“My son, Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I could have died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33b)
The anguish of a father at the death of his son can be heard in David’s lament: “if only I could have died in your place.” Nevermind that the son was killed while heading up an army that sought to kill the father. Nevermind that the son had usurped the father’s throne and taken over his palaces, wives, people, and government. This was David’s son, and his son’s death broke his heart.
David had given his army clear instructions: “For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom.” The king’s brokenness stands out in stark contrast to his captain’s vindictiveness. Joab, the trusted captain of one-third of the army, was quick to put three spears through Absalom when given the chance. His actions made a lot of sense — he was in effect putting an end to a civil war that had already killed 20,000 of his people. Yet in doing so, he went against his king and took justice into his own hands.
“Love your enemies,” Jesus would say, “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). The father’s heart in David reflected our Father’s heart in Heaven. Throughout this war with Absalom, David never stopped loving his son, and he left the outcome entirely in God’s hands. He knew that his kingdom, his people, and his life all belonged to God, and he sought to show mercy to the one who sought to kill him. “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Father in Heaven, you’ve given me life when I deserved death. You’ve never stopped loving me, despite my sin, and you’ve extended grace and mercy and called me your son. Help me to reflect your love to those around me; help me to give grace to others as freely as it’s been given to me. May I be a broken vessel that is poured out for you — for your glory, and my good.