So King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, “Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, ‘Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the words of all Israel have come to the king, to his very house? You are my brethren, you are my bone and my flesh. Why then are you the last to bring back the king?’ And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if you are not commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.’ “ So he swayed the hearts of all the men of Judah, just as the heart of one man, so that they sent this word to the king: “Return, you and all your servants!” (2 Samuel 19:11-14)
The rebellion was over – Absalom was dead and all of his support crumbled away quicker than it came together. But the end of the rebellion only solved one part of the problem. In general, the people of Israel not only accepted Absalom – they also rejected David. They did this for many reasons – David was getting older, his scandalous sins diminished his standing, and Absalom was a more charismatic and exciting leader. Just because Absalom was out of the picture didn’t mean that David was automatically received.
David wouldn’t force his reign on Israel. He would only come back if the tribes who rejected him for Absalom agreed to bring back the king. Therefore he sent messengers to the elders of Judah to ask them, “Why are you the last to bring the king back to his very house?”
Alan Redpath – in his excellent work on the life of David titled The Making of a Man of God, examined this idea. “David didn’t lift a finger to re-establish his authority…His return to sovereignty was decided by the voluntary submission of his kinsmen and by their loving obedience to his will.”
The messengers – priests of Israel named Zadok and Abiathar – did what David asked them to do. David wasn’t passive in response to this rejection – he made wise and heartfelt appeals to the people. The response was encouraging. Our text tells us, “so he swayed the hearts of all the men of Judah, just as the heart of one man.” The efforts of Zadok and Abiathar succeeded. David would not come back until welcomed by the hearts of all, and that could not be forced – their hearts had to be swayed.
There is a sense in which God will not force His reign on us. We must welcome His reign and He will not force our heart response. Our hearts must be swayed by the work of the Word of the God and the Holy Spirit. It isn’t that God does nothing – He knocks out the pretenders to the throne like Absalom so that nothing else can easily get in the way. But even when Absalom is gone, David must still be received as king. He wants to be received by willing hearts.
In the case of ancient Israel, it worked. They accepted David back just as the heart of one man. The men of Judah responded together to the wooing work of Zadok and Abiathar. The Spirit of God and the Word of God work together to bring back the King in our life. We should also respond and bring back the King.
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David’s weekly devotional is also translated into German.