PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
The Holy Spirit, the inerrant Author of Scripture, was careful to mention those that lived, died, and had something important to commemorate. For example, Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Besides the exposition from exegesis this passage offers it also provides a broader implication. That is, there are times when our influence is greater after death than while we are alive. On many occasions people have died after being wrongly accused or maligned. But years after they die, those people are recognized as being right and are venerated for their actions. Thus, though dead, their voice speaks loudly from the grave!
(Quote) President Ronald Reagan was often criticized for his policies. (“Reagonomics” and “Peace through Strength”) And when friends would ask him about the denigration of his detractors he would reply: “I don’t worry about the criticism of my decisions today because I am confident that history will provide an accurate account of my policies and actions.” Today, Ronald Reagan is considered one of the great presidents of the United States whose policies produced an economic expansion for 92 consecutive months without a recession.
Perhaps the first part of today’s message is encouraging someone to “stay the course” and refuse to bow to the pressure of your detractors. If so, I also encourage you to remain steady and “fear not.” Like President Reagan, time will vindicate your actions. On the other hand, there are some here that need to correct their course and “right the ship.” It’s important that you make correction because the Bible tells us that Heaven is keeping records of everyone, and at the Judgment Seat of Christ “the books” will be opened, and every action of your life will be laid bare. The question today is this: How will your life be recorded?
Perhaps you can already sense the grave and somber tone of this message. And rightly so! Everyone should calculate the consequences of how they live because their eternal destiny hinges on it.
The Apostle Paul said, “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).
The Prophet Hosea said, “those that sow to the wind will reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).
Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.”
We must carefully watch how we live because there won’t be any errors in “the books”!
(Humor) Perhaps I should insert a bit of levity before I continue this message:
(Illustration) The story is told of the death of a rich but wretched man. Everybody in the community knew his behavior. Just hours before the funeral the deceased’s brother offered $10,000 to the church Building Fund if the minister would eulogize his brother as a “Saint.” The pastor thought about the offer for a moment, and then accepted it. With the church filled with people, the casket rolled down the isle, and the minister moved to the pulpit and began his discourse. Here is what he said: “The man we are burying today was a depraved, conniving, foul-mouthed, scoundrel. But, compared to his brother, he was a saint!”
(Transition) Everyone here will be eulogized. And although it may never receive full disclosure on Earth, it will in heaven. Today’s message memorializes three people: Abner, Absalom, and Adam’s seed.
I. Abner’s Legacy
Abner first gained distinction as a General in King Saul’s army. He was Saul’s chief officer. And he remained in the military even when David’s administration replaced Saul’s. But not without suspicion! Shortly after David assumed power, a coup arose to unseat David and enthrone Saul’s son. Abner initially aligned himself with this coup, but quickly realized that God had divinely appointed David to be king. So he switched his allegiance and became a double-agent for David.
Joab was David’s faithful 5-star General who wasn’t sure Abner’s allegiance to David was genuine. Moreover, he confronted David and accused Abner of espionage. Although David defended Abner Joab wasn’t satisfied. That’s when Joab arranged a meeting with Abner and his accomplices. They met at a well, and after a brief talk Joab persuaded Abner to speak with him privately. When they separated, Joab plunged a knife into Abner’s stomach and killed him.
When David heard the news, he uttered words that Scripture has memorialized: “Should Abner have died as the fool dies? Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered. You fell as one falls before wicked men.”
The moral of Abner’s tragic death isn’t that Joab murdered a man of valor in cold blood; it’s that a military officer lowered his guard at a time when civil suspicion was at “Code Orange.” Abner was careless when he should have known Joab, one of David’s “mighty men,” was concerned about national security and protecting the king. Abner should have known he was a security risk. He should have known he was a marked man.
(Illustration) For years, my dad traveled around the world doing missions work. At one point, for some reason, he was considered a security risk and was frequently detained by security officers for an intense search. He never understood why this happened. Perhaps it was associated with his ministry in third world nations. Or, perhaps someone else with his first and last name was a security threat. Anyway, my dad knew he was considered a security risk, so he was ever-so careful not to let down his guard and violate the least infraction of travel laws. He was a marked man even though he had never done anything suspicious!
I want you to know something. In the devil’s eyes, you are marked! He knows those that have been saved by Christ’s blood and sealed by the Spirit, and that makes you a target. It would be foolish for any Christian to drop their guard and offer the enemy a deadly shot. The devil is always ready to take his best shot at a vulnerable soul. That’s why we should be careful to hear what the apostle said in 1 Peter 5:8. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (9) Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
There are two ways that trouble comes our way. We can fall prey to Satan’s trap when we live recklessly and without discernment. Or, we can succumb to danger simply because bad things happen to good people.
(Illustration) Perhaps you remember the story of Bethany Hamilton, the twelve year-old girl who survived a vicious shark attack in 2003 at Tunnels Beach in Kauai, Hawaii. She describes how she and her friends were floating on perfectly clear and calm waters that day. It couldn’t have been more beautiful, but in an instant, a 15-foot tiger shark surged from under those placid waters and ripped off her left arm. Minutes later she lost 60 percent of her blood. Somehow, by God’s grace, she survived a series of surgeries and shares her testimony with others.
Can you image something like this happening to you? One moment everything is fine, and the next moment, without a ripple on the water, catastrophe strikes and life is in an upheaval. This is how quickly Satan can attack! And when it happens there are times when nothing is ever the same!
But you don’t have to get trapped! You can live victoriously. Solomon said in Proverbs 3:21, “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; (22) they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.”
(Transition) Now let’s turn our attention to Absalom.
II. Absalom’s Legacy
Absalom was the son of David, Israel’s most revered king, but his epitaph is sad. Absalom was perhaps the most handsome man in the Bible, known for a thick thatch of hair that weighed over three pounds at its annual cutting. Perhaps the best description of Absalom is this: ‘He was all of Israel’s arrogance packaged into one man.’ Despite the distinction of being David’s son, he was prideful, covetous, and deceitful.
The height of Absalom’s delinquency mounted at the gates of Hebron, where he took his position and began turning the hearts of the people. I want you to turn to 2 Samuel 15. Remember that in OT days the city gates served as the news center of a town. It’s where the elders convened to make decisions. And this is where Absalom, in the wake of his father’s sins, tried to wrest control of the kingdom and seize his own father’s throne.
Let’s read a passage of Scripture that describes what happened in 2 Samuel 15:1 6.
“After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2 And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3 Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.”4 Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” 5 And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”
This passage describes how Absalom sought to be a “voice” for the people and represent the “Common man.” He intercepted people at the city gate and swayed their hearts toward him before they could get to the king. Absalom was so skilled at flattery, that he turned the hearts of the people against his father, divided the kingdom, and started a civil war!
I want you to understand a principle that God reveals here. If a person of flattery is permitted to control the City Gate, that person will sway true allegiance and divide the kingdom! A smooth-talking flatterer knows how to stir pride and vanity and egotism in others. It makes the hearer feel cherished and valued. But Proverbs 13:10 points out that ultimately, “Pride causes nothing but strife”! Beware of the man of flattery!
So here is Absalom, sympathizing with the ills of those under the rulership of David, his father, and within days Absalom created an insurrection. It forced a battle between David’s troops and Absalom’s troops.
But it is amazing how God’s law of sowing and reaping turned against Absalom. You can never outwit God! Absalom had chosen to ride a donkey—the most sure-footed animal one could ride. But as he raced his donkey through the Forest of Ephraim, where 20,000 Israelites fell, he passed under a low-hanging branch. And in an instant the limbs of an Oak tree snatched his hair and lifted him into midair. When Joab, who had already murdered Abner, heard the news, he rushed to Absalom and plunged three spears through his heart.
Do you see what happens? “Pride comes before a fall”! A crafty, prideful spirit destroyed Absalom. While Absalom traveled on a sure-footed beast, he died on a feeble lie that told him he could outwit the providence of God. He put himself in the God’s place and tried to exploit a moral failure in his father.
I want you to think about something: God thoroughly knew David. He knew that David was “a man after His own heart.” And even though David had fallen, the Lord knew that David hadn’t rejected Him. In fact, David’s sin had so crushed him that he was willing to be a “doorkeeper in the house of God” if that’s what it came down to.
Proverbs 12:2 says: “the LORD condemns a crafty man.” If you want to grieve the Spirit, assume a position is yours and manipulate for it. Attempt to push another person out of their position when it’s not your duty to do so.
I want to take a moment to make a positive application here. I want to speak to someone who is waiting on God’s promotion. And I want you to remember of two things: First, remember that your time is in God’s hand. Don’t rush it because God knows when the right time is. Second, remember that God is sovereign and He knows how to move you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’ He doesn’t need your craftiness; He wants your faithfulness!
Here’s how God wants us to conduct our lives: Trust God. Remain faithful to God. And accept your position when He opens doors.
(Transition) Joseph is the classic biblical example of this pattern.
Joseph’s Trust in God
When Joseph was young, God gave him a dream that he would occupy a place of leadership. And through the years Joseph remained faithful to God despite his misfortune, mistreatment, and even the betrayal of his brothers. Finally, when his appointed hour came, Pharaoh called him from prison and crowned him as Prime Minister of Egypt.
Think about it. His brothers betrayed him; Egypt enslaved him; Potiphar imprisoned him; but God’s upheld him. Eventually, providence prevailed! God had destined Joseph to govern Egypt and nothing Satan mustered could circumvent that plan! Psalm 75:6 says: “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. (7) But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” God is sovereign and He will get you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ without any problem. He doesn’t want your craftiness; He wants your faithfulness!
(Transition) We’ve memorialized Abner, and Absalom, now let’s memorialize Adam’s seed—and that’s you! How will you be commemorated? You should know that you will be remembered.
III. The Legacy of Adam’s Seed
As a pastor, I have eulogized at many funerals. A eulogy is defined as a tribute about the deceased. It captures the noteworthy moments of the deceased. Perhaps you have wondered how your life would be eulogized. You wondered what the pastor or your friends would say at your funeral. And that’s a viable consideration. We should be aware that our life is being watched by others and weighed by the Lord. The choices we make, the words we use to express ourselves, how we treat others, and our very temperament all forms our legacy.
It’s no wonder that the Bible tells us to “be watchful in all things.” But the most important legacy you can leave is to have lived your life dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important decision you will make is whether you accept or reject Jesus Christ as your Savior. No one here was born righteous and holy. The Bible says we are “conceived in sin.” That’s why Jesus said, “You must be born again.” It’s the New Birth that transforms our inner-being into the nature of God. And this happens when we invite Christ into our lives through the forgiveness of sins.
When this happens God forgives us, wipes away our sins, and declares us righteous in His sight. And it’s all done deep inside where nobody but God can see. But what God transforms on the inside should be reflected on the outside. We must allow the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to transform our character and lifestyle. How is this done? We develop our character by studying the Bible, practicing His precepts, and by following the commands of His Word. In the end, if you’ll closely follow God, you’ll have a legacy of righteousness like Able. And the voice from your grave will also “speak, even though you are dead.”