#5 The “IF Series”




TEXT:          2 Samuel 15:1-18


INTRO:       The history of this planet is replete with examples of leaders who have claimed to bring humanity to its zenith of power and prosperity, usually through their braggadocios claims of superior wisdom and skills.  “If only” they were in charge, “if only” people would follow their ideas and suggestions, “If only” they were able to lead.


Examples in history are available:  The dictator of China from the 13th century, the Kublai Kahn, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, and other lesser known people who have claimed superior abilities and wisdom to guide all of us.


In Jesus’ day the Pharisees had said something similar when they uttered, “If only we had lived in the time of our forefathers we wouldn’t have killed the prophets…”  (Matt. 23:30) Yet, they helped kill Jesus and stood still when John the Baptist was killed, they were guilty of the same arrogance as their ancestors. 


No doubt you have heard people say similar things today, perhaps on a smaller scale, but things like;

a.   If only I were in charge…

b.   If only the pastor would have listened to me…

c.   If only I had been the committee chair…

d.   If only the school would take my advice…


ILLUS:     I am persuaded that much of the confusion and conflict which besets the Christian church today is not due to great issues of theology. Instead, it is because brilliant leaders have not been willing to act with meekness. Instead, they have gained a following and then, to maintain this following, have felt obliged to discredit those who would oppose them. -- Hudson T. Armerding, Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 3.


It is usually a sign of spiritual pathology when we find ourselves uttering those words in situations “If only I …” God help us to keep humble hearts, and work for the good of others, actions do speak louder than words!


PROP. SENT:    The Bible teaches us that we can become spiritually unhealthy when we lose our humility and assume a superior stance over others.


I.   ARROGANT LEADERSHIP!   2 Sam. 15:1-6


A.   Pompous!  2 Sam. 15:1

1.   Absalom was the son of a King, King David who was one of the greatest kings of Israel. 

a.   King David was one of the most humble kings who had served.

b.   Absalom was the opposite of his father, he was pompous and arrogant!

c.   The humility of one generation must be learned to show in the next!

2.   Notice the opening salvo in this first verse of 2 Sam. 15:  “Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him.”

a.   Absalom was full of himself!

b.   David however was full of God, and how best to care for the people of God, but his son Absalom was full of himself and how best to care for his own image.

c.   Self-centeredness is not a Christian characteristic!


ILLUS:     When a victorious Roman general arrived back in Rome, he was given a hero's welcome and a triumphant parade of victory. But a philosopher was hired to ride beside him in the victory parade. As the victor acknowledged the cheers of the crowd, the philosopher kept whispering in his ear: "You are mortal. You are mortal." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


3.   It would have been normal for the king to provide a body guard for one of his sons as prince, but this was Absalom going bolder to not only be protected, but admired!

a.   Real leaders don’t demand admiration, in fact, they don’t’ seek it; real leaders earn it.

b.   Absalom however expected what he didn’t earn, just by virtue of his standing title.

c.   A title means nothing if it isn’t earned.

4.   When people are super self-promoting, be on guard!


B.   Positioning!    2 Sam. 15:2-6

1.   Absalom is not only self-centered, he wants more!  He wants to take away from his father who is a good king and set himself up for power!

a.   Self-important people will often put others down to make themselves look greater.  Beware of those who are always criticizing others – they may be setting you up.

b.   It is easy to sit in the critics chair when you are not part of the solution. 

2.   False concerns:

a.   Notice how Absalom appears to be so concerned for others, he agrees with anyone no matter what their grievance is with his father, he flatters them, makes them think he is so interested in them and would help them IF ONLY HE WERE THE KING.

b.   His ulterior motives seem pretty clear but flattery clouds their minds.

c.   Real leaders don’t just flatter, they fight to do what is right, not what is just popular.


ILLUS:      When Harry Truman was thrust into the presidency, by the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sam Rayburn took him aside. "From here on out, you're going to have lots of people around you. They'll try to put up a wall around you and cut you off from any ideas but theirs. They'll tell you what a great man you are, Harry.  But you and I both know you ain't." -- Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.


3.   False Promises:

a.   Absalom indicates how sad he is that everyone who has a grievance with his dad is unable to get justice, IF ONLY HE WERE KING they certainly would.

b.   He is slowly undermining support for his father the king, while stealing the hearts of the people to support him.

c.   It is easy to see the faults of other leaders while talking freely on how much better things would be if you were in charge.  Real power however comes from making hard decisions, sometimes even unpopular ones, doing what is right is more important than just satisfying everyone.


II.  AMORAL LEADERSHIP!   2 Sam. 15:7-12


A.   Pernicious!  2 Sam. 15:7-9

1.   The meaning of Pernicious is to be harmful, or destructive, especially in a gradual or subtle way.  This is preciously the character of Absalom.

a.   Now into 4 years of flattery of the local people, and ready to launch his take-over plans to become king, he sets in motion his plan.

b.   It has taken him 4 years to win over the hearts of everyone in the kingdom; he spent a lot of effort and time into flattery and criticism to get to this point.  And now one more thing was needed, huge lies in order to successfully begin the coup attempt, lies he makes to his own father.

2.   He lies to his dad about going away, stating he had made a vow to God he needed to keep in Hebron, so he had to go to worship the Lord there and fulfill the vow.

a.   In truth none of this was true, he told his dad a lie his own father would have been proud of; his going off to worship God and fulfill his word.  His dad David was a man after God’s own heart, so he knew this would be compelling to his father.

b.   It was also conniving in that he said he was going to Hebron, this was the area that also had a temple, but David had declared Jerusalem as the center of worship, so people in the Hebron area were probably already not happy with David, here Absalom would find even more support to overthrow his dad!  And perhaps, by being in Hebron he would show the local people how committed he was to bringing back their center of worship.

c.   He is playing the “Spiritual” card to get his way.


