2 Samuel 14
In this chapter we find that King David was behaving strangely, for he was not on speaking terms with his son Absalom.
The apparent reason for this was that Absalom had murdered his brother Amnon as we discussed last week. Amnon had become so hopelessly infatuated with his half-sister Tamar that he lured her to his house and raped her. Then his passion suddenly died and he callously threw her out onto the street. Deeply distressed, Tamar fled to take refuge with her brother Absalom (2 Sam. 13:20).
Realizing that his father was not going to punish Amnon, two years later Absalom took the law into his own hands and killed him. Then he fled to Syria, where he remained for the next three years (2 Sam. 13:23-38). This appeared to be the apparent cause of David’s behavior, but Joab knew there was another, deeper reason for it for Joab knew that his uncle had committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband to cover it up. In other words, Joab knew that David had a skeleton in his closet.
Seeing the effect it was having on the king, he decided to put things right and reconcile David with his son. The Bible says: Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, ‘Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don’t use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. Then go to the king and speak these words to him.’ And Joab put the words into her mouth. When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honor, and she said, ‘Help me, O king!’ The king asked her, ‘What is troubling you?’ ‘I am indeed a widow; my husband is dead. I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no-one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, “Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.” They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth. . .’ ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ [David] said, ‘not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground’ (2 Sam. 14:1-7, 11).
Seeing that her story had touched the king, the wise woman added, ‘Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him’ (vv. 13-14). David was persuaded to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem: The king said to Joab, ‘Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom’ (v. 21). So Absalom returned to Jerusalem. However, although he had not seen his son for two years, David still could not bring himself to speak to him for he was still nursing a grudge against Absalom for killing his brother.
We may hide the skeleton in our closet, but we cannot hide the effect that it has on us, no matter how hard we try. Some people act very prim and proper, as if by being unflappable, they atone for their past. Others are moody and irritable or hold a deep grudge. Some people become judgmental, while others are very defensive and quick to take offense. The secret sins we hide can affect our whole personality.
There are three types of skeletons that we hide in our closets. The first type is what I would call an imaginary skeleton. Some people think God cannot and/or will not forgive them for what they have done; in their eyes it is unforgiveable. But the Bible says that when we repent, God forgives. I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25 That skeleton needs to get out of the closet by bowing to the authority of God’s Word.
The second type of skeleton I would call an involuntary skeleton. This haunts a person who has done nothing wrong but is suffering because of the wrongdoing of others. Victims of sexual abuse or bullying often think that they must have done something to cause it and suffer needless guilt and shame, often refusing to talk with anyone about it.
The third type is an actual, acquired skeleton: you have one because of something you did or said. David had committed adultery and murder and then ‘stuffed it in a closet’ by covering it up. Perhaps your skeleton is not so bad as that, but you still want no one to know what you have done.
Harboring skeletons is crippling. It certainly was in David’s life. Because of his sin with Bathsheba, guilt and shame had made him ineffective in dealing with Absalom, which set a bad example to the people over who he reigned. His grudge against Absalom affected his ability to function rightly as King and as father.
Secondly, harboring skeletons is common. We all have something we are ashamed of and hope no one ever finds out about it. We tend to protect ourselves with masks so that people will like us.
Thirdly, there is good news: harbored skeletons can be cleansed. To his credit, Joab recognized that the only thing that would put the situation right would be a reconciliation with Absalom. So once again he mediated between father and son, and this time he succeeded in persuading David to meet Absalom.
Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom’ (v. 33).
What a moment! David had thought that he could never bring himself to forgive Absalom, but finally he did, thanks to the intervention of another. David had neither the initiative nor the emotional fortitude to approach Absalom, but when Joab interceded and reconciled him with his son, David finally came to terms with his feelings.
If you have ever wondered whether God could – or – has really forgiven you, wonder no more. His Word is absolutely dependable. When we repent, He forgives.
If you have carried secret shame over something that happened to you in the past, give it to God today and let Him release you from the burden of harboring that painful secret.
If you have a “valid” skeleton – if something you did or said in the past haunts you, and you know you’ve repented of it but it still plagues your mind, I want to encourage you today to let it go once and for all. You ARE forgiven if you repented. God said through Isaiah that He wouldn’t even remember our sins. So…if He doesn’t remember it, why should you? Is it that you have not forgiven yourself??? Why hold a grudge against yourself when the God who created you doesn’?
May we all live with emotionally empty closets!!