May I borrow your mind, completely, for about five minutes, as I try to acquaint you with the story of our text? David was the greatest king that Israel ever had on the throne. Outside of the palace there were 600 bodyguards—Philistine men-who were walking guard around David. As those Philistines walked guard, David was safe in the palace.
Now, why Philistines? Philistines were enemies of God’s people. Always were. But these 600 Philistines had seen David when he killed Goliath, and when David took the slingshot and the five stones and hurled the first stone toward the temple of that giant and killed him, these giant men—600 of them—fell in love with David. Their hearts were knit to David’s heart and they said, “That’s the kind of man we want to serve.”
So, these 600 men defected from the army of the Philistines and joined up with David as his personal bodyguards. A man who led them was named Ittai.
But, something happened to King David’s utopia. He was the greatest king Israel ever had. He was sitting on the throne. His faithful servants and bodyguards were walking guard around the palace. I’m sure that they had the finest of uniforms. I’m sure that they had their boots shined and their sabers glistening in the sun, as they proudly walked guard around the greatest king that ever sat on the throne of Israel But something happened.
David had a son whose name was Absalom. He was a handsome man. He had long, hippie-like hair. He was strong of body, winsome of personality. Absalom got outside the gate of the palace and stirred up opposition against David, his own father! Can you feature it? Can you feature, for example, my son’s getting outside and saying, “If I were pastor of that church, I’d do things differently.”
Absalom, his own son, went outside the palace gate and said, “My dad’s a good king, but I’d do thus and so. If! were the king, that’s not the way I’d do it.” And by his winsome personality and his handsome features, and by his strong physique, and by his warm disposition, he swayed the people— many of them-in opposition. to his own father. He gathered an army around him and, could you believe it, he caused insurrection. Rebellion against his own dad!
Now we have a war in Jerusalem—David’s forces fighting against the forces of his own son. King David versus King Absalom—Father and son embattled, one against the other. David says, “I’m not going to fight against my son. I’m not going to do it. He’s my boy and I love him, and I’m not going to fight against him.”
So, David leaves. He leaves the palace. He leaves the city. He goes down to a little place called Mahanaim. Now, listen carefully because this is the story. Get the picture. Here’s David. He’s leaving the city. He goes down to Mahanaim He turns and sees, back in the city of Jerusalem, the dust from the war of his own men against the men of his own son.
David never had a darker day in his life than that one. There was never a time in David’s life when he was as unhappy and as sad as he was when he realized that there was war in his own kingdom. No longer was he on his throne. No longer was he the king of Israel. His own son entered the palace and ruled in David’s place. Absalom, the son of David, was ruling in Jerusalem.
When David left, his friends went different directions. One of his men, whose name was Shimei, said, “David’s going to lose. I’ll turn on him.” And Shimei turned on David. As David left the city, Shimei picked up dirt and threw it into David’s face and cursed him and said, “You’re the one that killed Abner.” Shimei cursed. The servant of David said, “Let me draw my sword out and let me pierce him and kill him.”
David said, “No. No, don’t do that.”
You see, Shimei thought David was through. Shimei thought David’s number was up. Shimei thought David’s reign was ended. Shimei turned against David.
There was somebody else. There was a fellow named Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was a little crippled fellow. He was thirteen years of age and lived in the land of Lodebar. David brought him, because he was the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul, from the land of Lodebar to the palace and set that little crippled fellow down at his own table and made Mephibosheth, that little 13-year-old cripple who couldn’t walk at all, one of his sons. He set him at his own table and made him as a son of King David -a royal prince in the palace.
Now, when David left, Mephibosheth didn’t even go with him. Could you believe it? Could you know such ingratitude? Here’s a little fellow who couldn’t even walk—a poor little fellow from across the tracks—and David brought him into the palace and made him as one of his own sons, and set him at the king’s table. Now David, in his darkest hour, left the palace and left Jerusalem, and Mephibosheth wouldn’t even stand beside him.
Do you know why? He thought he was done. He thought he was finished. He thought David’s number was up. He thought David’s kingdom was finished. He thought David was a goner.
That isn’t all. There was a fellow named Amasa, who was the captain of David’s host back in Jerusalem. Amasa thought David was finished and Amasa joined up with Absalom. And Absalom made Amasa the captain of his host. David’s big man is now Absalom’s big man. Amasa now salutes Absalom instead of David. He serves Absalom instead of David, and fights for Absalom instead of David.
Why? He thought David’s number was up. They were cursing David back in Jerusalem. He was gone. He was not very popular there. His kingdom was finished. So, Amasa joined up with the forces of Absalom and became the captain of Absalom’s army, and Shimei was cursing David and throwing dust in his face and making fun of him, and Mephibosheth was sitting back in the palace, not even willing to stand up for the fellow who had brought him from poverty to riches.
But, there were those who stood beside David. This is a beautiful story As David marches down toward Mahanaim, there are 600 men right beside him. Who are they? Those Philistines. Not even Jews! They shouldn’t even be in David’s army! These men saw David kill Goliath and said, “Whether it be by life or by death, where our lord, David, is, there will we be also! We’re going to stand by David.”
David stops as he goes down toward Mahanaim, and he calls his 600 men together. He says, “Now, look fellows. I’m not king anymore. Go back and serve my son, Absalom. I’m not king anymore. You don’t have to follow me. You don’t have to bear my reproach. You don’t have to stick by me because I’m in trouble. You don’t have to come down here. You left your shiny boots, you left your glistening sabers, you left your pressed uniforms, you left all the pomp and ceremony of the king’s bodyguard back yonder in Jerusalem. Now you go on back!”
Those 600 men look at David and they say, “Your Majesty, we’re your bodyguards, and whether you’re in the palace on the throne or in Mahanaim in a place of shame, we stand for you— to guard you, to care for you, whether you’re popular or unpopular — we’re going to be where you are. Whether you’re alive or dead, we’re going to stand by you! Whether you’re on top or on bottom, we’re going to stand by you!”
Thank God for men like that. Thank God for men who say to the King of kings and Lord of lords, “Jesus, if I’m at the shop where they curse You, I’m for You! If I’m at church where they praise You, I’m for You! If I’m in a revival where they sing of You, I’m for You! If I’m at school where they deny You, I’m for You! Whether it be by life or by death, King Jesus, I’m for You!” That’s what God needs in our generation. God needs some people in our generation who say, “King Jesus, if You’re cursed or blessed, if You’re loved or hated, if You’re on top or on bottom, we’re Christians and we’re going to stand for our King regardless of what the conditions are!”
Back in the palace is little Mephibosheth—traitor! Beside the road is Shimei, cursing the king. Back yonder, fighting in Jerusalem as head of Absalom’s armies, is the wicked Amasa, but thank God for Ittai and thank God for Zebah and thank God for these 600 wonderful Philistine men who said, “I’m going to stand for the king.”
But wait a minute, something happens back in Jerusalem. David looks and sees the dust of the war rising in the sky, and David says, “I wonder how the fight is.” The forces of David had won the battle! Absalom was killed! David’s forces won!
Two messengers — runners, if you please — had the message. One was named Cushi and one was named Ahimaaz. Ahimaaz said, “Cushi, I’m faster than you are. I’m the fastest messenger the king has got.” Cushi said, “I know it, but I’m going to carry the message.” So, Ahimaaz took off running and he got to David and said, “King David, I’m faster than Cushi” David said, “Fine. What is the message?” “Oh,” he said, “message? Message?” “Yeah, yeah! What’s the message?” “Well,” he said, “I’m the fastest messenger you’ve got, that’s the message.”
David said, “How is it back in Jerusalem? Is my boy safe? Is Absalom safe?” “I’m the fastest runner. I got here before he did.” He forgot what the message was!
Dr. Billings and I are the same way, sometimes. We get to running so fast, we forget where we’re going. Like the man who lost his memory. He said, “Doc, I’ve lost my memory.”
The doctor said, “How long have you had this problem?”
He said, “What problem?”
So, here came Cushi. Cushi was a slow kind of fellow, but he got the job done. He didn’t win the race, but he bad the message. He brought the message that Absalom was dead. You know the touching story where David said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33b) But, Absalom was dead!
Now, David’s forces are victorious and they asked a question, “Why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?” Uh-oh, the king is coming back. The king is coming! The king is coming! The king is coming! He had been over here in Mahanaim, but the war is over, and now the king can go back on his throne! So, King David comes back to Jerusalem, and those 600 Philistines are mighty proud fellows. They stood by him, didn’t they?