ILLUS:     The Emperor Justinian built the Church of St. Sophia, that gem of human architecture. He collected marble and treasures from all over the world to make it beautiful. At last the moment for dedication arrived. The words uttered by Justinian seemed full of humility as he said that all had been done for the glory of God. But as he allowed his eyes to drink in the beauty of the building, he could hardly contain himself. Someone heard him whisper, "Solomon, I have surpassed thee." – Source Unknown


d.   Real leaders don’t have to prove how spiritual they are, or use religion to get their own way – this is evil.

3.   King David blesses his son by telling him to “go in peace” – he was proud of his son Absalom for this “apparent” spiritual desire.  The trap was set!


B.   Parasitic!   2 Sam. 15:10-12

1.   Absalom sets in motion his plan with secret messengers who are supposed to shout out when they hear a trumpet blast, “Absalom is king in Hebron!” 

a.   Absalom was born in Hebron, and was counting on the support of the local people there to stand on his side.

b.   There was those in Hebron already upset with king David for moving the capital to Jerusalem from Hebron, a large sanctuary existed in Hebron still, and Absalom would thus be garnering their support to get power and return to them what had been taken away by David.

c.   In this sense he is acting parasitic, using them, and hopefully later controlling them.


ILLUS:     When personalized license plates were introduced in Illinois, the Department of Motor Vehicles received over 1,000 requests for the number "1". The state official whose job it was to approve requests said, "I am not about to assign it to someone and disappoint a thousand people." What was his solution? He assigned the number to himself. – Source Unknown


2.   Notice how Absalom plays the spiritual card, he offers sacrifices – possibly in the Hebron sanctuary. (2 Sam. 15:12)

a.   He not only is acting like king, but as priest as well.

b.   He is doing whatever he can to build his support base to achieve his end game – to overthrow his father David and sit on the throne as king himself.

3.   He is using everyone he can to achieve his goal, and promising them whatever they want to nurture it.

4.   Leadership that is about gaining power and control is not godly. True leadership is about doing the will of God and serving others, not self.  David was a model of that, his son Absalom was the very opposite.


III.  ABUSIVE LEADERSHIP!   2 Sam. 15:13-18


A.   Predictive!   2 Sam. 15:13-14

1.   A true friend of king David’s shows up and reveals what is going on.

a.   David had ignored all the warning signs; probably out of love for his son and hoping for the best he had missed what was obvious to some others.

b.   Leaders have to be wise and not overlook the evil intent of others.

c.   Absalom’s personality and public record would have predicted such an outcome to overthrow his father.


ILLUS:     Muhammad Ali was in his prime, and as he was about to take off on an airplane flight, the stewardess reminded him to fasten his seat belt. He came back brashly, "Superman don't need no seat belt." The stewardess quickly came back, "Superman don't need no airplane, either." Ali fastened his belt. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 295.


2.   But still it seems to have caught David by surprise!

3.   David shows a completely different heart from his son in the next orders he gives:

a.   David orders his faithful men to flee the city with him!

b.   This may seem on the surface a coward’s way out, but it was anything but cowardly – David was thinking of his faithful men and the city of Jerusalem over himself.

c.   If David stayed; Absalom would have attacked the city, killing not only many innocent lives inside the capital, but many of David’s faithful men and women who served the king.

d.   David was far more concerned about their safety and lives than he was of his own power and position as king.

4.   David’s act of fleeing the city was an act of love for God’s people and God’s will, holding power was not his ultimate goal in life.

a.   David would trust in God instead of his own position.

b.   This was in direct contrast to his son Absalom who only used all the people to get his own kingdom and power.

c.   David was unsure how much support Absalom had at this point and he wouldn’t gamble on their lives, they were more important to him than his own life and kingship.


B.   Pre-empted!   2 Sam. 15:15-18

1.   David leaves for safety with his household and faithful servants, leaving behind only 10 concubines to take care of the palace, falsely assuming they would be safe since they were only concubines and not very important if Absalom takes over.

a.   Ironically, this set the stage for fulling a previous prophecy by Nathan as punishment of David’s earlier sins of adultery and murder with Bathsheba and Uriah her husband.   (See 2 Sam. 12:9-12)

b.   Nathan had predicted that in the future someone from David’s own household would commit open adultery with his wives, which included the concubines.

c.   Without thinking this would occur, Absalom fulfills this as he takes over Jerusalem and follows the advice of one of David’s betraying counselors who advice Absalom to go ahead and sleep with the 10 concubines in public.  (see 2 Sam. 16:19-22)

2.   While David’s flight had saved most of his household and all of Jerusalem, it did not save his 10 concubines from humiliation by public rape. 

a.   When David later returns to Jerusalem, he puts these 10 concubines in protective custody and provides for them the rest of their lives without sexual relationships anymore with them, but he couldn’t remove the shame they bore.  (See 2 Sam. 20:3)

b.   Sin’s tragedies can be recovered from, but they sometimes leave scars.


ILLUS:     Homiletics (Jan.-Mar./96) told of a turtle who wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. He convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did--" -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 2.


3.   Absalom’s reign will be marred with shame and will not last long.  Evil sometimes has a run, but it is always limited.

4.   God Himself will pre-empt Absalom’s plans to rule, he has no heart for God or God’s people, only himself – this is the tragedy of sin, it is selfish in nature!


CONCLUSION:   We are to guard our own hearts from the dangers of assuming we are better than others, know better than others, and are more important than others.  Our place in God’s kingdom is to be servant, just as Jesus was; and he said no servant is greater than their master.  When we begin to think “If only I…” we are on the trail of selfishness, which leads to sin.