2 Samuel 13:23-39
Whatever dysfunction you had in your family of origin or which exists in your family today is really nothing compared to David's family in 2 Samuel 13. This is King David's sons. The man after God's own heart... his boys. His legacy. Nathan prophecied after David's grievous sin of adultery and murder, that the sword would not depart from his house and that he would raise up evil against him within his home household. We are seeing the beginnings of that coming true.
A brother lusting after his sister to the point of sexually assaulting her. Another brother rightly despising that act but rather than dealing with it directly and justly, he uses his position of authority to get other brothers to kill Amnon. David's whole house is in utter chaos perpetrating all manner of evil against each other. And at least some of this is connected to the sins of the father. It's a very stark warning for us regarding what sinful, demonic, and destructive forces we allow in our families through our "personal, private sin."
By the end of this chapter David's family is completely falling apart. I guess I can't help but imagine what it must feel like to have these ravage your family. I get so frustrated with disrespectful attitudes or bickering between by kids. David is dealing with the most violent and destructive acts between his children. And because it all, he's estranged from all of them at this time. I wonder what that must feel like to be King of a prosperous nation, but unable to have an in tact family.
I guess I'm just thinking about how everything has a cost in life and how we need to be honest about that. When we choose to give ourselves or our time or our energies or attention to something, we are necessarily withholding it from everything else. There's nothing in the text explicitly about this, but it just leaves me wondering if David wished he would've done some things differently. He mourned "day after day" the text says so this was clearly impacting him.
David failed in a lot of ways it seems as a dad. I suspect he failed in some worse ways than yours and mine, and in some worse ways than us too. But he lived under the grace of God with a prominent role in redemptive history. I guess that means that the failures of our parents, and our own failures can be forgiven and the wounds we've suffered and inflicted can be healed. That gives me hope.
2 Samuel 14
For the second time, we see a close friend and confidant of David's approach a sensitive issue that he needed to be confronted on, by making up a story. In both instances, David is presented with issues of justice intended to expose how he was being unjust. In both made up scenarios, David judges the behavior of supposed actors in the exact opposite way he judges his own behavior. In other words, he is acting in ways that he would never support another person act.
But we do this... we tend to have objective wisdom into other people's situations and conflicts. But when our own emotions and relationships are involved, we lose objectivity and sound judgement. We react impulsively... and often unwisely. In a much more intense way, David is the coach of a team where he is far more hard on his own kid than any other team member. How strange it is that we tend to be more gracious and understanding toward strangers than sons. I regret this is true in my life.
To David's credit, he listens to his friends in these instances and takes immediate steps to correct his posture and behavior. However, in this case, I think about the distinction between the prodigal son returning home and Absalom's return home. The prodigal was welcomed back wholeheartedly and to a celebration and he was restored to full status as the Father's loved son. In David's case, he welcomes Absalom back only halfway, and not with gladness of heart, but with reservation. Absalom returns to Jerusalem but doesn't see his dad, the king, for two years.
This is the kind of scenario that incites bitterness and hurt. Rather than being banished and far away, Absalom is brought near but kept isolated. Rather than being restored to his status as son, he is relegated to the status of a servant. I'm struck by David's treatment of his son, and how a father's stiffness can harden a sons heart. I can only imagine the sense of abandonment building in Absalom. This doesn't justify any of what he will later do... but it is to say that angry, bitter, wounded, isolated men are always dangerous men.
One quick note on God's grace in this text... catch v. 14 when the woman says to David that God devises means so that the banished will not remain an outcast. That's our Lord and Savior. By the means of the cross, Jesus has brought the prodigal home with full restoration. We were banished from the presence of God because of our guilt and sin and rebellion, but he has by no means left us to that fate... he has come to the other side of the tracks and invited us home, to live as loved sons of God. That's the glorious reality of the gospel... he doesn't draw us near to make us feel shame and guilt... he draws us near to cover our guilt and shame.
2 Samuel 15:1-12
And now we start to see that danger play out... Absalaom was two years stewing about Amnon raping his sister, Tamar. Then he killed him. He spent another three years exiled in Geshur. He returned to Jerusalem and lived two years as a neighbor to his father, King David, without seeing him. And after anger, isolation and a sense of rejection stirring over 7 years, he starts to position himself to find attention and approval elsewhere.
After all, he is attractive, charismatic and evidently likeable, so he begins to use these natural qualities to gain approval and influence. And over the course of another 4 years, he incrementally, systematically and manipulatively captures the affections and trust of Israel. One person at a time. Day in and day out. For four years. He patiently builds rapport, establishes trust, and earns their loyalty, diverting it away from his dad. And it's not like David was a hated politician. He was beloved. This tells you something of the surface level likeability of Absalom.
For those four years, his bitterness is growing. His anger is intensifying. His hurt is deepening. And through it all, it would seem David simply ignored him. There is no indication that David harmed him in any active way. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out years ago, "the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." There is a kind of hatred in a detached, disinterested disregard for someone. You have to think of someone to hate them. To be indifferent toward someone conveys worthlessness. I suspect that's the toxin that swirled in Absalom's soul.
And for four years, David did nothing to change the dynamics or reconcile the relationship. He was preoccupied with kingdom matters perhaps, but the cruel silence toward Absalom lost him the Kingdom for the time being. Even his closest counselor, Ahithopel, like Judas after him, would betray his lord.
Most of us aren't running countries or even companies, so it may seem hard to apply this to real life for you. That's why I'm thinking about the psychology behind these developments, particularly in Absalom... consider these two perspectives...
I wonder if you are the dangerous conspirator in the making... sitting in bitterness, woundedness, anger, rejection, building resentment toward someone. It's a cancer to you and everyone close to you and it will end badly. We must pursue forgiving and healing and wholeness.
I wonder if you are the indifferent party toward another injured party. Whether you feel like you did anything or not, are you allowing bitterness and resentment to grow in another unaddressed? Are you in a position of power that your using to make someone else feel their smallness. Are you presenting appearances of forgiveness while withholding forgiveness and having no interest in reconciliation? We must pursue repentance, even if the sin is gracelessness.
2 Samuel 15:13-37
So David's kingdom has been stripped away right from under his nose... God's consequence for the sin of adultery and murder has come home to roost. The sword has been raised against him from within his own household... it took 11 years to play out but he's on the run again.
We do see some of the heart of David in this passage that honrs God and reflects God. We see his concern for others and desire to protect them from his aimless wandering. Rather than gathering as many people to himself as possible, David looks out for the best interest of those under his rule. He was a shepherd by trade early in life and he reflects the shepherd heart of God for people here.
We also see his trust in the Lord... that rather than taking the Ark with him and removing it from it's place, to grasp at a sense of security, he instead trust's the Lord's sovereignty in orchestrating the days ahead. He wants the ark to remain where it is supposed to be, and he is willing to accept God's judgement if it comes in this form. David is not trying to control the situation entirely... he's trying to be wise, but he's trusting the Lord and he's unwilling to use sacred things as a means of advancing his own agenda.
Even his short prayer about Ahithopel upon discovering his betrayal... David's prayer isn't for revenge, or complaining... David simply recognizes that the wise council he received from his friend came from the Lord and therefore, the Lord could withhold such wisdom. He asks God to simply lead him or leave him to foolishness in his council to Absalom.
Suffice it to say that David is facing real betrayal, heartbreak, hurt and helplessness... and he is leaning into the Lord, looking out for others, and being decisive about just the next step. This is a great response to crisis and one worth imitating.
2 Samuel 16