- The Explore the Bible lesson for July 15 focuses on 2 Samuel 13:15-20, 31-39.
Does it feel like David’s life is just getting worse? The young shepherd grew into his anointed role as king of Israel. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction, yet the potential for corruption always lingered behind him, waiting for its opportunity to strike. Maybe we feel like that potential is always lingering after us.
As if David’s confrontation with his sin—and with the prophet Nathan—and the death of his son were not enough, the narrator takes us into the division of David’s older children. Ask your group: How have you seen division take place in your family?
Be sure to see the growing tension of 2 Samuel 13:1-14 to help your group understand where we pick up the story in verse 15. The setting of this situation should strike a nerve with today’s cultural response to rape and gender justice.
Shattered (2 Samuel 13:15-20)
The episode of rape and pain we saw between Bathsheba and David is taken to a whole different level within the familial confines of David’s house. Amnon lusted, Tamar was vulnerable, and Absalom became vindictive. This spells a recipe for disaster, reminding us of Nathan’s prophecy (2 Samuel 12:10-12).
As our curriculum suggests, the common denominator is the effects of sin. If sin is “missing the mark of perfection,” then it has unlimited possibilities for how far one can miss God’s holy standard. In this part of the story, sin shattered Amnon’s mind, Tamar’s life and Absalom’s understanding.
Ask your group to talk about how sin has shattered their lives. The consequences of sin really does make us grieve for the innocence we once had, but can no longer have. Looking at Tamar, ask: How do we see the effects of sin even greater for her?
The first family of Israel, which had at one time the potential for continued greatness, was as shattered as its king. Families often are destroyed by the influence of sin. How do we see this at work in today’s families?
Devastated (2 Samuel 13:31-36)
If this section were played out in a movie, the audience probably would stand behind Absalom’s actions and root for his “act of justice.” The problem with this kind of response is that Absalom retaliated to Amnon’s sin with another act of sin—murder.
Interestingly enough, this sin of murder also was an act of their father in regard to Uriah, Bathsheba’s late husband. The continual, lingering effect of David’s sin is quite obvious here. How do we tend to respond to “acts of justice” like Absalom’s? Should we respond with cheering or with weeping?
Robert Chisholm offers a chilling view of this scenario: “The account is a sobering reminder of the warning in Exodus 20:5: those who oppose God experience divine punishment throughout their lifetime (that is, to the third and fourth generations) and witness the consequences of their rebellion among their children” (Robert B. Chisholm Jr., 1 & 2 Samuel, 248).
Separated (2 Samuel 13:37-39)
The break-up of a family is not uncommon to our 21st century eyes. But if we lose the feeling of pain for when we witness it or experience it, we have played into the trap of the enemy. These three verses, although brief, should cause us pain to read.
David grieved for the likely and eventual death of his infant son (12:15-17 and 22), the murder of his son, Amnon (13:31 and 36), and now the absence of his rebellious son, Absalom. It clearly broke his heart, and it was a constant reminder of the effects of his own rebellious sin. Grief over separation was the right and only response for David.
Ask: How have we, as a culture, become numb to separation? How have absent children and absent parents become a normal part of our culture? While each situation requires explanation, the common factor is the effects of sin. Our consist missing the mark of God’s perfection leaves brokenness in its path.
This is a gloomy topic and a sad story. There is no other way to express this, and there is no other way we should discuss it. As we are trying to grow deeper in knowing God and his will for us, we cannot skip over the grief of sin and its effects on us. Even more real is the need to see how such grief impacts people and families.
I have heard some discuss the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin in relationship to this story. The song shows an uninvolved, distracted dad who did not spend time with his son, but when older and wanting to renew a relationship, the son had become uninvolved and distracted just like his dad.
Perhaps our greatest take away is to see how susceptible we are to this scenario. In response, our greatest win would be to take what David’s family experienced and work boldly—with God’s help—against sin and its effects. By seeking God, and not sin, perhaps our families could experience the opposite of a shattered life.
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.