2 Samuel 18

A Hollow Victory.

“O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” ­– 2 Samuel 18:33 NLT

This chapter should strike a chord with any parent. Here we have David having to deal with a rebellious son who has turned on him and is now out to take over his throne and eliminate him altogether. What would it be like to go through that as a parent? Some of us might have had children who were rebellious or who have been out of control, but I doubt any of us have had sons who have tried to kill us. Can you imagine the mixed emotions David was feeling? On the one hand, this is a man who killed one of David’s sons in cold blood. He is also the man who attempted to turn the citizens of Jerusalem against David and then successfully took over his kingdom. He also raped all of David’s concubines he had left behind in the city when David had to flee. This son had made David’s life a living hell. He had caused untold pain and discomfort for David. And David knew the only thing that was going to resolve this conflict was a battle. Lives were going to be lost, possibly his own or the life of Absalom.

Then the inevitable happens. The troops of Absalom do battle with the troops of David and Absalom is killed by Joab, David’s friend and military commander. Can you imagine how David felt when he heard this news? It was a victory, but a hollow one. He had won, but at the expense of his own son’s life. While his troops were probably rejoicing, David reacted with mourning. He missed his son. He wished he had died instead. This was the natural reaction of a loving parent. David regretted that his sins had led to Absalom’s death. God had warned him that, as a result of his sin with Bathsheba, family conflict would a permanent part of his future. “From this time on, your family will live by the sword” (2 Samuel 12:10 NLT). “Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you” (2 Samuel 12:11 NLT). David knew that he was ultimately responsible for Absalom’s death. He had failed to deal with Amnon’s rape of Tamar, forcing Absalom to take matters into his own hands and murder Amnon to avenge his sister. David also failed to deal with Absalom’s actions, allowing him to run away instead. Every step of the way, David failed to do his job as a father and the king. Now he was reaping the sad results.

David’s conflict was over. But at a steep price. He had won the battle and lost a son. So he did what any parent would do. He mourned. Perhaps this is the same way God feels every time one of the sons or daughters He has created rebels against Him and refused to accept His free gift of grace. Absalom’s rebellion against David could not go unpunished. Man’s rebellion against God cannot go unpunished either. But God sent His own son to pay the price for our rebellion. Jesus died on a cross as a payment for our sin and rebellion. But unless we accept that free gift, we remain guilty and unforgiven. We stand to be punished for our sin and that punishment is death – resulting in permanent separation from God. David would never see Absalom again. And while there is a certain joy in victory over a rebellious enemy, David would have preferred restoration and redemption. So would God.

Father, You don’t rejoice over having to punish men for their sins. You see them as sons. You long to see their rebellion repented of and their hearts returned to You. You have even provided a way for them to return and receive forgiveness for their sin and rebellion. Yet so many continue to reject You and Your generous offer. Thank You for Your love that continues to reach out to those who have turned against You and long to remove You from the throne of their lives and put themselves there instead. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men