30 Mar The Way of Brokenness
The Way of Brokenness
2 Samuel 15:1-12
March 29, 2020
Calvary Presbyterian Church
This morning we conclude our series on exile by looking at the story of King David. It’s a fascinating story because David relinquished his throne and went into a self-imposed exile, but God brought him back, and what I want you to see in this final installment is that God brings us back from exile, as well.
First, the backstory. David was king of Israel 3000 years ago. God chose and anointed David and raised him to power, but once on the throne, David didn’t handle it very well. Just because he was king and loved God didn’t guarantee that David was a great guy. He committed adultery and then committed murder to cover up his crime. He was also MIA with his children, that is, Missing in Action.
One of his sons, Absalom, was so upset with David that he sat at the city gate and, like a good politician, found people who weren’t happy with David’s job performance. Absalom told them that if he was king, all their problems would be solved. This went on for four years, until Absalom, “…stole the hearts of the people of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6). Even though everyone could see what Absalom was doing, David did nothing about it. He said nothing about it. Absalom’s anger eventually reached a tipping point, and he rallied his supporters for a revolt.
A messenger delivered the bad news to the king: “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.” Put another way, David had lost the loyalty of his people. After thirty years of serving Israel, he had lost their goodwill, their affection, and their support. And who could blame them? David was ignoring their concerns, so they turned to Absalom because he promised to pay attention to them. When David saw that the tide had turned against him, he gathered his royal court and said, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will quickly overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”
It’s hard to believe this could ever happen. This was King David, the pride of Israel. There was a time when people lined the streets to sing David’s praises. He was the people’s choice. But David was not only absent in the life of Absalom, he was absent from the people. He lost touch with them and he lost their hearts.
Can you imagine what it took for David to walk out of Jerusalem? Can you
imagine the shame and humiliation of having to admit that he had failed at being a king and a father? In this moment David was defeated, full of self-doubt, a broken man leaving Jerusalem to live in self-imposed exile. He walked into the hills weeping, and the people who went with him were also weeping. In fact, as they passed by, the whole countryside wept aloud. It was a dark day.
It’s not that hard to understand what happened to David because we see it all too often. When he was a young man, he was a rock star who believed all the great things people said about him. He minimized his weaknesses, assuming they either weren’t important or would diminish over time. But as time went on, as the challenges of life became greater and more complex, he wasn’t the rock star he thought he was. He chalked up more losses than wins, he withdrew and isolated himself, and it left him a broken man.
Brokenness in a spiritual sense is not a bad thing. Brokenness can be defined as no longer insisting on being in control, but instead, yielding your life to God. This is what David finally did. When he walked away, he chose to give up control. With no hope of a royal future and no idea what his future held, he opened himself to receive whatever God would send his way, even if it meant living in hiding for the rest of his life.
Brokenness isn’t a bad thing, but it also isn’t an easy thing. Scripture offers David and us this hope: “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, God devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from [the Lord]” (2 Sam 14:14).
Sometimes, our mistakes are like water spilled on the ground. You can’t get it back in the bottle. You can’t fix what you broke. There are long-term consequences for some choices. But God doesn’t want you to pay those consequences forever. God’s heart breaks for those who feel banished and exiled and wants to restore you. There are lots of ways to lose your way in life, so whatever the reason, whatever your situation, know that God will not leave you in exile. David’s exile wasn’t meant as punishment but as a time of teaching and eventually restoration. Exile was a time for God to reveal his covenant love to David just as our times of exile are times when God reveals his love for us. We experience that covenant love in six ways:
First, God shows David his protection. As soon as David left the city, a battalion of 600 guards showed up. These men were Gittites and it’s not clear why, but it appears they were indebted to David for some reason and had recently come to Jerusalem to be David’s personal guard. David spoke to their leader and said, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland… shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back and take your people with you. May the LORD show you kindness and faithfulness” (2 Samuel 15:18-20).
David is saying, “Look, I don’t deserve your kindness. I’ve messed things up big time and I can’t expect you, or anyone, to be kind to me, but I pray that God will be kind to you.” I don’t know if David would have said this in the past. The old David felt entitled to things he wanted, and in fact, he might have demanded a thousand soldiers and not just 600. But broken people aren’t like that. Broken people aren’t demanding. They are grateful for the kindnesses shown to them, even small ones. Instead of being demanding, people who know brokenness bless people with kindness just as David did here with the Gittites.
The Gittite leader responded, “As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” What a huge encouragement to David. God used these foreigners to show David that not everyone was rejecting him. He wasn’t alone. God would continue to protect him in his exile.
The second aspect of God’s covenantal love is seen in God’s presence. As David continued down the road, he ran into another group of people: Israel’s priests. “Zadok was there and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city” (2 Samuel 15:24).
