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!” (18:33).
War. It’s a tragic and heart-wrenching enterprise. And no matter the outcome, no matter who wins, there are casualties assailing the lives of surviving family with unparalleled grief.
David, the chosen monarch, the rightful heir to the throne as God’s anointed king, understood it was God’s determined will; he would wear the crown, (1 Samuel 16:1, 12-13).
And yet David grieved the death of his rebellious son, his son who had derived his own course for success, his own course against God’s will, fueled by bitterness and revenge. Absalom, so steeped in his defiant anger conspired against his own father, humiliated the king before the nation in taking the king’s concubines as his own, and sought the king’s life so that David was forced to flee for his very life.
And still, despite the betrayal, despite the rebellious rejection, despite the murderous threats, King David’s heart was grieved, so grieved he would have even traded places with his son. David was willing, willing to have been a substitute, to take his son’s place in death, rather than to lose his son to death. While David would later be rebuked by Joab because “the victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it and said that day, ‘The king is grieved for his son,’” (2 Samuel 19:2), David’s immediate reaction was genuine.
Absalom was his son, and although insubordinate, unruly and profoundly rebellious, the heart of his father, the king, loved him, deeply and immeasurably. His father’s heart was not contrived in its display of love and grief.
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him, (John 1:11).
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, (Luke 19:41).
Created in His image, we can garner some truths of God’s character through the reaction of King David. And we can also glean truths about our nature in the actions of Absalom.
Consider Him, Our Heavenly King
We too have a King as our Father; Our Heavenly King Who grieves and loves, deeply and immeasurably. And as his children, we too like Absalom, often succumb to the lure of setting ourselves up as the king and ruler over our lives. Perhaps fueled by bitterness and anger or pride and self-centeredness, we enter into a deadly war against Him, the Rightful and Heavenly King.
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God,” (Romans 8:6-8).
As in any war, there are casualties. And as demonstrated by the genuine response of King David, casualties grieve Him, Our Heavenly King.
“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11).
King David’s continuing desire was that his son would find his way to repentance through tender and gentle means, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, Absalom” (18:5). Our Heavenly King enduringly waits, patient towards His creation, wishing that none would perish but that all would respond to His long-suffering through His gentle and kind appeals.
“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:8-10).
And even though we reject Him, betray Him and rebel against His faithfulness, Our Heavenly King’s immeasurable love moved Him to take action, to send His Son to become our Sinless Substitute, to in fact trade places in death, and suffer the curse of death we deserved.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him,” (John 3:16-17).
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” (Galatians 3:13).
How can we respond to Him, Our Heavenly King?
- Agree with His Word: apart from Christ, we are ungodly and set against Him, Our Heavenly King. Scripture actually declares that apart from Christ, we are God’s enemies.
- “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son…” (Romans 5:8, 10).
- Accept His kind gift of repentance, turning to Him, Our Heavenly King and away from our sin.
- “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
- Offer our lives in gratitude and humble service. What a privilege to be able to claim Him as our Heavenly Father and to dedicate our lives in thankfulness as an offering to Him Who Is Worthy, Him, Our Heavenly King!
- “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;” (Hebrews 12:29).