Deception spreads like a disease; the deceived become deceivers of others. An incident in the relationship between King David and Absalom his son illustrates that point. It also provides a warning about how Satan ambushes us as we approach God.
David and Absalom had a difficult relationship. Absalom had murdered his brother Amnon in revenge for raping their sister out of lust. Absalom lived for three years in exile and then spent two years in Jerusalem with no access to his father, King David. In his deception, Absalom became convinced that David and his leaders would not listen to him. That story provides a warning to anyone who questions whether God listens. But Absalom’s injury spread like gangrene in his life and infected other people. Certain that his father would not listen to him, Absalom projected his frustration on others, suggesting that the king would not listen to them either. Like many wounds, there were complications. The one who felt he was not listened to set himself up as the most available listener for others.
Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men as runners before him. Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel. (2 Sam 15:1-6)
Absalom was campaigning for popularity. Appearances matter, especially in a political campaign. Absalom got himself an impressive cavalcade: chariot, horses, and fifty runners. Timing and location are important too. Absalom stood at the main entrance to the city in time to meet the first petitioners on their way to King David and do some political handshaking. A quick conversation and a few niceties was all it took to win the opportunity to sow seeds of doubt in needy minds. “The king does not listen to you,” was his slogan. In those days, the king sat in judgment over relatively minor affairs. Absalom dropped the hint without mentioning the royal title, “If I was judge, I would listen.”
Just like Absalom, an enemy waits in ambush on the way to our King. Have you met him? When we are approaching the throne with a need, he rises up, appealing to our self-interest. He agrees with everything that we say about our situation, affirming that we are right and that our plan for settling the affair is the best. It is so easy to get a satisfying answer from him, much easier than pressing in to the heart of the King. And does the King listen anyway? Even if He listens, does He care for me? Is He powerful enough to intervene in my problem of such vastness and complexity?
At first, the enemy seems like such a good and capable friend; in fact, he is not there to serve us but to stir up rebellion against the King. If he can only distract us from the throne room, then he has accomplished his purpose and deprived us of the blessing that God has for us.
How do we guard against the enemy’s ambush? Making worship our priority as we approach God is the key. Prayer so easily becomes problem centered and inward looking. Worship focuses on the glory of the King and increases our faith in His ability and desire to deliver us. In worship, we humbly surrender to God. That’s important because true justice from God might involve correcting our perspective on our situation. God sees every side of a problem and knows what is right. He also uses life’s challenges and wounds to hone us into His likeness. An audience with the King will either change our situation or it will mature us, often both. On the other hand, Satan will never help us grow in spiritual maturity, our problems never get resolved, and the disease spreads.
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