Absalom the Politician

After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:1-6.

Joab’s scheme to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem and reunite him with his father is not going the way he expected. Absalom is back, but he’s being ignored. He decides to fix that and begins to actively campaign to be king. It’s it an elected position, but Absalom must sense that there is some current of discontent in the kingdom. So he begins to endear himself to the people who have grievances.

Using what would become a template for campaigns far in the future, Absalom wins the hearts malcontents everywhere by doing no more than “feeling their pain.” Nowhere does it say he actually solved anyone’s problems. But he is very successful nonetheless, and he collects enough supporters to create a powerful conspiracy to have himself crowned in Hebron.

Since the way ex-kings in the ancient world were usually dealt with was with the sword of the new king, David flees Jerusalem. His unpopularity had to be noticable enough, even to him, that he did not call the army to resist the rebellion. He had his loyalists, including the Levites with the Ark of God, but he sends them back.

David’s unwillingness to fight for his crown is noteworthy. He didn’t fight to get it. Yet he’d fight the Philistines or the Amalekites at the drop of a hat. He saw his authority, the crown, as something borrowed from God, whereas defeating Israel’s enemies was a standing order from God. He may have thought this was how God was making a change in leadership, and he was wary of resisting it.

Today the church in America has largely forgotten it’s mission of evangelizing the lost. Rather than seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we seek a secure republic that will protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We want to win the election more than we want to win the lost. Then we wonder why we are so vastly outnumbered.

The End Times: Now Sooner Than Ever

Most of what I teach deals with the here and now. How do we apply the Bible to our lives today? A subject have I avoided is the end times. I got saved through people telling about the end times. And that was during the Cold war. Everyone was afraid of the end of the world. We seem to have forgotten about that. But now there are new things to fear, like global warming. So this is probably a good time to talk about end times again. I will be starting a new series beginning in the book of Revelation. Please stay tuned. I look forward to your feedback.

Watch “Money, Politics, and Eternity”

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What is a Nationalist?

According to Wikipedia: “Nationalism is a political, social, and economic system characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining sovereignty over the homeland.”

This seems like a reasonable way to approach your citizenship. You promote the interest of your own country. If you live in a country and you promote the interest of other nations at the expense of your own, that can be called many things, some of them derogatory. And I can see how this would set people at odds with one another. It’s like being a member of the world’s largest homeowners association. If you promote the neighborhood and its safety, health and general well-being,  and you have neighbors who jeopardize those things, this can be a problem. It is especially vexing to the neighborhood if those people who want to compromise the neighborhood’s safety or well-being are calling the other neighbors mean and racist and Nazis for wanting to protect the neighborhood.

When the President, who is well known for his desire to protect America from illegal immigrants, calls himself a Nationalist, it causes an uproar. His critics immediately attach the modifier “white” to it and accuse him of having the KKK in the White House. To be sure, there are things called white nationalists, just as there are black nationalists. But those modifiers are necessary to give an accurate description of the thing you are criticizing.

If you cannot accurately criticize someone, you can always claim that the word used is a “dog whistle.” It is a secret code word for something evil. The problem with these mysterious dog whistles is that only the accusers can hear them. That makes the accusation more about the accuser than the accused.

For several years, before Donald Trump was elected, I had dropped out of political discussions. They seem to be futile and useless. To me, the only thing that really matters is eternal salvation, and reaching children with the Gospel through Good News Clubs. That continues to be what really matters to me. If we want to change the future, we need to change the people, and that cannot happen early enough in our lives.

Unfortunately, very few Christians even care about this. They are caught up in the political fury of this moment, and I can see how this has happened. The church does not send the Gospel into the neighborhoods. It defends it inside its buildings. And a defensive church becomes increasingly sensitive to criticism, being accused of being bigoted, racist, homophobic, mean, and selfish. It starts trying to improve its public relations instead of standing firm on the truth. And the truth is that the Gospel is not an accusation; it’s an invitation. Paul wrote that, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Unfortunately, we live in a culture of accusation. The accusation is a steady drumbeat against neighbors you want to destroy or overpower. The accusation does not have to be true.It just has to stick. This was the essence of the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror, during which 40,000 people were executed on the strength of an accusation that they were enemies of the people. Many of them were religious people. The French Revolution was quite hostile to religion, even approving a new calendar which rejected all dates AD, Anno Domini, years of our Lord.

We may not be beheading people, but Americans do seem to be losing their heads, figuratively speaking. They accuse their neighbors over their political affiliation, their position on immigration, their right to free speech, and they disassociate from their friends and family over it. It didn’t start with Trump. It didn’t start with Obama. It has been growing over time as politics has grown like a cancer in the hearts and minds of too many of our neighbors. This Tuesday there will be a meeting of the National Homeowners Association, and the early voting is record breaking for a midterm. Have people had enough of their neighbors’ accusations? Or do they want more of it? Whatever the result, our sins will be forgiven by the final arbiter of all things if we will repent and put our faith in Him.