Are you ambitious? (II Samuel 15)

Series: David, a man after God's heart


This afternoon, I would like to start by speaking of the secret of success. You know that success is something we all want; but it is something few people ever find. True success is seldom attained by anyone. And the reason is, often, success is ill defined. It is a concept unclear in the world’s mind! I mean, if I were to ask you to define success, what would you say? And how then, would you advise someone to reach it? What would be your secret recipe?

The 3rd Edition of the Webster’s New World Dictionary defines success as follows: “The gaining of wealth, fame or rank”. And so, according to them, Elvis Presley had success. Marilyn Monroe had success. Michael Jordan is successful; but, you and I, we are losers! Well, I want to redefine terms today. Success means gaining God’s favor! It means the gaining of spiritual wealth and treasures. Success is being a faithful Christian, at the moment of our death! And to me, Elvis missed the mark; Marilyn Monroe failed and Michael Jordan is a loser. But I tell you, my grandmother, who died as a Christian, is a warrior. My teachers at Sunset School of Preaching, who have remained faithful for 40, 50 and some of them for 70 years, are successful! They have gained the true wealth! And would you ask any of them the secret of success. Here is what they would tell you:

  1. Treat God right. Put Him first, everyday of the week. Put Him first, in your daily planner. Put Him first, in your checkbook. Put Him first, in your home. Give Him back the life He gave you.

  2. They would say to treat people well. They would say to treat all people right, regardless of skin tone, regardless of what kind of clothes they wear and regardless of what they have done to you. Smile at them, be kind to them, be helpful and respect all of them – young or old, smart or less smart, from the same walk of life or not!

  3. Work hard. Don’t be lazy in your Christianity or in the business world! And they would tell you that if you do that – if you treat God right, treat your neighbors right and if you work hard, you will be successful! God will look, with favor, upon you.

But you know, I think you are all aware of this secret, this afternoon. I think I am not telling anything new! If I were, you would not be sitting in these chairs! So, why am I taking time to make these points? Simply, it is because I believe that Satan has entered into the heart of many, many Christians. And to do that, He has used the lingering ambitions of our former lives. He has used the leftover desires for fame, wealth and power! And this afternoon, I want you to understand that ambition is very dangerous. It has the tendency to get out of control! And when Satan gets hold of it, he tries to push us over the line! He tries to get it out of control.

Now do you remember the lesson, a few weeks ago, on David and Bathsheba? I said that when lust gets out of control, we are the kind of people who will set aside our intellect, our reason and our common sense. Often we then put aside our friendships and allegiances, even to God. We do all of that, in order to satisfy our lust. Well, I want to say, this afternoon, the same things are true of ambition! For, if you think of it, ambition is a form of lust. And Satan understands that. And he knows that if he can trigger your ambition and make it out of control, then you will be one of those people who will do anything and everything to get what you want out of life. You will cheat; you will lie; you will steal; you’ll involve yourself in immoral activities. You’ll throw away every precious relationship, all in order to get what you want, in life! And you’ll become a child of Satan, once again. So Satan is continually saying, “I want your ambition to be out of control!” But that is nothing new. It has always been that way! I want to take you back, this afternoon, into the Old Testament and show you how Satan, 3,500 years ago, acted like that. Now then, he already entered men’s hearts and pushed their ambition out of control! And this afternoon, I hope you will be reminded of the tragic consequence of that type of situation so that you will choose to do things God’s way, rather than Satan’s way! So, the character we will look at, this afternoon, in order to do that, is Absalom!

You already know Absalom! Last Sunday afternoon, I said that Absalom was a very handsome, young man! The scripture said that, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, there were no blemishes on him! He has that long, flowing head of hair. That means there were no others, as good- looking as him, in all of Israel! And remember, he had this awesome ability to convince and motivate people. But last Sunday afternoon, we started to see some problems that developed in his life. He killed his brother, Amnon, and then had to stay away from his dad for five years. But as we ended 2 Samuel, Chapter 14, Absalom and David were reunited, in a touching way, thanks to the efforts of Joab, David’s commander. We left off at David kissing his son and embracing him, perhaps feeling that now everything was all right! But this afternoon, as we move on, you will see that nothing could be farther from the truth. Problems are not fully solved. Absalom is about to run into more problems.

I. Absalom gets filled with misguided ambition.

If you go to Chapter 15, you find that Absalom is filled with misguided ambition. He wants fame and fortune and power, although he has all of that, to a certain degree. After all, remember, he is the third son of King David. He is fairly famous; he has plenty of money to spend; and he has some power, over many men. But it’s not enough! He wants more! So I want you to follow with me, quickly, in Chapter 15, of 2 Samuel, and look at what happens as his ambition gets out of control. Starting in verse 1, we read, “…” And I am not going to say, this afternoon, that there is anything wrong with all of that. Absalom wants to be king, so he begins to ride, looking like a king. He gets, himself, a fancy chariot and everywhere he goes, five horses draw it and there are 50 men (bodyguards) running ahead of him. It looks much like Absalom is already king. But really, I can’t condemn that yet. Sometimes we act like that, also! You know what we say! We say, “If you want to become something, you figure out the way that type of person acts and you begin to act like that. And you begin to look like what you want to become.” For instance, it’s like the little bird imitating the mother bird. It is part of the learning process! And that’s all Absalom is doing, at this point. But there is danger in it! While it is not always wrong, it may not be wise! When you start pretending to be something you are not, you may get to the point where you begin to believe it and to the point other people begin to believe it and it becomes wrong. And Absalom seems to be going in that direction because, now, if you go to verse 2, you see he starts usurping his father’s position. It says, in verses 2-4, “….” And now, we see his ambition getting out of control. Absalom does two things:
  1. Absalom discredits his father of ambition.
    To become king, first of all, you ought to get rid of the one who is king, right now. For Absalom, that meant he had to get rid of his father. But Absalom was sharp enough to know that you don’t take a sword and go fight David, one on one, because you will lose. So Absalom decides to use a tactic people have been using, for a long, long time. He uses the mighty weapon, called the tongue! And he begins to discredit his father! He begins to slander his father! See, there are people, in David’s kingdom, who sometimes come from far away, with problems and causes. And they want the king to listen to their problems and render judgment. And so, as they come to the city, here stands this handsome, important-looking man, named Absalom. And Absalom says, “You’ve got complaints; but the king won’t listen to you.” How do you think these people felt then? Remember, problems always tend to involve emotions and they’ve travelled all that distance. They are ready to get the problems solved. And now they are made to feel unimportant (insignificant). And Absalom, by doing that, is turning the heart of these people against his own father, David.

  2. Absalom attempts to show he is a good candidate to replace his father.
    Absalom does not stop there. He says, “If only I was judge, I’d take care of you!” I guess he plays the old game we call “the game of politics”. The trap is “I want to be elected”. And to become elected, they start thinking, “I need the favor of the people”. And in order to get that favor, sometimes, they make promises that they cannot keep! And Absalom wants to be elected. And he needs the favor of the people. And so, he says, “If you had me as king, your problems would be solved!”

    I might add this comment. It’s one of the great dangers, also, for preachers. Preachers stand in the pulpit, somewhere around 46-50 Sundays a year, preaching twice, every Sunday. And they stand, lots of Wednesday nights, before people. And preachers, for longevity and success, need to, in part, please the people. The people need to like the preacher! And so often, preachers fall into the trap of saying things that will please the people. They use words that will tickle the ears of the people! And, sometimes, because you so much want to please, you stop preaching the whole counsel of God. And that is where you get into trouble. And that’s what Absalom is doing. He is tickling the ears of people, making promises he, probably, will never be able to keep. But it’s not the end of it! In verse 5, it says, “….”

    How do you think people felt when they would come and see handsome Absalom with all his grandeur and he would kiss them when they fell before him? See, he would say, with his actions, “I am on your level and you are on my level!” And he would seem to be a humble person! Now, we all like humble people. But, I don’t believe, this afternoon, that Absalom was a humble man. As I look at his background, and as I look at the future, I don’t think he was a humble man. Think of this. He rides in a chariot, not on a donkey. He has 50 men running before him, not just one servant. He wants to be king, not heir or prince. I don’t think there is true humility in the man. And yet, he goes to these people, outside the city gates and he pretends to be humble. He reaches out and kisses them, only to flatter them. It is only a means of flattery. And you’ve heard the old saying, “flattery will get you everywhere”! That’s exactly what happens here. You know, we see this all the time. You need something; so you smile real big and pat people on the back. And you give compliments and act so nice. You build them up, not for their good or God’s good, but so you might get what you want. And here is Absalom, doing that and getting what he wants. It, finally, pays off because in verse 6, it says, “….” Do pretense, false humility and flattery work? Yes, it works! Absalom stole the heart of the people, the text says. But it was not for the people’s good, but for his own good! It was for the satisfaction of getting what he wanted!

    But, it doesn’t stop there! The worst is yet to come! When ambition gets out of control, the worst is always yet to come. In verses 7-8, it says, “…” Now what would you say? Would your son come and say, “I want to be right with God. I need to go to such and such place?” Well, I would say the same thing David said. “Go! Go in peace!” And Absalom goes; but he sends out messengers before him. Verse 10 says, “…”

    Now the last two steps are very important because he wants, so badly, to be a king that he goes to his father and he lies. He looks into the eyes of his dad and, without remorse, lies his head off! Bu the worst part of it all is that he uses God for credibility. He pretends to be religious, when he is not. And he goes to his father and says, “I am on God’s side; God is with me; and I need to do this. Folks, how many times have we seen people pretend to be religious so that they might get what they want?

So, here is a man, named Absalom, and Satan has entered his heart and driven him out of control with ambition. And he slanders the king. He makes promises he can’t keep. He pretends to be humble and he flatters the people. He lies to his own father and he uses God’s name in vain. And he almost succeeds! The scriptures say it at the end of verse 12. “….” It increases, to the point, that one of David’s most trusted advisors even leaves David! This advisor is Ahithophel. And it might surprise you to know that Ahithophel is Bathsheba’s grandfather. And I’ve wondered why this very good advisor leaves David, like this? I wonder, was he seduced or was he still upset with what David had done to Uriah? Did he still feel resentment for David violating Bathsheba? I don’t know; but he followed Absalom. And before the story ends, you find that David has to run for his life! And it looks like David is going to lose. Absalom is so wild with ambition that he steals ten concubines, of his father’s, and rapes them in the top of his father’s palace. All of this was done, in public, to humiliate and discredit his father. And he almost wins!

II. This worldly ambition led to Absolom�s death

But God takes a series of events and people, works them together and, finally, Absalom is killed. He was such a promising, young man; but he died before his time! And I hope you will understand, this afternoon, that his ambition, getting out of control, destroyed him!


So remember, slander is sin. Also, making promises, you can’t keep, is sin! And pretending humility and flattery, for your own good, is sin! And lying, to your parents, is sin and using God’s name, to advance your purposes, is sin! And the end result of sin is, always, destruction. So I want to ask you this question, this afternoon. What are you doing to get what you want? Or, what are you willing to do, in this life, to get what you want? God makes it very simple. He says, “Put me first by seeking me and my righteousness and treating people right. Work hard and you will succeed!” That, folks, is God’s simple way versus Satan’s way! And God’s way always is the best!

All I want you to see is how Absalom was destroyed, when he was so promising, because ambition got out of control. And I want you to see how, ambition, out of control, will always result in destruction! So, I try to persuade you, now, live as God wants you to live!

If you have been persuaded and now need to respond, do so now, while we stand and sing!