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ABSALOM THE THIEF.

“And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, O that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” – 2 Samuel xv. 1-6.

The affairs of the kingdom of Christ, the prosperity and adversities of its subjects, cannot be without interest to those who, being born again of the Spirit, are embraced in the realms of the kingdom. A likeness of some of the things pertaining to the kingdom of our dear Redeemer is set forth in the subject that is introduced by the Scriptures that we have before us. David and Solomon, as kings of Israel, were peculiarly types of Christ. A type or shadow of things to come, is not the very image of the things, so David, Solomon and Israel, only imperfectly present Christ and his kingdom. The law with its priesthood and sacrifices was not the very image of the things that they shadowed forth. (Heb. x. 1.) So all persons, customs, observances and historical events presented in the Old Testament Scriptures, are not the very imago of Christ and the church. This we should ever bear in mind when seeking to present the spiritual significance of such Scriptures. Indeed, we are only safe in expounding any Scripture when the Holy Spirit is our instructor, and enlightens and guides us into the truth. Let our pen lie still, let our tongue be dumb, if it is only some inventions of our own that we would proclaim. May the God of our mercy grant us his grace to be lowly, teachable, bowed in spirit before his throne with fervent longings that the Holy Spirit may take of the things of Christ and shew them unto us. Prayerless writing, and prayerless preaching, is of small account to the household of God. But when utterance is given by the Lord, it will be to the spiritual instruction, encouragement, reproof and edification of as many as to whom the Holy Spirit sends the word. “David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God: and he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” – 2 Samuel xxiii. 1-4. “Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people, I have found David my servant, with my holy oil have I anointed him.”—Psalm Ixxxix. 19, 20. “Behold a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” – Isaiah xxxii. 1. These Scriptures typically and prophetically present to us Christ Jesus the King of Zion. David, as king over all Israel, had his throne in Jerusalem; it was the city of the great king, and all Israel came unto him for judgment. Jerusalem is builded as a city compact together, whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. In all this we see Jesus, of whom Jehovah speaks: “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and lot us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” – Isaiah ii. 3. From the throne of Christ our King proceeds the judgment of all things pertaining to Israel. The law of Christ, the perfect law of liberty, not the law given at Mt. Sinai, not the covenant of Mt. Horeb, for upon the holy bill of Zion our King is enthroned, and out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. “Of the increase of his government find peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David to order and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.” David did not have his throne upon Mt. Sinai, but in the city of Zion, and all Israel came unto him to Jerusalem for judgment. Jesus cannot be seen at Mt. Sinai, but upon Mt. Zion in the heavenly Jerusalem he is revealed. Thither all the nations of the redeemed are gathered; to him they repair, (Heb. xii. 18-24,) to spread before his throne all their troubles, for there only by the law of his mouth can their hard questions and controversies be settled. Instances of the people appealing to the kings of Israel for judgment, are recorded in the Scriptures. Two women came to Solomon; (1 Kings iii. 10,) Nathan came to David and called for the king’s judgment upon the rich man who took the poor man’s one little ewe lamb. (2 Samuel 12; see also 2 Samuel xiv; 2 Kings vi. 26.)

David, as king of the tribes of Israel, was a man after God’s own heart, and unto him the people resorted for the settlement of their controversies. They presented before his throne their causes, and his judgment was final, and put at rest every difficulty that arose among his subjects. There were personal troubles, family grievances, disputes about their property, for some removed the ancient landmarks, and would thus defraud one another, even their brethren. If dissatisfied with the decision of the judges throughout the land, at the foot of the throne of David they spread their cause, and awaited his sentence. For many years David’s reign over all Israel had been unto them as the light of the morning. Had he not been just ruling in the fear of God? No one questions this. But now look at the scene; there from the byways, and upon the highways journey the perplexed subjects of the king. East and west, from Dan to Beersheba, from every quarter they come to have their suits determined by the King. Anxious, yet expectant, the troubled ones approach the gates of Jerusalem. Some have come a long distance, and are wearied, but hopefully they draw near, hoping soon to find admittance unto the King. “In the light of the King’s countenance is life, and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain.” All expectant they enter through the gates of the city.

