Stages of Growth: What’s Wrong with Being a Rebel? – 2 Sam. 20

What’s wrong with being a rebel? We celebrate some rebels as heroes. George Washington and his army fought the American Revolution to rebel against the tyranny of a British king named George III. Those of us born and bred by the grace of God south of the Mason-Dixon Line are sometimes known as “rebels” in honor of our Civil War ancestors. The good guys in the movie Star Wars were known as the Rebel Alliance and everybody cheered them on to defeat the Evil Galactic Empire. Books and films paint rebels as heroes—misfits who are always in trouble at school, always in trouble with the law, standing alone, living life on their own terms, answering to no body else, a law unto themselves.

That sounds pretty inspiring, but there’s a problem when you start translating rebellion into real life. Teachers and principals tend to frown upon students who disrupt class by disobeying the rules. Parents don’t see that rebellious son or daughter as a hero. The criminal who refuses to obey the law doesn’t get awards for his brave rejection of society’s laws. The hard-headed, hard-hearted man/women too stubborn to listen to those who love them aren’t very easy to live with. The Bible says that one of our big problems is all of us have rebellion living in us, and if we’re not careful, our rebel will ruin us.

Key Principle: Rebellion is a serious affront to God with terrible consequences.

There are six truths about rebellion we must face from God’s Word today:

I.  Rebels reject legitimate authority. (v.1-2)

Let’s step back and see what God said about David before we look at what Sheba said about David:

  1. God said that He was the rightful king over the people, but they felt they needed something a little closer to home (1 Samuel 8:6-9). God had the right, and God passed the authority to the king of Israel.
  1. God took from Saul the authority because of his continual disobedience and his hard heart toward God (1 Samuel 15:26-28).
  1. God selected David as the next king, even when David didn’t know anything about it. The authority of David was conferred by God, not grabbed by David (1 Samuel 16:1,12).
  1. God covenanted with David to establish his throne (2 Samuel 7:15-18) even when David knew he did not begin to deserve it!

There you have it. David was on the throne because God vested His Divine authority on the undeserving man and made him king. Go back to 2 Samuel 20:1 and our view becomes clearer. Sheba didn’t simply reject David, he rejected God’s right to place him on the throne and promise his throne endurance! Because of that, in God’s sight, Sheba was worthless!

Idolatry Principle: We become of no use to God when we decide to become our own god and decide what is right, in spite of what God’s Word says. Rebellion is in essence idolatry, and God will not tolerate it!

Any parent of a two year old can recognize the great battle of the wills. It be as far back as the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve (Genesis 3:4-5) “The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!  For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Note the progression into rebellion:

  1. Listen to the Devils tempting voice.
  2. Believe his utter rejection of God’s truthfulness.
  3. Buy into his suggestion that God has another motive, to keep you from getting what is best.
  4. Promise that you will become LIKE GOD!


That was the same attitude we in the character named Sheba. Sheba rejected David’s authority, and at the same time, rejected God’s authority. Why? One reason may be because Sheba is from the tribe of Benjamin—the clan of the previous king of Israel named Saul. Perhaps he’s still angry over Saul’s rejection and David’s acceptance as king of Israel.

One thing is clear: this rebel has no respect for legitimate authority.
This is something all rebels share in common-a rejection of authority.

“Nobody tells me what to do.” For a rebel rules are made to be broken. You don’t need anybody else’s help, or advice. Who needs a boss? Who needs parents? Who needs God? Stand with one foot in, and one foot out, and dare anybody to try and make you do anything.

So what’s wrong with being a rebel? First, it is a rejection of God’s right to be God, to place that person in your life as an authority. An authority that deserves your respect, your obedience, your submission- an authority placed there by God Himself.

Why should I do what my parents tell me? Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Why should I do what my teacher, or the law demands? Romans 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

Are there exceptions to these rules? Yes, but they are rare in Scripture and truthfully, most of us don’t deal with the exceptions. Most of us live life under the normal circumstances addressed by the rule, and the rule is this: when you reject a legitimate authority in your life, you are rejecting the authority of God. You are being a rebel. The price in your life is that your Creator cannot use you for a great purpose. You become a broken tool, worthless to Our Father’s uses.

Rebels always hurt other people. (v. 3)

There was a terrible wreck a few month back on US 27. The driver had already been convicted 4 times for drunk driving and had a suspended license. He nevertheless got behind the wheel of a car and drove after having too much to drink. He ended up plowing into a van full of a family, killing several, and critically wounding several others. The drunken man was not hurt, but is now charged with more serious crimes, including vehicular homicide. He pleaded with the judge that “He didn’t mean to kill anyone” and I am sure that was true! The simple fact is that his rebellion cost some people their lives. That’s another big problem with rebellion, they invariably hurt others, even the ones they love.

