Read – 2 Samuel 18
Focus on verse 33
I cannot imagine what it must have been like for David to be engaged in a war against his own son. What amazes me in this story is that though Absalom had nothing but contempt in his heart for his father, David continued to love Absalom like a son. So when the news comes to David that Absalom is dead, it breaks his heart, and he weeps and cries out “Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (v. 33)
This is David’s gut reaction from the heart of a father. It takes a stern rebuke from General Joab, in the next chapter, to jolt David back to the reality that he has a kingdom to lead, and that he has not treated those who were most faithful to him very well in this matter.
One of the things that become clearly evident here is that David had a much more gracious heart than Joab, and one begins to wonder at this point whether Joab is beginning to lose respect for David’s ability to make decisions regarding the kingdom. Joab has blatantly disregarded the king’s command in military matters at least twice, the first time in the murder of Abner, and now with his personal execution of Absalom.
Perhaps this has to do with Joab’s heart as well. David was a man after God’s own heart. David had the heart of a father and the heart of a shepherd when it came to his family and his people. This is not to suggest that he was the best example of what a father should be to his sons… by no means, however, it is evident that David has the kind of love for Absalom that God the Father has for us…His wayward children. God does not treat us as Joab treated Absalom, and we are very fortunate that He does not. I suspect that God’s heart breaks just as David’s did for every person who goes to the grave in a state of rebellion. God’s love for us is not dependent upon our behavior! This is an incredibly difficult truth to comprehend for us. Our western culture has ingrained in us a strong performance orientation. If we perform well we are accepted and rewarded – if we perform poorly we get cut from the team, fired from the job, etc. It is very difficult to not transfer this pattern of thought to how God views us. If we obey, He loves us and accepts us into heaven. If we disobey, then He withdraws His love, and casts us into hell. The problem is this is not true! God’s love for us is not based on our performance at all, it is based on Christ’s sacrifice and whether or not we choose to accept His free gift of redemption. Our performance is merely the evidence of our gratitude as we begin to understand the magnitude of our redemption. The reality, that if He had not paid the penalty for my sin that I would be lost, but now I am found. Our performance is driven entirely by gratitude, which, incidentally, is a much better motivator than fear of rejection.
David demonstrates the heart of the Father, when he mourns for the son who was trying to usurp his throne. Absalom’s evil actions did not change the fact that he was David’s son, just as our evil actions do not change the fact that God created us, loves us and desires for us to repent and accept His invitation to enter into a restored relationship with Him.