So, David comes back to Jerusalem and guess who meets him? Shimei. Oh, my! Shimei comes to meet David, and the king looks at Shimei and Shimei looks at the king. Those lips that once had cursed King David were now begging for mercy. Those hands that had once thrown dust on King David were now pleading for mercy. Oh, my! Shimei said, “I didn’t know the king was going to come back. I didn’t know that. I thought he was gone! I thought he was unpopular! I thought his number was up! Oh, my, I’ve got to face the king!” And Shimei looks face-to-face with the one he had cursed.
Then there’s Mephibosheth. Oh, my! “Mephibosheth, the king is coming! The king is coming! The king is coming!”
“Oh, my, the king is coming. Oh, I wish I had stayed with him. I wish I had gone. I wish I hadn’t stayed at home. I thought Absalom was going to win. I put my money on the wrong horse.” That’s in the Hebrew, fellows. You won’t find that in the English, that’s in the original language. “I put my money on the wrong horse. I didn’t know!”
“The king is coming, Mephibosheth! The king is coming! The king is coming!”
“Oh, my! Oh, my!”
Mephibosheth looks in the face of the king whom he had deserted. He looks into the face of the one who had taken him from the place in Lodebar, the poor country, and placed him at the table of the king, as one of the king’s sons, and given him an inheritance like a king’s son. Mephibosheth had turned his back on him and wouldn’t go beside him. Now, Mephibosheth faces the king and he’s embarrassed to face him.
Now, there’s somebody else. Amasa faces the king. “The king is coming, Amasa! You who has rebelled! You who had led David’s army and defected over to Absalom’s army! Hey, Amasa, the king is coming! The king is coming! The king is coming!” “Oh, my,” Amasa says. “I didn’t expect him back. I didn’t think he’d come back; I thought he was gone for good. I didn’t know it.”
The Bible says Joab, one of David’s servants, walked up and said, “Let me kiss you, Amasa.” Amasa didn’t know that he had a sword in his hand. As he placed a kiss on the cheek of Amasa, Joab’s sword went through the fifth rib, and the blood gushed out. The Bible says that right on the highway Amasa wallowed in his own blood, and they came and dragged him off the highway, laid him beside the highway and put a garment on him, and he died.
Why? Because when the king was gone, he didn’t fight for the king. The king was gone, and he was ashamed of the king. The king was gone, and he fought against the king and the king’s forces.
Somebody else comes to meet the king. “The king is coming. Zebah! Hey, Zebah, the king is coming!”
“Oh, boy! The king is coming! I’m sure glad I stood for him. They tried to talk me out of it, but I wanted to stand beside him. The king is coming! Hello, Your Highness! Welcome back to the throne!” And David brings Zebah back and gives him a place of honor.
“Hey, 600 Philistines, the king is coming back! The king is coming! The king is coming!” And those 600 men said, “Blessed be God; we’re glad we stayed beside the king!” They thought the king would come again! They thought the king would come back! “Now that he’s back, thank God we stood for the king!”
Can’t you picture that first night, or first day, when the king walked backup the stairway to the throne of Israel, and King David sat on the throne he vacated awhile ago? Those 600 men outside the palace walking guard, with their pressed uniforms, shined boots and glistening sabers. Can’t you imagine what they talked about that first day? I bet you one of them said, “Man oh man, I’m glad we stuck with the king, aren’t you? Boy, poor Amasa is wallowing in his own blood out on the highway, I’m sure glad we stuck with the king.”
Another one said, “I am too. Boy, It was pretty tough sticking beside the king. They called us fanatics and they cursed us and they laughed at us.” But, as they walked guard, outside the palace, with their sabers glistening they said, “Boy, it’s better now, isn’t it? Aren’t you glad we took the criticism? Aren’t you glad we stuck with the king when he wasn’t very popular? Aren’t you glad we stayed by the king when folks were cursing him?”
Those 600 men, in their uniforms, were back, and the king was on the throne, and then they were in charge and they were glad they stood by the king.
Hey, our King’s gone, too. Our King is gone, too. He was here. He walked the shores of Galilee; He walked the sandy trails of Judea. He opened eyes that were blind and ears that were deaf; He caused the lame to jump like a hart, the dead to live and the blind to see. He stilled the waters and calmed the waves. He blessed little children. He healed the sick. He proved He was God’s son, but He went away.
