One of the things I love about the Old Testament is the way it communicates biblical principles in narrative form. As I read Old Testament stories, I’m always asking, “What biblical principle does this illustrate? What verse does this demonstrate?” Take, for example, the account of Absalom’s death in 2 Samuel 18-19.1. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him (Ps. 103:13).
Although David had forgiven Absalom’s murder of his brother Amnon, and eventually allowed him to return to Jerusalem, Absalom continued to plot and conspire. He gradually turned the people’s hearts away from his father and towards himself, and eventually drove David from his home and kingdom. 2 Samuel 18 opens with David’s men beginning to organize a fightback. Yet, despite his humiliation at the hands of Absalom, David begs the soldiers, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” The best of love for the worst of sons. Such fatherly pity for such incarnate evil! And what an insight into the fatherly heart of God! 2. If God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)
The situation looked bleak for David and his men. Their position, their numbers, their weapons, and their personnel all seemed to guarantee defeat. Yet they won a stunning victory that resulted in 20,000 dead. Was this the military prowess of David’s men? No! The trees, pits, and animals of the forest killed more than their weapons did (v. 8). This was the Lord’s doing alone. God uses the weakest and most unlikely instruments to win the victory, just as He did at Calvary. 3. He that exalts himself shall be abased (Luke 14:11)
Absalom died as a result of his hair being caught in a tree (v. 9). The hair that made him so proud was the means of his downfall. Joab finished the job by stabbing him three times in the heart, the young men then macerated his corpse, threw him in a deep pit, and piled stones upon him. How the mighty had fallen! He had raised up a monument to himself and gave it his name (v. 18). But he ended up at the bottom of a pit full of stones. From so high to so low – so quick. How many go from the highest positions in this world to the deepest depths of hell? 4. Honor your father and mother that your days may be long on the land (Ex. 20:12)
Absalom wanted to be King, even at the expense of his father’s life. He dishonored his father in every way – by his feelings, thoughts, words and actions. And God demonstrated that while, in general, children that honor their parents live longer, so those who dishonor them will often die sooner. And what is true with our earthly parents is also true in our relationship with our heavenly Father. He honors those who honor him, and blesses them with eternal life. 5. He that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. 10:37)
God has graciously given us weeping as a safety valve for our grief. But sometimes grief can be excessive or misplaced. And David’s was both. When he heard the news of his son’s death, he wept and cried so excessively and loudly that the victory party was turned into a funeral service, and the triumph was turned into shame (2 Sam. 19:1-8). David completely lost sight of the Lord’s deliverance of him and his kingdom (and ultimately of the Messianic line), and saw only his dead son. It took ungodly Joab to rebuke him for loving the kingdom’s enemies and hating the kingdom’s friends (v. 6). 6. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11)
Although David’s grief went too far, there were good and holy elements in it that show us not only David’s heart, but God’s. Despite all that Absalom had been and done, David cries, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom…O Absalom, my son, my son!” Twice he calls out his personal name. Five times he calls him “My son.” And then, stunningly, “If only I had died in your place.” No wonder David is called the man after God’s own heart. No wonder Christ is called the Son of David.