David’s inaction, and seeming neglect of God, has led to problem after problem and grief after grief – for himself for others around him.
2 Samuel 18:19-19:8
19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, ‘Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.’
20 ‘You are not the one to take the news today,’ Joab told him. ‘You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.’
21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen.’ The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.
22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, ‘Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.’
But Joab replied, ‘My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.’
23 He said, ‘Come what may, I want to run.’
So Joab said, ‘Run!’ Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.
24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.
The king said, ‘If he is alone, he must have good news.’ And the runner came closer and closer.
26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, ‘Look, another man running alone!’
The king said, ‘He must be bringing good news, too.’
27 The watchman said, ‘It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.’
‘He’s a good man,’ the king said. ‘He comes with good news.’
28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, ‘All is well!’ He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.’
29 The king asked, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’
Ahimaaz answered, ‘I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.’
30 The king said, ‘Stand aside and wait here.’ So he stepped aside and stood there.
31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, ‘My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.’
32 The king asked the Cushite, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’
The Cushite replied, ‘May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.’
33 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!’[b]
19 [c]Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’ 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, ‘The king is grieving for his son.’ 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’
5 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.’
8 So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, ‘The king is sitting in the gateway,’ they all came before him.
Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.
I wonder if you’ve ever been in a bad situation and thought to yourself, “How did it come to this?” Sometimes conflict leads to broken relationships amongst family, friends, neighbours or work colleagues. People refuse to see each other. People refuse to be in the same place as each other. People walk away. Sometimes each little harsh word we speak, each redemptive word that we don’t speak, each little skirmish, builds on another hurt – and before we know it our relationship hurts have snowballed out of control. We’re shocked and horrified at just how bad things have gotten. And maybe we wonder if we were part of the problem. How could I have let it get so bad?
The pain is amplified when it seems that there is no way to turn it around. Can you push an avalanche back up the mountain? Can you unbake a cake? Some things seem irreversible. And the pain can become despair.
In this passage, David is hit by the snowballing mess of his household. His abuse of Bathsheba and Uriah has been mirrored in the actions of his family. David has sat back and witnessed how his sons have repeated his mistakes, dragging the house of God’s king into ruin. He has watched, and felt the hurt, but he has not acted meaningfully in love and justice.
When the messenger came and pronounced that all is well (v31), the first question David asks is regarding the safety of his rebellious son. And when he realises that Absalom is dead, he cries out in anguish, “Oh my son! If only I had died instead of you!” (v33). Surely the king should be happy that this threat was gone, a traitor punished. Yet despite all the grief and pain that Absalom has caused, David feels a deep sense of loss and grief when he dies.
It’s very likely that David was beginning to realise that it was his own actions that have caused this disaster, at least in part. His abuse went on to influence the actions of his sons. Perhaps David realized that had he remained true and honest, or even if he dealt with matters directly, that Absalom and Amnon and Tamar would have never been as broken and hurt and ruined as they were.
It’s a horrible story, a horrible case of ‘what if?’ We have those ‘what if?’ moments too – maybe not as bad as in David’s case, or maybe really bad. To find hope in the brokenness we can turn to Jesus, who was tempted but never strayed from the path, who loved and never hurt others. The son of God the king died too. But his death is not one of despair and futility, because he died so that we sinners could live. David’s immediate family faltered, but Jesus reigns in glory and power for ever and ever.
Head: Maybe it was arrogance, or fear, or shame that caused David to stay at arms’ length from the troubles in his family. His troubles didn’t stay at arms’ length, however! Do you think this is how it usually works when we pursue a strategy of avoidance?
Heart: What is a bad choice of yours, or of others, that has caused you to despair? How does Jesus bring hope in situations like these?
Hands: Maybe you are hurting inside, whether from big or small problems, maybe caused by you or caused by another. Think about reaching out to a sister or brother in Christ – maybe in your Growth Group – to share the burden.
Dear Heavenly Father help us to cling to you in all of the brokenness of our world. Help us to remember that our choices can affect others and to always be empathetic, generous and kind in our forgiveness of others. We pray that we can remember the sacrifice of your son, and that because of him we will spend eternity far away from the death and pain of our world. And until then, help us to follow you as best we can. Amen
A song to listen to: We have been healed
Maddie Pryde and Geoff Pryde
Living Church Creek Road