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The Seamy Side
of Beauty and Sound Bites
“Now in all Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks.” 2 Sam. 14:25
After murdering Amnon, Absalom fled and found protection with his grandfather Talmai, the king of Geshur. David, not wanting to punish Absalom as a murderer as the law required, allowed him to suffer banishment. Instead of repenting of his wicked deed, however, Absalom endured his three year exile unhappily brooding over his change of circumstances, and eventually began scheming his return.
Joab, Absalom’s cousin and an opportunist, noticing how David was missing Absalom, contrived a ruse to bring Absalom home. Sending a crafty old woman who pretended to be a widow whose two sons had fought, one killing the other, she said demands for justice over the affair would soon leave her without an heir. Securing David’s promise of protection for her remaining son, she suggested the same thing had happened with Amnon and Absalom, and asserted that David needed to return Absalom for the good of the nation. Besides, as she put it, “we will all surely die and become like water poured out,” and “God devises means so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.” David, apparently found justification in her words, and sent Joab to return Absalom, with a condition: “Let him return to his house, but do not let him see my face” (2 Sam. 14:24)
In bringing back his son, David conveniently overlooked the fact that though Absalom had orchestrated the murder of Amnon in a carefully thought out and thoroughly public way, he had never been punished, nor had he shown the least sign of remorse for his wicked deed. Not only that, David had more than two sons, and therefore still had in Solomon an heir to his throne. We would also have to wonder why he listens to the words of this woman that he knew nothing about instead of conferring with Nathan, God's faithful prophet.
So Absalom returned, and we find him being praised for his good looks, not having any external blemishes, having so much hair that that it weighed 200 shekels when it was cut, and having four children, but not with the freedom he longed for. Absalom apparently enjoyed the adulation, was located in the right city, probably lived not far from the palace, but was barred from entering into the king’s presence.
We live in an age when beauty and sound bites mean everything. If a person is beautiful and can come up with significant, outrageous or witty sound bites, he or she will soon attract followers. With sufficient followers, such individuals are considered “new influentials.” These individuals can quantify their popularity by pointing to the number of friends on facebook, the number of followers on twitter, or views on YouTube.
But beauty and sound bites mean nothing with God, and just as Absalom was barred from the King’s presence, so there are many who seem to have everything externally, but lack that which God favors and therefore find themselves barred from entering into His presence on a personal basis. Surprisingly, some of these people have large followings, even spiritual followers.
Why do I bring this up? Three reasons.
(1) Not everyone is beautiful or witty, at least as the world sees things, and it is easy to get depressed when we evaluate ourselves on the basis of those standards instead of God’s. Ps. 34:18, however, says that God is “near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Ps. 85:9 says his salvation is near those who fear Him.” Ps. 145:18 says “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” 1 Sam. 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." Of Jesus it was stated, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2). If these verses are true, then there is no reason to be depressed if we don’t meet the expectations of the world. Nor should we be evaluating ourselves on the basis of the world's standard.
(2) In ministry it is easy to look to externals to know how we are doing and be fooled. Crowds mean nothing. In fact too great a crowd in our day may suggest something is wrong. Real truth will bring persecution, not adulation! At the time of Absalom the whole country fell in love with his externals, and later thought he should become king; all the while he was an unrepentant murderer. There were other godly people around at the time who were probably more worthy of the people's esteem. Though they went unnoticed by their countrymen, God knew them and was with them, and was hearing their prayers, and using them to bring blessings to others. Don’t feel badly if you find yourself alone doing ministry; it has often been that way.
(3) It is possible that a lack of repentance is also affecting our ability to have a close relationship with God. It got in the way of Absalom’s relationship with his father, and will certainly affect our ability to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father.
How then can we keep things in perspective? There is no other solution, than the daily time spent with Jesus, receiving His life and His instructions through His Word, and talking to Him about what we have read in prayer.
So how is it going in your daily time with Jesus? Are your responding to what you are reading? Are you seeking to be right with Him in every way, which of course means being right with the people around you? I pray so.
Father in heaven, today we are in danger of being like Absalom, and going around with only external beauty; or being jealous of the “new influentials” and Absaloms, and evaluating ourselves on the basis of what the world says instead of what you say. Please be with my friend today and help him or her to live in such a relationship with you that he or she will be right before you in every possible way. I know it isn’t easy to do, Father, but I believe you will help my friend, just as I believe you will help me, in seeking that. You know the burden of the prayers going up. Bring wisdom and help, in the best and fastest way possible. Don’t spare in bringing true repentance. Also bring special help with family matters, since they are as complicated in our day as they were back then. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
God bless today!