Absalom would say, “Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.” Then he’d say, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.” Whenever someone would treat him with special honor, he’d shrug it off and treat him like an equal, making him feel important. Absalom did this to everyone who came to do business with the king and stole the hearts of everyone in Israel. (from 2 Sam 15, Message)
I’m continuing my study and comment on Gene Edward’s book, contrasting the life and leadership of King Saul, David and Absalom.
The final section of the book which focused on Absalom was similarly revealing. It’s not just the person at the top of an organisation who can ruin it! Again I could think of a variety of situations personally known to me where churches and ministries have been deeply undermined or even split by people – usually in a position of more junior leadership – purporting to just want to make room for their gift while (at first subtly then overtly) criticising a ‘control freak’ autocratic leader. The temptation then is to draw a sympathetic crowd to oneself which in turn stands against the appointed (ordained in a sense) leader.
I’m going to do another post on that, specifically – but before we look at Absalom’s symptoms, we have to check the root of the problem.
According to Edwards, the reason behind Absalom’s power play is that he really has the same spirit as Saul. That manifests itself most clearly as a prayer for power and influence from God, rather than an internal transformation by him.
“Many pray for the power of God…(under which hides) ambition, a craving for fame, the desire to be considered a spiritual giant… Prayer for power is the quick and short way, circumnavigating internal growth. There is a vast difference between the outward clothing of the Spirit’s power and the inward filling of the Spirit’s life.” (My emphasis).
The point he makes at the end here is, I think, something the Lord has been trying to speak to me as a New Year opens up. It’s about being satisfied with outward blessing and power from God, rather than what he really wants.
LOVE OR POWER?
It’s a theme underlined by Andrew Murray in that other book I keep returning to, ‘Absolute Surrender.’
Murray makes the point that (practically if not theologically) we can operate under an Old Testament understanding of the Holy Spirit – that He comes to bring revelation or power, and of course in the OT He didn’t live in people but came UPON them. “Now, many just want the Old Testament gift of power for work, but know very little of the New Testament gift of the indwelling Spirit, animating and renewing the whole life. When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character.”
He goes on to say, “Has it been our experience that the more we have of the Holy Spirit the more loving we become? In claiming the Holy Spirit we should make this the first object of our expectation. The Holy Spirit comes as a Spirit of love. Oh, if this were true in the Church how different her state would be!”
How often have I prayed for the Holy Spirit according to an OT understanding and not a NT reality?
‘More power.’ (yes!) but FIRST, ‘More Love!’
This (leap) year, for the next 366 days, please Lord, may you fill me with your Holy Spirit of LOVE. Come, Holy Spirit! I receive you. Teach me to love. Grow that fruit today.