Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 18:1-33, 2 Samuel 19:1-43, Romans 5:7-8, 1 Timothy 1:12-17
I have to admit I wanted justice to be done to Absalom. I remembered how he had treated David in prior chapters. He betrayed him. Tricked him. Risen up against him. It was wrong, and Absalom needed to be punished. Even though David had given his men strict orders not to hurt him, when Joab took advantage of Absalom’s vulnerable position and killed him, I thought to myself, Well, he deserved it. It gave me the same kind of satisfaction I have when watching a movie and the good guy finally finishes off the bad guy in the end.
Of course, the Bible isn’t a movie. It’s real life. And a few verses later, I was reminded of this. When David hears of Absalom’s death, he cries out, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). With those words, my sense of justice deflated and tears came to my eyes.
Absalom was David’s child. David had held him as a baby. He’d watched him grow up. He’d probably taught him to be the strong warrior he was. And though their story took a turn for the worse and reconciliation was needed, there was once a time when father and son ate meals together. They were family.
With David’s grief-stricken response to the news of his son’s death, this story of civil war becomes a story of a father losing his son—a story not unlike our own.
The hard truth is that both Absalom and I deserved the same ending. I betray God with each sin I commit. I try to manipulate His will. I go my own way, as if I am the king of my life and He is not.
This is true of all of us. But this is also true: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is what changed the ending for us. We were headed toward a sure death due to our own sin, but God in His kindness sent His Son to die in our stead, so that we could be reconciled to our Father.
The father-son story in 2 Samuel 18 is a tragedy. David never got to reconcile with Absalom. He did not get to give his life so Absalom could live. Though our story parallels Absalom’s, our ending turns in the opposite direction. Because of Christ, we are reconciled to our Father. Because of Christ, we have victory over death. Because of Christ, Paul’s words are ours too:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
- 1 Timothy 1:15-16