Absalom and his men were pursuing David while David and his men were being aided by “Shobi son of Nahash, who came from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and by Makir son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and by Barzillai of Gilead from Rogelim” (II Samuel 17:27b, NLT). Reenergized by the supplies these men had provided, “David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains to lead them” (II Samuel 18:1).
“He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, ‘I am going out with you.’ But his men objected strongly. ‘You must not go,’ they urged. ‘If we have to turn and run – and even if half of us die – it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us, and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it” (II Samuel 18:2-3).
Talk about loyalty! These men realized the risks – “even if half of us die” – and were willing to take them. Protecting God’s chosen leader for Israel was their one focus and objective: “You are worth 10,000 of us.”
“‘If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,’ the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands. And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: ‘For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.’ And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders” (II Samuel 18:4-5).
There’s nothing like a parent’s love for his child. Knowing that Absalom was intent upon killing him, David still reminded his troops to “deal gently with young Absalom.” David wanted Absalom safely returned to him.
“So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword” (II Samuel 18:6-8).
Thousands of men died because of the pride and arrogance of one foolish young man. Many died in defense of God’s appointed leader. Many others died in defense of a handsome charismatic usurper. While many men remained loyal to David, “the Israelite troops” had fought for Absalom.
Don’t miss this, y’all: The life of David may have had its shortcomings, but he was still the line through which the Messiah would come. And like the Messiah, David experienced betrayal and rejection.
Nobody ever said serving God would be easy. If anybody did say it, he lied! Hebrews 12:1b reminds us to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” That word “race” is the same one Paul uses when he says to “run to win!” (I Corinthians 9:24b). It’s from the Greek word for “agony.” We’re talking a gut-wrenching, all-out marathon.
Don’t live your life hoping you’ll plod across the finish line. “Run to win!” Give all you’ve got for as long as you’ve got to the One and Only One who can give you the “eternal prize” (I Corinthians 9:25b) of heaven.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates