2ND Samuel chapters 13-19
Thinking of fathers throughout history, we can learn from their lives. King David as a father is an example of unconditional love towards a rebellious son. One of the consequences of David’s shameful sin with Bathseba was that God would raise up adversity against him from his own house. (2 Sam. 12:11). Being warned that someone from his own family would turn against him, that severe adversity came through his son, Absalom.
Absalom grew to be a cunning, vengeful man. Because of his evil lifestyle, David “wept very bitterly” (13:36) and “he mourned for his son every day…” (13:39). Finally after several years, they were reconciled. Absalom “bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom”. (14:33). It seemed to be the end of a long, dreadful chapter, but the seeds of hate and bitterness below the surface of Absalom’s heart were about to bring even more anguish to David.
Absalom was working behind the scenes, scheming another plot. This time he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” We know that Absalom had a plan, but he wasn’t going to rush into it. He waited another forty years before he got enough followers to rise up against his Father, the king, and attempt to overtake the throne. He enlisted conspirators and spies to join him in the uprising. His followers increased. (15:12) Realizing that Absalom was after him, David and all of his followers fled from Jerusalem to the wilderness. David wept as he left; some of his trusted friends turned against him. During the time of this upheaval, David wrote Psalm 3 in which he laments, confesses his trust in God, commits to continued trust, and keeps crying out to God.
David, having his troops organized for the battle against his own son, did the unthinkable: within earshot of all the people, he commanded his military leaders to “deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” Confusion must have overtaken them all: deal gently with the enemy?…deal gently with the sinister being who wants to overthrow your throne?…deal gently with the person who is plotting your death?…what are we fighting for?…deal gently…what are you thinking???
Despite David’s request for mercy on his rebellious son, God, who is always in control, executed His perfect judgment on Absalom, allowing his hair to get tangled in a tree, leaving him hanging as his mule continued on. David’s warriors then killed and buried Absalom.
How did David react in all of this national turmoil, rebellion and wicked scheming by his own son? When word reached David that he had been delivered from: “the men who raised their hand against my lord the king” (18:28), David’s first reaction was: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (18:29) The second messenger brought news of the victory, and again David inquired: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (18:32) We see the deep love that David had for his rebellious son who intended such evil against him. Realizing that Absalom had died, David was very, very deeply sorrowed, and “went up to the chamber over the gate and wept…o my son Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son.” (18:33) Setting aside the fact that David was king of Israel, and seeing him in his role as father, we see how deeply he loved his son Absalom in spite of a lifetime of scheming rebellion. That father love was evident although the son didn’t realize it, and didn’t even care that he was causing his father unspeakable distress and pain.
There is a strong parallel between this story of David’s love for his son and God’s love for us. I’m reminded of how much God the Father loves each one of us His children, even though we turn from Him, cause Him pain and rebel against Him. David himself often wrote about God’s mercy and everlasting love. Perhaps David understood that love because he experienced it, and that’s what motivated him to love Absalom to the end.
God doesn’t give up on us. He loves us, and will love us “to the end”. God’s love doesn’t hinge on what we do or don’t do. It is rooted in the very nature of His love, which is unconditional and unchangeable! He will always love His children!
How do these truths affect my life? They give me a greater appreciation for His everlasting love to me, while also showing me that I must love others the way He loves me: unconditionally. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God…In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” (1st John 4:7,10)…Yes, my Father God loved me first, He loves me no matter what, and I can live with the assurance that He always will love me! THAT’S the Father’s unconditional love!