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A single weed sprouts up in a garden. The rain waters it, and the sun feeds it with light. Unchallenged, is sucks up nutrients from the soil and grows to full maturity. A gust of wind scatters its seed pod across the garden, and beyond.
High in the snow laden mountains of the Cascades, a fragile layer of crystallized ice give way. It sets off a chain reaction all around it and an avalanche begins to thunder down into the valley tearing through stands of trees and destroying everything in its path.
A single zebra mussel attaches itself to the anchor of a cargo ship near the St. Lawrence Seaway. When through the canal, the anchor is dropped again, the mussel falls into a new home. Before long a large population is spawned. Intake pipes which provide municipal water supplies begin to clog. Indigenous clams and mussels are smothered. Diseases passed on to the local waterfowl kill tens of thousands of birds.
THE SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION ARE SMALL. And in infancy they seem unimportant. But when these seeds grow unchallenged, the results are often devastating.
The same is true when it comes to disciplining children. When bad behaviors and attitudes are allowed to grow unchecked, the results are often devastating.
Today we continue our study of the life of king David. This is sixth message in a series of eight. David had a lot of good traits. A lot of strengths. But disciplining his children was not one of them. And the results were devastating.
Absalom and Tamar were brother and sister. They were David’s children, born to his wife Maacah. Amnon was another of David’s sons, born to his wife Ahinoam. This made Amnon Tamar’s half brother.
Even though it was not lawful for Amnon to have Tamar as his wife, he longed for her. And in the course of time he raped her.
The seeds of destruction were sown, and David did nothing to uproot them.
2 Samuel 13:15-29 (NIV)
15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.
23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”
25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.
26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”
The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.
28 Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.
When David heard what Amnon had done to Tamar he was furious. But David did nothing about it. From that point on Tamar took refuge in her brother Absalom’s house. The Scripture says she lived there as a desolate woman.
Absalom hated Amnon for what he had done, and he plotted to avenge his sister by murdering Amnon.
After two years, Absalom got his chance and had Amnon murdered. When David found out, he was devastated. He mourned for his dead son Amnon, and in time he also longed for Absalom to return. Absalom had fled to a distant city after the murder.
Again, David did little to seek justice in connection with his children. He did not try to put Absalom on trial for his crime, and eventually Absalom came back to live in Jerusalem. At first, David refused to see him. But in time, he allowed Absalom to visit.
Still, David sought no justice. And slowly, Absalom gathered the support of the people, and got himself proclaimed king. As a result, David was forced to run for his life from Jerusalem.
How much of this could have been avoided if David had only disciplined Amnon. Or Absalom. If he had brought them to justice. We’ll never know how things might have been different.
David’s sons learned from their father’s example. They learned to lie, deceive, to take what was not theirs to take, to murder. And when David did nothing to discipline them, or to bring them to justice, things only got worse.
Things got worse for David’s children. They experienced little correction for their sinful actions, and so they continued in them. Things got worse for others. The sins of David’s children led other people to do wicked things. Things go worse for David. The sins of his children brought pain and grief to him and his whole family, and to the nation of Israel as well.
Disciplining those you love is unpleasant—both for the one receiving the discipline, and also for the one applying it. But it is oh, so important. In the book of Proverbs, David’s son Solomon would later write…
“18 Chasten your son while there is hope,
And do not set your heart on his destruction” (Proverbs 19:18 NKJV).
What Solomon means is, don’t set your heart on destroying your children by not disciplining them properly. The parent who fails to apply discipline might not think they’re helping to sow the seeds of their child’s death, but that’s exactly what David did by his failure to correct his children.
“18 Chasten your son while there is hope,
And do not set your heart on his destruction” (Proverbs 19:18 NKJV).
When Solomon wrote this proverb, perhaps he was thinking of what had happened to his sister Tamar. Or what had happened to Amnon. Or what later happened to his brother Absalom. Later on, Absalom’s rebellion ended in his own brutal death on the battlefield.