He is not on His throne today. He is at the right band of the Father’s throne. The throne in Jerusalem is still empty. The King is gone! The King is gone! He is not very popular today, while He’s gone, and there is a battle raging between the King’s forces and the forces of the Devil.
How are you standing? Are you a Shimei? Are you cursing the King? Through your lips does there flow filthy, vile language about the God Who made you, or the Son of God who died to save you? Let me say this, ladies and gentlemen: If that’s what you’re doing, you will not be happy when the shout comes through the heavens, “The King is coming! The King is coming!” Blessed be God, the King is coming! He said, “If I go away, I will come again.” The King is coming! Let the heathen hear it— the King is coming! Let the tavern keepers hear it— the King is coming! Let the red light district hear it-the King is coming! Let the communists hear it-the King is coming! Let the hippies hear it-the King is coming! Let the drunkard hear it-the King is coming! Let the dope addict hear it—the King is coming! The King is coming! The King is coming!
On that day when He comes, those of you who have not stood by Him (as Mephibosheth refused to stand beside the king), you’ll say, “Oh, my! Oh, my! Oh, I didn’t know He was coming! I thought old Hyles was a nut! I thought the Fundamentalists were all screwballs! I didn’t know He was coming!”
Oh, in that day God’s people who have not stood by the King at work, who have not stood by the King at school, who have not stood by the King at play, who have not stood by the King in the world while He was gone, will be ashamed when He comes again.
Oh, let me say. You men on the job, you stand by the king. When He’s unpopular, stand by Him! When they curse Him, stand by Him! You young folks at heathen colleges, where the King is laughed at and His book is mocked, stand by Him! Don’t deny the King! You folks at play and at work and in school— wherever you are — stand up, stand up for Jesus, you soldiers of the cross.
Years ago when the wicked infidel, Thomas Paine, was making ravages of Christianity, or trying to, with his infidelity and his paganism and atheistic lectures, he stood in a midwestern state one night to speak. As he spoke, five thousand people, or more, listened to every word—he was a great orator.
As that atheist, Thomas Paine, swayed the crowd, trying to make mockery of the Bible, trying to disprove the existence of God and laughing at the blood of Christ, he proved to his own satisfaction and that of others that there was no God. Suddenly, toward the end of his lecture, he stopped and looked toward the top balcony, then the second balcony, then the first balcony and then the main floor. He raised his hands over his mouth and he said, “Yeah! I’ll prove there is no God! You watch me! Hey, God! Kill me if You’re there! Strike me dead if You’re there!” He looked out and laughed and said, “I’m still living, aren’t I? Ha, Ha! Prove there is a God!” There was a holy hush over that audience. Nobody said a word. As he said, “I’m waiting.” Way up in the top balcony a little seventeen-year old girl stood up. She did not say anything, but began to sing in a lovely soprano voice,
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss:
From vict’ry unto vict’ry
Suddenly the entire balcony joined in with her,
His army shall He lead,
Till ev’ry foe is vanquished,
And the second balcony started singing,
And Chnst is Lord indeed.
Then the main floor began to sing,
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
The trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict,
In this His glorious day:
Suddenly, the entire crowd stood to its feet and sang together,
“Ye that are men now serve Him”
Against unnumbered foes;
When they had finished, there was not a dry eye in the house.
Then somebody asked, “Where did Thomas Paine go?”
And someone said, “He slipped out the side door when the little girl stood up for Jesus.”
The King is gone. He is cursed, they laugh at Him, they make fun of Him on radio stations. They make fun of the King of kings and Lord of lords on television programs. They curse His name, they make light of the Book and curse His Book and try to laugh at the King and make fun of the King, but let me tell you young people, let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, the King is coming back! The King is coming back! When He comes back, those of us who have stood for Him, and have been laughed at and mocked and made fun of—blessed be God—we’ll be glad we stood!
I still like the little story that you have heard me tell, and other preachers have told, so many times. A little boy one day was sitting in a room. His mother said, “Johnny, would you come and dry the dishes, please?”
