Friday, May 30, 2014

Absalom (part 3)

Absalom returns to his home after years in banishment and under the authority of a foreign power, but he has not regained or attained to his proper position.  Similarly, even after the Egyptian exodus, Israel’s exodus is incomplete.  First, Israel wander in the wilderness for forty years.  Then, when they finally do enter the promised land, they must begin the process of subduing the land as a whole by driving out the inhabitants that their God said were defiling the land. 

This proved to be a feat that, for them, could not be accomplished, as Israel never achieved a complete consolidation of both land and power.  In a sense, then, their exodus, though very much real, and though very much a sign of their God’s blessing upon them (so that they could be a blessing) was never complete.  There was always one more battle to be fought, one more challenge to overcome, and one more temptation to resist. 

This is how the believer is able to consider his or her own exodus (salvation, redemption) as well.  Though the believer has been retrieved from exile by an operation of grace and Divine favor, that exodus---though the believer has certainly entered into the kingdom of God that was inaugurated at the Advent and confirmed by the Resurrection and Ascension (just as Israel had entered into the place that their God had for them)---will not be complete until that kingdom is finally consummated.  There will always be one more battle to fight, one more challenge to overcome, and one more temptation to resist. 

More than that, there will always be evil that needs to be pushed back, which is done through one act of the manifestation of the mysterious power of the Resurrection and the Gospel at a time (caring for orphans and widows, giving up a cup of cold water or food or clothes to those in need).  It is in this way that the believer continually works out their ongoing salvation (our exodus), with fear and trembling, here within this world, with a constant desire to see the face of their King and their God.  That said, this study returns to Absalom. 

“Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years without seeing the king’s face” (14:28).  This was not good.  One can be sure that neither the king nor Absalom reveled in this situation.  Absalom sends for Joab and says to him “Why have I come from Geshur?  It would be better for me if I were still there” (14:32b).  This does not sound at all unlike what Israel would say to Moses on numerous occasions during the time of their incomplete exile, with the regular refrain of “wouldn’t it have been better for us to have stayed in Egypt?” 

Absalom continues and says, “Let me see now the face of the king.  If I am at fault, let him put me to death!” (14:32c)  In response to this, “The king summoned Absalom, and he came to the king.  Absalom bowed down before the king with his face toward the ground and the king kissed him” (14:33b).  Thus, having seen the face of the king and having not been put to death, Absalom’s exile was concluded, and his exodus was consummated.  Those that live in this day, presumably as sons and daughters of the King, look forward to the same.  Did Absalom feel as if his exodus was complete at this point?  It can be said that it was, but only in a sense.  

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