Lest You Linger Too Long

Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill.

2 Samuel 13:1-2

This may be one of the most heartbreaking–and cautionary–tales in the Bible. Amnon, son of King David, indulges his obsession for his half-sister, Tamar, until his obsessive thoughts manifest in rape.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.

2 Samuel 13:15

Like Father, Like Son

How ironic that the sins of the father often are passed on to the son, a cursed inheritance.

You see Amnon’s father King David (whom the Bible calls “a man after God’s own heart”) also lingered too long with disastrous consequence. It began in the season when “kings go out to battle” and David sent his men instead. David’s heart condition festered with sinful self-indulgence, a point the Bible takes pains to make clear: “It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch.” (Ouch.)

Soft and ripe for sin, David lingers in voyeuristic delight as another man’s wife bathes on the rooftop. David eventually takes the lovely Bathsheba to be his wife, but not before impregnating her in an adulterous tryst and sending her husband to his death in an attempt to cover up his actions. The son conceived in this wickedness dies shortly after birth, compounding David’s eventual grief over his sin.

And now we see Amnon similarly obsessing over forbidden fruit, this time even closer to home. The results are horrific for all; Tamar, thought to be just 15, is left desolate and broken. Amnon pays with his life when Tamar’s brother, Absalom, avenges his sister. And the family is left deeply fractured and broken.

The Point of Origin

As we unpacked this lesson a few weeks ago in my BSF group, I was fascinated by the wisdom of my friend, Dawn Garber, a family and marriage therapist, who instinctively plied her trade with this family’s dysfunction.

The question is: How can people establish safeguards to stop sin from going this far?

I frequently help people in my counseling practice to look at a situation from beginning to end and identify all the places where something different could have been done to stop an event from unfolding the way it did.

Dawn Garber

The disaster Amnon brings down upon his family could have been averted early on by following Dawn’s simple, wise guidelines that I’ve recapped using the acronym D.A.V.I.D.:

  1. Don’t Linger. Don’t indulge sinful thoughts, as they weaken your resolve; the longer you linger, the more vulnerable you become to act upon them.
  2. Avoid Guilt by Association. Don’t keep questionable company; instead surround yourself with Godly people who are willing to speak truth when you most need to hear it.
  3. Vacate Dangerous Situations. Listen to your conscience, that nudging of the Holy Spirit, when you feel the urge to escape a precarious situation. In fact, God promises us a way out when we are tempted (and usually that’s our last chance to escape before sin takes hold): God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  4. Ice Your Impulses. When you feel the heat of those impulses consuming you, enforce a cooling-off period so you have a moment to catch your breath and logically consider the likely outcome of your actions.
  5. Discover the Power of Repentance. When you do fall to temptation, don’t compound the consequences by attempting to cover up your sin; instead confess, repent and quickly make amends. Sin can only be fully exterminated by the light.

The life of David is a stunning example of the radical rhythms of grace. When David practices spiritual discipline, submitting to Lord through prayer, worship and humble petitioning regarding his daily decisions; he lives in the fullness of relationship with God. In those times his potential and joy seem limitless. Ever human, however, David and his progeny fall time and time again.

What distinguishes David as a man after God’s own heart is his faithfulness until the end to repent of his sin and worship the God of endless grace and perfect justice.

Sin’s Deceiving Allure

We can’t leave this story without noting the cruel vanity of sin and its empty beauty. The very thing Amnon had so convinced himself he could not live without became despicable, and ultimately fatal, in his grasp. How true of our own experiences.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 90:14

The fear of the LORD leads to life so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.

Proverbs 19:23

May we linger longer in pursuit of God’s will than in the temporary pleasures of sin.

This week seek to cultivate wisdom and temperance through prayer and time spent in God’s word.

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