Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Absaloms in the Church

Today is day two of our twenty-first week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  2 Sam 15-17; Romans 1; Psalms 3, 63.

As I was reading in 2 Samuel 15 today, something seemed very familiar to me.  It wasn't because I have read the story of Absalom's rise to power before (which I have).  No, there was some other reason why this seemed so familiar.  Verses 1-6 (ESV) say:

After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.”And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

Then it hit me.  The reason why Absalom seems so familiar to me is that I've seen him in churches before.  Oh, Absalom has had other names, and sometimes he has been female and sometimes he has been male.  I have seen him in churches before, under many different guises.  

Recently, I've been preaching through Jesus' messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.  In Jesus' message to the church at Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29), Jesus rebukes that church for tolerating Jezebel.  She is not a person in the church who is causing trouble, but a spirit of manipulation and control that can manifest itself in many ways.  Click here to read my sermon notes from that Sunday.    In the same way that the Jezebel spirit can get control in a church, an Absalom spirit can also seduce the people.  He works through people, who behave much the same way that Absalom did in the Bible.

The Absaloms in the church like to impress people with fancy wardrobe, flattering words, flaunting of wealth, and false wisdom.  (Hey, that sounds like a sermon outline, doesn't it?)  Their goal is to steal the hearts of the people away from those who are in rightful leadership.  They usurp proper authority, and plot to overthrow what God has established.  The tragedy is that many people are beguiled by the tactics of Absaloms in the church.  If enough people follow them, they can cause rightful leaders to leave, just as David had to flee.  

But blessed are the Ittai folk in the church, who are not fooled by Absalom's wiles.  We read about David leaving the palace, passing by all who ware weeping over his departure.  Verses 18-22 (ESV) say:

Ittai the Gittite
18 And all his servants passed by him, and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king. 19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives,wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” 22 And David said to Ittai, “Go then, pass on.” So Ittai the Gittite passed on with all his men and all the little ones who were with him. 

Just as surely as there are Absaloms in the church, there are Ittai people as well--folks who support godly leadership even in times of trouble.  People who show their loyalty and commitment.  People who see through flattery, finery, falsehood, and flaunting.  These people give so much encouragement to those who are in leadership!

So the question is this:  In your church, are you Ittai or are you Absalom?  

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