“Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: "O my son Absalom--my son, my son Absalom--if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33).
These words were spoken following the battle in which Absalom and his army are defeated by the followers of David. As they above words reflect, David’s heart is broken when he hears the news of the death of his son Absalom. As we reflect on these words, we may initially think that David overreacts to the news of the death of his son. After all, his son was trying to kill him! We might think David should feel at least a little relief because his own life was no longer threatened or feel some satisfaction that justice had been properly executed upon Absalom for his rebellion against him.
But David doesn’t react in any of these ways we might think he should. Instead, he reacts with profound grief. Why? I think the answer lies in the fact that David now realizes how he contributed to Absalom’s rebellion by not practicing full forgiveness towards Absalom when Absalom had killed his other son Amnon (i.e. read yesterday’s devotional 3/23/16, “The Problem of Partial Forgiveness”).
Following the death of Amnon, Absalom had fled as a fugitive and was away for 3 years before Joab, through a wise woman of Tekoa, convinced David to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 13:39; 14:1-21). However, David placed conditions upon Absalom on his return to Jerusalem. Absalom would no longer be a fugitive, but he was not allowed to come before the king’s face (2 Samuel 14:24). Two more years pass by before Absalom has Joab convince the king to allow Absalom to see the king (2 Samuel 14:28-33). Unfortunately, it appears Absalom bore a lot of resentment for his father’s treatment or him and never forgave his father for taking so long to forgive him. The breech in their relationship was never fully repaired and four years later Absalom leads an attempt to overthrow his father’s kingdom (2 Samuel 15:1-12, 7).
It appears David regrets how he failed to forgive Absalom from the start. When Absalom had first killed his brother Amnon, after David was comforted, he “longed to go to Absalom” but did not (2 Samuel 13:39). After learning of Absalom’s rebellion against him, David was greatly pained (cf. 2 Samuel 16:11). On the eve of battle, David gathers his troops and tells his men, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5). From these verses, it is apparent that David regrets his failure to fully forgive Absalom from the start. He wants to restore his relationship with his son. But it is too late, as his son would be killed by Joab who was full of vengeance against Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14-15).
As I read these verses, I do not want to have regrets as did David by not forgiving those who have hurt me. I don’t want to continue to allow the pain past wrongs done to me to breech my relationships with those about whom I care. I want the healing of forgiveness to soothe that pain. I don’t desire to go to my grave clinging to the pain of my past hurts! I don’t want to experience the pain that David experienced regarding his relationship with his son Absalom. Today, I rejoice that God offers me the choice to let go of the pain of past hurt and practice forgiveness. May God give me the wisdom and strength to always practice forgiveness towards those who have hurt me!
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).