The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost August 17, 2014
2 Samuel 18:31-33
2 Samuel 15:1-16a
2 Peter 1:16-21
15, 286, 629, 48
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the LORD has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.” And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!” Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”
In the name of Christ Jesus who is the substance of education that leads to eternal life, dear fellow-redeemed:
How are you?
Kind of tired.
“How are you?” is such a common question that it has become almost a throw-away question. It is a standard greeting and the response is often as quick and habitual as the question. You can sometimes tell that it wasn’t really a question of any kind of depth because the other person is ready to move on and not really interested in a detailed conversation of how you are truly doing.
It is a much deeper question if we go below the surface and really ask, “How are you?” Are you well? Are you safe?
This is a question that we do well to ask as a nation, as a congregation, as a family, and as individual Christians.
When the world around us asks that question, particularly about our country, there is a variety of questions, research is done, statistics are gathered, but even then the answer is really going only a little deeper than the surface. It is still only looking at the things we can see, but beyond the obvious, the visible—How are you? Are you safe? Are you well?
David’s question to the Cushite messenger was much more than, “Ohm, by the way, how is my son?” Or “Incidentally, what is the state of the nation?” When he asked, “Is the young man safe?” it was the weeping heart of a father, the heart of a king asking about the well-being of an enemy, but also a dear son.
We have designated today as Christian Education Sunday. Christian Education as we seek to define it and think of it is not just a Christian Day School and Sunday School. Those are tools within Christian Education, but they do not define Christian Education.
Christian Education is education in the saving Gospel of Christ Jesus. It is education for infants, young children, teenagers, young adults, adults in their prime, the elderly, and the dying. Education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for people gathered in a church, in a home, in school, in a private room—wherever the Gospel is being used.
Today, we seek to consider the need and importance of Christian Education and also the great blessings that come from it. We join with David to ask the question: IS THE YOUNG MAN SAFE? This question can be turned to apply to each of us, to our families, to our congregation, and beyond.
When David asked the question, one can only imagine how full his heart must have been. He genuinely and dearly loved Absalom in spite of all that Absalom had done. Why was David asking the question? The danger of the world around Absalom was great. He had many enemies. Absalom had murdered his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:23ff). Absalom had set the fields of Joab, David’s commander, on fire when Joab wouldn’t give him audience with the king (2 Samuel 14:29ff). There were things that Absalom did in addition to wooing people of Israel away that simply resulted in a certain amount of danger. This was particularly true at the end of his life as he and his army did open battle with David’s army.
Absalom lost his life in the midst of this danger. He rode his mule under the thick boughs of a terebinth tree, his head became caught in the tree, and he was left hanging after his mule ran away. The men of David saw him, reported it to Joab, and Joab ended Absalom’s life with three spears into the chest (cf. 2 Samuel 18:9ff).
Joab’s action was a matter of national security. Had this been any other person David would likely not have been so concerned about preserving the rebel’s life. However, because it was his son, David had given specific orders not to kill Absalom. Joab didn’t spare Absalom and later rebuked David for his ongoing mourning. Joab said, “…you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well. Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now” (2 Samuel 19:6-7).
Absalom’s life in this world of war and trouble was in danger. David, therefore, asked, “Is the young man safe?”
Absalom was also in danger regarding his spiritual standing with God. His soul was in grave danger. Certainly, his outward activities of despising his father’s authority—both as father and as king—combined with all of the other things that make up his history, reveal someone who is not faithfully following God’s Word. Absalom even used worship and faithfulness to a vow as a “cover” for his conspiracy against the king (cf. 2 Samuel 15:8ff).
There can be no doubt that David understood the danger concerning Absalom’s spiritual condition. Is the young man safe? Does his time of grace continue, or has he died facing eternal judgment.
Certainly, the Devil was also active in Absalom’s life. So we see the three spiritual enemies—the Devil, the world, and sinful flesh—building up against Absalom as they do against every sinner. All three enemies worked against Absalom as he went about his selfish pursuits. All of this prompted David’s question, “Is the young man safe?”
When we consider the position of young men, old men, and everyone in between, it is not just a question of danger, but also a matter of profitable service. We rightly warn against the danger, but what about positive accomplishments and service?
Consider Absalom. Instead of wooing the people away from his father, instead of pursuing his own selfish ambitions, what if he would have served his king faithfully? He could have been a leader among the people. He could have been such an asset to his father and a blessing to the nation and his home. Therein lies additional value of an education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Is the young man safe? We seek to turn this question now to ourselves. First of all, from the perspective of parents, we can certainly identify with David’s weeping: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” [v.33] In the tremendous grief of a father facing the death of his son, David lost sight of the victory as king and for his nation—so deeply his heart yearned for the well-being of his son. When it comes to parents or grandparents seeking to prepare and present Christian Education to the next generation, it is motivated by this love.
Christian Education is characterized by two things: responsibility and love. Responsibility because God has given that role, not just to biological parents, but to all who are in a position of being able to provide this education to the next generation of souls—to nurture them, to lead them in the paths of righteousness, to assist in bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (cf. Ephesians 6:4).