“And Absalom rose up early and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.” Why art thou out so early, O Absalom? Is it the king’s business that requireth thee to rise up so early? Dost thou watch at the gate, lest some uncircumcised intruding spy should venture in? O Absalom, we are not ignorant of thy devices. Thou hast been devising iniquity against the king upon thy bed, and when the morning is light thou hast taken thy station at the opened gate to practice thy mischievous designs. While on their way to the judgment seat of David they are intercepted by Absalom. Who would suspect that be had any evil intentions? His appearance, his speech and behavior would ward off any such thoughts. “In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” Whom and what does Absalom represent? Dear child of God, Absalom is the adversary, the devil, antichrist, thy fleshly thoughts, imaginations, an evil heart of unbelief. Absalom is all fair, a very sympathetic friend on the outside, but inwardly he is a villain. Satan himself is transformed as an angel of light, and the imaginations of thy flesh appear sometimes so piously arrayed, thine unbelieving heart with its counsels appears to speak what seems the truth, and thus intercepted, thou art deceived and turned aside in thy approaches to the king.

“How oft deceived by self and pride,
Has my poor heart been turned aside,
And Jonah like has fled from thee,
Till thou hast looked again on me.”

“Absalom stood beside the way of the gate.” Satan stood at the right hand of Joshua, the high priest, to resist him. (Zech. iii. 1.) “As he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down and tare him.” – Luke ix. 42. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” – Rev. xii. 10. “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” – Luke xi. 52.

“What various hindrances we meet,
In coming to the mercy seat;
Yet he who knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.”

The queen of Sheba came unto king Solomon to prove him with hard questions. So from the ends of the earth the chosen of the Lord come unto Jesus their King. The law, the doctrine, the judgment proceeding from his throne, is supreme. The scepter of his kingdom is a right scepter. His reign over the tribes of the Lord is the only power that yields tranquillity and consolation to his people. When all Israel is found in willing subjection to his law, then the affairs of the children of God go well, in the peace and prosperity of the kingdom. Judah and Israel, as many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, are found eating and drinking and making merry. (1 Kings iv. 20.) But when turned aside from the law, the order, the doctrine of Christ, then as in the case of the revolt of Israel from David to set up Absalom as king, the end can only be confusion, miseries and humbling disaster. Absalom’s hypocritical interestedness was the snare that took captive the tribes of Israel. “It was so that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? and he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.” Then he flatteringly pre-judges the suits and controversies of the people, saying, “See, thy matters are good and right.” We are naturally inclined to those whose judgment is favorable to our cause. This insinuating speech therefore was quite congenial to these troubled ones. “But there is no one deputed of the king to hear thee.” Astounding tidings! The countenances of the intercepted ones are changed from hopefulness to sad amazement. Fond hopes are blighted. What after all my sore trials at home, and my wearisome journey to the judgment seat of the king, can it be that there is none to hear me, from the king downward? So says the kind and beautiful prince Absalom.

“And Absalom said moreover, O that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” O Absalom, thy words are smoother than butter, and thy kisses are deceitful; with thy beauty, with thy fawning ways, with thy cruel lies, with thy hand and kisses, what mischief thou hast wrought. Thou hast turned away the allegiance of the tribes of Israel from David their king. O thou thief and robber, thou hast stolen their heart away from their gracious king. They wend their way homewards again, perplexed, amazed, and filled with hard thoughts against their king. Beloved of God, let us not forget that whatsoever intrudeth itself, and turns aside the children of Zion from their king, is as Absalom standing beside the way of the gate. When Satan and error intercept our approaches to our Lord and King, ah, when our own unbelieving thoughts, when pernicious ways and false doctrines are propagated in the churches, when all is sugar coated, when all is transformed and appears to us in the beauty and attire, with the soft words and caresses of Absalom, then how much we have need of grace to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. When the tribes of the Lord are intercepted by Absalom there is an interruption of the intercourse between them and their God and King. For all true spiritual communion with the Lord is in the truth. Woe to that man that teaches in Israel the inventions of his own heart, (Jer. xiv. 14,) to the subverting of the souls of the redeemed. Dare we esteem it a trifling thing to be found giving utterance to whims and doctrines of our own, or some one’s invention, the result of which can only be to the annoyance, the distraction, or the injury of the people of God? Woe be to thee, O Absalom, by whom the offence cometh! Our own times are no more exempt from heresies being propagated among the churches than former times have been. A false charity may wink at this error, and that wresting of the Scriptures to sustain doctrines of our own manufacture, but it is all vile. It is Absalom standing beside the way of the gate. The love of God in us rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. The pernicious effects of error, whether it be simply in our own thoughts, or taught by men among the household of God, will be to bring about estrangement from our gracious King, and confusion and sorrow in Israel. “The vile person will speak villiany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.” – Isaiah xxxii. 6. When in any way we have been turned aside from Jesus our King, to whom shall we go, to whom shall we look for judgment? Shall we enthrone the imaginations of an evil heart of unbelief, shall the doctrines of men and devils be set up and crowned to bear rule over us? Can Israel hope for judgment and tranquillity if Absalom be made king? Vain thoughts, errors, and Satan, transformed as an angel of light, may promise us liberty, and allure us with much wantonness away from Jesus our King, but the fruit of it all will be a day of grief, and desperate sorrow.