Look carefully at verse three (20:3). David was cleaning up a mess left in the palace by his now dead son, Absalom. Rebellion left a mess. Because of Absalom’s sin with the concubines of David, they paid a penalty the rest of their lives. The sexual sin was open rebellion. Yet, there are other kinds of rebellion, and they are also seen in this snapshot of David’s life.

Rebels overestimate their importance and abilities (4-5).

Look at verse 4 (20:4). There is a second person mentioned, the new head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, name Amasa. David called on his to gather the army together in a three day period, for the rebellion of Sheba was underway. If you keep reading, you will note that Amasa didn’t obey. WHY he delayed isn’t specified. There may be several reasons, but let me take a shot at one.

It occurs to me that Amasa might have felt that he had leverage and power over David because he mistakenly felt that David NEEDED him to maintain his position. That’s one of the mistakes that rebels often make. They think that they have escaped the need to obey God’s appointed authority because they are TOO IMPORTANT to the cause of God. How many men in ministry have fallen because they made that mistake!

Here is an important principle: Delayed obedience is disobedience. You cannot put off the things God tells you to do NOW. The delay may be your utter undoing!

It is also worth mentioning that rebellious people are terrible predictors of the future, and unable to see the consequences of their rebellion. The three Sebring High School students that were charge with murdering an eighty year old resident that lived a mere mile and a half from here this past week, had no idea that they were ruining their lives when they decided to break into a home and steal from an 80 year old man. Rebellion can be quite, but it is rebellion no less. Rebels don’t see it coming, but they are swept out of the way in a flash, and the same was true of Amasa. It is worth remembering when teens begin idolizing the rebel at school.

Rebels think the rules don’t apply to them, and as a result cannot be trusted, even by each other! (6-13).

David sent Abishai instead of the rebellious Amasa to stop the Sheba rebellion (20:6). While Abishai was mustering the troops, Joab (his brother) joined the ranks. Only then did Amasa (the cousin of both Joab and Abishai) show up (20:7-8). Joab showed up “dressed to kill” (pun intended 20:8b).

Joab allowed his sword to fall out of its sheath, and in a display of affection, grabbed Amasa by the beard as if to greet him with a kiss. Instead, with his left hand he thrusts his sword far into the abdomen of Amasa, and his insides come gushing out.

Why did he do it? Why did he kill this man who was not only his relative, but on the same side in this war? Was Joab jealous? Joab was also a rebel. He was merciless, and left his foe to wallow in his own blood, not even giving him a decent burial. “Follow me!” he shouted to David’s army, and left Amasa to die like a wounded animal. (20:9-13)

Rebels will hurt anyone. How do I know? I’ve talked to parents whose kids reject everything they taught them. I’ve seen their tears of pain and worry. That boy/girl is out having a good time, but mom and dad are in misery, and that rebel doesn’t even care.
I’ve talked to that wife, and that husband, whose spouse who won’t stop drinking or doing drugs, who won’t come to church with them, who won’t stop doing what’s wrong, who is too stubborn to admit they are wrong or so proud they refuse any kind of help. That kind of pain runs deep, and leaves scars not only on the spouse, but the kids.
“I’m not hurting anybody but myself.” That’s a lie. When you rebel, you hurt everybody who loves you, everybody who depends on you. Rebellion can break the hearts of the people who love you most.

Rebellion even breaks the heart of God. Isaiah 65:2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; Who does your rebellion hurt? You may say, “I really never realized how I’m hurting the people I love. I never stopped to think about who else is suffering for my rebellion.” Now is the time to think about it.

Besides, if you look at life carefully, you will find that other rebels can’t be trusted, and don’t trust you. Only a fool trusts a person who thinks the rules don’t truly apply to them!

Rebels carve their path on the road to destruction. (20:14-26).

There is a rule in our house we have attempted to follow consistently: we don’t punish our kids for mistakes, or accidents. We focus on willful disobedience. I don’t want my kids to grow up and think that you can rebel against God and against authority and get away with it because you can’t get away with it.

Flashback to this rebel Sheba, who has made it all the way to the town of Abel on the outskirts of Israel; a town known for wisdom, hiding a rebellious fool. (20:14). Joab, maybe hoping to get back in David’s good graces by crushing this rebellion, geared up for the attack, though the citizens of Abel aren’t sure why they are being assaulted.

A wise woman of the city council met with Joab (20:16-21). She wants to know why he came to kill innocent people, and Joab explained. Send him out, and I’ll be glad to leave the rest of you alone. The wise old woman tells Joab .

“Don’t do anything until I return”. Inside the walls of the city, Sheba is already planning his escape. If these folks can just hold Joab off a little longer, he’s sneak out and get away. Who cares what happens to them? The old woman makes her way back to the crowd and explains the situation. Joab doesn’t have a quarrel with any of us. He only wants this stranger here. Send his head out, and he’ll go back home. Sheba’s face goes white. You can’t be serious! Can’t we talk about this? Give me some time to get away! Can’t we make some kind of deal? In a few more minutes, Joab sees what’s he’s looking for come sailing over the walls of the city. One of his men brings it to him. He confirms it’s his man, and then he and his army head back to Jerusalem. This rebel problem has been solved.

