“O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Sam 18:33
When King David received the news of his rebel son’s death he lost control. David was grief stricken and imploding in public. He was ‘moved’ with grief – literally trembling and shaking at the gates of his palace.
David’s military commander Joab was terribly offended and embarrassed that his king would mourn the death of an enemy without bestowing upon the troops what Joab felt was much-deserved praise for delivering Absalom’s much-deserved death. Justified by propriety, and having shoved three spears into Absalom, Joab displayed the same heart as the prodigal son’s older brother in Jesus’ later parable. Both were astonished that love existing beyond betrayal.
David’s visceral reaction may have been improper, imprudent and impulsive for a king, but it was honest. It was the heart of every parent. No matter how far a child may stray and rebel, their suffering is something a loving parent cannot abide. David the father grieved what the army of David the king had brought to justice, the life of his rebellious son.
David’s mourning was intensified by guilt, because he saw Absalom’s rebellion and death as a direct result of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Our heavenly father bears no guilt in our rebellion. Still, his heart is no less moved for us. Jesus, totally innocent of sin, exchanged places with the murderous rebel Barabbas on the Passover, and he exchanged places with you and I as well.
What David was not able to do for his son, our heavenly father did for us. While on the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He demonstrated not only the love of a savior, but also the love of a heavenly father who did not look past our rebellion (as kings cannot) but took our punishment so that we may live through him.
In this tale, I don’t want to be Absalom and I don’t want to be Joab and I don’t particularly want to be David. I want a heart that understands brokenness before the Lord. I don’t want a heart that rebels and moves a king to grief. I don’t want a heart that judges rebels, no matter how justified. I don’t want to be astonished that love exists beyond betrayal. …Well, yes I do.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11