The ark of the covenant represented the presence of God. This was the sign that God was with David. Just because David had messed up didn’t mean God was abandoning him. Some of us need to hear this. Perhaps you grew up being told that God is close to you when you are good and far away when you are bad. But that’s not true. God is always close to you. You never lose God’s presence, though you can choose to distance yourself if you reject God. Even then, God is still faithful and loving and will return if you reach out.
David didn’t want to presume upon God, that is, he didn’t expect God would be with him. He told the priests: “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him” (2 Samuel 15:25-26).
Again, this is the kind of thing that broken people say: let God do to me whatever God chooses to do. Entitled people rant about how unfair life and God are. They complain about how everyone has betrayed and abandoned them. They complain about the cruelties of exile. But not David. David didn’t take God’s presence for granted. At David’s urging, the priests took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there. But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered, and he was barefoot, and all the people with him covered their heads, too, and were weeping as they went up.
Third, God demonstrates covenant love to David with an abundance of provision. “When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine. The king asked Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’ Ziba answered, ‘The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the wilderness’” (2 Samuel 16:1-2).
It is humbling when God shows up in our exile with such abundance. You know you’ve blown it. You know that no one owes you anything except maybe blame, yet God shows you his kindness by providing for you in a special way. Whether that support is emotional or a sack of groceries, God does provide.
The fourth sign of God’s covenant love is that God proves us. The next encounter that David had wasn’t warm and fuzzy. As he approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family, named Shimei, came out cursing David and pelting the king and his officials with stones. “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel!”, yelled Shimei. “The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!” (2 Samuel 16:5-8)
You might wonder what this has to do with God’s covenant love. Aren’t these the kinds of people we want to avoid or eliminate from our lives? Perhaps. But God also uses people like this to prove us. One thing I learned from Henry Brinton, who pastored at Calvary in the 90’s, is that there are some things only our enemies can teach us. Sometimes, it won’t be a friend with a soft word but an enemy with a harsh one who will speak the cold, hard truth to us. For David, this was God’s way of saying, “This guy is right. You are a murderer. You deserve to be cursed. But I am a god of mercy and grace. Even though he’s right, I haven’t forsaken you.”
There are some people from whom it is really hard to receive the truth. In fact, we don’t want to receive anything from them. But that’s pride. Broken people know that there is something that can be learned from everyone. Broken people don’t need to defend themselves or argue with their accusers. They can simply agree with them, saying, “You are absolutely right. I am everything you say I am and more. You don’t know the half of it. I deserve God’s harshest judgment, but I’m counting on God’s mercy and grace to give me a fresh start.”
David’s leaders weren’t very happy with Shimei, or with David’s casual response, for that matter. “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head” (2 Samuel 16:9). I have to admit, I know how the guy feels and my response might be similar. But listen to how a broken man responds: “‘My son, my own flesh and blood is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this man! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.’ So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt.” The humble David let Shimei be, because he believed God’s grace was bigger than Shimei’s curse.
While all of this was happening out in the hills, Absalom was back in Jerusalem plotting to capture and kill his father. But David’s friends infiltrated Absalom’s inner circle which accomplished two things: they gave Absalom bad advice while simultaneously sending detailed intelligence to David about Absalom’s plans. You can read all of the intrigue in 2 Samuel 16 and 17. My point here is that God showed his covenant love to David by giving him wisdom about what to do. As a result, Absalom was defeated, and David was eventually able to return to Jerusalem.
Lastly, God’s covenant love brought restoration to David. Earlier we read, “God devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished” (2 Samuel 14:14). That’s exactly what happened with David. God made a way for him to return. And God will make a way for you to get your life back too, even if you have made a royal mess of it.
Here’s where we find David at the end: “He won over the hearts of the men of Judah so that they were all of one mind. They sent word to the king, ‘Return, you and all your men.’ Then the king returned.” Not only did David get to go home, he was welcomed back with open arms and hearts from his exile. The worst-case scenario didn’t happen. God’s covenant mercy triumphed over judgment and David was restored to his throne.
The story of David isn’t a story of David’s faithfulness to God. The truth is that David was all too human, just like you and me. The story of David is about God’s faithfulness to David, in spite of David’s failures. The apostle Paul sums it best. “If we are faithless, God remains faithful, for God cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). God can’t stop being who God is. God is faithful by nature. God loves unconditionally by nature. God can’t NOT do that. It was true for David and it’s true for you and me as well. So, I hope you will embrace all the love that God has for you. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t stay in self-imposed exile punishing yourself. Let God bring you out of your exile, restore you, and use you to do great things.
Prayer: Father, thank you for your faithfulness to David. Help us all to believe you offer that same covenant love to us. Help us to not neglect so great a love. For those of us in some kind of exile today, might we find you close by, to lead us and restore us in the days ahead. Amen.