Summary: A story of grief and love
“Treasuring God’s Love”
2 Sam. 18:5-33
This morning I am simply going to share A STORY with you, a true story; an ancient, yet contemporary story. No fancy outline, not three points, or four or two points, no alliteration - just a story with some comments. It’s A STORY ABOUT GRIEF AND LOVE, about grief which is borne out of love. So it’s also a familiar story, because we’ve been there - we’ve grieved. And we’ve grieved because we’ve loved. This story about a father’s grief is, at heart, a story about a father’s Love.
We begin, then, with A STORY OF DAVID’S LOVE. Let me set the stage for you - share some program notes, bring us up to date with the action. David, of course, is king. He was then, and still is, the greatest of the kings of Israel. But he was human. As we’ve seen, he committed adultery and then, in an attempt to cover it up, murder. But God was watching. And He rendered judgment and doled out punishment upon David: “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house...the son born to you will die.” At the time of this 18th chapter, the son who was the product of adultery, had died. In addition, David’s eldest son, Amnon, fell in love with his half sister Tamar and eventually raped her. Absalom, another of David’s sons, hated Amnon for this, and secretly vowed revenge. The sword was alive and well within David’s household. Two years passed and Absalom threw a major party for the purpose of killing Amnon. The party was a success and Amnon was killed. Absalom now had to flee to escape the rage of David. (We almost need the TV Guide or weekly soaps update to keep track of the story, don’t we?)
Several years passed in this highly dysfunctional family, with Absalom all the while plotting how he could over throw his father and become king. Eventually Absalom wound up with his supporters in Jerusalem and David fled to the wilderness with his supporters. At chapter 18, the battle lines have been drawn. Civil war is about to break out between the forces of father and son. The kingship is at stake. More than just the future of a family, the future of the Kingdom is at stake. And David’s last words to his military leaders? “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” David loved his son. Even with the kingdom at stake, David loved.
Perhaps this is really more than a story of David’s love - it’s really A STORY OF PARENTAL LOVE. Only a parent’s love could ignore the miserable, deadly deeds and aims of Absalom and so David was willing to risk everything to spare his son. While David may have been afraid of losing his throne, he was more afraid of losing his son. As Frederick Buechner has put it, “Absalom was the thorn in David’s flesh but was also the apple of David’s eye.”
Parental love is a powerful force. As someone has said, “No one loves you like your kin.” Or, perhaps more accurately, NO ONE LOVES US LIKE THE ONE WHO GAVE US LIFE. Absalom cannot kill David’s fatherly love. Parents always pray for, hope for, and want the best for their children. And many of us have been there and done, and are doing that. We constantly pray to and plead with God to turn the tide in our rebellious children’s lives. We may hate everything they do and say - but we love them. We gave them life. They are a part of us, and always will be. We see the apple and don’t feel the thorn. PARENTAL LOVE IS UNDYING. So we feel with David. “Take it easy on my son. He may be ready to overthrow me, take my power, ruin the kingdom - but he’s my son. Take it easy on him.” It’s preposterous; it makes no sense; it’s absurd. But it’s parental love.
Well, to make a short story even shorter, Absalom, as we read, got his head caught in a tree - (just the latest of many hang ups in his life!) - and was then killed by David’s men. Word is finally sent to David, who responds with, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you - O Absalom, my son, my son!” “If only I had died instead of you.” This is really A STORY OF PROXY LOVE. Investment companies, corporations, life insurance companies regularly send shareholders notices about annual meetings. New members are to be elected to the Board of Directors, and they ask the shareholders to send back a card giving permission to a certain person to be their proxy to vote - TO BE THEIR SUBSTITUTE IN THE PROCESS. So David longed to substitute for Absalom in death, to be his proxy, to die in his place.