Johnny was reading a book and was right in the middle of it. Little Johnny said, “Mamma, I can’t. I’m reading! I can’t! I’m reading a book!” His mamma said, “I told you to come and dry the dishes!” Of course, most of you folks don’t know what drying the dishes is, you young whippersnappers, but Johnny said, “Mamma, I can’t! I’m reading a book! It’s about a good guy and a bad guy. The villain has the good guy down and he’s beating him! I’ve got to stand beside the good guy!”
The mamma said, “You come in here and dry these dishes!”
Johnny said, “Mamma, can’t I finish the book and see how it comes out? I’ve got to stand by the good guy! The bad guy is winning!” His mamma said, “You get in here and dry these dishes!”
Little Johnny turned quickly to the last few words of the book and read the last page, or so, and he found out that the good guy won after all. He grinned and went to dry the dishes after he held the book up high and said, “Na, na, na, you old villain. You were having a good time in chapter ten, but I’ve read the last chapter, and you’re in for the shock of you life when you get to the end!”
The King’s not very popular now, is He? They curse Him now, don’t they? The colleges make fun of Him, don’t they? Uh-huh. On the job they profane His name, don’t they? I’ve got some news for you, brother. I’ve read the last chapter. When you get over to the last chapter, old Devil, you’re in for the shock of your life. You’re going to end up in a bottomless pit and I’m going to snicker all the while you drop. I’ve read the last chapter.
I know you’re leading now! I know you’re trying to ruin America now! I know you’re taking the clothes off women now! I know you’ve got Playboy magazine going now! I know you’ve got the liquor houses full now! I know you’ve got sensuality running wild now! I know you’ve got dope in every public high school now, but I’ve read the last chapter! For your information, old Devil, I’ve read the last chapter and it says the King is coming. The King is coming! The King is coming!
When the King comes, He’s going to put you down. He’s going to put you, for a thousand years, in a bottomless pit. He’s going to chain you and we’re going to have peace for a thousand years, old smutty face! I’ve got news for you, you old rascal you! The King is coming! I’ve read the last chapter and the last chapter says that there won’t be anymore of you! You’re going to be in the pits of Hell with all the folks who cursed the King, and all the folks who laughed at the King, and all the folks that denied the King’s book! You’re going to be in Hell!
Then the King is going to sit on the throne in Jerusalem, and we’re going to be priests of God and reign with Him for a thousand years.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think I can take it for a few more years, don’t you? I think I can take it, Amasa. I think I can just wipe the dust that Shimei throws on me off, and I can hear his cursing and say, “Dear King, you’re gone. You’re not popular now, but I’m going to stand for You and I’m going to stand beside You until You come again, and until I see You.” Oh, on that day when He comes in that cloud of glory, when every eye shall see Him, through the heavens the sound shall echo, “The King is coming! The King is coming! The King is coming!” Then we shall crown Him as Lord of lords and King of kings, and He shall be King over all the earth.
Oh, dear Christian brother and sister, He’s not popular now; He’s not on His throne now, but you’ll be glad one day if you’ll stand for Him while He’s gone. You’ll be glad if you won’t deny Him. Let them scoff and make fun and call us all they want to call us, but I’ve read the last chapter and the King is coming. The King is coming! The King is coming! The King is coming! The King is coming! Are you ready for His coming?
You say, “When is He going to come?” I don’t know. I don’t know. You say, “How long is it going to be?” I don’t know. I don’t know.
One day a man owned a vineyard, or an orchard. He called his favorite servant and he said, “Servant, keep the orchard. I’m going to go on a trip, but I’m going to come back. I don’t know when it will be, but I’m going to come back, and you won’t know when I’m going to come back. Keep the orchard clean; keep the garden dean! Keep it up!”
This servant manicured every tree, every plant. It was a beautiful garden; it was the talk of the neighborhood, the beautiful garden, the beautiful vineyard. One day a stranger came by and said, “Hey, you’ve got a pretty vineyard here, and a pretty garden. Is it yours?”
“No,” he said. “My master’s gone on a trip, but he’s going to come back. I don’t know when he’s going to come back, but he’s going to come back, and he told me to keep it real pretty because he’s going to come back.” “Well, when is he coming?” “I have no idea.” “How long is he going to be?” “I don’t know.” “The way you keep this garden here, you must expect him to come back tomorrow.” “Oh, no,” said the servant. “I expect him to come back today. Today.”
Are you ready if He did?
Let us pray.