In this study we will look at three Bible characters whose lives ended up out on a limb. “Out on a limb” means that a person has taken a risk and exposed themselves to life’s uncertainties, to use another idiom we would say that they are “chancing their arm”. The three characters in question chose a path of life that they thought was to their advantage.
“And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away. And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak. And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle. And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom. Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me. Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him” (2 Samuel 18:9-15).
Here was a young man who reaped what he sowed, despite that fact the he was blessed with a father who dearly loved him (2 Samuel 18:33). He was handsome, respected, but also extremely proud of himself. 1 Samuel 14:25-26 tells us about his hairstyle to reveal that he was a vain young man who was obsessed with his appearance. He squandered the many privileges that were his by inheritance. The throne of Israel was his by right because he was the firstborn of David’s sons, but he wanted it before his father died. This reminds us of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). He was willing to give up his relationship with his father to get what he wanted, but look at what he received by putting his life out on a limb!
“Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take” (Acts 1:16-20).
Judas chose to reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ and sold Him for a few silver coins, even though he saw the wonderful miracles and heard the truth from His lips. Scripture informs us that he was a thief (John 12:6), but though the love of money played an important part in his downfall, there must have been something else to it than this. The best we can say is that he decided to sell himself to the devil. “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70) … “And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (John 13:2). Maybe he thought that he was made for life now that he had a bit of money behind him, but the thrill of it very quickly turned sour. He risked his soul, chose the wrong path and found himself out on a limb. “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5).
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
We all know about the story of the little tax collector who was desperate to see Jesus for himself, but he got more than he bargained for when he put himself out on a limb. He received something that all his money could never buy, he was blessed with salvation. Before this event he probably did not think of himself as much of a sinner. Everyone else was cheating their way through life, so he was no worse than the rest. All that changed when he found himself in the presence of Christ, then he saw what a wicked man he truly was.
How many Christians are like Absalom, full of pride and self-worth. They think they are God’s gift to the church, but soon they fall away. They have all the potential for being mightily used by the Holy Spirit, yet they go and spoil it by promoting themselves. The very attribute they glory in ends up destroying them. Others are like Judas. They are active in the church’s ministry and are happy for a while to be part of what God is doing, but they reject what they once believed when the pressure is on. Maybe they are only in it for the money that they can con out of others. Sadly they allow the devil to deceive them and give up what they once had in Christ. Thankfully there are those few precious souls who will do whatever it takes to follow Christ and have a personal relationship with Him. What kind of limb are we out on at this time? Are we out of fellowship with our Father like Absalom was with David? Are we close to rejecting Christ as Judas did? Are we like Zacchaeus who wanted to know Jesus and serve Him? There really is no risk involved when we go out on a limb for Jesus because He gives us the blessed assurance that we have received salvation.