Because of this captain’s valor, Congress restored his full confession and he was soon promoted to Major General, becoming one of General Washington’s must trusted officers. Because of this truth, Washington appointed this man as the commander of West Point – a strategically placed fort near New York City. What Washington did not know was that his trusted officer was having secret conversations with the British providing them critical details about the movements and supplies of the Continental Army. Then, less than two months after being given command of West Point, he made a deal with the British to allow them to capture the fort and take control of it. Fortunately, the spy carrying the message was captured and the letter was found allowing the fort to be secured. Upon learning that the message had been intercepted, this general escaped to officially join with the British army and given commission as a Brigadier General. He would serve the Brits well winning multiple victories including destroying a town near the place of his birth in Connecticut. About a year after joining the Brits, he left for London, where he would live (except for a few years) for the rest of his life.
This man, successful throughout his military career on both sides is not known for the battles he won. Nor is he known for being a very successful businessman – which he was before the war and to some extent after it as well. No, this man is known for one act and by one word. The act – betrayal. The word – traitor. The name – Benedict Arnold.
Benedict Arnold learned to be a master player of games. Many have debated why Arnold chose to betray his country and several theories have been offered. But it likely had to do with the company he kept – which was a group of British sympathizers which included his wife Peggy. Whatever the cause, despite his leadership efforts during military times, his game playing not only deprived him of being considered one of the heroes of the American Revolution, but also has vilified him so that he is considered one of the worst individuals to have lived in this nation of ours.
Benedict Arnold’s story is not unique, however. Certainly, the details are unique to him, but betraying family, friends, and countries is nothing new. Last week we reviewed two plots which ultimately could be considered a betrayal of family. This week, we will see that the games Absalom played were just the beginning of a greater plot which lead to the betrayal of his father, and thus, in effect, a betrayal of the country as well.
Last week’s message focused on three plots found in 2 Samuel 13 and 14. The plots (or games that were played) were attempts at selfish gain. Amnon and Absalom’s games had a severe consequence for another person. Joab’s ploy was seemingly helpful to Absalom, but it certainly did not hurt his cause with the king (or with Absalom). However, Absalom was deeply involved in the game now and, as such, had to continue to “play games” to ensure the outcome would be beneficial to him. However, deceit and game-playing are eventually exposed and often lead to unpleasant consequences which, for Absalom, included death.
Having returned to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:23-24; 28), Absalom gains an audience with the king (2 Samuel 24:33) and begins to conspire against David to make himself the king. David is temporarily removed from the throne as Absalom wins the hearts of the people, but eventually he would die while leading Israel’s army against those faithful to David.
A Plot to Be Restored (2 Samuel 14:28-33)
Absalom knew that Joab had intervened to get him back to Jerusalem, but after two more years had passed, Absalom still had not come before the king. After trying to get Joab to respond, Absalom forces the issue and eventually is welcomed by David.
- Motive: To gain access to the king (2 Samuel 14:28, 32)
- Accomplice: Absalom’s servants (30); Joab (eventually, 33)
- Game: Absalom had Joab’s field set on fire to force Joab to interact with him (29-31)
- Result: Joab listens to Absalom and eventually has him summoned to the king (32-33)
- Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, he got the audience he wanted; Loser – Joab, his field was burned
A Plot to Be Received (2 Samuel 15:1-6)
Having been received by the king, Absalom needed the people of Israel to rally behind him. Absalom established himself among the people by pretending to be a caring leader (judge) who would do right by anyone in Israel that had a dispute.
- Motive: Absalom needed the support of the people of Israel (v. 6)
- Accomplice: Absalom’s servants (v. 1)
- Game: Absalom pretended to be a commander of many (v. 1); he portrayed himself as one who cared more than the king (v. 3); he showed immense respect to those who approached him (v. 5)
- Result: “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (v. 6)
- Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, the people of Israel were in his hands; Loser – David, implicitly, because the people loved Absalom
A Plot to Be King (2 Samuel 15:7-14)
Absalom now has the people behind him, but to take the throne from David directly while in Jerusalem would likely fail. Thus, he devises a plan to announce himself as king in Hebron and then return to Jerusalem further strengthened with the support of the people.
- Motive: To become king (v. 10)
- Accomplice: Absalom’s servants/messenger, innocent guests (10-11)
- Game: Absalom asked David if he could go to worship God, but used the request as a tactic to make himself king (7-12)
- Result: The people of Israel are duped into following someone they thought would be a worthy leader
- Winners/Losers: Winner – Absalom, he positioned himself to be king and had David’s counselor (Ahithophel) at his side; Loser – David and his servants, when David heard the message, they fled (13-14)
A Plot to Be Buried (2 Samuel 18:9-18)
Absalom gained all he desired. But in the end, his gain was short-lived. Absalom’s death was necessary to restore David as God’s chosen king. All the plotting in the world could not keep him from being buried in a plot with a monument over it.
Most everyone likes to play some sort of game – whether it is sports, board games, video games, or something else. However, we must all be on guard against playing games – that is, not to plot against others. Major General Arnold liked to play games, and although it did not cost him his life, it has left a horrible legacy that is etched into American lore. Similarly, Absalom was masterful in his game-playing ability. He used his skills to take the place of the king in his time rather than waiting for David to die. (This assumes Chileab, 2 Sam 3:3, had already died, which is certainly possible because his name is not mentioned elsewhere.) But Absalom’s games cost over 20,000 people their lives (2 Sam. 18:7) – all so he could get his way.
However, as one who simply plays the game, rather than makes it, Absalom is subject to the same rules of life as everyone else. Thus, God restored David as the rightful king showing He was in control. And, just as importantly for us, God is still in control today. For as Galatians 6.7 reminds us: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
The JOURNEY letter for today is: R – REVERE.
Like last week, our choice comes down to whether or not we wish to play games to gain an apparent advantage or whether we will trust God for what He has for us. I don’t often mention our Mission anymore, and I should. This idea is about Exalt the Savior. We can exalt ourselves and play games because we think we are more important than we are, or we can Exalt the Savior who gave Himself up for us despite the fact that we are nothing compared to Him. Thus, we should REVERE our God.
NEXT STEP(S): LOVE
Again, we have overlap here from last week. Playing games is done in order to manipulate a situation to our advantage. Oftentimes that manipulation comes at the expense of other people. Thus, playing games is really the opposite of love. If we truly exhibit the Great Commandment to love God and love others, then we will seek to be honest and truthful in our dealings with them and trust that God will provide what we need.