The dust has hardly settled from Absalom’s revolt and another upstart tries to do the same. Sheba tries to take advantage of the rebellious spirit of the nation and leads a revolt against David’s throne. Evil is never satisfied…there will always be a challenge to God’s authority…always be a new twist to an old challenge.
We see it in today’s news…no defeat of evil is enough to deter the insatiable desire for just a small victory over good. In the second book of his Space Trilogy, Perelandra, C.S. Lewis wrote of the insidiousness of evil…anything to tarnish the pure. Small victory or great, evil chips away at the good. Satan will eventually meet the same end as Sheba…there will be no more evil. Revelation 22:3-7 gives us this promise. Until that day, we must be diligent to obey and serve God with all of our hearts. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
For every instance of soldiers’ and priests’ loyalty to the crown, murder and treachery from the top down poisoned the monarchy. For every battle won in the field, a skirmish on the home front caused paroxysms of family suffering. For every season of righteous ruling, rebels hostile to Judah threatened to fracture the kingdom. That’s some golden age. Turns out hindsight does not guarantee clear vision. We want to celebrate David as the ideal king. The real King David is far less worthy of laud and honor. What we’re left with as a legacy worth pursuing is not his exploits, but his question arising from the tattered remains of every disaster in his lifetime: Where is God?
“We have no portion in David, Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel!” vs. 1b
When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 7:12-13
Even the best of us fail. Sometimes, we who follow, put so much faith into leaders of all kinds that when we see their fallen nature surface we become extremely disillusioned and forget the greater call to follow God alone. We will be disappointed if all our trust is placed in human leadership. Preachers, teachers, bosses, politicians (no additional commentary necessary), and even family are subject to our broken nature. We must not lose sight of our call to follow a greater design given to us by God. To put it in a literary context: Camelot was always greater than Arthur. Jesus is and was the only one who never deviated, never doubted, and never broke that covenant with God. Where is your trust? If someone you believe in disappoints you, will you run out and burn the kingdom or trust the larger call to seek the welfare of the city?
There are two unexpected moments of David in our text for today. 1) David tells his military commanders to be “gentle” (v.5) on his son Absalom even though Absalom is the enemy. 2) When David hears that his enemy has been slain he weeps over the loss of his treasonous son (v.33). In these moments David seems to care more about his villainous son than his own kingdom.
David was in a no win situation facing untold guilt in either outcome. In those days, when there is no where else to turn, turn to God: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)
Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it. -Jesus, Matthew 16:25
He’s been there all along, but we often look past him with David taking up most of our attention. In some ways, this story is as much about Joab as it is David and Absalom. Joab is David’s nephew. Rising among the ranks, he eventually became David’s right hand general and political advisor. Joab also knew how to play the game, with his own political future being the most important objective. He is impulsive, often taking matters in his own hands. Joab, is not a man to be messed with.
While mostly loyal to David, we find him, in this account, disregarding a clear request from David, “spare my son’s life.” Years later, Joab would eventually die by the sword (Solomon’s order, and David’s final request) as a traitor and murderer.
Joab was stagnant; he never moved (towards God). He lived by the sword and died by the sword. He died like he lived, looking out for himself.
As we read of the death of Absalom, we see the flawed love of king David.Only after Absalom is killed, does David refer to him as “my son”. David’s life is a picture of an imperfect king.This picture should serve to point us to the Gospel that proclaims a perfect King who offers forgiveness and restoration. Jesus teaches us about the perfect love of a father in the parable of the prodigal son.How different was David’s example. (Absalom returns to Jerusalem after rebelling and David won’t even meet with him- 2 Samuel 14). In Jesus’ parable, the father runs to meet and restore his son. Absalom, the prodigal, and we all deserve death for the rebellion and public humiliation we have committed against a Holy God.But the perfect King offers forgiveness thru His own death.A reality of the gospel and only a sentiment of an imperfect king.Let us celebrate the perfect love of our Father and King in heaven!!
When King David fled Jerusalem to escape Absalom, he left out through the Kidron Valley. (15:23) He would have traveled past the Monument of Absalom. Absalom had erected this structure as a remembrance of himself, since he had no sons to preserve his name. The monument, or at least what scholars believe is the authentic edifice, still stands today. Absalom desired to have history remember him. Sadly, the legacy of Absalom is a picture of deceit, rebellion and greed.
Absalom’s father, King David, is remembered as the greatest king ever. Absalom could have been a part of that legacy, but as a result of his rebellion, did not even get to be buried in his ‘King’s tomb.’ In Jeremiah 2, the prophet judges Israel for trading living waters for broken cisterns. They had forsaken God.
We often settle for much less than God intends for our lives. We may find that we have given up God’s best—living water…family legacy—and traded for broken cisterns or a rebel’s death. Consider your paths that you are not missing what God has ordained for you!
“Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.”
Absalom has committed an act of sedition and now leads a coup against the throne. David, though, speaks as if his son has committed a social faux pas: “You know these kids today.” David loved the idea of Absalom. That’s a problem, because the actual Absalom could barely even get an audience with the king. And now the actual Absalom was poised to kill them all. To say that’s David’s fault is to ignore the complexities of human families in a corrupted world. But can we all please learn to invite a little more clear-eyed and courageous realism into our lives?
Re:Verse passage – 2 Samuel 18 (day two) The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” vs. 33
This story has moved me since I first read it years ago, and now as a father even more so. This grief is as real and transparent as we could imagine. I believe that David would have, even after all Absalom had done, given his life in his place…sound familiar? There is something so moving in this scene where David receives the news of his son’s death. In this tragedy there is no hope for reconciliation. This is the end of this story.
Jesus is different. We often draw parallel’s between leaders, especially David, and Jesus, but they will always fall short. Jesus did die in our place…in order that we might live. That grief is replaced with unimaginable joy. I pray that no of us ever have to experience what David did, but that all of us experience Jesus.