriah says, “How can I spend the night with my wife when my men are living in tents and camping in open fields, fighting and dying in the dirt? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”
David is like “darn it, that’s what I would have done. But I have to fix this problem.”
So he says to Uriah, “Spend one more night.”
David gets him drunk, points him toward home, and says, “Go home.”
The next morning David gets up to find that Uriah still hasn’t gone home. He isn’t going to spend a night in luxury when his men are dying on the battlefield. He’s a good man.
David writes a message to Joab (Uriah’s commander) and says, “put Uriah in the fiercest part of the battle and when things get really hot withdraw from him so he will be killed.” It was a death sentence. He signs it, seals it, gives it to Uriah, who gives it to Joab.
Joab does as the king says (you can’t say no to the king) and Uriah dies in battle.
Bathsheba mourns. David brings her in. She’s pregnant. He marries her and everything’s good. David has managed the outcome, except that this was no secret. In a world where there are slaves everywhere, the walls talk.
Eventually, after they’re married, the prophet Nathan comes in to see David and he tells this made-up story. David gets really mad at this guy in this story and Nathan says, “David, you’re the guy in the story.”
David breaks. He knows he messed up big. He allows the law of God to break him.
But here’s the problem. Every sin, whether you’re a Christian or not, comes prepackaged with a consequence; a penalty. That day, as David began to mourn his own sin, Nathan said this to him…
2 Samuel 12:11–14
11 “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you.
OK, here’s David. He’s gone through so much to get where he is. But because he messed up, there are consequences for his sin. And because you’re the leader, the king, you are accountable to the entire kingdom. So although…
12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”
And then David said to Nathan. This is simple, but so powerful.
13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
This is again the reminder that even though David was king, and even though he was flawed, he never confused himself with the King of Israel. He never abandoned God’s law. He broke it, but then he would allow God’s law to break him. Once again, we find him acknowledging his fault and surrendering to the will of God.
13 Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. 14 Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the word of the Lord by doing this, your child will die.”
You’re forgiven, your sin is taken away, and you are not going to die. But there is going to be an unavoidable consequence for what you did.
So first, the child between David and Bathsheba dies. Then a year goes by, no rebelling of his household happens. Two years go by, nothing happens. Five years go by, nothing happens. Finally, 10 years later, this consequence takes hold and it turns David’s world upside down and at the end of the story, his dreams can’t come true.
David’s oldest son was a young man named Amnon. Because he was the oldest son, he was in line to become the next king of Israel. But Amnon was consumed with lust for his half-sister, Tamar (Tay-mar). They have the same dad, but different mothers.
Amnon just cannot get her out of his mind, so he pretends to be sick and asked his dad if Tamar can take come make him a meal. She comes to his house, and he tries to force her into bed with him.
She resists saying, “No, my brother. Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done, we’re related. Such a thing should not be done in Israel, don’t do this wicked thing.”
But he refused to listen, and since he was stronger, he had his way with her.
This next verse is just gut wrenching. But again, the people who bring us this story, don’t skip any of the details. It says…
2 Samuel 13:15
15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her.
It’s like he knew what he did was so wrong on many levels and with intense hatred, he told to her to get out.
She’s devastated. She knows that her life is ruined forever.
In this culture, that just disgraced her. Now no one will never marry her. Before you think… they just don’t have to tell anyone… remember there are no secrets in the palace. In fact, there are no secrets to the degree that David finds out.
When King David finds out what his oldest son did to one of his daughters, he’s furious. But do you know what he did? Nothing. We’re only left to guess why David did nothing, but throughout the season of his life as a parent, it seems he’s lost his moral authority. Maybe it’s the guilt of what he did. After all, who is David to tell anybody how to manage their private lives after what he had done? So David does nothing.
Then we’re introduced to another one of David’s sons named Absalom (Ab-sa-lum). Absalom is David’s third son. It looks the second son has passed away by this time, so Absalom is next in line to be king, if Amnon does not become king. Absalom is Tamar’s brother by the same two parents, so in her disgrace, Absalom takes Tamar into his home. He too is extremely angry at Amnon, but he too does nothing, at least not right away.
Two years go by, it’s sheep shearing time, so Absalom throws a big feast at his home and invites the entire family, although David declines saying, “It will be such a burden to your home.”
