The Lesson of Absalom

25 But 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.

26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight. 2 Sam. 14:25-26

I probably ought to have labeled this post “The Danger of Celebrity Christianity”.

In my country, there is a man, a preacher of the gospel. He is tall, full-bodied and extremely handsome. He cuts his hair in a ‘Table Mountain’ style, which gives him an added macho look. He wears casual clothing. No suits, and no ties.

He has an appealing raspy drawl and, when he is on stage, his body motions and movements command the attention of everyone. The man is irresistible.

Many years ago, this man came to our town to preach in an open-air meeting, and all the women of the town, both saved and unsaved, flocked to see him. As he began preaching, his very posture had the women screaming and ululating wildly. The man loved it and we, too, in our simplicity, did. In our hearts, the man was an idol.

He went on to entertain us immensely. At the end of the 4 or 5-day meeting, the big open-air field could afford standing space only.

Sad to say, many of us came to learn later that this man was also one of the most notorious adulterers in the land. On this particular occasion, when he finally left our town, he left with one of the women he had ‘converted’ during his crusade.

The story of Absalom in the Old Testament is an analogy of our modern-day charismatic preachers. Absalom was a man of incredible handsomeness, and he used his deep charisma and beauty to his advantage in his attempt to dethrone King David, his father. The Bible says he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam. 15:6).

In the same vein, today’s preachers use their charisma and material or physical attributes to dethrone God the Father from the hearts of men. They do so by drawing to themselves the attention of men.

The Bible further says that when Absalom set out on his diabolical mission, he conscripted to himself simple men who knew nothing of his intentions.

And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.” (2 Sam. 15:11)

In the same manner, men of spiritual simplicity hearken to the call of our modern-age celebrity preachers. They applaud and celebrate them. They call them “mighty men of God”.

Today, you hear all over the place, “Man of God! Man of God!”

You hear also men being referred to as “The man of the hour”; or, “The one and only So-and-so”.

All these inferences actually come from the world. It is the devil who brings them into the church.

And the men of God to whom this attention is directed keep silent because they love men’s approval.

When He was here on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ reacted strongly to such approbations when they were directed at Him. Jesus would not impute or allow any glory to be imputed to Him.

One time, someone called Jesus “good”, but Jesus would have none of it.

“16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…” (Mat. 19:16-17)

Jesus could quietly have let it pass. But Jesus would only ascribe glory to God. He did not want any attention drawn to Himself.

On another occasion, Jesus responded in the same manner to a woman who tried to draw attention to the glories of His worldly birth.

“27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Lk. 11:27-28)

Jesus used every opportunity to draw attention to and give glory to God the Father and to His will.

That is why the church needs to have the mindset of Christ again, as with the early church. In Philippians 2:5-8, God through the Apostle Paul appeals to us:

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”

What was this mind?

“6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus humbled Himself, that He might become obedient to, and hence glorify God the Father.

We, too – preachers and laymen alike – need to humble ourselves in like manner to the end that God might be exalted. This requires the cross to work in our lives. The cross will break our pride and we shall become like Paul who, although he carried the greatest of all ministries, yet he could declare concerning himself, “… I be nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11).

[Let our lives be for nothing else but the exaltation of God]

Abraham’s Instant Obedience – Part 1

And God said unto Abraham… ‘This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.’ And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. Genesis 17:9-10, 23 (Emphasis mine. Please read also Genesis 12:1-4;  21:9-14 and 22:1-3).

We live in a world of instant everything. It began with Instant coffee, but now there is instant internet, instant laundry, instant chicken (I hate it!), instant everything!

Well, how about instant obedience?

What strikes me most in the life of Abraham is the alacrity at which he answered or responded to any instruction that the Lord gave to him. (Another word for alacrity would be ‘swiftness’, or ‘speedy’). The minute God told Abraham to do something, the man immediately and swiftly moved to execute it.

Have you wondered how we often struggle to do the things that the Lord requires of us? And I am talking deep here. I am talking about when God talks to us about the things of our hearts. When He says, “Forgive that sister” or, “Let go that bitterness” or, “Release so-and-so or such-and-such a situation from your heart” or “Rise up and go and ask forgiveness from that brother” or, “Swallow your pride and admit you are wrong there”.

God does not say “Do it right now”, because He is not a dictator; He just shows us the direction we should take then leaves the rest for us to accomplish according to the readiness of our hearts.

And these very attitudes are the ones blocking us from living a victorious Christian life. Oh, that we would release them instantly! We would be free men and women.

That is what makes Abraham such a great man. Abraham obeyed God instantly. If we want to arrive at the stature of Abraham, let us not waste time trying to crank up enough faith to own the herds of camels or the gold that he owned. God is simply not there. God is no longer in those things. God is in our hearts. I know I am going really deep now, but I must.

When the Bible talks about Abraham, the father of faith, it is no joking matter. You see, there are people who think of Abraham’s faith in terms of the herds of camels and the caskets of gold that he had! But I can assure you that in order for Abraham to earn the title ‘Father of faith’, it had to go deeper than his skin. It had to touch on the condition of his heart.

Remember God told the Prophet Samuel, “I look upon the heart”. People think so many things about God. But our God is a God of the heart. Abraham knew this and he therefore served God with his heart.

What does it mean to say that Abraham served God with his heart? It means that he was tested in the very things that we are tested in, the things of our hearts. And the very word circumcision here talks of the heart. We might not realize it, but Abraham got circumcised in his heart. That was the only way he could please God.

Anybody can jump up and have themselves immediately circumcised in their flesh if it suits their needs. But Abraham lived for God and this required him to be tested in the very things that we, too, are being tested in today. He had to have his heart tested.

But Abraham went beyond there. He did not just say, “OK, Lord, I am willing to obey You”, no; he ran to obey God. He prepared his heart to be ready to respond to God’s call “at the click of a button”!

You see, you can have religion up to your nose and still be a rebel. You can memorize the entire Bible forwards and backwards, but you still might not be speedy in obeying God. In other words, in order for us to be considered men or women of faith, God is interested with the speed at which we move to obey Him.

Leaders and pastors particularly have a problem here.

Can you imagine this grown man (God began dealing with Abraham when he was 75 years old), can you picture such a man trotting like a small boy as he ran to obey God? Can you picture Abraham every day looking into his heart and praying David’s prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psa 139:23-24

As a result of his obedience to God, Abraham developed a unique character. You won’t find many people like Abraham today.

He told Lot, Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Gen 13:9

And all the land was legally Abraham’s! That is not for many of the Christians that I know of today!