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You Get What You Give
December 15, 1974

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


The other evening I attended the general meeting of the United Methodist Women. Queen Brodie chaired a delightful program, asking the ques­tion, "What do you bring to Christmas?" The program climaxed with her announcement that they could take home the present they brought to exchange, sym­bolizing that we receive from Christmas is exactly what we put into it.

You get what you give. You receive what you put in. Every act has a consequence. Every action has a reaction. Cause and effect is a law not only in the natural world, but in your life as well. How well, how vivid did David come to realize the truth of this law of God.

What an adventurous, exciting life young David led! The Book of 2 Samuel is well worth reading if you enjoy adventure, intrigue and love stories. What a soap opera indeed! Hollywood has made several movies based on David.

Legends grew up around David—his slaying of the giant, Goliath, when David was but a youth. He played harp for King Saul. After several attempts on his life, he escaped to the mountains. We read of spies, sudden moves to hide from Saul, bribing the local people with rewards, frightening the local people so they wouldn’t tell Saul where David was hiding. After Saul s suicide, David was crowned king by a few of the tribes. After a series of events and battles, he became king over all the tribes.

It was not long before David defeated the Philistines, cornering them in a narrow coastal region. He defeated neighbors, stretching the Israel empire from the Lebanon mountains clear to Egypt. Never since has there been such a kingdom in Israel's history. One of his popular feats was the defeat of impregnable Jerusalem. He made it the capital and the center of their religion. Jerusalem was named "the City of David.” What a king he was! Posterity has named him the greatest of Israel's rulers. He was held in such high esteem by later generations that much was made of the fact that Jesus was of the house and lineage of David. Indeed it was felt that the Messiah could be no other than a descendant of the great king David. David has been called the architect of the nation and the royal champion of Israel's faith.

But the Bible tells not only of David’s glories and accomplishments. The authors are faithful to tell us also of his humanness and his sinful­ness. David comes across to the reader as a flesh and blood human being, winsome and charming, and ugly and lustful. The Bible was not afraid to show the dark side of the great David.

One such incident, beginning with 2 Samuel 11:2 tells us that this section in 2 Samuel was probably written by an eye witness, by someone who actually lived in the court at that time. Such first-hand accounts are rare in the Bible, especially in the 0ld Testa­ment. Late that afternoon, David saw a very beautiful woman named Bath­sheba who was married to another man, Uriah. David schemed but nothing worked until he, following a plan which Saul used unsuccessfully on him many years before, sent Uriah who was a soldier into the heaviest battles with instructions to Uriah's superiors that he was to be put in the front lines. Uriah was killed in battle. David married Bathsheba.

Then David was visited by the preacher, the prophet Nathan. Unlike the temptations of modern preachers to tell the President what he wants to hear, Nathan let David have it. He told David, who of course was judge in disputes as well as being king, about a rich man who had many flocks and herds and a poor man who had only one little ewe lamb. And the rich man took the poor man's lamb to prepare for a feast. David grew angry and said "Why that man deserves to die. He ought to give the poor man four lambs in return for taking his one." Nathan then very quietly, no doubt pointing his finger at David, "You are the man." Imagine telling the king he was the man because he took Bathsaeba from Uriah, killing Uriah in the arrangement.

Nathan then pronounced judgment, "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised me, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with a sword." You get what you give, said Nathan. You shall know the sword because you gave the sword. Nathan then said, "Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.”

And out of David’s own house, came the rebellion led by one of his sons, Absalom. Listen to the biblical description of Absalom, "Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his beauty as Absalom; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he cut the hair off his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight.” Boys, do you weigh your hair when you cut it? Evidently long hair was as attractive to girls then as now.

Absalom was a dashing, handsome, winsome young man. Sounds familiar, doesn't it, as we remember what David was like in his youth and how the populace turned to David against Saul. Absalom also wanted to be king—history repeating itself. Absalom gathered some admirers around him, got himself a chariot and horses (the Jaguar, the Corvette of that day). Then he began sitting at the gate talking to the travelers as they entered the city. Especially would he talk to those who were coming the court with a matter that required a judge’s decision. David had not done too effective a job in organizing the courts; evidently there was quite a backlog of cases, and Absalom was sharp enough to pick at one of David’s weak spots. He would say to the man with the lawsuit,”Your claims are good and right. Too bad you won’t be able to get action. Oh, if only I were judge in the land! I would give you justice." Then he would not let the man bow to him as the king’s son but would reach out and hug him. Beware of people who hug!

For four years, Absalom sat at the gate “stealing the hearts of the men of Israel”, which is the biblical author's way of putting it. He then began gathering together an army, went to Hebron where David was first named king, and announced himself as king. David was crushed emotionally. He wept a great deal, but gathered his armies together to fight.

Absalom initially drove David out of Jerusalem into hiding, but eventually Absalom's army was no match for David and he was badly beaten. His end came in an interesting manner. Absalom was being chased on his mule through a forest. The mule went under the thick branches of an oak tree, and Absalom s long hair got caught in the branches. The mule kept going, and Absalom was left hanging. Young men, beware of your long hair!

Joab, David’s general, thrust three darts into Absalom's heart and he died.

When David got the news, he wept. Our window today pictures the scene. David sitting alone, wrung with grief, saying, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absaloml Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son." What must have run through his mind! He must have relived his own life, his own struggle with Saul, his battles, his sins, the words of Nathan ringing in his ears, "The sword shall never depart from your house, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.”

You get what you give . Every act has a consequence. Every action has a reaction. As stated in the New Testament lesson this morning, Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."In this Advent season as you prepare for Christmas, the time of giving and receiving, apply the truth to yourself. You get what you give. What are you giving? What are you putting out? You can't get orange trees to grow from apple seeds. You can't plant potatoes and expect roses to grow. You can't be jealous, envious, gossipy, cut people down, and expect to develop friendships. You can't be bitter, resentful, hold grudges, be unforgiving and expect to be forgiven, to be happy, peaceful or healthy. You cannot choose to pursue materialism-­ get money, more money, build an empire by any means— and expect to reap a life of spiritual benefits, love, peace, gentleness.

What are you giving with your life? You get what you give.

© 1974 Douglas I. Norris