So Absalom says, “What if I invite my brothers, all my brothers?”
David says, “Knock yourself out, have a good time.”
So he did. He even invited Amnon, the one who disgraced his sister.
Absalom has this big feast, gets everybody good and drunk, and when Amnon is drunk and all the brothers are gathered around the table, he signals his men in and they slaughter Amnon in front of all the brothers. The brothers jump up and flee because they’re afraid they’ll be next. Absalom knows he’s done wrong and flees north to his grandfather’s home (his mother’s father).
When King David finds out that his oldest son has been murdered by (what we find out later is) his favorite son, he does nothing. Life just goes on. Three long years have passed. Things have settled down. Perhaps people have forgotten. Life’s gone back to normal. David is missing Absalom and longs to be reunited with him.
Joab realizes how much David misses his son. He’s smart. He knows that you can’t approach David directly, so he sends a woman in.
This woman makes up this incredible story. She gets David all engaged emotionally in the story. Then basically, at the end, the person that David’s most frustrated with in the story turns out to be him.
She (like Nathan) says, “Well my King, that’s you. You’re all upset with yourself.”
David said, “Did Joab send you?”
She says, “Yes, Joab sent me. He wanted you to see this matter in a different light.”
David calls for Joab, and tells him to bring Absalom home. But when Absalom gets there, he’s told, “You’re invited to move back into your home, but the King refuses to see you.”
Absalom waits two years, but King David keeps ignoring him. Absalom is so furious, and finally just fed up. He sends his servants to Joab, the commander of all of David’s armies, to intercede for him. But Joab won’t have anything to do with Absalom either. So Absalom sends his servants to Joab’s home to burn down his barley field. Joab comes over to Absalom’s house, finally, and demands to know why.
Absalom says, “Well, it’s nice to finally see you too. I’ve been trying to get a message to you and to my father for two years and you’ve ignored me. So now that I have your undivided attention, would you please tell my father I want to see him.”
2 Samuel 14:33
33 So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him.
This was his way of saying you’re forgiven and our relationship is restored. But in reality, it wasn’t. Absalom was hurt. His anger still brewed in him, and so he decided to overthrow his father and take the kingdom that will be his one day anyways.
Absalom was quite wise. Every morning, he got up early and went out to the gate of the city. As people came to bring a case to the king for judgement, Absalom would say, “Let me help you.”
Right at the gate, he set himself up as a judge. He would stay there day, after day, seeing all these court cases where people would otherwise have to wait weeks and perhaps months to see king.
For four years, he sat outside the gates of the city and heard cases. People recognized how smart he was, how wise he was, what a great leader he was, and over time, the Bible tells us that Absalom stole the hearts of the people. Then, he sets in motion his plot to overthrow his father.
2 Samuel 15:10
10 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’”
He had these people scattered out all over the primary cities and told them on a certain time, on a certain day, you’re all going to run through the city and just announce, “Absalom is king, Absalom is king.”
There are no newspapers. There’s no radio. There’s no quick communication. People basically believed whatever they heard. Maybe Absalom is king because David died. Maybe Absalom is king because David just resigned and decided to let Absalom be king. We don’t know.
He had the hearts of the people, so when they heard that Absalom had become king, they rejoiced all over the kingdom, even though it hadn’t actually happened.
Sixteen years after David’s incident with Bathsheba, his world is upside down. His first born has been murdered by his favorite son, who has now instigated a civil war and is about to divide the entire nation.
A messenger came to David and said, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.”
When David heard this, apparently he wasn’t completely surprised. No doubt he had heard rumors of this for the past couple of years.
The text says then David said, to all of his officials (everyone who was with him in Jerusalem), “Come, we must flee the city or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave here immediately, or he will put this entire city to the sword.”
David knew if he stayed, it would put everyone at risk. So he abandoned the throne to save the cit. Once again, he’s a fugitive. He finds himself running from the place that he considered his home; running from the people who supposedly loved him. But this time he’s not 22. This time, he’s 61 years old. This was not the dream. This was not supposed to happen. This was not the way he was supposed to spend this season of his life.
His dreams were not coming true, and as it turned out, they could not come true.
