“And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.” 2 Samuel 18:5
“And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:32-33
Absalom had been deceiving the king, his father, for many years. Slowly, he had introduced doubt to the people of Israel and undermined his father until he felt confident that he could treasonously take the throne. David left the city in shame and mourning while his own son took from him his dignity and his throne. The people, many of whom David had likely considered close friends, turned their backs on him and gave their new loyalties to the handsome, young man who had promised them vindication for all of their perceived slights and grievances. Ultimately, his promises were vain.
Until recently, I tended to see Absalom as the villain in these scriptures. In truth, he was a traitor, a liar, a spoiled child who turned on his own father to serve his own vanity. Yet, when the battle was over, the king, who I thought should have triumphantly celebrated his victory, wept.
He wept, not for the villain, but for his son.
I have a son and two daughters.
How would I feel if any one of them had lied to me, lied to my friends and family, and purposely tried to cause me shame and pain? Like so many parents, I tend to blame myself for their mistakes, their imperfections. I have spent years of my life, reviewing all of the mistakes that I have made as their father and wishing that I could have made better decisions. I see their faults as my own shortcomings, their pain as my responsibility, and am often a passenger on the train of guilt that leads to a very dark nowhere.
How did David feel in that moment of betrayal? He remembered his son as a child, growing, playing with other children, and sitting on his knee. He saw Absolom’s wide eyes of delight as he told the boy about how God directed him to pick up five smooth stones from a creek bed and kill a giant with a slingshot.
I want to speak to you, parent to parent (or future parents, guardians, care-givers, and all who have “children”). We all make mistakes. Sin invites itself into our hearts and lives and leaves a path of damage and destruction that hits our very core. Sin infects us and our children and undermines our families and destroys our most precious relationships. Satan gleefully points out that it is our fault and thus adds the twist of the knife to the wounds inflicted.
How did David feel? He was in pain. He wept for his son, Absalom.
Our Father in heaven, please forgive us. Have we sinfully sought our own desires above God’s? Have our actions supplanted the work of His kingdom?
No matter what my children do, I, an imperfect sinner, will always love them. How much more does God love us, His children, even when we have hurt Him who has only shown us love? I feel like I can hear the words of Jesus as He gazed upon the city and cried, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Matthew 23:37
Do you have a heavy heart today? To the burden you carry for your children, have you added guilt and shame? Your Father loves you. He is calling you to find shelter under His wings. He is working to save us and our children in ways and with a love we cannot comprehend. Surrender your burden to Him. He loves you and He is “patiently waiting in line” to take that burden on His shoulders and remove its weight from yours. Will you give your Father your heart today? He can turn those tears of sorrow and grief into tears of joy.
Tim Reutebuch, baritone