Do you suppose this is how Sheba expected his story to end? Probably not. He would rather have gone on to become somebody great, somebody big, somebody important. Instead his own pride brought his destruction. If he had never rebelled against David, he could have lived to a ripe old age. But rebellion stole his future from him.

What about this other rebel, Joab? He seems to get away with his rebellion. But later on, the Bible tells us in 1 Kings 2:28-35 that Joab’s rebellion catches up with him, too.

There is a serious problem with being a rebel! You cut your life expectancy dramatically. It is a poor career move. You never really get away with it. Rebels are on the road to destruction.

You don’t have to do what the teacher or coach tells you- you can walk out and impress all your friends with your bravado. But quit school, and you can kiss that diploma good-bye. When you get tired of that boss ordering you around, you can tell him what you think and clock out. But you’ve got to make a living somehow, or you’ll end up with nothing. You can only get caught breaking the law so many times before they take away your license or send you to jail, where you most certainly will develop a habit of obeying rules. You can even thumb your nose at God for awhile—but not forever. Sooner or later, you will answer to Him. Sooner or later rebels come to the end of the road and meet the Judge.

On Oct. 22, 1999 professional parachutist Jan Davis was practicing the dangerous sport of BASE jumping—parachuting off fixed objects lke high cliffs or towers. She was making her jump off the 3200 foot granite cliff of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. She knew BASE jumping had been outlawed because of 6 others who had died doing the same thing she was doing. Her own jump was meant as protest, to prove that BASE jumping was safe. Yet still she stood at the top of the mountain and leapt off, and as her husband and several others watched, her parachute did not open properly, and Jan Davis feel for 20 seconds before she crashed to her death. Jan Davis paid for her rebellion with her life.

Does this sound foolish to you? Of course. But it’s no more foolish that willfully rebelling against God and the legitimate authorities He has set up in the world. What will your rebellion cost you? I don’t know. All I really know is that when you and I rebel, we are travel the road to destruction.

But you and I don’t have to stay on this road. Rebellion is a choice we make. We’ve all made that choice many times in our lives. But we don’t have to keep making that choice, and we don’t have to live with the guilt of our rebellion. God has done the most amazing thing when He sent Jesus Christ to die on the Cross not for good people, not for obedient people, but for rebels like you and me. He died to transform rebels into children of God.

In his book Pursuit, evangelist Luis Palau tells the story of his nephew whom he calls Kenneth. Kenneth lived most of his adult life in open rebellion against God as a homosexual. But in his early 20s his rebellion caught up with him, and he contracted AIDS. Not long after the diagnosis, he met with Palau and announced Jesus Christ had forgiven him for all his sins. Palau was skeptical. Kenneth, how can you say that? You rebelled against God, you made fun of the Bible, you hurt your family terribly! And now you say you’ve got eternal life, just like that? His nephew looked him straight in the eyes and replied, Luis, when the doctor told me I had AIDS, I realized what a fool I have been. I did repent, and I know God has had mercy on me. I know the Lord Jesus has forgiven me. Several short months later, at age 25, Palau says, Kenneth went to be with the Lord—saved like the thief on the cross from his rebellion by the grace of God.
What so wrong about being a rebel?

I wonder if you can admit this morning the rebellion in your own heart? How many of you realize the danger and pain you are bringing to others to yourself, and to God this morning? Right now is the time to lay down your arms, and surrender to the Lord Jesus Chris. Will you come and bow before Him, and submit your life to Him today? Why don’t you come now?

VI. Rebels set up rebellion behind them!

Rebellion is learned and perpetuated when it is glorified. This is the danger we face in the media today. Note the word of Sheba “We have no portion in David, Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel!” (2 Samuel 20:1b). Now compare the words spoken by Sheba in our text with these words, spoken by Israel after the death of Solomon: When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; To your tents, O Israel! Now look after your own house, David!” So Israel departed to their tents (1 Kings 12:16).

It is almost as though Sheba’s words become the motto of those who rebel in Israel. The roots of division between Judah and the other tribes of Israel run deep in Israel’s history, but it is evident that Israel was a divided kingdom for a very short time in David’s day. This division is never completely healed. It may lay dormant for the years of Solomon’s reign, but it comes to life after his death. In all of this, God is preparing the nation for the division He purposes. The second time the nation divides, it will not reunite. The northern kingdom will fall to Assyria, as a lesson to Judah, a lesson which will not be heeded. And so the southern kingdom will also fall, this time to the Babylonians. God is providentially preparing the nation for their coming division in the events of our text.

 Rebellion is a serious affront to God with terrible consequences.