Look at those Israelites who are returned from Jerusalem; there they are nursing their grievances; what evil surmisings, what cogitations aggravate their woes. There has been no settlement of their suits and controversies, because Absalom has interfered. What now will they do? Did not Absalom say if he were made judge every man should have justice? To Absalom they turn, he will redress our wrongs. “The conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.” They revolted from King David, and rallied around the standard of the usurper. O foolish Israelites! What a heart-saddening spectacle to witness dear children of God taken captives, and allured away from the simplicity of Christ, vainly imagining that spiritual health and tranquillity can be found in cleaving to errors. Absalom in many forms is yet in the world, flow shall Israel escape his wiles?

A child of God may say, I am so imperfectly versed in the Scriptures, I have so little knowledge of the doctrine of Christ, I have no understanding of the original languages in which the holy Scriptures were written, neither have I an analytical concordance to study the varied meaning of the words of the Bible, and if I had, the necessary cares of this life would prevent my time being so employed, and how can I think of disputing what able preachers and writers set forth, they know so much more than I? Dear child of God, it does not matter how eloquent and popular the great preacher may be, no matter how ably he may handle the pen, no matter how modern or ancient the articles of faith may be, no matter if from the first number of the Signs Of The Times, to the present number, the doctrine has been promulgated; no matter if the doctrine can be traced back in the writings of men to the very days of the apostles of the Lamb, the question is, Did the apostles write it? Is the doctrine found in the precious Scriptures? Ah! says the meek and lowly child of God, how am I, with such little understanding of divine things, to know what the Scriptures teach? Do not all religious writers and preachers endeavor to show that the Scriptures sanction their doctrines? How can I know what is the truth? How shall I escape being ensnared by the wiles of Absalom? I will tell you, dear child of God, when you are safe from all erroneous doctrines, no matter who may utter them to beguile the unstable souls. Are you perplexed and tossed about by what you have heard some one preach, or what some one has written, perhaps that some one is one whom you have highly esteemed, and whom you know is considered by many to be a great preacher, or writer. Perhaps you would be afraid to whisper the thought to another, that he was astray from the precious doctrine of Christ; this you feel would be very presumptuous. What will you do? Will you go and consult some able commentary upon the Scriptures? Will you find an infallible determination of the matter by consulting the editors of the Signs Of The Times, or any other writer in its columns? No. Do not think I am setting at naught the precious writings of our dear brethren, far from it, but I desire to present to you, beloved of God, that wherein is your perfect safety from the ensnaring power of whatsoever is not the doctrine of God our Savior. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James i. 5. This is thy sanctuary. At the mercy-seat. In the pavilion of the Lord, in the secret of his presence the noisome pestilence of error shall not harm thee. It is among the most sacred and choicest moments in the life of the believer in Jesus, to be found as a little child pouring out his perplexities, confessing his need of divine instruction, and craving before the throne of God, that grace that he so much needs. O! I know this is so by sweet experience. The Lord preserveth the simple, I was brought low and he helped me. The Spirit of truth is our guide into all truth. (John xvi. 13.) Let those men whose ministry has been to the spiritual comfort and edification of the church of God, stand forth before us; what manner of men are they? Could we have given us glimpses of their private, secret life, we should find them walking humbly with their God. Much tried with temptations and evil, we should find them often imploring wisdom of God. Though they appear great in our eyes, we should find them feeling to be very small in their own sight, before the throne of God. Just as small, and a little smaller than we, dear children of God.

(Concluded next number.)

Fred W. Keene

Signs Of The Times
Volume 66., No. 12.
JUNE 15, 1898.