2 Samuel 14:14
For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither does God respect any person…
It is hardly possible for a father to be so completely estranged from his child as to lose all affection for him. He may have just cause to feel angry with him; but, with absence and the lapse of time, his anger dies away, and his natural affection springs up afresh. It was thus with David in relation to his son Absalom. Yet he hesitated to give way to his parental feelings, to set aside the claims of public justice, and exercise his royal prerogative of showing mercy toward the guilty. And to induce him to do this it was urged (among the means devised for the purpose) that God, who has ordained that men should die, permits them to live, and even devises means for their restoration. Was not this an indication that Absalom should be spared? Was not this an example which the king should imitate? It bus been supposed that there is allusion to the cities of refuge (Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:6; Joshua 20.), where the manslayer, "though banished from his habitation for a time, was not quite expelled, but might return again after the death of the high priest" (Patrick). The argument used was not properly applicable to the particular instance, but the truth expressed is profound and striking. Notice -
I. THE ALIENATED CONDITION OF MAN. "Banished;" estranged, separated, "cast out of God's presence," away from his sanctuary, fellowship, and inheritance (ver. 16), in "a far country" (Luke 15:13). That this is the moral and spiritual state of man (naturally and generally) is not only testified by the Scriptures, but also by his own heart and conscience; his aversion and dread with respect to God. It is:
1. Voluntary. By his own free act Absalom broke the Law, incurred the displeasure, fled from the face of his father, and continued in exile. So has it been with man from the first.
"The nature with its Maker thus conjoin'd,
Created first was blameless, pure, and good;
But, through itself alone, was driven forth
From Paradise, because it had eschew'd
The way of truth and life, to evil turn'd?
(Dante, 'Paradise,' 7.) Of his own accord he departs from God and seeks to hide himself from him.
2. Unhappy. Absalom found friendly associates and material comforts in Geshur, but he could not have been at home there, and must have carried in his breast a restless and troubled heart. And it is impossible for him who departs from God, and tries to live without him, to possess inward rest and peace. The soul is made for God: how can it be satisfied with anything short of him? Oh the misery that multitudes at this moment endure because they have forsaken the "Fountain of living waters," and seek their happiness where it can never be found!
3. Perilous. The sinner is under condemnation. The "avengers of blood" are on his track. Life is precarious and must soon terminate, with all its alleviations, privileges, and possibilities; "and after that the judgment," when voluntary exile becomes involuntary, partial unhappiness complete wretchedness, temporary estrangement "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
4. Not hopeless. Absalom was still a son, though a disobedient one; still "in the land of the living;" and might entertain the hope that, through his father's affection, his banishment would not be perpetual. However far man may have wandered from the Father's house, he is still an object of the Father's love. "Behold, all souls are mine," etc.; "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth" etc. (Ezekiel 18:4, 32; Ezekiel 23:11); "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope" (Zechariah 9:12).
II. THE MERCIFUL MEANS DEVISED FOR HIS RESTORATION. Man's misery is from himself, but "salvation is of the Lord" (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9). It is effected by and through:
1. The long patience and forbearance which he shows toward the transgressor; restraining the outgoings of wrath (Luke 13:7), sparing forfeited life, affording space for repentance, "making his sun to rise," etc. (Matthew 5:45). "The long suffering of our Lord is salvation" (2 Peter 3:15; Romans 2:4).
2. An extraordinary provision, whereby the way of his return is opened, consistently with the requirements of eternal righteousness, and his fatherly love is revealed in the highest degree. By restoring Absalom without due regard to the demands of justice, and even without repentance, David weakened his own authority as king, contributed to a popular rebellion, and well nigh lost his throne and life. But in the method which God in infinite wisdom has "devised" for the restoration of man, justice and mercy are alike manifested, an adequate ground or reason for forgiveness is furnished, sinners are "put in the capacity of salvation" (Butler), and the Law is magnified and "established" (Romans 3:19-31). "God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8); "redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13); "suffered for sins once, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
Man in himself had ever lacked the means
Of satisfaction .... Then behoved
That God should by his own ways lead him back
Unto the life from whence he fell, restored;
By both his ways, I mean, or one alone.
But since the deed is ever prized the more,
The more the doer's good intent appears;
Goodness celestial, whose broad signature
Is on the universe, of all its ways
To raise ye up, was fain to leave out none.
Nor aught so vast or so magnificent,
Either for him who gave or who received,
Between the last night and the primal day,
Was or can be. For God more bounty show'd,
Giving himself to make man capable
Of his return to life, then had the terms
Been mere and unconditional release.
And for his justice, every method else
Were all too scant, had not the Son of God
Humbled himself to put on mortal flesh."
(Dante, 'Paradise,' 7.)
3. Numerous messages, efficient motives, and gracious influences, in connection with that provision, to dispose him to avail himself thereof: the Word, with its invitations, warnings, appeals to reason, affection, conscience, hope and fear; messengers (ver. 31) - ministers and teachers of the Word; above all, the Holy Spirit, striving with sinners, convicting of sin, etc. (John 16:8), and renewing the heart in righteousness.
4. The end of all is reconciliation (ver. 33), filial fellowship, perfect,, holiness, and endless blessedness in God. "Return;" "Be ye reconciled to God."
1. How wonderful is "the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man" (Titus 3:4)]
2. How entirely is man his own destroyer (Hosea 13:9)!
3. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another;" and to devise means in order that no "banished one" may be utterly banished from him.
"Oh let the dead now hear thy voice;
Now let thy banished ones rejoice." D.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.