David, Absalom, and the Love of the Father
It’s a tragedy that’s been around for thousands of years. But every once-in-awhile God lets you see old truth through new eyes.
In short, the story goes like this: David had sinned by dealing deceitfully with Uriah the Hittite and sleeping with his wife, Bathsheba. The judgment, according to Nathan the prophet, was a sword of violence being unleashed in David’s family. This prediction begins to come true when Ammon (David’s oldest son) is killed by Abasalom (David’s third oldest son). Abasalom is banished from Israel, then restored, and once restored he begins to quietly launch a revolution to take the kingdom from David.
When the revolution happens, David is banished from his own kingdom. He takes a remnant with him and begins a war with Absalom that culminates in a final battle. It’s during this final battle that David forces his commanders to swear that if they capture Absalom they will not kill him. All of the commanders take the oath, but Joab, one of David’s most trusted commanders finds Joab hung by his hair in a tree and kills Absalom anyways.
And it’s here that our story really begins–David does what any good father would do–he weeps for his son. We see David’s heart on full display as he cries out “How I wish I had died instead of you!” Now, Joab tries to be the sensible one in all of this. He reminds David that Absalom was his enemy and that many men fought (and died) in order to restore his rule, but that matters little to David. He eventually did pull himself together and honor his army, but we see his true heart on display in his lament.
This is where God began speaking to me. I was reading this story to my sons and my daughters and I could so identify with wanting to take their place even though one of them had tried to lead a rebellion against me. “No parent should have to bury their child,” says Theoden in the Two Towers and it’s this kind of love, however misguided it may seem to others, that fills parents when they think about the demise of their children, even ones who are their enemies. As parents, it’s only right to want to die, believing our children have a better future ahead. It’s what makes us parents.
As I read the story, I began again to see the heart of God–A father who loved his children so much, that even though they participated in a horrible rebellion to overthrow His Kingdom and replace it with their own, would rather die in the place of His children than see them perish. If we feel this way…if us natural human parents feel this way towards our children…if David feels this way towards his son who sought to overthrow him, then how much more must our heavenly Father feel towards us?
Photo Credit: Absalom, Absalom! by John Lodder
And what about Tamar? David really let her down.
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I would agree with you, David let Tamar down. By telling the story and sharing what God showed me, I didn’t intend to set up David as the perfect father or even a great father, I simply mean to portray him as a type of Christ, something the New Testament says about David over and over again. Jesus does this when he says in Matthew 7, “f you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” A type, in the Biblical sense, is simply a supremely inferior but tangible explanation of the nature of Christ.
To be quite honest, the David Scripture shows us is often reprehensible– he killed people, broke laws, committed adultery, ignored Tamar’s rape, and did many other things that should give us pause using him as an example. But the way Scripture refers to him, as a man after God’s heart and as one who fulfilled God’s will in his generation should give us hope.
How so? Simply in this- If this man who committed so many mistakes and is so incredibly broken, could be called a man after God’s heart and Paul could say he fulfilled God’s will in his generation, than it’s possible for God to say the same thing about us at the end of our lives. We can be that horrible and still find mercy in the eyes of a God who loves us, still be held accountable, and make our lives count in the service of His Kingdom.
In a lot of ways David wasn’t a good example for us. But in a few important ways, God spoke through his life to give us an example of God. It didn’t make him perfect, it just made him an example. I hope this is helpful.