Love for their souls moves us to fulfill the responsibility to bring them the Gospel of salvation. Love and responsibility looking upon souls in need moves children of God to effect an education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ first considering the need and dangers around us. Is the young man safe? No! Because it doesn’t matter what young man or young woman, older man or older woman of which you speak, that soul is a sinner. Is the young man safe? No! Not on his own. Is the young man safe, holy and righteous? No! Not of his own merit. There is “no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Only through Christ Jesus is there salvation that rescues us from sin and eternal judgment.
There are so many, many things to learn. There are so many things in which to be educated and many of them are with good purpose as we pursue faithful use of our gifts in this earth. That is not the problem. But none of those things can save a soul in danger of judgment. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ, only the Son of God who laid down His life in payment for our sins can do that. Only in the Word of God can the news of salvation be found. Only with God’s Word is there education in the Gospel of Christ for faith unto salvation.
Is the young man safe? He is a sinner redeemed and called to faith in his Savior, but even still there are ongoing dangers.
The world around us if filled with enticements and our sinful flesh easily latches onto almost anything that intrigues it. Day-by-day each one of us—young and old alike—is tempted to latch onto something appealing in the world, to make it our own and to pursue it. At first it won’t interfere…much with our faith. At first, unless it is outright sinful, it won’t do much damage. But as our love for the worldly things may well grow, as time spent in worldly matters increases, as these things become more focused as the center point of our lives, our Savior and the Gospel begin to fade into the background. Then the safety, security, and well-being of one’s soul begins to decline.
Is the young man safe? We need to recognize the dangers of the influences all around us. They are in the field of education. They are in the workplace. They are in the daily newspaper, the novels we read, TV shows, movies. There are specific areas we tend to focus on, but the world around us that is filled with blessing, filled with knowledge created by God with so much to learn, also bears with it so much power to influence souls away from our Lord, away from life, away from appreciating the treasure and the salvation which Jesus has won.
For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Is the young man safe? We want to also remember the positive service in addition to the protection against the dangers. The dangers are there, we do well to stand guard against them and beware of them, but think of the joy of serving our Lord. Think of the joy of supporting and participating in the avenues of Christian Education—one and all—so that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! Just think of the blessing as we grow in our ability to defend and give a reason for the hope that is in us! What joy to be equipped by God and blessed by God to use His gifts with joy in service to the King. Imagine the joy of being able to use your voices in song and in words honoring our King. Imagine giving testimony to the Savior’s work by words but even by your actions and how you conduct yourselves.
Consider all of the opportunities to serve and to positively lead at home, at work, in the congregation, and in society at-large. “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), Jesus says. “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). You have this wonderfully vast opportunity in big ways, in small ways, in formal ways, in informal ways, in public ways, in private ways—so much opportunity to declare: “When I am with my Lord and Savior all is well!”
There are dangers to stand against. There is knowledge to learn. There is truth of God to defend. There is our commission from Christ to fulfill—to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19). It all begins at home.
This all begins with each of us privately nurturing and tending to our own souls. Is your soul well? Is it weak? Is it grasping for knowledge? Is it begin swayed this way or that way? Is it caught up in a particular sin? Is it lethargic, taking things for granted? Is it going through outward motions? Is it angry at God, at others? Is it beaten down? Is it well? is it safe? Tend to your soul with education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Is your home safe? We do all sorts of things to protect our property from the world around us—locking the doors, installing batteries into smoke detectors. But how is it inside? Are we addressing sins in our family with the clarity of God’s Law and the assurance of God’s grace? Are we parents disciplining—not just out of anger and frustration-but with the purpose and goal of teaching, our children for this life and the life to come?
Children, are you actively listening to your parents? They are charged by God to watch out for your souls (cf. Hebrews 13:17). God has made them responsible for you and they love you. They are doing what they are doing so that when asked, “Is your son or daughter safe,” they can say, “Yes, by the grace of God, he is…she is…they are safe.”
In our congregation, we have programs of Christian Education—Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Christian Day School, Bible Studies and the worship services. Each one of them is a little different in scope, but each one has the goal to give knowledge, to give education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These avenues of Christian Education are wonderful blessings, but they never replace the home—they can’t. It has been tried and all of these avenues of Christian education can do their best to replace the Christian home, but it will not succeed. Home is necessary.
Nevertheless, when God blesses a Christian congregation with a Sunday School and Christian Day School and other avenues of Christian Education, it is to our blessing to use them faithfully and regularly. It is to the benefit of our congregation and our work in the Gospel ministry to support them physically and with our prayers.
Each of us as in our congregation can well ask: “Are the young men and the young women, the old men and old women, safe?” Are we standing against the dangers? Are we nurturing ourselves with the Gospel? Then, after answering the questions, respond accordingly with God’s Word.
David asked the question out of deep love, concern, and responsibility. Absalom died on the earth. His time of grace came to an end and David was deeply grieved. Based on what we know, we might also presume Absalom is also experiencing eternal judgment, but we cannot say that with certainty.
Our time of grace is our time of action. Is the young man safe? Let us pursue and support an active course of education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ individually and as a congregation. Then, when asked: “How are you? Are you safe? Are you well?” We can answer, “By the grace of God I am kept—kept by the power of God for salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.