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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 8/13/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

 

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/daily/2015/8/13/

2 SAMUEL 15:1-18

1After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. 2Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out and say, “From what city are you?” When the person said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3Absalom would say, “See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.” 4Absalom said moreover, “If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.” 5Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. 6Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

7At the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron and pay the vow that I have made to the LORD. 8For your servant made a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram: If the LORD will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will worship the LORD in Hebron.” 9The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he got up, and went to Hebron. 10But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron!” 11Two hundred men from Jerusalem went with Absalom; they were invited guests, and they went in their innocence, knowing nothing of the matter. 12While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. The conspiracy grew in strength, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.

13A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” 14Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.” 15The king’s officials said to the king, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king decides.” 16So the king left, followed by all his household, except ten concubines whom he left behind to look after the house. 17The king left, followed by all the people; and they stopped at the last house. 18All his officials passed by him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king.

Probably, when Absalom was born and someone named him 'Absalom', there was the earnest hope that he would live up to his name which means, "Father of Peace" (from Ab[ba] {father} + shalom {peace}). The ironic tragedy is that Absalom became a father of war.
 

Sedition, the overt attempt to overthrow an established order, is a high crime in almost every society, including the society led by King David. That his very son would be the instigator of this sedition must have crushed David's spirit. How could someone from his household -- his cherished son of all people! -- come to this?
 

To break one's filial piety requires a mighty motivating power. It's simply not natural to want to kill one's father and see him and his legacy destroyed. It's demonic. It's sick.
 

But the narrative clearly depicts that that was Absalom's intent, nothing other than patricide.
 

What was the motivation? The easy answer we can give is power and prestige. The deeper answer is not motivation per se, but the underlying condition of Absalom's psychology.
 

Absalom had NPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is my guess. Here's the Wiki entry for NPD:

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.

People with narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy.

 

It is tempting to demonize people like Absalom, but given all the descriptions of Absalom in these passages, it seems more accurate to say that he had NPD.
 

Narcissism, more than other disorders like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sounds cute and not all that serious. "He is so narcissistic," we say of someone who cares about his looks. We throw around the term to describe people who are infatuated with themselves. You know, those who post FB selfies endlessly throughout a given week and those who demand recognition at work and at church.
 

The disorder is not cute. It can be very destructive and even demonic in outcome if combined with violence and vindictiveness. Narcissism, as a disorder, is a form of brokenness. As such, healing is required. Divine, patient healing. Unfortunately for Absalom, he did not seek healing. Rather, he sought what narcissism craved: vainglory and power that did not belong to him. For that he died ingloriously.
 

Let's pray: O Lord, we confess our brokenness before you, whether it's NPD or PTSD or OCD or some other condition. Please heal our deeper wounds that cloud of view of ourselves, others, and our environment. Give us the healthy dose of humility and empathy that we need to become your people. In Jesus' name, amen.
 

Blessings,

pjohn
 

P.S. Middle of next week, I will be out of town. A short hiatus from devotionals will thus follow. Peace.