“And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Sam. 18:33).
It’s hard to read aloud through David’s lament without your own tears, thinking of the grief of a father, not only for his son but for his wayward son! King David’s heart was uncharacteristically heavy after Absalom’s death, but there was a reason. Why would David be more grieved for Absalom than he was for the loss of any other son? What was likely in store for Absalom in eternity? David understood the fate that would follow the course his son had pursued.
Absalom, also called Abishalom, was the son of King David by Maacah, daughter of Talmai, King of Gesher (2 Sam. 3:3; 1 Chron. 3:2). He was said to be beautiful—more beautiful than anyone else in Israel.
But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it 🙂 he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight (2 Sam. 14:25-26).
After his elder brother Amnon raped and spurned his sister, Absalom took the law into his own hands and killed him (2 Sam. 14:22-29); then fearing the wrath of the king, he fled to Geshur, and there he remained for three years. Why Geshur? Interestingly, Talmai, the king of Geshur, was his mother’s father (2 Sam. 13:37-38; 2 Sam. 3:3).
Because of the counsel of Joab, David permitted Absalom to return to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 14:1-24), where his character was revealed in a more sinister way (2 Sam. 15:2-6, 13), until he instigated a full-fledged conspiracy against his father (2 Sam. 15:13-18). David and a few faithful servants fled Jerusalem and a battle for the throne ensued. Contrary to David’s clear command, Absalom was killed and buried under a pile of stones (2 Sam. 18:9-17), and King David was left to mourn for his wayward son (2 Sam. 18:33; 2 Sam. 19:1-8).
Joab’s rebuke to David was almost brutal:
And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;
6 In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.
7 Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the Lord, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.
8 Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent (2 Sam. 19:5-8).
We feel for David when Joab told him so harshly to straighten up after Absalom’s death, but though that was evil on Joab’s part, the Lord seemed to use it for David’s overall good. Even though we feel for his loss and bewilderment, King David could only grieve so long and have it to be useful to the Lord. King David’s grief was natural, but overwhelming grief pulls people down and makes them vulnerable to Satan’s darts of doubt and discouragement. It hinders our productivity in the Lord’s work. We can consciously choose to put those thoughts behind, and take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:4-5), but not without the spiritual armor and weapons that God gives us to be able to do that! If we are wisely preparing for the challenges that will almost certainly come in the future if we are blessed to live long enough, we need to be putting on this armor now.
This also seems to have been in Job’s mind when he said, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came” (Job 3:25-26). Remember that Job prayed for his sons and daughters every time they feasted together for fear they had cursed God in their hearts (Job 1:5). Apparently Job was blessed, not just to fear but to prepare himself spiritually beforehand, so that when his children were destroyed and his possessions taken, he was ready and able to overcome all the fiery darts that Satan could throw at him.
We don’t know everything the Lord has in store for us, but surely growing spiritually as much as we can, as fast as we can, both in strength and understanding, is the best course of action to prepare for whatever is to come. In the meantime, if we suffer, we need to consciously choose to take it patiently, and not crumble to pieces. Mourning and wallowing in memories and regret do “feel good” because it’s the path of least resistance, but it self-destructs.