This is where, once again, our lives at some point intersect with the story of David. Here we are heartbroken, disappointed, maybe angry, frustrated with God, maybe looking for someone to blame, maybe you’ve decided to blame God. After all, where is God? God could’ve kept this from happening, right? What’s the point of going on? What’s the point of trying?
This is when we oftentimes make things worse for ourselves, isn’t it? Because we’re so angry, hurt, and frustrated and disappointed with God, we hurt ourselves. This creates more regret, and more pain.
This isn’t the first time David had faced a situation like this. David remembered that the first time he fled the kingdom, he took matters into his own hands. But he learned something along the way. This is our lesson for today that we all need to take to heart.
Here’s what happened.
The whole caravan (all of his family and anyone who was a supporter of Davi) are filing out of the city… trying to get out of Jerusalem before Absalom and his followers get there.
2 Samuel 15:23-26
23 The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.
David isn’t even sure where they’re going at this point. He just knows he and anyone who supports him needs to get out of the city.
24 Zadok (who is the high priest) was there, too, and all the Levites (this was the tribe that takes care of all the sacrificial system) who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God.
This is really important. When you read these stories quickly you miss the significance of this. The Ark of the Covenant of God represented the presence of God for ancient Israel. You could not be closer to God (as far as ancient Israel was concerned) than you were when you were in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. For some people, it was almost considered like a good luck charm. If you took the Ark of the Covenant with you into battle, you were sure to win. It represented the presence of God. So when David saw them bringing the Ark of the Covenant, it looked as if the presence of God was leaving the city and going with David.
But the implications of that were a bit overwhelming for David. In fact, David decided, “This feels manipulative.” Listen to what he said.
25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city.”
I guarantee the people who were around David and heard him make this command, moaned. Taking the Ark the Covenant back into the city was as if David was saying, “Absalom is in the right and we are in the wrong.”
Listen to David’s explanation fpr why he told Zadok to take the Ark of the Covenant back to the city. This is so powerful. He said…
25 If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26 But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”
In other words, I’m not going to try to manipulate God. I’m not going to try to talk God into doing something He doesn’t want to do. I’m not going to play games. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, He will bring me back and let me see the Ark one day in His dwelling place. If not, then so be it. I’m ready. Either way, I am not taking matters into my own hands.
“Let Him do to me whatever seems good to Him.” Not my will, but Thine. Every time I do my will, I mess things up. Every time I have my way, I get in the way. Not my will, but Thine. This is the lesson. David lost his world, but he did not lose his confidence in God. David’s entire world is upside down, but he does not lose his faith in God. He doesn’t reject the law, he doesn’t consider himself above the law.
David understands he’s flawed, he’s not a perfect man, but he refuses to be The King. David never lost sight of the fact that he is simply a king. He chose not to abandon God when it appeared that God chose to abandon him. “I’m not going to war with my son, I’m not going to risk the city, this is not about me. God put me in place, God will choose how and when and where I am replaced.” Wow! He leaves the city and the Ark.
Absalom shows up at the city and he takes the city without a fight, but it’s a hollow victor. He has the capital, but he doesn’t have the king. The only way for him to proclaim himself the non-disputed king is to actually put his father to death.
Now another character walks into the story… Ahithophel was one of David’s trusted advisors. Ahithophel changes sides when he realizes that Absalom’s going to be the next king. He stays in the palace. When Absalom shows up, he’s there to welcome him. He says, “I’m here to be your advisor just as I advised your father all these years. But now I’m here to do whatever I can to help you, Absalom.”
So Absalom says to Ahithophel, “What should I do next?”
Ahithophel’s advice was, “Go after David right away while he’s weary and discouraged and kill him. They left in a hurry, they haven’t set up any kind of defense yet. So keep it that way. Don’t let him get organized, don’t let him gather more people around him. Once he’s gone, I’ll bring all of the people back to the city, and they will follow you as the King of Israel.”
But there was another counselor there as well, his name was Hushai. Hushai had actually left the city with David, but when David realized that Ahithophel was still in the city, he told Hushai to go back into the city. He wanted him to pretend to be a good advisor to Absalom, and frustrate and the plans of Ahithophel.