IN THE MOMENT, IT’S OFTEN EASIER NOT TO DISCIPLINE. BUT IN TIME, THAT CHOICE BEARS FRUIT THAT IS MUCH HARDER TO STOMACH.
Because discipline is unpleasant, discipline is sometimes perceived as a bad thing. Today you have to be careful how you discipline your child in public unless you want to get reported. Some even council you shouldn’t use negative words like “no” to your child. Just reason with them logically. In past decades some child psychologists have advocated an extremely passive approach to raising children. Let the child find their own way in life. In that way you respect their individuality.
The truth is, letting your child find their own way in life and avoiding discipline—that is not loving. It’s lazy, careless, and self-centered. Solomon wrote…
“15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15 NKJV).
“24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24 NKJV).
Discipline is important because it weeds out the evil tendencies of the sinful nature, and encourages good actions which match up with God’s will. A lack of discipline allows the sinful nature to grow stronger, suppresses good actions, and damages a person’s relationship with God.
We aren’t showing love for others when we simply let them think and do whatever they want. Instead, true love seeks to build up a person’s relationship with God. True love speaks about what is right, and what is wrong. True love seeks the will of God, even when doing so is difficult.
Perhaps the most important kind of discipline to practice, is self-discipline. For our example teaches like nothing else. When we don’t discipline ourselves, we teach others to do the same. When we hold ourselves accountable for what we’ve done, we teach other to do the same.
Don’t get me wrong, being a good example of self discipline doesn’t mean being a perfect person. We’re NOT perfect. But when we sin, we CAN still be a good example by taking responsibility for our actions, openly denouncing our sins, and seeking forgiveness for them.
DISCIPLINE, TRUE LOVE, AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. We learn the importance of these things through the tragic story of David and his children.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray to God as our heavenly FATHER. He is a HOLY Father. A perfect Father. And as such, he is A FATHER WHO DISCIPLINES HIS CHILDREN.
In the book of Hebrews it says…
“…My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV).
When we feel the weight of guilt fall on us because of the sinful things we’ve done, or because of the good things we’ve failed to do, this is from the LORD. It is his rebuke. And it comes to us because God loves us. He wants to lead us away from sin, which wars against faith and brings pain and suffering to our lives.
God holds us accountable for our sins so that we might see how wicked they truly are, and so we might see the punishment that we honestly deserve because of our sinful choices.
But then God does something unexpected. He forgives us. He points us to the cross of his only sinless Son. To the cross of Jesus. He points us to the cross where Jesus had the wrath of God poured out on his soul because of our sins. And God tells us, because Jesus suffered your hell, you will never have to. You stand forgiven and cleansed by his blood. And into the arms of our heavenly Father we go, with tears flowing free. Through the message of sins forgiven through Christ Jesus, our heavenly Father draws us into his embrace, and we know that we truly are LOVED, and FORGIVEN.
And this is how we must discipline our children as well. And how we must discipline our fellow Christians. Holding them accountable, showing them their sins, until they see their sin clearly in repentance. And then we must assure them that in Christ their sins are truly forgiven. Gone. Washed away. For they are.
The seeds of destruction start small. The seeds of evil actions and bad attitudes start small. And they grow large. But even then, our great God is able to root them out. He does this with the firm hand of discipline, and accountability. And he finishes with the tender embrace of his forgiving Gospel.
PRAYER: Father in heaven, thank you first of all for making us your children through faith in Jesus, who has truly taken all our sins away. When your hand of discipline falls on us, help us to endure it with humility. Help us to accept your rebuke, knowing that the hand that rebukes is the same hand that lifts us up in love. Help us also to discipline our children with balance and thoughtfulness. And help us to hold our fellow Christians accountable as well, again, with balance and thoughtfulness and love. Help US also to receive rebuke with full acceptance, when it is needed. And when your discipline has trained us, LORD, fill us with peace. For we know that your mercy endures forever, and that you discipline those whom you have received as your own children, through Christ Jesus our only Savior. Amen.