God’s People, part 59: Absolom

Read 2 Samuel 18


“I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” (2 Samuel‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_0874Part 59: Absolom. Absolom comes to us in a way that makes him feel like the Punisher, who is one of my favorite of the Marvel heroes. In fact, the Punisher is not even a “hero”, but an antihero, a vigilante who is seeking punishment for those who murdered his family. Eventually that leads him to seek punishment for all he feels fall on the wrong side of the law. The Punisher seeks not vengeance, but justice through punishment.

The reason there was a Punsiher at all was because the failings of the justice system; his family was murdered by the mob and those who were “enforcing” the law turned a blind eye on him because they were in the pockets of the mafia. Thus, the grieving husband and father, Frank Castle, became the Punisher and took law “enforcement” into his own hand. Nothing will get in the way of him or his mission to punish the corrupt and criminals.

Absolom comes to us in much the same way. He’s outraged when he learns that his sister has been raped his and her half-brother, Amnon. He advised his sister to remain quiet, probably to protect her as we have all seen how “just” David’s court really was. I am sure he had the hope justice would take its course; however, when David remained silent and protected Amnon from any sort of punishment, Absolom becomes indignant. He, like Frank Castle, decided to take “law enforcement” into his own hands and, two years later, had Amnon murdered.

How can one not root for Absolom there, right? I mean his sister’s life was utterly destroyed and her own father did nothing to bring justice to her. I believe that this was the beginning of the split between Absolom and his father, the King. With that said, like many before and many after, Absolom also sought power and, though he was reconciled with his father, he began to plot against him with the hope of taking the throne from him.

Absolom, no doubt, believed he had the moral high ground to plot the coup, because of his father’s inability to judge justly; however, he did not seek God’s will in that regard, but was advancing his own cause and looking to set himself up as the ultimate judge of good versus evil. He proclaimed, “I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice” (2 Samuel‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)!‬‬

Absolom saw himself as the arbiter of justice, and one could almost say that his words were rather chivalric; however, when one thinks of it, it falls short of true justice. All that would have happened would be that Absolom would have assumed the role of absolute ruler and would have fell short of truly being the kind of arbiter of true justice he thought he could be. Why? Because he was human and his understanding of justice was subjective. What’s more, absolute power corrupts absoltuely.

While he was able to successfully take the throne from his father, his success was extremely short-lived. In yet another tragic turn in the Davidic saga, Absolom ended up killed in battle by Joab, King David’s general. Thus, the one who saw himself the arbiter of justice, met his bloody end while hanging from his hair, caught in the branches of a tree. This, in essence, was yet another competitor for the throne that David had removed, and it solidfied Bathsheba’s push to secure the throne for her son Solomon.

In today’s time, we see people crying out for justice at all turns, and there is nothing wrong with that. With that said, we also see people acting out in all sorts of harmful, non-constructive and injust ways, all in the name of justice. This world has gone mad with the taste of blood, and it basks in blood baths in order to satiate it’s lustful desire for self-sought, vigilante “justice”. Many in the church have fallen into this deathtrap and, regrettably, many Christians sound more like Absolom than they do Jesus.

The challenge for us is to pull back and examine our hearts. Are we truly seeking justice? Are we seeking out God’s justice, the kind of justice that seeks repentance, reconciliation and redemption? Are we seeking justice and LOVING mercy? Or are we setting ourselves up as God…as the arbiters of our own brand of justice? If the latter, we are heading dangerously toward the demise of others and, in the end, our own demise as well. Let us be peacemakers, and let us be a people who stand for God’s justice for all people. Let us be guided by the true Arbiter of Justice and live that out in our lives.


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Lord, you are the Arbiter of Justice. Guide me in your justice so that I may seek to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you. Amen.

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