When Ahithophel gave his advice, Absalom wanted to know what Hushai recommended. Here’s what Hushai said.
2 Samuel 15:7-9
7 Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; (he may be 61, but he’s no fool) he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’
Hushai is saying, “Your father is an experienced fighter. It’s not like you’re just going to catch up with him and find him. In other words, don’t rush, don’t listen to Ahithophel, take your time, consolidate, gather a larger army, wait. Once you gather all the tribes, then you can personally lead this campaign to overthrow your father.”
Absalom thought that was great advice. Ahithophel knew the end was near. He knew that if David is given time to organize and gather an army, there’s no way he could be defeated in open combat. You know what he did? He went home and hung himself.
In the meantime, David goes to the city of Mahanaim, (Ma-ha-nim) and hears that Absalom is coming. He realizes he has no choice but to defend himself and defend the people who are with him. So, David does a very smart thing. He divides his army up into thirds. He put a different commander over each of the thirds. Then gives them these very explicit instructions.
2 Samuel 18:5-8
5 The king commanded, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” (In other words, spare his life and bring him to me.) And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders. 6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim.
The forest meant superior numbers meant very little. Experience and organization mattered more. Fortunately, David was wise enough to know this. His men were better organized to fight under those conditions since he had three commanders, whereas Absalom’s troops were all looking to just him for leadership.
7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
Eventually, Absalom is caught and instead of being held prisoner and taken back to David, Joab slaughterers him, as the army watches. As soon as Absalom’s army knew he was dead, they fled for their homes. David is told that Absalom is dead and he mourns the loss of his son. In fact, he mourns the loss of his son to such a degree that the soldiers are afraid to celebrate their victory.
Joab goes to David and says, “David, what’s wrong with you? By the way you’re mourning your son, your men think they lost. The men feel as if you wish they had died and your son had lived. So get over this and go out there and celebrate the victory. They just gave you back your kingdom.”
But it was a hollow victory for David because he loved his son, Absalom. He returns to Jerusalem as the king, but his world would never, ever be the same. Nine years later, he died at the age of 70.
I love that the authors of these books do not hide all of David’s faults, failures, and flaws from us. The thing that’s so amazing (the thing I want us to take away as we wrap up this story of David) is:
With all of his flaws, even when things did not go his way, whether it was somebody else’s fault or his own, David never lost his confidence in God. His somewhat sad ending reminds us of something extraordinarily important.
The foundation of our faith is not answered prayer. The foundation of faith is not everything going our way. The foundation of our faith is not happily ever after endings. In fact, it’s always a mistake to measure the faithfulness of God by the fulfillment of our dreams, or even the answers to our prayer.
Dreams that don’t come true, and prayers that don’t get answered, say nothing about the presence or the goodness or the faithfulness of God. They say nothing about God’s presence or His lack of activity.
I think David (of all the people in the Old Testament) would be the first to remind us that when we feel forsaken, we’re wrong.
When circumstances don’t go our way, and our dreams can’t come true, to assume from circumstances that God is not real or God is not present, is a mistake. Through all the highs and lows, God was always with David.
We would do well with our own circumstances to join David in this extraordinary statement that he makes when he’s leaving the city. All hope is gone. He doesn’t know if he will ever see the city again. He doesn’t know if his kingship will ever be restored. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen in this season of his life.
But he makes this incredible statement, 2 Samuel 15:25:
If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”
In other words… not my will, but Thine.
I know how I want things to turn out… I know how I’ve prayed they go… but not my will, Thine will be done.
I may lose my world, but I will not lose my confidence or my faith in God. I choose not to abandon Him, because He never abandons me.
That takes us all the way back to the first part of the series when David journaled these important words that likely got him through life over and over and over again:
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. My hope is in you all day long.
I’ll tell you what’s amazing is that you are seated around people, who may look like they have it all together, but if they were to come up here and tell their story, this is their story.
It’s a story of heartbreak, disappointment, broken promises, and dreams that can’t come true. Yet, you’re surrounded by men and women who have an extraordinary faith and confidence in God because they have not made the mistake of measuring their faith in God, by their expectation of how God will or should behave.
And that’s why, in spite of what happens around us, we can say with confidence, “Not my will, but Thine will be done.”