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”! (2 Samuel 18:33)
Mothers may shed more tears, but fathers are no strangers to anguish. The father who feels responsible for nurturing and protecting his family tends to feel an extra level of pain when disaster strikes those loved ones. King David is an example.
Absalom was his favorite. David’s eyes lit up at the mere sight of him. Absalom was special, and others saw it too. He was handsome, strong, and had a way of getting people to like him. He was the obvious choice to follow David as the King of Israel. And that became part of David’s pain.
Absalom was conceited. Absalom was self-centered. And Absalom was greedy for power. He wasn’t willing to wait until his father’s death to become king. He drew a crowd of insurgents around him and tried to take the throne by force. He started a civil war. He was willing to kill his father to get what he wanted.
But the Lord God had other plans. David’s life would be spared. His kingdom would remain secure. The rebellious son would be put down. This came about in a dreadful way. Riding for his life in a battle that was going against him, his head got caught in some low branches of a tree and he was pulled out of the saddle. While hanging in midair, three javelins hit his body and ten soldiers finished him off. He was thrown into a pit, and his corpse abandoned.
We might have expected David to be relieved to hear that the son-turned-enemy was no longer a threat. We would assume that he had disowned this unappreciative traitor by now. Instead, he cries out, “If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” He reveals a father’s pain.
David is not only an ancestor of Jesus, the Savior of the world; parts of his life reflect the workings of the holy God. This is one of them. It brings to mind another Father and his rebellious children. We can see how fitting it would be for God the Father to disown those rebels and punish them. Who could blame him?
The reflection becomes fearful when we realize that we once were counted among the rebels. We have, at times, rejected our Father, and taken our stand with Satan, his enemy. We sometimes still join with those who defy the King. We are the modern-day Absalom!
Could it be that the Lord God weeps over us when we rebel with sin? Might it be that he is actually willing to die in our place? Was the Son of God killed so that we might be adopted into the family of God? Do we mean that much to him?
Heavenly Father, it shames us to think that so often we throw away your kindness and reject your rules. We deplore our weakness and regret our rebellious wanderings. Reach out to take hold of us by your powerful hand. Keep us from straying. Hold us close. We want to cause you no further pain. To that end, shower us with your powerful love through the working of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in the name of your beloved Son, who even now shares your kingdom, power, and glory. Amen.