The story of David and his son Absalom is a troubling one. I have struggled to understand how David could have intentionally remained estranged from his beloved son. If David had simply chosen reconciliation, it seems that so much pain and trouble could have been avoided! And yet, the LORD had spoken to David through Nathan the prophet after David's sin with Bathsheba: "Because of what you have done, I, the LORD, will cause your own household to rebel against you." (2 Samuel 12:11)
I believe that God's heart was grieving during the years of David and Absalom's un-reconciliation, as He allowed it to be used for the fulfillment of his prophesied punishment on David's household.
David wept bitterly when he heard the news that his firstborn son Amnon had been murdered by Absalom (a revengeful act for Amnon's rape of Absalom's sister Tamar). It seems that David, while mourning for Amnon, felt the need to punish Absalom with silence for what he had done. But, after three years, David "now reconciled to Amnon's death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom." (2 Samuel 13:39)
Why wasn't he?
Joab, the commander of David's army, "realized how much David longed to see to Absalom" (2 Samuel 14:1), so he sent a wise woman from Tekoa to fabricate a story to rebuke David for refusing to bring home his banished son. David was convicted by the woman's story and sent Joab to Geshur (where Absalom had fled after the murder of Amnon) to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem. "But the king gave this order: 'Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence.' So Absalom did not see the king." (2 Samuel 14:24)
My heart hurts when I read this passage because I so long for David and Absalom to be reconciled!
Finally, after two years of waiting and wanting to see his father, Absalom set fire to Joab's barley field to get his attention and to plead for his help. Joab then went to King David on Absalom's behalf, and Absalom was able to bow before David and receive his kiss (2 Samuel 14:33). However, in the absence of real forgiveness, healing, and restoration, the very next chapter begins with Absalom's stealing the hearts of the people of Israel away from his father in his plan to sieze the throne.
This morning, after we read this tragic story, CJ shared how he especially liked these words that the woman of Tekoa spoke to David: "All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. That is why God tries to bring us back when we have been separated from him. He does not sweep away the lives of those he cares about--and neither should you!" (2 Samuel 14:14)
CJ said he could see in this verse God's desire for reconciliation, as well as His fulfillment of that desire by sending Jesus so that we could be restored to a relationship with God after having been cut off from Him by our sin.
While my heart still grieves over David and Absalom, I am encouraged by CJ's insight. Our own stories are much like David and Absalom's, full of human weakness, unforgiveness, and mistakes. But God's plan for reconciliation is perfect and complete. It has already been done through Jesus' death on the cross! And we can now stand, completely forgiven, before God's holy throne without any shame because the blood of Jesus makes us perfectly clean and acceptable to God.