The Bible is a book that won’t let you forget our Redeemer. The world is the same, if you have ears to hear. The trees don’t only come alive in the fairy books. They are very much alive here in the real world, which is more like the fairy books than moderns admit. The trees die every Fall. They are resurrected every Spring. These trees clap their hands while mountains sing (Isaiah 55:12). The trees tell you something. They have been doing so from the beginning when our father Adam walked in the garden God planted.
The trees tell us a familiar story in 2 Samuel 18.
The Text – A Summary
David was East of the Jordan, a reminder of Cain being East of Eden. He was in exile and his very own son brought about his departure from Jerusalem. David was in such a precarious position, he had just been served by the lowly. The Ammonites, that rebellious nation formed by Lot’s incestuous immorality with his youngest daughter, brought David provisions in the wilderness. The King of Israel also received blessings from the hand Machir who live in Lo-debar, or “no-pasture” (2 Samuel 17:27).
David’s son, Absalom, was coming for his life and kingdom. So David arranged his forces (2 Samuel 18:1). The king loved his rebellious son. He commanded the heads of his military to deal gently with Absalom (v. 5). He said this publicly and his army heard him.
The battle was fought in the wood of Ephraim, just east of the Jordan River which Joshua had crossed some years before. 20,000 men were slain in a day, and the forest devoured more of the men than the sword (v. 8). The trees were on the side of David, one of them in particular.
Absalom rode his mule under an oak. And the oak pierced through the shaggy hair of his head, suspending him between heaven and earth as the mule rode out from under him.
A certain man saw him hanging there vulnerably and reported the news to Joab. Joab was indignant and would have been happy to pay the man pieces of silver had he slaughtered Absalom in the tree. Joab was willing to pay silver coins like the Jewish Leaders did in Christ’s day to get the bloody job done.
Joab found Absalom, still suspended by the oak, and he drove three darts or javelins into his heart. David’s men took Absalom down and piled a heap of stones on him in that forest. Absalom had no son. But he wanted to be remembered. Upon Absalom’s death, we are told that in former times, he had set up a pillar in the king’s valley near Jerusalem so that he would be remembered. That is the same valley in which the King of Sodom once tried to enrich Abraham to no avail. Abraham was more concerned with God receiving glory in that valley.
News had to get back to David about his victory and his son’s death. Ahimaaz the son of Zadok the High Priest wanted to run to David to deliver the news. But Joab refused. Joab then sent a man named Cushi. This Cushi is likely a Cushite, a foreigner not an Israelite. And Ahimaaz is the well-known son of the High Priest himself. The foreigner sprinted to carry the news to David. And Ahimaaz asks Joab once again for permission to run. Joab granted it. And Ahimaaz, being more familiar with the land than the Cushite, outran him by taking a better route.
Ahimaaz fell before the face of the king and shared news that his enemies were defeated. When the anxious king asked about his son Absalom, Ahimaaz avoided the question. The Cushite then arrived and broke the news that the king’s son was dead.
David cried out for his condemned son as he went to his chamber, weeping, “Absalom, my son, my son, would God that I had died for thee” (v. 33).
Hanged on a Tree
As I said before, the Bible is a marvelous book that won’t let us forget our Redeemer. Sometimes, we even question the way it reminds us, “Are you really making that comparison?” we ask.
The pattern is hard to miss. Absalom is a son of David. He rides a mule to be hung on a tree. And a soldier drives three javelins into his body. Our Lord is a son of David. He rode a colt to be hung on a tree. And a soldier drove a spear into his side while on that tree.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
Absalom was certainly defiling the land. He had defiled his father’s wives in the sight of all Israel. He was a divider of the brethren. And God would not allow the Promised Land to be corrupted.
But the ultimate fulfillment of this tree curse is found in our Savior. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”
The curse of the law certainly involves condemnation, hell itself is the result of our sin. And so is pain in childbearing and the thorns and thistles that come from our labor. Israel was not the only people promised a land. We have been given all things in Christ. All things belong to the covenant people of God, including the world (1 Corinthians 3:21). We would corrupt the whole thing. We would pollute the land like Absalom. But the Greater Son of David was hung on the cursed tree like Absalom hung in that wood of Ephraim.
We have been redeemed from the curse. The trees are now on our side. They join us in the joyful son—”Then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice” (Psalm 96:12).
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