David’s men had fought a horrific battle against Absalom and the men of Israel who had sided with him. “There was a great slaughter… and 20,000 men laid down their lives” (II Samuel 18:7b, NLT). Among the dead was David’s son Absalom. Even though Absalom had sought to kill David, he was still David’s firstborn son and he loved him with all his heart. David was overwhelmed with grief when he received the news of his death.
David “went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son’” (II Samuel 18:33b).
I want to reiterate what I said yesterday: a child can break a parent’s heart over and over, but the parent keeps right on loving that wayward child. No earthly father loves his children as much as our Heavenly Father loves His.
If we could grasp the tiniest inkling of the pain we cause Him when we who are His children think, speak or act in ways that dishonor Him, it would truly make it so much harder to slip up. I hope the next time I or any of God’s children who are reading this disobeys Him, we’ll think of David’s sorrow over Absalom and realize that in much the same manner God is grieving over our disobedience.
Meanwhile, back to David. “Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness. They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle. The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (II Samuel 19:1-4).
David’s grief was understandable, but Israel’s rightful leader, he was humiliating his own troops by his behavior. Instead of celebrating their victory over those who had opposed them and David, “they were ashamed” because David couldn’t even manage a moment of gratitude for their hard-fought victory that had returned him to his rightful place as king. “20,000 men” had died, many in support of King David. It was important for him to set aside his personal grief and show some respect for the brave men who’d died and for those who’d survived the battle.
“Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, ‘We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before’” (II Samuel 19:5-7).
Joab confronted David with the hard truth: if what we’ve done for you means anything, now’s the time to say so. After what they’ve been through, these men won’t stay here feeling humiliated.
David heeded Joab’s advice. “So the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him” (II Samuel 19:8b).
David, still exiled in Mahanaim, had “stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out” (II Samuel 18:4b). Now he “took his seat at the town gate,” which signified to all he was at peace with what had happened and he was now approachable.
Our King is amazingly approachable. As the old song says, He’s as close as the mention of His Name. Have you talked to Him today? He’d love to hear from you.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates