READ: 2 Samuel 13-14
BACKGROUND: By Verse –
1 – This story is a fulfillment of God’s judgment for David’s affair with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:11. Amnon’s mom was Ahinoam (2 Sam 3:2) and Tamar & Absalom’s was Maacah (2 Sam 3:3).
15 – There is a critical difference between lust and love. They even come from different parts of the brain (the insula & the striatum, respectively).
21 – The law called for David to execute Amnon. Why didn’t he do it? Amnon was his firstborn son, who was in line to inherit the throne. And also he understood sexual sin and felt like he didn’t have a lot of ground to punish Amnon. So…he didn’t do anything. Not only did he not put Amnon to death, he inexcusably did nothing.
39 – Eventually David accepted Amnon’s death and then he longed to see Absalom again. He also, by the law, would have been expected to execute Absalom for the murder.
32-33 – Absalom never shows any evidence of penitence or repentance and after 2 years he is completely restored to David’s court without any consequences.
THINK: In his book The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a German pastor and theologian who was killed in a Nazi concentration camp – makes a compelling case that the modern world has so cheapened the gospel and tried to line it up with the way people want to behave that obedience to Christ has been deemphasized to the point of being seen as totally unimportant. He argues that we have treated forgiveness and grace like something that permits us to sin freely and frequently without consequence and makes a firm distinction between cheap grace and costly grace. Costly grace is a grace that, once accepted, inspires real confession, sorrow, repentance, and life change. But cheap grace is the one too often chosen instead. In Bonhoeffer’s words:
“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the church…Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost!…Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock…Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it costs God the life of His Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us.”
The story of Tamar, Amnon, & Absalom is an example of the tragedy of cheap grace. Because David, their father the king who had both right and responsibility to handle the situation and meter out both justice and grace, found himself strikingly silent with regards to the sins of his sons everybody lost. Tamar lost her dignity and her future. Amnon lost his life. Absalom lost his way…and lost his life too a few years later. Amnon’s lust for his sister – which he mistook for love – caused him to commit a horrific act. David should have been furious. He could have reflected God’s grace by choosing to spare his son’s life, but choosing to give him no consequences whatsoever and not even demand an apology – choosing to simply hide Tamar away and pretend that nothing ever happened – was cheap grace and nothing more.
And the lack of justice involved with cheap grace made Absalom’s anger burn. So Absalom killed his half-brother to avenge the wrong done to his sister. This, too, was a sin and an atrocity that should have made the king furious. It made him sad, and he wept. But his heart broke for Absalom as well because he loved his son and because he knew that his own failures – with Bathsheba and with the way that he handled (or, more appropriately, not handled) the rape of Tamar – were partially to blame for the situation playing out as it did. But he missed the underlying reason – the cheap grace he’d extended. So, he extended Absalom the same cheap grace. He invited him back to Jerusalem without asking that he apologize or asking that he make any restitution for the murder that he committed. The only consequence was that he couldn’t come see David…for a while. As king, David made an absolute mockery of the laws that he was supposed to enforce for the nation by abandoning them and extending cheap grace to his son. And, as we’ll see in the next few chapters of 2 Samuel, this cheap grace had devastating consequences once more.
The question for us is this: what kind of grace are we practicing? What kind of grace do we expect to receive from God? Should we join right in with a culture that has bought in, hook, line, & sinker, to the idea that we should be able to do whatever we want because “Jesus loves us just the way we are”? Or should we acknowledge that cheap grace is toxic – that its deadly to the body and the soul – and embrace the greater truth that “Jesus loves us even though we are the way we are.” He loves us so much that he paid a steep price for the grace that he extends to us. And in view of that sacrifice – how can we not seek to change and allow his grace to transform us into people who reflect him better?
PRAY: Thank God for grace. Ask for forgiveness for all the times you have cheapened it and used it as an excuse to sin. And ask him to help you continually acknowledge the deep cost of grace and continually seek to be transformed into Christ-likeness.